Last week Tuesday was Elsie’s birthday. The little woman turned 10. She started being cheeky even before hitting nine. At nine she was on Facebook; something that worried me as a father. I had to call her mother, who by the way never gave a shit about her being on Facebook. Given that she is a knucklehead, I knew she won’t lead Elsie out of it.
One evening I decided to call Elsie. Her mother had bought this Google Nexus phone for her. It was way flashy and expensive than even my phone. I remember asking her what she does with it when we met last year. To be honest, I wanted to take it from her, I wanted it. It bit me that she could have a better phone. Have you ever been troubled when someone so young has something so big and expensive than you? Sometimes you feel jealous. Hell yeah- I was freaking jealous.
The conversation crumbled. My aim was to reprimand her to get out of social media. She’d already made more than 1000 friends, most of them being these naughty Indian senior fuckboys who will send you nudes in your DM every second, requesting for you to sex chat. I was mad and I asked her to get out immediately.
She didn’t take it lightly. She scoffed and hissed at me because she was getting mad. She has my dad’s way of getting mad. When my dad gets mad he can go as long an hour pacing up and down, wanting to tear you up. Very bad genes she inherited. The conversation ended in a jiffy. When she is guilty or mad she will not talk. She will listen with rage mounting inside her until she can no longer control it, then she will hang up and leave you looking like a desperate destitute.
Do you know how it feels when someone so young controls you over the phone by not speaking? Well, Elsie does that when she is mad. She will leave you feeling powerless, and stupid and vexed. You feel robbed and worthless when someone uses the power of silence to play with your emotions, especially when you’re the older one.
“But get off Facebook. Do you hear me?” I remember ranting. “Get the fuck off.”
The line went dead. I stood there feeling stupid and powerless. Days went by, the little woman not wanting to talk to me. Our relationship became rusty sort of. And when you’re worlds apart it is very difficult to mend the holes.
I called Alexa time and again asking her to beseech Elsie to talk to me. I became Elsie’s slave, begging for her attention. I always wanted to be part of her life, at least such hideous behavior would not have found root. But it is what it is.
Months later we would reconcile and become great allies.
Now on Monday, I called Alexa prior to the birthday. As much as I am several miles away, I always try to manifest my presence. I requested her to buy a gift for Elsie on my behalf and then tell her I sent it from Kenya. You see how genius I can be?
“What do you want me to buy her?” she asks me over WhatsApp later that evening.
“To be honest I don’t know,” I reply back.
“What kind of man are you?” A text rolls back almost immediately. This itches me. Okay, it hurts me because when a woman asks such a question, she is really disappointed with you. Or she regrets ever meeting you. I want to reply something nasty as a way of payback. Inside us, there is always a propensity of trying to get even. It is so potent and sometimes when we’re in this state we don’t want to back down. I can’t find something nasty enough so I try to behave the more mature one.
“Stop being petty. Help me out, woman,” I text back.
The text is blue ticked for more than ten minutes. I can see she is online. Then she starts to type. The typing goes on for more than five minutes. I start to wonder if she’s writing a snotty text to blast me. Before she finishes, I text again.
“Or maybe you can buy her a children’s bible. What do you think?”
She stops typing. She laughs at me with these silly emoji that make you think you’re stupid. Yes, the ones that mock you.
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, and some Blankie Tails and birthstone bracelet. Then finish the package off with a box of chocolates,” I text with a tone of finality. I know that I can’t win a war with Alexa. She’s not the kind of woman you entertain so that you can seduce her into an agreement. She is the kind that wants a man that commands her.
“This will cost more than 100 pounds,” she exclaims.
“I know. It’s our kid and it’s only once a year, so deal with it,” I reiterate.
“I don’t see where ‘our’ comes in if I have to pay all this money,” she retorts. I can sense the frustration in her words.
“You can decide to buy or leave it. If she were here I’d buy her,” I respond. She shrugs using emojis.
“When did you ever buy her anything?” she starts picking up a war.
“Do me a favour. If you’re tired of raising her let me have her. You simply can’t be complaining about everything about her and making me look like I am the enemy. I also want the best for her for your information,” I am also starting to get vexed.
A while passes before she actually reads the message. She does not respond immediately either.
When I wake up the following morning she sends me a variety of pictures of a bible, blankie tails and birthstone bracelets and asks me to choose the colours. It is easy because Elsie loves pink and blue. I pick a blue covered bible and everything else in pink.
I let her know my picks. I also type a lovely birthday message and ask her to get someone to scribble it on paper so that it can be wrapped in the box.
