3 weeks long spent reading Chimamanda’s Americanah sent me on a journey down memory lane.
I was pre-puberty and very inqusitive; I asked more questions than allowed and jarred many nerves doing so.
I had a private lesson teacher, with whom I learned my first piano and computer lessons. My father had always envisioned me the star of his home, being his only girl with a history of excellent academic reports, he wanted me to have the life he wished for himself. I stepped into his shoes sometimes, aspiring to be a medical surgeon slash pianist slash God-knows-what and at other times I just wanted to be his sweet little girl.
Lurking somewhere in those aspirations was my passion for writing, I had come to the knowledge of being a lover of art and a strong believer of dreams; writing seemed the closest to living the realities I imagined.
And so I wrote. I wrote articles for my church, wrote poems to my friends, had a pen-pal who lived a block away (because he was much older, my mother threatened severally to slit my throat if she found us together, writing to each other was the only option we had to sustain the friendship). I rewrote some of the novels I stole from my father’s library- stashed up on his shelf – old worn out books, from erotic fiction to downright horror – I particularly recall reading a Return of the medicine man. I can’t recount the story but I remember reading it through several nights till I was done.
Gradually, I had formed a habit; to play with words, to fancy them, to trust authors more than my parents and I had reveled in the thought of being one too, an author with so much power to transform a child’s memory, to earn the trust of a stranger without the struggle. To own space in a life without the asking.
I wrote a book. “A Hopeful Future” – I wrote it with all enthusiasm, skipping my class assignments to squeeze the words out, to bleed ink till something worth reading came alive on paper. And there it was, 16 pages of carefully written simple sentences, with a story I can’t remember now. I was more thrilled in finishing the book than the actual writing of it.
Aided by my private teacher, I printed several copies, and looked forward to sharing it with my classmates the next day, I had announced to these tiny tots I’d be using my personal computer to write out my first book.
I feel that pang, remembering how my hopes were smashed – I had unintentionally hurt my father and he would later that evening kill the joy and courage I had built in that short time.
I got into the house late – something I had never tried before, I saw my father leaning on the railing, hands clasped together, eyes staring into space. For a flicker of a moment, he shifted his gaze to focus on me and then he looked up, then back to me; eyes fixed, causing my legs to visibly go weak. And as though I meant to plead his forgiveness, I held out the copies of my book as I approached him, with my lips parted showing a will to speak, silently hoping he’d be delighted to see I had broken the rules to chase after my passion.
I guess it was a wrong move, my father didn’t let me speak, he didn’t raise his voice either- he just said, “you are distracted and this will tell on your grades. This book won’t fetch you money or success (the kind that I wish for you), you are better off facing your academics and piano lessons squarely. Keep a journal like I did if that’s how much you love to write but writing as a profession won’t get you that far”.
I respected and feared my father, I admired him from a distance too, watching how successful he was. He lived a life of many luxuries, and I considered him a role model, wanting desperately to be like him.
I gave myself no other choice but to heed his advice, I wanted him to remain proud of me.
I asked my boyfriend to buy me a journal…
To be continued.