I didn’t hate him, and that was the frustrating part. After everything he did, I didn’t hate him and it bothered me. By the time we rushed to his side, I knew he had been drinking again. He always did this, drowning in one bottle or the other looking for something even he didn’t know he had lost. He had been intoxicated when he fell down the stairs, one of the loose nails cutting deep on his forearm, spilling blood over the floor. Waking up with bloodshot eyes, he looked at the wound and just shrugged, looking at Eno and I, telling us it wasn’t as bad as it looked. There was something I saw on his neck as he left that caught my eye, something shiny.
It was late in the evening and I had just finished making dinner. Eno liked spaghetti, even more so when he got scared and was agitated. Seeing your father in a pool of blood would do that to you. I had just finished cleaning the blood on the staircase with one of the dirty rags and I just couldn’t help thinking that something wasn’t right. This wasn’t the amount of blood that a man his age should have bled. His blood even felt odd as I scrubbed it off the floor, it was thick and gooey. Maybe I was imagining it or maybe…
There was something that kept coming back into my head, some stupid shed in school that I saw earlier before we left. The thing is, I’m sure it wasn’t there a week before. Sheds didn’t just appear in places and they definitely didn’t walk there. Every time I tried to remove it from my head, it just kept popping back up like a shiny object just in the corner of my eye. It was like my mind was trying to tell me something.
“Uyai!” Eno called from the kitchen. I heard the water run from the sink and a plate clatter. I rushed into the kitchen, my eyes scanning the room to see what was wrong but Eno just looked at me, drying his hands, his gaze fixed on the ground.
“Will daddy be alright?” His voice was quiet and still, and I could tell that he was scared.
I moved towards him, putting my arms around him, protectively.
“It’s okay,” I lied. “Daddy just fell and cut himself.”
“Then where is he now? Shouldn’t he go to the hospital?” Eno replied, his voice thick with concern. The truth is, even if the stubborn man wanted to go, we couldn’t even afford it. He had walked out of the house after we had brought him back to conscious. He was normally bad, yeah, but it was like he was getting worse.
But I had to protect Eno from all of that. All of that darkness that followed our dad.
“Where do you think he went to?” I said, ruffling his hair. “He’ll be fine, bro, don’t worry too much and have you done your assignment?”
Eno gave the expression of a little mouse caught in a trap and I playfully pushed him out the kitchen. “Maths now and you have to be in bed in two hours, when it’s 9.”
“Okay, dad.” Eno said, rolling his eyes playfully and going to do his assignment not knowing how right he was.
He popped his head through the doorway just a few seconds after he left. “Wait, you only made food for me, aren’t you going to eat?”
“I’ve eaten already.” I said. “Now, homework.” I said, pointing to the living room. He smiled and left.
My stomach rumbled as if on cue after he left and I gripped the kitchen table. I hadn’t eaten in about a day. The truth was there wasn’t enough food in the house for all of us to eat every day. It was a testament to his innocence that he didn’t see what I could. The emptying cupboards, the quality of the things we were now forced to buy. The DSTV subscription and the electricity that we now paid half of. I was considering getting a job. But where, and who, would hire me? I didn’t even have any skills I could think of providing.
I sank down into the chair, it was Friday and the dreaded weekend was approaching. I wasn’t even sure what I was going to do. For how long could I hold what was left of my family together? I even had homework to do on top of everything.
But most of all, I was worried about my father. Where was he? And why was he acting like this? My mind was used to drifting like it always did. And I lay my head down, trying to remember a better time, a time when we all weren’t falling apart.
Per my mother’s request, years ago, we were all to go to Bar Beach for a family evening. Eno at the time was about four and I was about ten. He got very sensitive around changes in the environment and was fidgeting in the car before I held his tiny hand in mine, calming him down a little. My mother looked back from the front seat and looked at us, giving me a small wink. My father was driving while my mother read a book. Reading while I was moving was a recipe for disaster, the car sickness was almost immediate, the vomiting being the next step. My mother, on the other hand, seemed to have mastered the art. Her delicate fingers turning the pages as her large brown eyes studied the pages moving as she read.
Eno got most of his features from her and you could tell. The small nose and full lips, even down to the wispy eyebrows. She said something to my father and he laughed, squeezing her left hand and then going to turn up the radio. I don’t know which song was playing but it sounded old, somehow. My father began singing in his deep voice along to the song, offkey, but he definitely got points for putting his heart and soul into it.
My mother joined him, smiling as she sang, her voice more melodic than his. Eno seeing them decided to join in, trying his best for his age trying to mumble through. Despite the traffic or the weather, we all enjoyed each other’s company in the car that afternoon, our hearts anticipating the beach.
By the time we got there, we found a small space and laid our blanket there. I took Eno to play in the sand as our father called out for us to be careful and stay away from the water as he stayed with my mother. We had been playing for God knows how long, I kept on making san castles with cups and buckets I saw while Eno kept playing with them, destroying them in the process.
Our parents came to join us, both of them kneeling in the sand as we all made sandcastles as a family, the sun glinting on all our faces. It was one of the few memories I had of our family not tainted by shouting or anger. It gave me peace sometimes, and nowadays, peace was something I needed.
A sound at the door woke me up and whipping my head from the table, I stood and went to look. Checked my watch and found it was almost midnight, Eno would have gone to bed by then. How had I slept for that long? I saw him leaning against the door with his back. He smelt like alcohol and regret and even his clothes were torn and haggard. The cut on his arm was still bleeding carelessly. I could see the chain on his neck clearly now and it was like a gold necklace, but where had he gotten it from?
“Daddy,” I said quietly. “Please, let’s get some help.”
He looked at me with those empty eyes of his and slid down to the ground, his head cradled in his hands. He started shaking and I went to him to comfort him, thinking he was crying.
I was rubbing his shoulder when he starting sharking harder and I noticed a sharp object glinting from his right pocket. Then I heard him start laughing, a sound that scared me more than anything.
Even before he whipped the dagger and slashed at my face.