Disclaimer: if you haven’t read part one yet, click here
23rd, March, 2007
Time: 8am or thereabout
All of a sudden, I feel this emptiness in my heart, it’s like a part of it has been taken away. I suddenly feel tired. The assembly is taking way too much time than I had expected and the standing is wearing me down. I can’t wait to get back to class. Our headmaster is speaking, he is talking about something to do with class eights being the engines of the school, but I am not really listening, my head is everywhere but here.
The assembly FINALLY comes to an end; I am the first one to get to class and head over to my desk. As I am taking my seat, the rest of the class streams in, kwani Allan you didn’t go to the assembly? Some ask. I just stare at them with nothing much to say. I am feeling this vacuum inside of me that has rendered me dumb. Or maybe I don’t feel like I owe anyone an explanation. I don’t know why I am feeling this way.
The timetable reads English as the first lesson of the day. And it’s a double, God help us because Mrs. Okore; a huge woman with Yana tires for a waist, is our teacher of English, and she might decide to give us a composition to write. I hate writing compositions. She is light for her age, has tiny eyes with tiny nose and a full mouth. She is medium in height. Her hair is grazing her shoulders; they are long for an African woman’s hair. She is huge, with arms the size of my thigh. She has a certain watch that I really like; goldish and at the face, it’s a face right? The face has a picture of a blue Nike sport shoe on it. I think it’s pretty cool.
Mrs. Okore is a household name at Arya Primary School for always giving out too many compositions, and her infamous slaps. Pupils revere and fear her in equal measure. She is a very good teacher, she has a passion in whatever she does and that’s respectable. But she is also feared for the slaps. She would tilt you face at an angle, and then lift her heavy hand, mark you she had these long thick fingers… and let the force of gravity do the rest. When it landed on your cheeks, you forgot where you are for a split second. You even forgot your name, heck even your mother’s name! All you saw was darkness followed by a ringing sound in your ear. The slaps struck like lightning
Today we are revising a certain past paper; thank God there is no composition. I am seated at the window, watching this pretty Indian girl; petite, with long black hair flowing from her head to her shoulder like a river. She is going about her business oblivious of the creep staring at her from a window at the first floor of a certain old building that acts as a classroom.
Then from a distance I hear a voice call my name. I can’t really tell whose voice it is…but with the third call and a tap on my shoulder, I am brought back to the land of the living. Everyone in class is staring at me. Why is everyone staring at me?
Allan, could you come out here please..? Mrs. Okore calls out to me. She is at the door with Mrs. Phelisters, our CRE teacher. Turns out they have been standing there for a while talking. I get up shaking like a certain chameleon on a feeble twig that we keep singing about. Everyone in class is staring at me. Some with pity and others with evil grins plastered on their faces, leo umepatikana, Steve mouths at me. They know that I was going to get a dose of those slaps. I knew that as well. I mean, why else would Mrs. Okore call me out? I was not concentrating in class, what did I expect? The class is ominously quiet, a kind of quiet that could render one deaf for its loudness.
She tells me to follow them to the staffroom. My heart is beating so fast, it’s like it’s trying to break free from this cage that it has been a prisoner for the last 13 years. God, is this how people get a heart attack?
Upon reaching the staffroom, whose face do I see staring back at me? Ochieng’s. I’m taken aback! What the hell is Ochieng doing here? Shouldn’t he be at the hospital taking care of dad? Wait or dad is too happy that he is out of the hospital that he couldn’t wait to tell his children? Yes, that could be it; why else would Ochieng be here? too dramatic, but I can live with that. Actually I could use something to light up my day seeing as it is pretty dull.
Being a senior teacher, Mrs. Okore, she has her own office. A tiny room overlooking the canteen, with only three chairs and a table. No papers, no books. Pretty modest, huh?
But what disturbs me is the look I saw on Ochieng’s face as Mrs. Okore led me to her office. He didn’t look like someone who had come bearing good news. There was some sadness on his face. Something must have happened. But I think to myself, you worry too much Allan. And this worry will be your undoing. Chill dude.
