My dad died when I was six. Well, six and a half; I was big on halves then. Anyway, he died. And whether as a result of too much TV or an already over-active imagination, I used to “see” him sometimes. Always at night. Always in dim-lit rooms. He would just stand there, half-smiling, male Mona Lisa. And I would stare with eyes saucer-wide and tiny heart swollen and pounding furiously.
I don’t know how the mini obsession started, but start it did. I was suddenly convinced that he hadn’t just gone, convinced that I was more special to him than everyone else. Convinced that there was a hidden love letter from him, some kind of message in a bottle, if only I’d be smart enough to figure out where.
And then I remembered. There had been a day when he showed me, to my surprise and awe, how to record with a radio cassette player. So he’d recorded our voices saying nothing in particular. I raided the house for weeks, months, years. Till this day, seeing a radio cassette has me wondering if it’s The One.
I asked everyone if they’d seen any tapes around. I would gather up lots of them and spend my time playing, fast forwarding, rewinding, changing sides and trying all over again. Breath bated, all real logic gone. His voice. I would hear his voice. Maybe even his laugh? Anything. I didn’t care. Breathing other than mine. Anything!
I never found it, needless to say. Maybe, somehow, this explains why I can’t write anonymously. I want to say stuff that can be traced.
I went to Uni, the same one he’d taught in. I remember, during my registration, piled in an office with a bunch of others, and I’d laughed, a good belly laugh. Looking down from where I’d flung my head back, I realized one of the lecturers was staring at me rather oddly.
“Are you Ayo?”, he’d asked simply.
I nodded. He said, still rather oddly,
“I knew it. You laugh just like him. I remember, Ayo would laugh and everybody would know he was around. So full of life.”
I stared at him, knowing I couldn’t cry, not here. I nodded tightly at him and worked on controlling the goose pimples.
Recently, a man “friended” me on Facebook. I vaguely knew I’d seen his books in my dad’s library, so I accepted. Shortly after, he tentatively asked if I was Ayo’s daughter.
“I knew it,” he said, “The eyes are unmistakable.
Later, he went on to say how my dad had once told him how much I reminded him of himself. “I’m sure he’d be very proud of you.”
Cue spine-wracking sobs.
I know that, had he lived, things would’ve been quite different. I would be quite different. Spoiled (more so than now), maybe less likeable. Maybe he wouldn’t have let me jump from Primary 4 to JSS1. Maybe I wouldn’t have any friends. Maybe…
I love him endlessly, hopelessly, desperately. The missing him hits mercilessly now and then. Like the first time I watched Bridge to Terabithia. I cried for hours. I was swollen and hoarse with the empty, aching grief afterwards.