I had just flicked my wrist and looked at my wristwatch, the time read 11:58. I took a sip from the plastic bottle of 7up and was going to return to Faruk, my Blackberry, to carry on typing when I caught a glimpse of red. I looked at the spot in the parking space and confirmed it was the red of a car. My lips turned up in a smile even as my heartbeat quickened. Here we were, finally. I thought to myself.
My phone rang and, after a conversation which irritated me, even though the aim was to confirm I was here, the car door opened. Seconds later, one of the double glass doors of the KFC restaurant opened and he came in. He had his back to me as he came in, seemingly gliding across the space separating us, but as soon as I saw him, I recognised him. What’s not to recognise? I had seen this person everyday of my life, and then everyday of his life; such is the resemblance we bear.
I took him in my arms and wrapped him in an embrace I hoped would tell him, more than words, how much I love him and how much I had missed him.
His eyes, white and round, had a touch of red – he had been roused from sleep; his forehead was damp from sweat, despite the rest of his body being cool – the car airconditioning did nothing to keep him from sweating; his hair had been cut in a style completely different from mine, yet it made him look more like me. He looked at me through his eyes still laced with sleep and I leaned in and kissed his cheek, then I buried my nose in the crook of his neck and inhaled deep and long.
He was wearing a cream coloured t-shirt tucked into grey cargo pants with elastic hems, he also had on tan sandals; I had favoured a grey long-sleeved tunic with black details embroidered into the neck and cuffs over deep blue jeans and a pair of tan leather slippers. I also had my trusty backpack.
We sat down at the table where I was, I on my seat and he on the table. He sat facing me, and although this was supposed to be our day out at a restaurant, we spent the first few minutes looking at each other. I mentally filed away images of this young man, clicking away with each blinking of my eyes, my lids acting as shutters. He cocked his head this way and that, and while I cannot say how much of what he saw registered, I knew he was essentially doing the exact same thing I was doing. And, also knowing how fickle the memory can be sometimes, I took still photos with Faruk to help with whatever I may miss. I also did video recordings, though I forgot to save them.
He had grown since the last time I saw him, and as if to show me how grown, he struggled gently to be let down. Holding onto the edge of an empty seat next to me, he stood there and looked up at me, pride evident in his eyes. Wizkid’s songs had been playing, piped in through speakers hidden in the ceiling of the eatery. He bobbed and swayed to “Holla at your boy”, then he tried to walk around the seat. I quickly got behind him to catch him in case he fell. He blew a raspberry or something close, then repeated a word before letting out a stream of baby talk. “Barney,” his mother said quietly from where she was seating opposite me. “He said Barney, that’s his favourite program on TV.” He stretched for the table top, and this time I knew he was going to fall. I held him and it was then I realised he wanted to climb, like seriously!
I made the appropriate noises as I helped him onto the table. He laughed and my heart shattered all over again, into a thousand pieces. His laugh was happy and free, telling of his enjoyment and immense trust. I envied him such freedom.
He reached for the bottle of 7up I had been drinking from and tried to put it in his mouth. “No you don’t!” We both said, his mother and I, as I held the bottle away from his lips. He ignored us and tried again, and again I stopped him. He looked up at me and, since I was looking down at him too, we locked eyes. He held my look and I would have laughed if I didn’t realise what was happening. I would be damned if I was going to let myself be brow-beaten by my nine-month old son! There was no wondering where he got that from; I have lost count of how many times I have challenged authority with that look. When he looked away first, I sighed and wondered how it is even possible that two people born into two different generations can have so much in common – and one of them is still less than a year old. My brother Jigga says to blame it on the genes.
The time passed quickly, and the next thing I knew, I was outside saying ‘see you later’. I try to never say ‘goodbye’, that sounds kind of final. For a moment his face crumpled, but I leaned in and whispered “I will see you really soon, I love you.” He smiled his dimpled smile and then I stepped back and let her secure him in his car seat. As she drove away, he took a piece of me with him. I flagged down an okada, happy in the knowledge that it was only a matter of time before I saw him again, and then I will be complete.