by Malaika Booker-Wright
I have half of this man’s genes. His blood runs through my veins. I have his nose. I have his lips. I have his hair. I have his “worry lines.” Yet, I only have a handful of memories involving him.
I must have been about three years old. I had this small brown pick-up truck. It was a truck made by Sesame Street. Yeah, I remember. Ernie, a character from Sesame Street, drove the truck. I would sit and play with this truck for hours. I would make Ernie drive over anything that was on the floor because the truck would pick it up and store it in the back.
This particular day, I played with my truck right in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen. Ernie was picking up some of my small sponge letters of the alphabet. Mommy was in the kitchen. She was cooking, as usual. Here comes Daddy. He stepped over me, and the yelling began.
I couldn’t see Mommy. I needed to see her. He kept yelling. He wouldn’t stop. Why was he yelling at her? What was he yelling about? I wanted him to stop.
Mommy finally stepped into view. That bastard made her cry! I picked up my truck and threw it as hard as I could. It hit Daddy in the leg. He left.
Two years later, he came to visit. It was Christmastime, and I was so happy. I had missed him. I was thankful that he had forgiven me for throwing that truck. My Daddy was home again.
However, who was this bitch with him? Why was she trying to hug me and why was she always smiling at me? She wasn’t my mother.
I eagerly opened the presents he brought. Among them were two dolls. One was from him; the other, from the lady I didn’t know.
“Say ‘Thank you’ and give ______ a hug and kiss.”
Was he crazy? She wasn’t my mother and I was not putting my lips on her. I mean, look at the way Mommy looked at her. Kiss her? Not me!
When he pushed me towards her, I ran to my mother. Mommy wouldn’t make me kiss her. My mother stroked my hair as if to say, “It’s okay. You don’t have to kiss her.” I was relieved, until the yelling started again. This time, Mommy sent me to my room. When I came out, Daddy and the lady were gone.
I was eight years old now. I had a little sister named Siam. She had her Daddy around. I wanted my Daddy around, too. He had not called. He had not written. He had not visited me since Christmas, three years ago.
I’d just learned how to write in script. Everyone said I had a beautiful handwriting. What an accomplishment this was for me. Maybe if I showed him something good about me, he would call or write, or visit.
My cousin, Kia, took me to a card shop. I searched all over that shop to find the most perfect card to send to him. After an hour, I found it. It was one of those “fill-in-the- blanks” cards. It had pretty red flowers on the front. I’d paid for it with my own money. I was so proud. I was going to be the adult and contact him.
As Kia and I walked up Broadway, I couldn’t stop thinking of words I would use to complete the sentences in the card. I remember the last line of the card. It said, “Just because you’re far away, doesn’t mean you have to stop ________”. In my best penmanship, I wrote, “loving me.”
Auntie sent that card for me. Daddy never responded.
A Weighty Response
I went over to Auntie’s house to visit Kia. Auntie was in the den, at the desk, talking on the telephone. As usual, I sat on her lap and gave her a kiss and a hug. Just then, she’d announced to whomever she was talking to, that I was there.
“You wanna speak to her? Hold on a minute.”
Auntie covered the mouth piece of the telephone.
“Malaika, it’s your father.”
I was stunned. Two years ago, I’d sent him a card and he’d never responded. I hesitated, but took the telephone from Auntie.
“Hello, Malaika. How are you doing?”
“You’re ten now, right?”
“And your birthday is June…June…”
Was he kidding? He didn’t remember how old I was or when my birthday was? I couldn’t believe it!
“Malaika, your aunt sent me some pictures of you. You have such a pretty face. But I really want you to lose some weight.”
I was silent. After all these years, who had given him permission to want anything from me? At this point, I wouldn’t have given him CPR if he’d been gasping for his last breath.
He continued to talk about ways I could lose weight. It went in one ear and out of the other. I waited for him to tell me why he hadn’t visited for five years. I waited for him to tell me why he never called or sent a birthday card. Oh, I’d forgotten. He didn’t even remember when my birthday was. I waited for him to say, “I’m sorry for leaving you.” I waited for him to tell me that he loved me. I waited for nothing!
“You promise to lose some weight?”
With the biggest knot in my throat, I let out a weak “yes.”
“Okay, put your aunt back on the phone.”
I called out to Auntie and told her to pick up the phone. I hung up, went in the bathroom, and cried. I cried long and I cried hard. This would be the LAST time I cried over him.
My whole attitude changed. I no longer wanted him to be my father. In fact, I could care less if he dropped off the face of the planet. He officially became my mother’s sperm donor.
A year or two later, Uncle Willie passed away. I knew that bastard was going to be at the funeral. I didn’t care. He still hadn’t called. He still hadn’t written. He still hadn’t visited. He still didn’t love me.
On the day of the funeral, I wanted to look my best. I wanted him to see me at my best. I wanted him to feel like a jackass for missing out on eight years of his daughter’s life.
Mommy had picked out a black pleated skirt with a black and white sweater. That wasn’t good enough. Besides, pleats made me look fatter. I chose a navy blue jumper, white silk blouse, navy blue stockings, and navy blue shoes with a small heel. Mommy wanted to put my hair in a ponytail with a bang. That wasn’t good enough. Ponytails were for babies. I begged to have my hair curled all over and pulled up in the back and on the sides. Mommy obliged. I looked like an angel.
Once at the funeral, I looked for the bastard. I couldn’t find him. There were so many people. Maybe he hadn’t come. Maybe he hadn’t come because he knew I was going to be there. What a punk! Scared of a twelve year old girl!
I spotted him at the burial grounds. There he was, in his air force uniform, pretending to have feelings. I had to make sure he saw me. I sat in the front with Auntie. He must have been only five seats away from me. I wanted him to look my way. Why wouldn’t he turn his head? Why wouldn’t he look at me? I WAS his damn daughter!
The ceremony was over, and everyone, except family, left. He HAD to come over now. He did. He looked at me, and without saying a word, put his arm around Auntie and walked her away.
I sat down in my seat, crushed. Mommy must have been watching. Before I could blink, she was sitting by my side, comforting me. How I’d wished that I could be as angry as she was. Instead, all I felt was sadness.
While walking towards our car, I realized I’d left something in the chair where they held the burial ceremony. I asked Mommy if I could go back and she agreed. I went back to my seat and who did I see? It was “the sperm donor” saluting my Uncle Willie. He was taking pride in wearing that uniform. How I’d wished that uniform would burst into flames.
I walked past him like he didn’t exist. After all, he had just done it to me. I grabbed whatever it was I had left, and walked passed him again. This time, I walked between him and Uncle Willie. I made sure he knew that HE was being ignored now. Uncle Willie would understand.
I walked back to the car, relieved it was over. I thought about that phone conversation we had. I thought about that card I had bought. I thought about that truck I had thrown. I thought about that lady I had met.
Not Finished Yet
Unfortunately, I was taken to Auntie’s house for some more torture. We had a family dinner.
I must have walked passed him a hundred times. I could not let him see how much it hurt that I didn’t matter to him.
I went in the kitchen to help Kia wash the dishes. Auntie was sitting at the table with another family member.
“Did you talk to your father?”
“Why don’t you go talk to him?”
Just then, Mommy walked in. I knew all hell was about to break loose. I looked at Mommy and she looked at me. What would Mommy say right now?
I said, “Because he’s the adult and I’m the child.”
The conversation ended there. Needless to say, he didn’t say a word to me. That night was the last time I saw my father.
I still wonder how I came from a man like that. I mean, I’m nothing like him. I just have his nose, his lips, his hair, and his “worry lines.”