A slight breeze teased the high grass into a slow sway of back and forth, stroking my cheeks softly. The gentle momentum of the swing as my legs intermittently tapped the ground was soothing, and I could feel the passing of my favourite season making way for waves of long, lazy summer days.
It was the flicker of a shimmer; a mirage of heat that made me stop, abruptly skidding the swing to a halt. I could make him out clearly, not just from his height, but from the straightness of his posture, the swinging of his arms, and his gait that was slow, measured, and purposeful.
I couldn’t read his expression because there was nothing except his eyes for me to behold – eyes that refused to drop their hold on mine. No frown, no flared nostrils or down-turned lips, yet there was no doubt about the man who lowered himself into the swing next to me.
My palms betrayed my calm – clammy against the metal chains that held me off the ground. Never had I heard such words, and here he was saying them with no lips to speak.
“Darling,” he said again, “this may come as a shock to you, this visit of mine.”
Silence caught my throat and my tongue became defunct. Eyes that would have lowered out of respect remained fixated as they searched his. Why was he here?
“I’m a man – the son of a tough woman; the son of an even tougher man, and this could only have rendered a man who embodied that toughness.”
“Yes,” I said, just above a whisper. He was telling me of a lineage I already knew. A lineage that bore back-breaking expectations and was the cause of many frozen tears. He stared ahead, sitting still on the low-hanging swing.
“I’ve always loved you, but I’ve not always been there. I know this. I gave you everything I could, except my time. I know this too. I pushed you hard to do your best, but didn’t show affection. And that hurts me the most.”
I turned my head away. My shoulders shook slowly at first, then gradually shuddered with urgency. Everything I had spent years burying, thrusting deeper and deeper until they were a minuscule of matter were being resurrected in the most painful way. His confession should have been soothing; it should have softened the heart that had grown complacent about his existence, but it didn’t.
“Darling, Sarah,” his words were scratchy as though they struggled against the electric currents of guilt that filled the air.
“I stood tall and proud when you graduated. I looked people in the eye with my chest puffed out – ‘this is my daughter’. I held your hand up to proclaim my prized possession because you gave me so much joy, and my greatest failing was that I didn’t give you any back.”
It started. A low rumbling thunder of sobs filled the air and I turned to see translucent blue droplets trailing down his faceless face. Blue. Maybe he was sad after all.
“Now you know.” Nothing more could flow. There was too much to say and too few words to condense them into. Silence was my solace as it had always been. Solitary silence of sadness.
I stood up. Blue tears still fell from his old eyes, and I pitied him more than he could ever know; more than I could ever tell him. “I’m sorry you have to be sorry for things you could’ve avoided having to be sorry for. I hope you’ve found your peace.”
Every detail was vivid. I close my eyes and I see the dream as clearly as day and night – the grass, the swings, his blue tears. No image was skewed or tainted, and as I write beside his resting place I wonder whether he’d ever intended to console his soul while the warmth of life ran through his veins. That I’ll never know. This daughter of a tough man will never truly know.
© LaYinka Sanni, January 2013.
Published in the March 2013 issue of SISTERS.