My sweating palms held the old suitcase of my departing father. Tears wailed up already as I practiced the calmness therapy debating the wisdom of staying strong. I did not want to cry as I tried my best to ignore the drama behind me. All I thought of, was his Death. I always saw things from the positive aspect but at that time, I couldn’t help it.
It was obvious, nobody ever got back alive from all the stories I’ve read and movies I’ve seen. Also, everything just felt weird that day, the singing birds did not even excite me. Why were they even interrupting my thoughts with their bad voices? Even the weather was acting crazy, the rain never fell in the dry season. I just didn’t get it. I adjusted my scarf and rested by the door staring at nothing.
I glanced behind me. I saw a tear roll down his cheek. I had never seen Papa cry before. I looked away while he brushed the offending cheek with his hand. I was the only one not crying this time around. Mama cried herself to sleep last night and I can bet she’s not stopping anytime soon. I guess the little one was tired of eating tears for breakfast.
I titled my head again to take a good look at them. Mama in Papa’s arms, Papa’s palm on her belly as she sobbed uncontrollably. It was like one of those tragic romantic movies I watch whenever Dede sneaked in his phone to class. I was almost convinced that Papa will never come back to us.
Deep breath. Now or never. “Do you have to go?” I heard myself ask with a shaky voice. There goes my plan of staying strong, my voice wouldn’t cooperate. He left Mama and walked up to me. I guess I broke their little moment but oh well. He held my shoulders peering into my eyes. “This is a call of duty, Ije. This is me fighting for our country, I want to make it a better place for you and your unborn brother. Please tell me you understand…”
“Wait, understand?” I said interrupting him as my face flushed. “I will never understand the need of you fighting another man’s battle. Leaving us here just to go and play with bullets to put your life at stake. How is that even going to make here a better place for me?! No, Papa, I can never understand your stupid decision!” I spat out as the long prisoned tears finally had their way.
“Ijeawele! You would watch your mouth and speak to your father with respect!” Mama snapped as she glared at me in disbelief. I took in a deep breath several times and shrugged Papa’s arms off my shoulders. Papa was as cool as cucumber, it was as though he low-key enjoys seeing us like this. Because if not, this issue would have never been brought up.
Mama adjusted the wrapper against her chest and stood up, dried tears on her face, the fresh ones wailing up. She could see the pain behind my outburst. I just dropped the suitcase carelessly and went back to my initial position. It was better being entertained by the weird birds than any of this.
After a short while, I felt her hands on my shoulder. Her scent of Laliva perfume mixed with burnt charcoal brushing through my nose. She made me face her and wiped the tears that I didn’t even know were flowing. “Mama just tell him the truth. It’s not the time to have feelings all bottled up. Is it?” I said, waiting for an answer in my favour. Our attention was immediately shifted as Papa’s phone rang. Our curious eyes were on him asking different questions at the same time.
“It’s time to go, I promise you I’ll be back,” He said with his eyes glistening with tears while looking back and forth between me and Mama, to at least catch a glimpse of approval. But trust me to not offer that.
Despite the drama, Papa left us to be alone in this cold lonely house.
Dear reader, I know what you are thinking.
Papa didn’t die but he’s treating a bullet wound on the left leg and is doing pretty well. He came back just before Mama put to bed and gave all the moral support he could. I wonder how he does it, juggling both family and national wahala. He’s a hero.
My Papa Soldier; old soldier never dies.