Tears of a bleeding heart
Last night I talked to Elsie. Nothing would describe the kind of happiness that swept through me now that she had gotten over her rancour and talked to me like old times. I had missed her soft voice, something that I held unto for two years. Last December her momma didn’t bring her as she usually does. So I didn’t get to see her. I only hold onto the trail of her young, soft voice dearly in my heart…
As a man, I have always wanted to have Elsie by my side and bring her up. There are these times I see other men with their kids and all over a sudden solitude hits me. Men love their daughters, and sons. But it is a beautiful thing to raise a daughter. The things they do really astound men. We are left watching with admiration as they grow. As they bundle their toys together and feel they need more. The hoarding habit starts early. They have things they like and things they really hate, but still won’t let them go off their wardrobes.
At a tender age, they know how to match clothes, and shoes, and purses. They will tell you they don’t love your certain jeans or T-shirt. Maybe their colours are bleak or just ain’t good on you. They will tell you something even your wife can’t. Like they feel embarrassed when you pick them from school wearing some funny pants. And they show early signs of getting moody when they are annoyed. They can pick quarrels and fights, and when they are in that state they won’t talk to you. Strapped in the back seat, they will look out of the window all the time, as if you are not there. You cease to be their father then. For a moment they can get bitter and there’s nothing you can do to change that.
I suspect women are born that way. Some of their behaviors are innate. Because how can you describe a four year old talking of not liking her wardrobe, or even her shoes not going well with a dress of certain colour? It is what makes it beautiful watching them grow. The playing with your beard, asking why their mom doesn’t have one and you have to lie… You acting a pony and her on your back. Her wanting ice-cream and many other things, asking questions and struggling with getting spelling of the word daddy right. Elsie used to say thathy. But she’s 9 now with heavy British accent and right spellings.
You know her mom doesn’t like reading stories like these. She hates it when I talk of Elsie and her. She hates it more when I throw her under the bus for being an absent mother. She just gets angry when I pull her into these. She says I am a mess. I know I am that messed up so I rarely give a toss. There is no way I can brush history with new colors when it cannot be brushed. When Elsie is involved, that history is going to last as long as this blog lives.
Sometimes Elsie doesn’t understand them posts. When she gets bigger and starts going through the archives of this blog and finding nasty stories about her mom, and some about her, she’s gonna hiss like a cobra. I know she’s not gonna love me. I expect that but if she knows how much I love her she’ll understand that it was not a goof.
There is this time she asked me why I was black. She was around three, before her mom moved back to London because his parents who had been working with the UN then were being moved there. As you can tell, the question threw me off. It caught me when I least expected it. Sometimes you don’t have to answer kids because they’ll keep on probing until you feel like tossing them into the kitchen sink and ramming the door behind you to catch a breath. So I asked her in turn, ‘and why are you not as white as your mom?’
She looked at her skin keenly and then mine and then darted her eyes to her mom who was sorting laundry and said, ‘I dunno.’ Giving that answer, she still looked at me expecting an explanation. A hefty one because you can always spot her eager face, and she doesn’t get people off the hook easily at such moments. It is like being tied to an electric chair by a kid, and you have to beg her not to touch the switch as it will do things she doesn’t quite understand. Finally I told her, ‘I too, dunno.’
Of course she was disappointed with the answer, she felt cheated after all that wait. Dejection mounted her face, that was a heavy betrayal and it made me sad. She probably wanted to hear some explanation and there I was killing her dreams. I promised to tell her someday, I never did. Such a godamned liar.
Her mom barred me from using her name on this platform. Si we can call her Missus, just for now.
There was this day Missus wanted me to go and see her family. I had only seen them on the photos hang on the walls of their home. From the pictures, her father looked like someone I shouldn’t meet. I just had that feeling, I really suspected he was trouble. Her mom looked like any normal woman, whom you could tell nothing about until you stayed with her for a year.
At first I told her I have no pleasure to meet her folks whatsoever. She asked why and I told her, ‘I dunno.’
She replied… ‘Stop being a moron. You are going to see them.’ That statement thudded on me.
‘No I am not.’
‘And why not?’
‘Because I am not ready, damn it! I have never done this before.’ I was just 18 then, in form three at Nakuru High. Tall, and nigga-ish. I had feigned this nigga-ish accent that made me smooth. When I was using it, it meant I didn’t have to struggle saying a whole word, I would swallow some letter(s) on the way and connect another word on top of it. Like ‘wha you sayin, bitch?’ Or ‘I ain’t doin’ tha…’
The woman in her came out. ‘You are going whether you like it or not.’
