BY Hussein Kassim
“Son, tell me you like her!”
These are words that do not seem to fade from my dad’s mouth. Not anytime soon. He keeps insisting that the girl is worth it. That she’s good enough for me. He keeps bothering me very often.
“Have you told her anything yet? Have you?”
He greets me this way one evening. He’s just been back from his place of work. He seems to assume that my day was well spent, so he doesn’t greet. He doesn’t seem to be bothered about any other thing other than this lady. This lady that he insists should be mine. This lady that he sees a perfect fit for me.
He even does not care about himself. He’s obviously tired. His fallen cheeks, heavy eyes and exhausted dry lips tell it all. He hangs his coat and proceeds to ask again.
“Have you, son?”
“Son, this girl is good for you. She’s just graduated from the university. She has brains. She’s mature. Mature and much better than those high school kids you keep chasing. Kids that might land you in a mess. See son! Open your eyes!”
Again, I smile. I smile more broadly and loudly. I smile not because his remarks are anyway near jokes. No! I smile because that’s my way of indicating that I’m in and I’m out. That I am confused. As well, my smile saves me a lot when my mouth runs dry of words. When I am unable to say a thing. My smile has always been my weapon. It has single handedly saved me from bulky mess that would end up swallowing me. It has accomplished tonnes and tonnes of things for me. Be sure to come across a few in here.
We’ve always been free talking about other matters
Well, this is the thing. My dad is a worried man because he’s never seen or heard me talk about a girlfriend. As well, he hasn’t seen me talk on phone with a person he would suspect to be a female friend. We stay in the same room. He probably would notice any such conversion. As well, he’s not seen me take someone out for a date ever since I moved in after campus.
So, by talking about high school kids, he’s obviously provoking me. He wants to hear me talk. He wants my opinion. He’s hit so hard and expects that his trick will work for him.
We’ve always been free talking about other matters. We’ve cracked jokes and laughed so hard. We’ve talked about everything, save for this one topic. Any time he brings it up, I never seem to cooperate. He really has wanted to understand me. He really has!
A while back while in campus, he had pulled a trick on me. It had worked wonders for both of us. Yes, both of us! He would keep telling me that whenever I wanted to take a lady out, I didn’t have to fear him. I would just tell him about it and the amount I needed for the day. And of course he would cooperate so well. He used to! Because of this, I would tell him about dates so often, whether I had one or when I was broke and needed money so badly.
Back to business. I’m quiet trying to think of any possible response to give him. He also sits down, not saying a word. He turns the television on which wipes away the pin drop silence in the room. He coughs. He clears his throat as if readying to say something. He doesn’t though. He’s done his part and now waiting for a response from me. The question he threw when he arrived hasn’t been responded to yet. The only response so far has been a smile. Perhaps vague. The question roams so badly in the room and in my mind. I inhale it in the air around the room. When I blink, it’s the same question. It’s disturbing now. It’s so demanding that I’m troubled. I am not at peace. At all I’m not at peace!
In my brain, I see my own shadow
It is 7 pm now. It’s time for news. He switches to another TV channel and the highlights seem very interesting. He’s concentrating so badly, but I’m not. I am in another world.
In my brain, I see my own shadow. My dad’s shadow is in there too. The two shadows are having a conversation. In the conversation, my shadow talks more than dad’s. It is quite interesting! I talk too much trying to answer his questions but he insists with one demand; “just tell me the truth, young man.”
We laugh and I insist with the same response. He’s not satisfied. He perhaps wants a different answer. The friendly conversation ends in a quarrel. The quarrel worsens to a fight. In the fight, I pick up a long screw driver. I am raging with anger. I raise my left hand intending to screw him up in his right eye. My left hand is still in motion when suddenly the shadows disappear. They disappear very abruptly. I am left sweating. I am shaking. I am confused. Lucky enough, dad is deep into the news!
Do I really have to tell him that I’m not interested in her? That I’m not interested in women at all?
I now talk to myself
But what will he think about me. How will he react? Yes he’ll conclude that I am gay. He obviously will. What next after that? Does it even sound normal?
I am so deep into thoughts. My head is so heavy with thoughts. But I have to answer him. I have to give him my honest opinion about the lady. I have to open up to him. I have to unload my soul. After all, he’s my dad!
I was in my third year then
I clear my throat. I’m getting ready to open up this day. I just have to. I have to unless I want him to keep bothering me with this same stuff every other day. Whatever the reaction!
He looks excited. He turns down the TV volume.
“Yes, son. Have you talked to her? I have been waiting for your response! Come on!”
“I no longer can do anything with women. I am very sorry I didn’t tell you this earlier. I’m not in that capacity any more dad.”
I look very hopeless. I am shivering. I am scared. I am very worried. But I just have to do this. I have to!
On the other hand. Dad looks very calm. He doesn’t look surprised. He’s manning up. He obviously wants more. He wants to hear more. He doesn’t want to rush into conclusions. He’s so gentle this night.
“Do you remember two years ago when I was so ill? When I was admitted to hospital for some good time? I was in my third year then. There is a reason why I didn’t want you travel all the way to where I was. I assured you that I would be ok. I didn’t want you to tire yourself with the long journey only to be disappointed dad. I am very sorry dad.”
“Dad, something very bad happened to me then. It wasn’t mere malaria as I had lied to you. It wasn’t! It wasn’t malaria dad! Please forgive me.”
He nods again. He’s calm and not calm. His eyes are getting bloody but he manages to cover it up with a smile. Then he asks me to carry on.
“I was caught with someone’s woman. His wife! He caught us in a lodging. We were intimate. He was so frustrated that he stabbed his wife to death. He spared my life but had to give me a lifetime punishment. He cut off my manhood. He cut it off then rushed me to hospital dad. He said he didn’t want me dead. So, he paid all the expenses prior to his arrest. It was a good private hospital. I thank God that I can still breathe. See dad…”
I unzip my trouser as he watches in numbness.