Prague. May 1991. 9pm.
Roasted chicken #83 from Marek’s personal collection “One Hundred Ways to Roast a Chicken”. Ginger and honey. Tasty and easy. It’s late. And he has no time to waste. Taxes. Salaries. Contracts. They won’t wait until there is a good time.
“The dinner will be ready in 10 minutes. Get ready.”, he shouts at Kuba, his 7-year old son, who is sitting in the living room, in front of a blue screen, trying to write one of his first computer programs.
No response. Not that Marek would have expected any. They don’t talk too much these days. Real life is pressing a million times harder.
Having a restaurant seemed to be such a great idea. At least before his business partner decided that running a restaurant was not what he wanted to do in life. And pulled out.
The staff can’t be trusted – for more than 40 years, the rule in this country (as well as in the rest of Eastern Europe) was that who did not steal, was stealing from his family.
The bank on the other hand could be trusted perfectly, asking for every installment to be paid in time.
“Stop it”, he whispers to himself. “This is not getting you anywhere.”
He turns the heat in the oven to low and walks to the living room. As if he has not noticed his father’s arrival to the room, Kuba continues typing. Marek glances at the screen.
He sighs. Why can’t at least one thing in his life be easy? “Hey. The dinner is ready. Aren’t you hungry?”
Quiet. Two clicks of the “Return” key push the cursor two lines below. More typing.
For a moment, Marek thinks about applying the “Strict Father” approach. But today, he doesn’t. He sits next to Kuba instead and gently pulls the keyboard towards himself.
I AM HERE
As any child that finally gets what it wants – Kuba can’t hold back a victorious smile. He takes the keyboard back.
This makes Marek laugh. He looks at Kuba, who is still intently looking at the screen. He says, now rather in a playful tone of voice:“Hey, young man, so this is the only way you will talk to me?”
With a smile three degrees broader than a moment ago, Kuba nods.
Once Marek accepts the play, all the tension of the past days is gone. Forty five minutes later and about a hundred lines of white text exchanged on a blue screen later, Kuba seems to be satisfied with the play.
“Dad?” he says.
Kuba looks as if about to say something aloud. But he stops, and with even bigger focus than before, he types the last line of the evening:
IT’S GOOD TO TALK TO YOU
Then gets up, walks to the kitchen and leaves Marek sitting in the living room, contemplating.
“Dad, are we going to eat or what?”
If I had the chance to be my 7-year old self again, I would certainly have had this conversation on the blue screen of our Atari 800XE with my dad. On an evening I would notice he was worried, I would have told him that everything would be fine. That I was proud of him. And that I would make sure he would have a chance to be proud of me too. One day.
What moment would you get to if you had a chance to be 7 again?