Sure enough, I went. I was freaking tense. The pictures I saw of his father kept flashing in my head. We never talked they whole way. I was busy reminding myself of etiquette. How to face an old man whose daughter I had made pregnant. A daughter who was 6 years off my limits… it was a moment of truth. I never asked Missus what I should expect of his dad so that I can prepare my communique tools adequately. All I knew was that he would not be pleased to meet me. No pleasure whatsoever.
She pulled this car with red plates in front of their mansion as the gateman closed the huge gate behind us. My feet were cold. I wished someone could throw hot charcoal on them. I could not feel them, at that time I was suffering from something that used to make my legs freeze. Sometimes they could misbehave even on the middle of the road and my left leg would not move.
Her mom… damn, she was smashing than she looked on pictures. Both parents were waiting on the front verandah, standing like they have been waiting eagerly for my ass. Trouble. When I felt my feet finally, I got out of the car slowly, looked around if I can spot a getaway in case things went south and I had to get out of there fast. A black man in a white territory.
It was somewhere half past noon. We went straight to the dining room after warm greetings. I really tried to behave given that it was not my nature to behave. Nothing about me could allow it. For the first time I came face to face with sushi. I had heard of it in movies and had no idea that it was Japanese raw fish, some white rice and veges. Oh boy, I am no fan of raw things. So I did not serve that raw thing that made my gullet dry even just by looking at it. I dished out some white rice, some greens and mashed potatoes.
I come from a very Africanized culture that believe that if you eat with your bare hand, you will get full. So I have never been a fan of forks and knives. I’m glad I didn’t have to use the knife now that the raw fish was out of the picture. Never used the combo, not soon.
While at the table we had this general talk. I avoided meeting eyes of this man. He had some nice khaki pants and a white V- shaped T-shirt. Hell, he had lots of muscle. Something told me I was in the wrong hands. The mom looked composed and acted normally, like she understood the fear inside me.
She prodded first. ‘Justine, so how is your family?’ I didn’t expect someone to break my silence and direct a question to me. I took time to realize the question was actually mine.
‘Everything is calm. No worries, ma’am’ I said as I downed my fork. The man kept eating.
‘You haven’t told us about it.’ She continued.
‘I got a dad, mum having passed on when I was 6.’ The man looked up at this juncture. ‘I got three siblings, two sisters and an elder brother called Eric.’
The chat continued.
When the meal was over, Missus and her mom cleared the table, leaving me with the man. I have never been uneasy my whole life as I was that day. He said, ‘take a walk with me.’
I followed him. He grabbed two beers from his fridge. ‘Drink with me.’ He offered.
‘Thanks Sir. I don’t use beer?’ I didn’t want to sound offensive.
‘Okay then. Let’s walk.’ We walked to his front yard. It was full of nice grass and some exotic flowers that made the scenery healing.
‘So how old are you?’ he asked.
‘Mmh. 18.’ He grumbled. ‘You know my daughter is somewhere 24. Do you know that?’
‘Yes I do, Sir. I do.’
‘How did this come to be? I fail to understand.’
‘Love has no boundaries.’ I replied trying to sound reasonable. ‘Some things just happen.’
‘Love.’ He repeated. He thought for a while, all this time in deep thought. ‘Son, nothing just happens.’ With that he turned to look at me. ‘The only things that happen are- that it rains from above, we grow and live. Other things are choices.’
Addressing me as son was really comforting. It brought me home.
‘So what is your plan with her and Elsie?’ To be honest, I had no plan. I was just a high school chap trying to get school done and then proceed to varsity for a better life.
‘I am still giving it a thought.’ I said after some silence. ‘She said we can never be married so you know what I am thinking.’
‘No I don’t.’ he brutally retorted back.
‘That our age difference is too loud for marriage.’
He shook his head and said, ‘is that so?’
‘Since you are married you know better.’ I was getting my courage. I am really a badass when my courage peaks.
‘She shouldn’t be a problem. I can take good care of her.’
His eyes said that I was wrong. Hell, I was.
‘How sure are about that?’
‘As sure as I was when I didn’t put that condom on that fateful night.’ I know that sounded disrespectful but what did I have to lose?
He placed his arm on my back and we headed back to the house.
It is one thing I have never believed. Him coming to like me. I charmed him so much that for the following two years before he moved, we became best of buddies. I remember him saying, ‘Son, you know I never thought I’d like you. But isn’t it wonderful how wrong we are to judge people before we allow to see their beauty first? You made me think otherwise about this country and its people.’
That is the last we ever talked. In a pub.
Tears of a bleeding heart