Runaway Dad

Was I Madara Brook? they asked. Yes, I was, I said. Then sign here, they said and I did.

I picked the parcel with trembling fingers and stumbled to the nearest chair. My chest hurt, it was hard to breathe, so I opened the windows. Outside, the sun was bathing the sky in a canvas of colour, inside fear was swallowing me whole.

It had been thirty years. Thirty years of wondering if I still had a father, if he still remembered me, if we would look alike, if he would like my beef stews. I searched everywhere, interviewing my mother millions of times. Did he tell her what part of London he was from? Was Thomas his real name? Was she sure I was his?

Mom wasn’t sure. She had been broke at the time and miserable. Their affair lasted less than a month. And there were others, but she believed I was his. Believed. Like I was a sacrament.

I tore open the brown envelope, a lawyer called a week before to say he would be sending me what Jonathan Rivers had left me as his only living child. I left the phone slip through my hands and scatter into a dozen pieces.
I dragged out the computer first, then I assembled the smaller items on it: a butterfly knife, a toy car, a seashell, many other odd items and a letter.

My beloved daughter, it said, I know you are hurt and angry with me. I am sorry. I have followed your progress the past thirty years with great pride. Since my private detectives found you, I have spent the few pain free moments of my life reading about you on the internet.

I would have reached you while alive but it seemed selfish to burden you with my suffering. I was diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago and given eight months to live. I knew my end was nigh. By the time you read this I will be gone, I want you to have these,souvenirs from a father you never knew.

I folded the letter and put it back in the brown box, then I dumped the ‘souvenirs’ in as well. Then I went to the back and made a fire and flung everything in it. Everything except the cheque he sent. I cashed that and bought a new house with a lake behind it, lots of red wine and a long black dress.

Time Travel

I remember when gay
Meant happy,
When doggy was a nickname
For Bingo,
When people wrote letters,
Made up tall stories,
About holiday trips,
Without being asked to Twitpic.

I remember when we made our
Own games,
Knew our real names,
Planted our own food,
Weeded our farms,
Went home for New Year,
Hunted snails and mushrooms,
Told tales by moonlight.

I remember when the f-word
Was taboo,
Marriage was forever,
Jobs for graduates were instant,
Suicide bombs unheard of,
Laurels won by merit,
Mobile phones a luxury,
Kidnapping a western anomaly.

I remember and
I wonder,
Are we going back
Or moving forward?
Is this the Nigerian Dream
We longed for?
Are we better now
Or worse off?

Rear View

For Kc…

She tried to be strong. It was hard to pretend she didn’t miss him; that she didn’t want to see his BBM chat notice on her phone. She kept checking, but there was no sign of him. Her pings, five of them, hung on the screen, five red slaps. There was no one else to talk to about the struggle to read Ghana Must Go or the delight she was finding in We Need New Names. She felt horrid for not telling him how much she missed him when he had come to the border to change money and hurriedly sent a ping. She had responded with the guardedness society prescribed for ladies who would not be seen as cheap by a man. Now she regretted it. She regretted it so much she would have given a day’s wages just to have a number to call. There were no takers. So instead she sat up on her bed looking out of the window watching the street kids play football and let the pain wash over her in waves.

She remembered the last chat they had, when he told her about the trip. He wasn’t sure about the prospects. He hadn’t been there before and the firm he was to work for didn’t pay that much. She had urged him to go.

–It is an opportunity. You’ll grow and be better for it.

–Yea, but I will miss you.
He typed back in seconds.

She replied.

She wanted to do that chat over again.

She wanted to type
–I’ll miss you too. I’ll miss you so much it ‘ll hurt. I wish you weren’t going. I’ll think of you everyday, every hour of everyday. Come back soon and stay safe.

It was too late.

Sometimes she thought of going to look for him, but it was just a thought. How could she leave her home in Port Harcourt, Nigeria to Cotonou, Benin Republic, to look for a man she had never met? Where would she start from? The only French she could speak was ‘Ca va’? She should have asked for his hotel phone number, his email, his anything. Now, she was to live in worry and regret….

Weeks later she had learnt to live with the pain. It was just as well that she never saw the newspaper. Even if she had she wouldn’t have known that the man she knew as Tzar was the same one the papers called Kachi Awa.

It was good fortune that she would always think he was somewhere–travelling the world, having fun, being happy. She would think his phone got stolen or missing or faulty. She would think another girl mesmerised him, wiped her memory out of his mind. She wouldn’t know he was arrested. That he had been framed by a friend and was serving a jail term for illegal possession of marijuana. And that his last thoughts as he tried to fight off the handcuffs were–I want to text Magdalene.