I chill. At least I try to.
Minutes later, Madam Phelistas comes with Brian. He has confusion written all over his face too. I bet he has seen Ochieng seated at the staffroom as well and he has the same questions running through his mind.
Then the “interview” begins. I am calling it an interview because it felt like one. For a position I am not sure I applied for; the Junior Position of Fatherlessness.
Where does your mom work?
What does your dad do?
All along I am wondering where they are headed with all these questions. Fear of the unknown starts creeping in. And let me tell you this for free, it is the worst kind of fear. Its better you fear something that you know. Fearing something that you don’t know is like being in a dark forest all alone, not knowing what might be lurking behind the bushes. Brian has the same look on his face.
Then the questions cease, FINALLY!! Mrs. Okore goes on a spiel how this (I still don’t have any idea what ‘this’ is) should not interfere with your academics. You know Brian you are one of our best students. Ouch! What about my studies?
Then she lets out a sad sigh. She looks at us both with a look I had never seen on her before. Heck, I never knew she could pull that look off. A look of melancholy sat on her face and it was at that moment that I knew. But I kept on denying it in my head.
Come on he can’t be dead… I mean Mom said that he will be discharged today. Or did she lie? She knew that he was going to die and she lied. No Allan, you are being too dramatic, she was so happy; she couldn’t have faked that spark in her eyes now could she? Dad can’t be dea…
I lost my train of thought when I heard that word, dead.
I’m sorry, what? A voice I didn’t recognize asked. It was so shrill and high pitched, I didn’t think it belonged to me until I saw everyone turn and look at me.
Your father is dead Allan. I am so sorry… but you know this is not the end of th….
Everything slows down. I look at my brother and I could see tears in his eyes. I look at Mrs. Okore, she is still talking, I can’t really hear what she is saying. I look at Madam Phelisters; she has a very sad look on her face, like she didn’t want to be part of this. Then I look back at my brother again, we both lock eyes and we think the same thing, He is really dead.
For a second the world spins and I see darkness, and almost immediately before i could fall down unconcious, I regain control. Then tears start flowing. And I let them flow. Flow flow flow tears, knock yourselves out.
Sure, he had his faults; a womanizer, an alcoholic, an abusive husband, an abusive father… nobody’s perfect. He had his faults just like every other human being. Mistakes are to human. But he didn’t deserve to die, at least not now.
I get so angry all of a sudden, angry at God, for letting dad die despite my prayers, despite mom’s prayers. You let Satan win God; you let that lowlife piece of shit win! Were you sleeping on the job?? I get angry at dad, for giving up on us too fast. Couldn’t you just fight for your life a little longer? I get angry at mom, for lying!!! I get angry at Ochieng for no reason whatsoever. I get angry at the two teachers seated in front of me, for being the bearers of bad news. I get angry at the world, at life, at every freaking thing that exists. Except my brother. I feel a certain bond; that which is brought about by grief.
I cry on my way back to class. It is break time and people are staring, I don’t really care. Let them stare. It is during this time that I realize that I actually loved that bugger, despite everything that he put us through. Or maybe I am crying out of pity, you know? good riddance. But as I look at it now, 10 years later, it wasn’t pity, I cried out of pain, pain that only comes about when you lose something/someone that you love. He had his faults, but he was my father.
I get to class, there’s only one girl in, the rest of the class is out eating mandazis not having a care in the world. The girl looks at me and sees tears. I bet she thought I had recieved some really good beating in the staffroom. But surprise pops up on her face when she sees me taking my bag, stuffing my books in it and heading out. She is probably wondering what is going on, but I am in no mood to talk, just cry cry cry… I cry an ocean, and this ocean will take a very long time to build a bridge over and move on.