Late in the evening, she sends me photos of the package and it looks lovely. Tears of joy fill my eyes and I type a very emotional thanks. Tell her I love her immensely, I include.
Russell called me last Friday. You guys remember him? He is Alexa’s cousin. He was in town. He informed that Alexa’s parents will be in town the following day and that I should arrange to meet them. Boy, I was so nervous.
It is seven years since I saw them last. It very hard to be excited about meeting a white man or woman. It is usually a tricky business for me unless we’re very close. But I stay positive as the last we saw each other we were good friends.
On Sunday we take a hearty breakfast at The Four Points by Sheraton hotel at Hurlingham. Russell loves this hotel, even before it became what it is now. It used to be a different hotel when I last went there with him. Him being around makes it a bit easier for a conversation to flow.
Both parents seem to have been caught up with age. There is evidence of many grey hairs jolting out of the rest of the bush, like those of Obama when he entered the Oval Office for the second term. They’re laid back and seem like a lovely couple enjoying their retirement benefits.
The father still is heavily built with a clean-shaven chin that depicts of his love for cleanliness. He has a nice coat on with a designer pair of jeans, and very nice boots. I keep stealing glances at this pair of boots because they’re eye-watering. I actually want to steal them from him. I can’t concentrate with them on my sight.
On the other hand, the mother still maintains her cool, beautiful as ever. Her charm is still chaste and I wouldn’t mind smashing her if she weren’t a mother in law sort of. It is complicated- this relationship. Sometimes I don’t know what to call both of them, but I’ve never made a mistake of referring them to as father or mother-in-law.
There is always a way to sneak around using ma’am and sir to avoid in-law. Her hair is pulled back and tied in a single file by a rubber band. She has a faint make up, which in not necessary. Just like her daughter, she is naturally stunning.
I made my way here at around 7 because they’re catching a flight to South Africa with Russell at 4 pm. On arrival, I hugged all of them warmly. The hug was longer with the mom who after that moved back and exclaimed, “Look at you, all grown, tall and handsome.” I felt somewhat shy. So I just looked away for a moment and let out a wide grin. I mumbled, “ So do you. You look stunning as always. You never grow old, what’s the secret?”
Then we all laughed before we caught a table. I am not hungry so I just order freshly brewed coffee.
Britons and tea. They each order a hot mug of steaming tea. They also get a croissant, fried eggs and some bread on the side.
“So how’s the going son?” the dad asks. I don’t know what to say. It might be whether I’m through with college, or if I have a job, or if I have built a home or anything. I choose to stay abstract, after all, he is not specific either.
“Things are okay as far as I can tell. You know Kenya and its tantrums,” they all laugh heartily.
“Tantrums are all over,” the mom chips in.
“Yeah, not until you feel like auctioning your own country. It’s a level of absolute insanity, and that is where we’re- the colours of the flag no longer like each other,” I comment. I sip my coffee slowly. I feel it warm the inside of my cheeks. As it passes through my mouth, it burns my lips a bit, I like it. My lips are dry most of the time so this is so moistening.
“It is the price you have to pay so that your future generations can enjoy fruits of freedom,” the dad puts it.
“ It is easy to say so when you’re not in the game. Until you get in there and get dirty, you won’t know that it is hard to think of that price and future generations,” Russell says rather introspectively.
“So how have you guys been? Seven years is a long time you know,” I ask. The conversation is picking a wrong route so I try to bring it back. The mother picks interest first.
“We’ve been fantastic. Traveling the world now that we’re retired, and doing business here and there. Smith here opened a jewelry shop. So we’re running it together.”
Both are in there 60s. Talking, they sound like old folks. They’re actually younger than my pops who is at the tee line of the 70s and still not sounding old. But I am happy that they’ve taken time off to enjoy life together.
“Sounds lovely. I know you must love spending time together at this age,” I suggestively say, trying to put words into their mouths. Genuine chuckles escape their lips.
“Yes, it is the best thing to do, aging together,” the mom replies.
The conversation goes on and on, broaching different subjects and laughing. Time moves quite fast and they need to be at the airport. We have an early lunch together and I see them off. I want to escort them to the airport but they say it is not necessary. It makes sense.
I pull Russell aside and squeeze a small box into his hands.
“Ensure it reaches Elsie,” I whisper to his right ear as we hug.
I don’t stay there to see them catch a cab. I hate goodbyes because they’re the source of my tears. I only hug them without looking them in the eye, they will see weakness and tears welling up in them. Then without looking back, I head the opposite direction.
Till we meet again.
Happy birthday to the little, beautiful woman that makes my heart melt with pride. Happy 10s.
Where shall we go, we who wander in this wasteland in search of better selves?
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