We shuffled into the house in silence. It had been a long drive from his mom’s place to mine. Shaq had stayed glued to his novel all through the trip. My efforts at drawing him into a conversation felt clumsy, like a string of paper balls that couldn’t find the trash can.
“Welcome home.” I said, putting on the lights.
“Thank you,” he murmured.
“I fixed you a room, I hope you like it. Let’s have a look.”
I prayed he would like it. I lived alone in the 3 bed-room apartment but I wanted him to feel wanted here, so I had made one of the rooms into what I thought was a male teenager’s dream. I had the walls repainted in gentle blue and brown stripes. Matching curtains, a persian rug, a small bookshelf and an abstract painting helped to complete the picture. As I showed him in, I couldn’t help smiling to myself.
My teen years had been spent on a naked mattress on the floor shared with three brothers. My bookshelf was a piece of trampoline spread out in a corner. My abstract, the patterns of clouds and stars that danced far above me through missing window panes. Even now, soft beds made uncomfortable, in many hotels I just spread a towel on the floor and went to sleep. But this wasn’t about me, it was about Shaq.
He walked in and dropped his Ghana-Must-Go bag by the bed. I winced at the sight. There was so much I had to make up for. So much I had to undo in my relationship with my son. I wished things were different. I wished I hadn’t abandoned his mom fifteen years ago when I heard she was pregnant.
“See you at dinner, in an hour,” I said, as I closed the door and strode away. I didn’t listen for his reply, I was too busy trying to escape my thoughts. My shame. But they embraced me and soon I was back in Utoke, fifteen years ago….