She casually checked her wristwatch not for the first time that evening. “How does this happen?” She muttered to herself in consternation. She could have sworn it was the exact same time as it was the last time she checked, bar a few seconds. Time sure was taking it’s sweet time. She had showered, dressed, undressed, redressed, undressed yet again before finally settling for what she had on right now.
She was nervous, anxious and excited! She wanted the evening to be perfect, but she could never tell with her dad. He loved her dearly, true, but she could not forget how he blew his top when her cousin had done the exact same thing. It was supposed to be a joyous occasion, and eventually it panned out that way, but before the ‘eventually? She grimaced at the recollection.
Although she looked calm and tranquil, he could tell she was wound up tighter than a corkscrew. He was after all her father.
From the way she smiled when their eyes met, a little too brightly, to the tiny ridges on her forehead each time she looked at her wristwatch as if she was willing the time to move faster, to the muttering under her breath when she realized it was still the same time from five seconds ago – she got those from him.
Then there were her eyes. Hidden under thick lashes – her mother’s legacy – and framed by almost perfectly arched eyebrows – his family’s legacy – were the darkest eyes he had ever seen. When she was excited or flustered they seemed to glow like live coals. And they were glowing now.
He walked across to her and tapped her shoulder gently. When she turned he enveloped her in an embrace that he hoped would tell her more than his words ever would “It’s gonna be okay.” She rested her head against his chest and mouthed the words “Thank you dad”, which he felt through his clothes as he imagined what her lipstick and face powder would have done to his shirt. “Oh well,” he sighed, “another shirt ruined by your make up. Lemme go and change before your mum comes for my head.”
He had just put his right arm through the shirt sleeve when he heard the doorbell. Heaving a deep sigh he braced himself for the meeting. “Relax man,” he thought to himself. “She is only bringing home her boyfriend. It’s not like he is marrying her off right away.”
Having lost a child before, he had thrown himself into his work. His first child had been born out of wedlock, but that did not stop him from loving both son and mother. He saw them as a family unit and tried to treat them as one until a difference in opinion, and his personal stubbornness brought everything down around his ears. He would not agree to the number of names she wanted for the child – seven, where he wanted only three. She went ahead and did what she wanted, and for good measure, upped and relocated!
He was so distraught after several futile attempts at finding them, that he threw himself wholly into work. Not bothering with people, he buried himself deeper and deeper into what he did.
It was not until he met her mother that he paused to lift his head from work and look up. He stopped to catch his breath, and boy did he catch his breath. She mesmerized him, and loved him. She helped him make the journey back from the brink, and made him believe again. Though they married, he was not sure he could love again, not like he knew he could.
All that changed on the night she was born.
Since that night she was all he lived for; her happiness was all he worked for; to protect her was all he breathed for.
On the day she returned from the hospital he bought a puppy; part pet part guard. When she turned seven, he toyed with the idea of getting a baseball bat, and on her fourteenth birthday he seriously contemplated getting a gun. When she turned eighteen though, he knew it was time to let her lead her life, make her mistakes and hopefully learn along the way.
That was seven years ago. Tonight he gets to meet her boyfriend.
She had met him on her return from vacationing in the UK two years ago, her first time flying by herself. In her words, he was “Charming, well spoken, humorous and quite a gentleman.”
Though born in Nigeria, he had grown up in the UK. He was just returning home for the first time to attend his mother’s wedding. His father had died when he was two and his mother had remained single since. She was getting married to an old friend of hers who had been so much a part of their life, he was like family anyway.
They had stayed in touch even after he returned to Britain, and when six months ago, there had been an opening in the Nigeria office of the company he worked for, he had jumped at it.
In that time they had become almost inseparable. In her words, “He is My soul mate.”
Realizing how much this meant to her, he had then asked her to invite him over so the family (he) can meet the person responsible for this glow she daily radiated. And so this dinner had been arranged.
He had always prided himself on being of a liberal disposition, but each time he remembered his reaction the last time a boy had been brought home specifically to meet him, he was mortified beyond belief. Who could blame him when his niece who had lived with him all her life had brought home that young Computer Analyst? He did not even know she had a boyfriend. True he had suspected that she would know about boys, and maybe know a few boys, but to have an almost total stranger come to speak with him about asking for her hand in marriage…
At least he eventually relented and they have been married five years now. But they never let him forget his shocked outburst. He had all but thrown the young man out on his ear, while threatening to disown her on the other hand.
He was just stepping out of his room into the living room when he heard a gasp followed by an almighty crash. He ran quickly to the living room to see what the commotion was about. He arrived beside his wife who had dropped the casserole she was carrying.
She had been on her way from the kitchen to the dinning table, crossing the living room as she went. She had turned her head to acknowledge their guest when he sprang out of the sofa, flashed her a smile and said “Good evening, Ma. It was really kind of you to invite me over for dinner.” It was then that she dropped the pot.
There was food and broken earthenware scattered everywhere, lumps of meat dotted the floor, and congealing grease spattered the walls.
She was wringing her hands and rubbing them down the sides of the dress she was wearing.
His daughter had a surprised look on her face. She just stood rooted to a spot. One hand stretched towards her mother, the other around the gentleman standing next to her. She had obviously been on the verge of introducing him.
Everything was like in The Matrix: frozen. And he was the only one capable of movement. He looked from one face to the other round the room. Then it caught his eyes. The same reason why his wife was standing there transfixed, a look of horror on her face.
Standing there looking very confused and holding a bottle of wine was him. Except this was not him as he looked now. This version looked thirty years younger; not as thick around the middle, and missing the greys that flecked his hair and beard. Both versions were, wait for it…. ME!
I woke up with a start.
The ‘fasten seatbelt’ signs had just come on, and looking out the window to my left, I saw we were descending into Abuja. I looked to my right at the lady travelling with me, I had completely forgotten about her as I slept, and I hoped she would not mind too much. I reached out and took her hand, letting a smile slowly pull up the left side of my lips. Then I let out a grateful sigh.
This had been happening to me a lot and had become more frequent recently. It was either these recurring nightmares, or bouts of insomnia. Just like everytime before, I crossed myself and said a little prayer. For as my mother is quick to say, “If you commit your life, plans, dreams and fears to God through prayers everyday, you will have peace in your life.”