I’d been awake since about 8a.m but had decided to lounge on my bed for a while, to plan my day in my head. I don’t usually wake up late; the reason for my waking up late today was because I’d spent the previous night on Naijastories, reading Betrayals and Funerals by Mimi and each episode kept drawing me in that I didn’t know when I read to Episode 28. The suspense kept me awake till 1am! More so, the Harmattan season was taking over from the Raining season in the city of Zaria so I guess that indulged my over-sleep too.
I wrapped myself in my blanket, earpiece in my ears listening to 360 degrees – my favourite song – by ASA while I planned the whole day in my head. I was not sure if I was actually planning my day or enjoying the music but then I knew I was engrossed in both acts that I barely noticed the presence of my father.
My father was good-looking in a weird way: short, light complexioned with a slightly long nose; his eyes are the strangest thing about him – they have a thick red color like someone who’d spent so many years crying. My father wasn’t a tall man yet he wanted, so much, to be larger than life. A feat, I think, he really couldn’t achieve to the fullest and which he wanted me as his first son and firstborn to achieve.
He never took our education for granted. He’d always say: “Your education is a priority and everything else is a luxury.”
He’d graduated from UNILAG as a dentist and always told us stories of his exploits and awards as the best student.
“Hey son,” He tapped me as he sat beside me on the bed.
I peered out from beneath the blanket and nodded at him. I didn’t want to talk because I hadn’t brushed. I’ve never liked talking with my morning breath still fresh. I sat up and leaned against the wall.
“Morning son, hope you slept well?”
I nodded again.
People have always said that the resemblance between me and my father is unmistakable. Well, personally I didn’t think so. He had a full hair while I, at twenty-two, was already going bald. While his upper lip was thicker than the lower one, both lips of mine were equally thick and big. Strange how such things are noticed, right? Well, except for the fact that we’re both fair; I don’t think I resemble my Dad in anyway. Yet I beam with joy when friends and family argue over it.
“Michael resembles his dad.” One would say. “No,” the other will say “His younger brother resembles his dad.”
He stroked my feet slightly and said, “You know I love you son.” I nodded. Whenever my father wants to tell me something that’s very important to him, he always starts with that phrase. You know I love you son. “And I always want the best for you.”He added.
I wanted to say, that should be the priority of every good parent but I just shut my mouth and nodded again. (No talking if I hadn’t brushed was my number one rule.)
I unwrapped myself completely from my blanket and stood up from the mattress. I dragged my reading chair closer and sat so that I was facing my father, bearing in mind that a long talk was ahead.
My father adjusted himself and faced me properly. He opened his briefcase – I tried to peer inside – he brought out a brown envelope, closed the briefcase and handed the envelope to me.
I hesitated before I collected it. I was curious. What could be in this envelope? I wondered, mused. I couldn’t guess because nothing was written on it except a 50 naira stamp glued to the left side of it.
I flipped the envelope in a manner that meant “what is this for Dad?” And he understood.
So he replied, “You know what, my son. That’s your VISA to the states plus a valid ticket. Your uncle helped us out. I want you to go and study overseas.”
I was exasperated rather than excited and I knew my father noticed that but I didn’t care. “But Dad, I am already in 200 level at O.A.U studying Chemistry.” I said. I was disgusted in that moment because I’d just broken my rule of no talking before brushing.
“Yes, my son. But you’re on strike and I’m tired of that. In the states, you’ll have an uninterrupted education.” Pointing to the ceiling as though the STATES was somewhere in the ceiling.
First, I didn’t understand why he was fed up with the strike. It’s not as if he’ll have to pay school fees all over again when the strike was called off.
I wanted to tell him that I was enjoying the strike; that I was using the opportunity to finish up my manuscript but I couldn’t. Even if I would, it was not in this kind of atmosphere. So I got up angrily from the chair, dropped the envelope on my reading table, then I faced my dad, leaning against the table.
“We have talked about this a million times dad, and I told you I’m not interested in leaving my home. You should have done that for my younger brother.”
My father knew I said those words with anger but I didn’t care. I could read something on his face that meant, is this how you talk to a caring father that went an extra mile to get the best for you. But I didn’t care.
He stood and walked a bit closer to me, “I will do the same thing for your brother as well when…”
“Look dad, just give it to him.” I interrupted rudely.
“Now listen to me Michael!” He began and I knew he was angry. Not because he shouted at me but because he called me by my name. My father rarely called me my name. “You are leaving this home next week whether you like it or not and your uncle will be waiting for you at the Miami International Airport. So get set!” get set sounded more like a race call to me.
He turned, picked up his briefcase and walked briskly out of my room, banging the door behind him.
“Come and force me,” I said under my breath and didn’t care if he heard. I picked the envelope from my table, flung it to the floor and brought my foot down on it hard, real hard. I Jabbed myself up and down like an angry child then I lay on my mattress but I refused to cry.
On my mattress, I began thinking: Am I doing the right thing? This is an opportunity for me to make my life better, as some will say, yet am throwing it away. Am I crazy?
I was in this stream of thought when I heard my door creaked. Instantly, my thoughts got redirected. Who was that? Could it be my father again? My father was fond of being persistent. He would keep going and coming, virtually repeating all he had said until he gets his wish. So I was sure he’d come back. Definitely he would be the one.
I wrestled with the idea of staying put and not looking up but I couldn’t so I decided to look.
Oh my God! I did not believe who was at the door. Was this a joke?