Where Is Papa?

by Aubrey Chinguwo

It doesnt get quite well tonight with the breeze stealing through the glassless window. It is chilly and damp, but its bite has freshness, its breath has vigor.

Its almost time to sleep, but Edna is both mentally and physically spent that she cant. So is her son, Yamikani, whose father is on his way to see him. She will stay awake the whole night unless the father turns up.

Much to her disappointment, the phone she has borrowed from her friend Telida has gone into an automatic shutdown that she cant even know where the father is driving at. Its clearly much kilometers away to recharge the battery, and it is already night. She is hurt at heart.

You must go to bed Yamikani, she tells her son.

Mama, you are just cheating me. Where is father? I want to see him and I cant sleep, answers the boy.

The mother is dumbfounded. She looks at her son with a rehearsed gaze of warning, perhaps puzzled by his reluctance. His voice is so tense that it moves her as no other voice of her own child can.

She has indeed told the boy that his father is finally coming tonight.

You dont mind to tell me the truth about father. You just cheat me that he will come, the boy says angrily, although he sees in her eyes the kind of pain no one should have to deal with alone.

She is confused. She decides not to tell him the truth about his father, her only 8 year old child, yet the way he asks the truth about him is so hard it brings tears to her eyes. Besides, optimism may sometimes be bizarre in the very young.

Its a long time now- a time edged with foulness and unanswered questions. Only the boy can sing and jump for his mind is not introduced to the possibilities of a drab life.

Fully tormented, her past hits with a stunning force.

She recalls Kabota singing the praises of her beauty, and failing to stop himself from studying her plunging neckline and the sweetly rising swell of her totally full breasts. What a great smile she had! So spontaneous, such nice white teeth.

She loved the way he smiled, the way his eyes crinkled up, the sound of his laughter, and the way he kissed her, as if he had never kissed anyone before.

That was before fate disembarked from its free roaming hinterland to wreck a havoc of things.

Things spiraled out of triteness and took a tragic turn when she became expectant. Kabota was ill-equipped to be a father. So he advised her to abort.

She was afraid to do it. And matters came to their head when Kabota stopped phoning her. His unknown whereabouts triggered a turbulent season in her life and terminated the lingering shreds of her dreams. She felt a stinging slap of humiliation and dejection.

Yamikani was born fatherless months later, only to be made an acquaintance of a scanty and unbearable upbringing. His only surviving grandparent who had given her hope before his birth had died on causes sorry to say.

Kabota has since been away on reasons that will never become clear. Now, it seems he has developed a pang of conscience. He has asked her for forgiveness through a letter that she has read a hundred times more. And as said in the letter, today is the day he is coming to see his family after nine years of unknown whereabouts.

Its almost 12 midnight, but the fact that Kabota is the one who can pluck her from this obscurity she is thrown head first in and give her some high-ceilinged hopes still keeps her and her son awake, although the lamp is running out of paraffin.

A heavy knock on the door frightens Edna but not her son.

Is it him? asks the boy, nearly to wrench the door open. But her mother forbids him.

She goes there and asks who it is.

Telida, says the female voice from the outside.

Edna holds the door handle to open, barely able to feel the wetness of her own palm. The shock is mild against the damp chill of her body.

We should talk in absence of your son, says Telida in a soft murmur voice that carries with it deep sorrow and sadness.

They go around the house hand in hand.

Telida starts, there has been a car accident at the market. Its Kabota and he has been rushed to hospital. I have received a phone call from my husband who is working a night shift at the hospital that he (Kabota) wants to see Yamikani as soon as possible, please.

Mama, where are you? Yamikani shouts, making his way to where the two women are.

He is frightened but he cant shrink for there is some hope for him in his mother - a fragile hope, one that is beyond the tight and restricting bounds of sanity.

With raw fear sucking every last drop of moisture from his mouth, he asks, has she come to tell you that father has failed to come?

Suddenly, Telidas phone beeps. Its her husband again. Kabota is no more, extremely sad to the young boy who is still eager to know more about him. His father has indeed failed to come, and he will certainly not for he has bumped into a blind alley of permanent silence.

Disbelief swirls through Edna in a violent vortex. Its intensity is weird that it sends her logic scattering, making her feel emotionally stripped bare. She doesnt know what to tell her son who is almost there.

Her heart stutters, rolls, and then beats an ever-increasing staccato rhythm. The tempo of her blood threatens her. Dark images hover over the edge of her consciousness on its last legs. A realization alights that she is going to collapse before long, and she has a number of things to get off her chest for she doesnt want to take her secrets to the grave. There really is no choice.

Yamikani, my son, I am sorry about your father. But he is not so far gone, she starts, and then blinks, dislodging a swell of tears.

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