We get out of school and get into a matatu and head home…
As we near the hospital that his lifeless body is lying, I resist the urge to jump out of the matatu and ran to where he is and ask him why; why he had to make mom a widow at a very young age. Why he had to leave all the burden of raising us to her. Why he had to go so soon. Why he couldn’t fight for his life a little fervently. Why did you have to go so freaking soon dad!!!??? Why!!!?? But all I do is watch the building as it ominously stood, silent, in all its splendor as it looks down at me mockingly. The building that houses the remains of my father
We reach Corner Mbuta, our last stop, we alight and start walking home. And as we are walking, people who used to know my dad are telling me how sorry they are. This is making me feel even more pain and I cry even more. Nothing is compared to the pain of losing a father. The pain is unbearable. I cannot imagine my life growing up without a him. How?
I get home pissed off at mom. But the moment I lay my eyes on her, all the anger vanishes. She is frustrated. She looks helpless. She is sad. All along I have been thinking of myself not thinking of what my mother must be going through. How selfish
He died some minutes past 8; around the time I felt the emptiness in my heart. He died, and with it a piece of me died too and a vacuum was created, an unfillable void.
Dad had changed. He even promised to quit alcohol, though we both knew that that was the sickness talking. Mom still loved him despite his faults. He tried as a father; took my siblings and I to good schools, bought us anything that we needed, ensured that we ate healthy. He tried. And that was why mom was willing to tolerate him. Plus, he never abused her anymore. He could come home drunk like a skunk, but he would never raise a hand on her. That was change. And now he was gone. Never to return!
Later on in life I will learn that he wanted mom to bring him a pineapple the following day when she came to visit. So when she received a call from him on that day at around 8:20AM, she says she smiled and thought to herself, aii, kwani how bad does this guy want these pineapples? Only, it wasn’t dad on the other end of the line.
I will later learn that on that fateful day, he woke up as usual at around 7. When the nurses came to change the sheets at around 7:30, he said hi to them and he excused himself and went to bask at the balcony. He sat there for a whole 30 minutes, watching the world below moving on without him; taking it all in; the sun, the noise, the people going about their activities… I am picturing him closing his eyes just to savor the moment; like he knew he was seeing all this for the last time. So he had to take it all, because wherever he is going, he will not have the pleasure.
When he feels that he has had enough, he comes back in and takes his porridge; the last meal he took on this earth. It makes me wonder, what will my last meal be before I kick it? He then pukes all of it before he is even done, and there my friends, there is where death, who has been lurking somewhere in the corners of the room impatiently waiting for him to be done with the porridge before he took him away… says, You know what? That’s it! Then he goes ahead and snatches his dear life.
I can’t help but wonder what he was thinking as life escaped his body. Was it mom? His wife, the love of his life. Was it his children, his three beautiful boys? Or was it all of us combined? Or his whole life just flushed before him, regretting some of the choices he made in life wishing he did some things differently but knowing all too well that it was too late for that now. Was it painful as death squeezed the life out of him? Did he put up a fight, you know, not going down without a fight and all…? Or did he accept the fact that his time was up, and like a lamb that is about to be slain, he sat there and let death get it over with?
I will never have the answers to those questions I guess. Maybe if there is hell after all and we find ourselves there, only then will I ask him.
The funny part is that I can’t really remember the date he got buried. I can only remember being happy that we were over and done with it. Because the hubbub of the funeral service was weighing down on me, it was all I could do not to scream.
We miss you so much dad. I know our lives would have turned out so differently were you around. The other day mom and I were talking about you, how probably we would have been at a better place if you were around. I heard the sadness in her voice, and the therapist in me had to make her feel better. Everything happens for a reason mom, I say to her. Maybe if dad was still alive, our lives would have been hell.
I always hate it when someone tells me that everything happens for a reason, such a cliché. Not all things in this world happen for a reason, some just happen. But I guess that’s what she needed to hear at the time, or maybe not.
Bye dad. This is the last piece I am writing of you. I’m letting you go. The bridge has been built, it has taken 10 years, but it is done. I am crossing it now. The last full stop to this piece will mean I have crossed to the other side.
My thoughts 23/3