hello yesterday

‘Hello, old friend,’ I murmured as I stepped onto the track. ‘It’s been a year since I last saw you and it feels so good to be here again.’

The wind whistled all around me in reply as I entered my rhythm and began my run around the park. I always start off at the zero mark. I like to know how far I run and how fast I do it. It helps me get that sense of achievement when I cross the markers one by one.

At first, I imagined that after I resumed running again, I’d begin my post with ‘I nearly died today,’ but surprisingly, I managed to finish 3km before I slowed down to complete 5km, my target for tonight. ‘That’s not so bad,’ I thought to myself, as I began dancing a little in the quiet of the night.

The Gossip played in my ears while I watched the people that passed me by. I didn’t recognize a single one of them. The scenery too, had changed. Some of the beautiful trees were cut down, to make way for a new road and I missed that cloister of greenery.

Running around the park gave me flashbacks – the first upward hill where a friend knocked into me because a frog jumped into our path; the playground where I sat on the swings under the stars; the dark benches where I was accosted by a bunch of guys; the wall where the little girl jumped from; another bench near the end where I stood to sing…

‘How far I’ve come,’ I mused to myself.

Lightning began to flash across the sky as I walked the final round to cool down. It was a perfect ending to the perfect start.

*

‘Hello Nachan,’ a deep gravelly voice said to me over the crackling phone line.

‘Daddy?’ I asked. I was surprised.

‘Yes, how are you?’

‘I’m fine. Is everything ok? How are you?’ The last time I spoke to him, he told me about his heart attack and new venture to start a farm. He rarely called me and in a way, I wondered if something bad had happened.

‘Oh, things are good. I just wanted to tell you that I finally sold off my company so… there’s nothing left back home for me to return to.’ He said.

‘You mean… you sold off everything back here? There’s no reason to come back?’ I asked.

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Unless it’s to visit you and Michan, of course,’ he chuckled.

My father. There are so many unsaid things, so many bridges to cross that sometimes, the silence is more comfortable. The less we talk, the less likely we are to begin an argument. I miss him though. I miss his cheeky jokes, his love and concern… I miss having a father I can run to.

The last comforting hug we shared was when I was 14. I had a terrible quarrel with a friend and he found me sobbing on my bed.

‘Nachan, are you okay?’ he came over to sit by my side. I didn’t reply.

‘You quarreled with your friend? You want to talk about it?’ he asked. I shook my head.

‘Okay,’ he replied. Then he reached over and held me in his arms while I cried. Our only hugs since then were to say goodbye. Over the years, I’ve gone through far more painful experiences but he was not there. He too, went through massive challenges in life but never once picked up the phone to call me. I wasn’t there for him either.

‘Let’s catch up for dinner soon,’ I said.

‘Sure,’ he replied. ‘Just let me know when.’

He hung up and as I replaced the phone in its cradle, I sat there for a while. Quiet.

My father. He used to be my hero but I don’t think I ever told him that.

*

‘The story of life is quicker than the wink of an eye, the story of love is hello and goodbye… until we meet again.’

– Jimi Hendrix

We sat there talking over lunch – like we used to – Macho Man and I. Since my move, I’d only caught up with him twice and although I don’t often admit it, I missed his company. In a mad world, he was one of the few who seemed to have similar viewpoints as I did, although we wisely didn’t always share them.

Since I’d moved away though, it felt as though the laughter came more easily, our thoughts about our journeys more honest.

‘Next Thursday again?’ I asked.

‘Definitely,’ he answered.

*

Does saying goodbye make the hellos sweeter? And if so, do we need the distance to feel closer?

It’s a bittersweet thought.

doing it for the girl

‘I’m the one that has to die when it’s time for me to die, so let me live my life, the way I want to.’

– Jimi Hendrix

I received an interesting question today via email. A friend asked me what I dreamed of as a child.

