I don’t know why I did it. I don’t know why I went down there. I’d mistaken the window of hope that I’d seen in my dreams for reality. I’m sure he had turned around when I called his name and pulled the corners of his mouth towards his eyes in the widest smile I’d ever seen. The smile had formed slowly, but the sight of his sparkling teeth confirmed it: he recognised me. I was afraid he wouldn’t. I was afraid that I had disintegrated into a distant memory with so many others – irrecoverable. That smile said it all. Murad hadn’t forgotten the face of his remaining little girl.
The window of hope was wide and gleaming, so I jumped through only to fall flat on my face onto turf that was far from green. He didn’t smile at me. His teeth didn’t sparkle. There was no recognition because his sight was clouded and he couldn’t see. The tall can of beer that he’d crushed as he stumbled lay beside him. And I didn’t move. I didn’t rush to help him up. I didn’t cry out to him. ‘Dad’ couldn’t be formed on my tongue because there was no star in the heavens that could convince that that was my dad.
Dad didn’t drink. He wasn’t a drunkard. He was a careers advisor, helping youngsters find their path, and create their way in the world. He drew the best out of them, showed them they had potential, pulled them up when they tripped over the many obstacles life knowingly threw in front of them. The bundle of worn shoes, ripped trousers and a torn jacket that lay in the corner beside the off license was not the man who had brought me into this world. Murad Mehmet was not the life that lay in that heap, with a pink-flushed cheek on the cold, wet pavement, legs thrown behind him. It wasn’t him because dad never was and never could be a drunkard.
So I walked away. I didn’t look back because there was nothing to confirm – Mariam had obviously been wrong. It wasn’t my dad that she’d seen in Deptford, and I’m certain that Murad Mehmet is to be found elsewhere.
© LaYinka Sanni, December 2011