This one is a tribute to this relentless winter. Thank goodness Spring is here. I like the story for many reasons. I have managed to talk about at least 5 themes in less than 2000 words. There is love, fatherhood, immigration, seasons, identity etc…
This is the first story i ever written that i want to write a sequel to. But no chile, no, I bind every spirit of Nollywood. 🙂
When he is here, ‘happy’ stops being a adjective; it becomes a noun. It is a thing I cannot shake off, a cloak that hangs heavy around my soul, warding away sadness and everything cold.
His lips are pink from the bitter cold of winter. He walks in with ice in his eyes; ice that sees me and immediately begins to melt. There is always a hurriedness to our love making and today is no different. A nibble here, a kiss there, we inhale, we exhale, we take deep breaths before going under but it is never enough. We still end up out of breath when it is all over.
‘Ima’ he says in the nasal tones of his forefathers.
‘Ima’ I answer, leaning my nakedness into his. The word is easier for me to say. It isn’t because I love him more. It is because I taught him to say “love” in another language, a language not his own, the language of my fathers.
Outside, snow falls in flurries, like angels’ dreams gone awry.
‘I am moving home,’ I say. “For a little while.”
He says nothing but I can feel his body stiffen. He is content here, in this place where winters never really end, where summer is a mere precursor to another season of ice.
I am a child of the rain-forest, at one with the evergreen leaves of my father’s hearth. Yet I love a man born in winter land. Yet I love the ease and the happiness his winter land has afforded me.
He once told me his ancestors were Nordic men, men that ruled the seas and walked on water. He had thrown his blond head back and laughed when I pointed out the part of the water being frozen. He had kissed me for the very first time then.
I know that leaving this place will mean leaving behind the happiness I have found peeking out from his navel, the laughter I have found in eyes laced with ice, the stretch of joy his lips lay on my body.
When he is here, ‘happy’ stops being a adjective. I no longer need to try. I just am. Happy. And yet I chose to leave this behind.
For a dream. For another man.
It was a hard decision to make but the mail came yesterday. I knew before I opened it what it would hold and yet I opened it anyway. I thought I was ready for the words that would pour out from the paper I was holding and I was. But I wasn’t ready for the love that formed ‘O’s or the sadness that weighted down every ‘T’ or the hope that encased every ‘V’.
‘The doctors say they can’t find anything wrong so you must not worry my child. I am getting older is all. My knees can no longer compete with the young men of our town in races and yet they long for the days when you will again sit on them.
Ekanem’s voice is going hoarse. She blames it on my poor hearing. I blame my poor hearing on the nonsense woman talk she has poured into them all these years. And yet, when the phone rings, I hear it clearly and my heart leaps with hope that it might be you Adiaha. But it rarely is.
Thank you for the money you sent for the hospital bills and for everything else. Your love, my child is like the spread of an eagle’s wings, it encompasses us all.
I never thought I would grow old. I took youth for granted. I took time for granted. I took your mother for granted and she packed up and left me. But you, you were my redemption. From the first day I saw your form as you circled and filled out your mother’s belly, I knew you were not one to be taken for granted.
It has been so long my child and many waters of regret have passed under the bridge we never got around to completing so we could find our way back to each other. By the time you were old enough to find your way back home and to me , you had a new life in another country, a life I wasn’t a part of. So we have relied on phone calls, letters and the one visit you have made back home since your mother took you far away to the land of frozen water.
You tell me you hate to fly and I am not surprised. You are a child that took easily to water after all. When I close my eyes, I can see you as you once were, a child, my child, singing in the canoe that took us out fishing, splashing happily like a mermaid in the rivers of our fathers while your mother screamed threats, picking shells on the shore to make your mother a necklace.
“I hate flying Papa” You told me the last time I saw you. It was also the first time in 14 years. I took it to mean that you wanted me to understand the sacrifice you had made to come home. I took it to mean a promise to do something you hated because you loved the people you did it for. I took it as hope. Now I know better.
But there are other ways to get here Adiaha. Canoes, ships, boats and those arms that once reached out to me be lifted, those arms that I taught to swim.
Come home Adiaha, come home. If planes, canoes, boats, ships and all else fails, remember I taught you to swim.
I read the letter out loud for the umpteenth time since I received it, only this time I am reading it to another’s hearing.
When I am done, silence takes the place of words but I can hear his every breath, this man that now defines happiness in the dictionary that is my heart.
“You should go then. You should go home,” He tells me after seconds that seemed longer than minutes have passed.
“Yes,” I agree.
There is nothing left to say and so we love without words. I place my ear on his chest while he sleeps so I can hear the sounds his heart makes as it breaks. When he awakens, we love all over again till we are out of breath and his skin is as ruddy as mine is black. I watch him leave with the morning, ice melting on the window panes, streaking the last memory I have of him.
“Run after him,” my heart aches.
“You don’t need to,” My head tells me. “When the time comes, he will find his way back to you and the child you conceived last night. Your father taught you to swim. His father taught him to walk on water.”
Song of the day: One Republic – Preacher