I wanted to be many things but the truth is, I’ve always wanted to fly. The idea of being completely free of expectations, demands and boundaries, to spread my wings and take off to wherever, whenever I wanted to was an exhilarating thought. I first fought for that freedom when I was 16.

‘You will go to university!’ the Father shouted at me, banging hard on the table.

‘No dad, I want to do this. I want to do things that are creative. I don’t need to be a doctor, a lawyer… whatever it is you want me to be. I’d rather be doing something I love for the rest of my life.’ I mustered up enough courage to stand before him – the man I saw as my hero.

‘You mean you’d rather be poor? You think when the day comes you have no money, that if you’re surrounded by things you love, it’ll be enough? Will it feed you? Clothe you? Give you a future?’

I remember his eyes. They were filled with such anger and… tears.

‘Yes. I’d rather be doing what I love than to go earn myself a piece of paper that means nothing.’ I shouted back, before turning around and leaving the house.

And like all dramatic moments, the skies opened up to a thunderstorm so I had no choice but to walk in the rain. I sobbed all the way to the nearest shopping centre and called up my close friend but guess what? Friends can’t help you solve your problems.

‘I seriously thought you weren’t coming home that night,’ the Mother said to me, years later. But I eventually did. I returned with a battle plan.

‘Look dad, I’ll get myself a qualification. While the rest of my friends are off playing, earning cash or lazing around, I’ll study what you think is beneficial to my future. But after that, you’ve got to let me do what I want to do. This is my future.’

He agreed.

I got myself a diploma in Computer Programming and slogged my nights away, learning languages that no man should learn. I learnt how to create software. Thereafter, I pursued another diploma in Communications and majored in television production and journalism. And still after that, I got myself another diploma in Education.

I never got my degree.

Sometimes I wonder… did I get to fly?

‘I think that’s why I love reading and writing,’ I replied my friend. ‘Reading takes me to places I’d never get to explore; into the vast world I’ve not yet walked and into the psyche of another man’s mind he wouldn’t otherwise reveal… And that’s why I write – it gives me wings.’

I’ve not stopped fighting for my dreams since that day.

I do it for the girl in me.

*

‘In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.’

– Albert Camus

Today, I wanted to be alone. But the boss called me out to have coffee with the team to chat.

Today, I wanted to climb my mountain. But the year’s projects came in and while it is the usual list of major things to do… I found out that two of the events will be taking place in the precise month I’d been planning my getaway.

Today, I wanted to listen to music and read my book on the train. But two friends spotted me on the train and came over to chat.

And yet, today, I managed to smile.

This is because of a secret I have.

Early in the morning, I made a decision to pursue a dream that I’ve longed for, the past 6 years. While the rest of the world lay in slumber, I made a call – a call that will cost me dearly. But it will be worth it. It’s my precious, fragile dream and I’m going to do it.

I’m doing it for the woman in me.

*

‘I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God – it changes me.’

– C.S. Lewis

After the call, I felt so completely and utterly alone. I walked the corridors, hungry for a quiet corner to meet the Dream Maker. Eventually, I found one by a stairwell. I placed by head on His shoulder and stayed there for a very long time.

We didn’t talk much. We didn’t need to. He already knew the turmoil that lay beneath my skin. Him just being there enveloped the fragility of my hopes.

‘I want to run away,’ I whispered.

‘I’ll go with you,’ He answered.

‘Won’t you be upset? You’ve trusted me with so much… It won’t disappoint you that I’m not becoming the person you wanted me to be?’ I asked.

‘I loved you before you made those choices. Why should that change the way I feel?’ He hugged me tighter.

*

The cage the blackbird lives in is still there but the door is open. The blackbird walks tentatively to the opening and peers out. She spreads her wings and flies away but returns soon after. No, this cage is different. It’s one of complete and total acceptance. She lands in her favourite corner and begins to sing the song that was written before the ages, before she began to live.

She was doing it for the dream in her.