Birth- I was born a week before your 30th birthday so Mother called me your birthday present. You carried me and never let me go because I was your ticket into fatherhood and as you held me you all you wanted to do was to study me intently. I bet you couldn’t believe this tiny human belonged to you, had your DNA and will call you Father. I bet you couldn’t believe that I might grow up having your face and I may blow your mind at how fast I grew because you would always want me to your little girl.
Seven- You sing. A lot. You have a great voice and I laugh at the way you sing Michael Bolton’s songs with your soft voice smiling as though his music is the best thing in the world. I always join you when you sing. I don’t know the words so I repeat each line you sing. You stopped one time so I could start the second verse for you. But I fumbled. I didn’t know the words. You just laughed and carried on singing. I laughed too.
Ten- You’ve moved to Lagos because of your job and sometimes we see you on the weekends. I don’t like you. You’re just a dad we see on the weekends. I don’t like you because you shout on me on your visits when I do something wrong. I don’t think you have that right. You live in Lagos. We see you only on the weekends. You live in Lagos. I hate that you’re making us move to Lagos too. I don’t like you. I will never get used to Lagos.
12- I love Lagos. I love the way the sun shines directly into my room on my pink walls and pink carpet. I love that we live in Gbagada on the mainland where the history of Lagos is around us and my cousins are next door. I love it. I have a bottle of body spray that I got for my tenth birthday when were still living in Port-Harcourt called ‘Confessions’. The smaller text states ‘You’re likely to confess too!’. I use it, I feel like confessing, so when you come into my room I tell you that I love it here. I tell you Lagos is now my home. I will always remember the wide smile on your face and the joy in your eyes. You were so happy. There is a brief moment where we just smile at each other before you walked out the room to tell Mother what I had just said. I keep smiling even after you’ve left. I’m happy I’ve made you happy.
Fourteen- I’ve become moody. I hate everything and I don’t know why. I put on make up for the first time at my auntie’s wedding and you try to wipe off an ugly line of makeup on my face. I scream at you in front of guests not to remove my makeup. You tell me you’re not trying to that there’s an ugly black line on my face. I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m angry.
Sixteen- We don’t talk as much. It’s just ‘Daddy good evening’ or ‘Daddy good morning’ followed by your response. I usually stay in my room and watch movies. I mean what more is there to talk about.
Eighteen- I’m doing my A levels now. I don’t call you. You don’t call me. You don’t like that I don’t call you. You complain constantly. I don’t know why it never crossed my mind to call you. When we do talk on the phone there are long silences that are hollow and empty. After the silence has gone on too long one of us says goodbye. I mumble an ‘I love you’ but it’s hard for you to say it back as clearly. You’re shy.
I’m trying so hard for us to be close. I want you to laugh at my jokes, I want us to chat, I want us to bond. But nothing happens. I love when I make a breakthrough and you do laugh at a joke and I love the moments where we chat extensively about certain topics. I want more moments like these. I love you dad. I want us to be closer.
Twenty- We speak regularly on the phone now. Almost three times a day. You crack jokes and I laugh and laugh. There are no silences now. No emptiness just joy and laughter and there is a deeper magnitude of love that cannot be explained. We even text now and I think that’s a big thing. I take photographs and I love it. I love that I’m doing something that you used to do. After a while you finally get your own camera and we marvel at the range of zoom on the lens and the quality of the pictures. We plan on sharing our pictures with each other so we can help each other get better. You say you’re happy we have something we can finally bond over and I can’t stop smiling after and think I may even cry. You tell me you’re thinking of enrolling me in a photography course and hope I don’t mind. I cry again, of course I don’t mind. I’ve become more emotional over the years so I cry at everything now. I’m happy we’re finally at this point that we finally have this closeness I craved so much.
Thirty- I promised to take care of you during one of our phone calls ten years ago and I think I’ve kept my promise. I secretly put a lump sum of money in your account every month. It’s not so secret since you’re a retired accountant and nothing goes into your account without your knowledge. You call me and say ‘Alake, again?’. ‘That’s your monthly allowance’, I say. You laugh and say ‘I love you’ as clearly as you’ve been saying it these past ten years. ‘I love you too’, I reply. ‘I love you too.’”