His face fits perfectly in both his hands. He rests them there for a while. He wants to scream and run away, far away, but instead, he's stuck sitting at his desk in his tiny room. Loan papers stare back at him, resting neatly on his Economics for Business lecture notes. He looks up with a sigh, forms a fist and taps his head a few times, hoping it would help him make a decision. A decision which he knew was already made for him and really, there was no point in wondering whether to sign it or not. He swears loudly, picks up the pen and signs it. He throws the pen, leans back in his chair and closes his eyes. He tries to think of a happier time. He can't. His mind searches again, he draws blanks.
For as long as he remembers, times have been tough growing up in this disconnected family. Most nights ending in a screaming match. The calm nights were scarier, he knew he would be rudely awoken in the middle of the night with something smashing the wall or someone screaming at the top of their lungs, each time catching him by surprise.
He usually pretends to sleep and hides his face in the pillow so his sister wouldn't see the tears when she comes to check on him, he knows that she knows he's awake, but they've been doing this for a long time now, and this routine suited them just fine.
Growing up, he remembers hearing whispers through the thin walls about how tight money was. So, it didn't come as a big shock when he was asked to purchase the family home and take on the role of being the man of the house. Help was promised, but of course, he knew they would be broken, and he'd be on his own. His sister was starting her own life, and though he knew she was not in a position to help, an offer would have been nice.
He thinks about his friends now, wondering what their most significant issues were – picking which country to travel to next? What car to buy? The first-ever University exam that was coming up in a few weeks? He wonders what the future holds and how long he will need to put his life on hold and how he will manage to support himself and his mum.
A year passes. He's sitting at the same desk, but this time an overdue bill staring back at him. A feeling of defeat washes over him. He wants to be a kid again when things were more straightforward, and he didn't need to worry about working and studying fulltime, he didn't need to worry about paying this bill or about not having electricity or his mum trying to run a household on $300 a month. He can't see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore. He's bitter towards his sister, but at the same time thoroughly understands. He wonders when it will end and if his mum can cope with any more heartbreak and if his dad will ever come home. He wonders how he can break this vicious cycle. He sighs. He catches a glimpse of his accounting textbook in the corner of his eyes. He suddenly remembers that he has his exam tomorrow. He promises himself to ace it. This was it, this was his ticket out of here. He sets aside the bill and starts studying through the night.
A few more years pass. He looks up from his book, he can see the waitress coming over with his expresso. She smiles, and he returns a tight smile back. He takes a sip and looks past the pool to see his award-winning apartment block. He closes his eyes, and instantly he's brought back to the day at the airport, hugging his mum, tears flowing despite his best efforts to stop them. His sister telling him how proud she was of him for breaking through. He remembers giving himself a pep talk as he sat on the plane you got this, it's time to live your life, be free.
He finishes his coffee, closes his book and walks the long way home.