Black Coffee

Black Coffee

It is raining outside but the sun is still high up in the sky, golden and round. I can hear the children downstairs singing-

“It is raining, the sun is shinning. There is a boil on the tortoise anus”.

I am in father’s study. A room filled with books, quiet and grave with knowledge. There are lots of paintings on the wall, a wooden desk at a corner, a fluorescent bulb lighting the room a little. This is not where I read, this is not where I write, this is where I cry.

But this is where father writes, this is where father had written for twenty year, this is where he had been writing since mother left. This is also where he talks to himself a lot. I sometimes listen at the door, my seven year old feet raised a little. His words are always incomprehensible. And whenever I looked through the keyhole, I see him smiling into space. Father has lots of literary works to his credit, lots of awards that came with shiny prizes. Mother had once called him “a rich old writer who talked to himself a lot” in a feat of mild irritation. But I had never understood why mother left. So I was left with father, his books and his brown ceramic mug I served him coffee with every morning.

Father didn’t care much about his wealth- his lands in Isolo, Ikeja and Oshodi. His fleet of cars, his numerous accounts bulky with naira notes. Years after mother left, he had written more often, staying too long in his study and I had worried he didn’t get enough rest nor food nor fresh air.
But I had lived the affluent life, the money enabled life, smiling through education with ease, getting a job at a company and going on vacations at will. And one evening, I had returned and found father in his study, bent over his books, lifeless. His morning coffee now cold and black and I had known I would forever hate coffee. But I hadn’t noticed the tears roll down my eyes, the slimy catarrh slip past my nostrils over my mouth. I had walked out to the verandah and looked into the streets, to the people who have for many years looked up to this mansion father had built in admiration. I had cried at the verandah and let the world see my tears.

It has been four years since father died but I still return from work and check his study. I still listen at the door to hear his soliloquy and if everything is silent, I walk in, shut the door, sit at a corner and cry.

So on this sunny-rainy afternoon, while the children sing downstairs, I sit in a corner of the room, on the bare floor thinking about father, about how strangers would imagine my life; it is natural for people to feel jealous of the rich, to imagine the life of the rich, their choices- what they like and what they dislike. To feel uncertain if they use the toilet or not. But people never imagine the rich have emotions, that their emotions could be expressed through tears. That they could cry. That they do cry.

I begin to cry. The tears are hot and salty. I do not know why I tasted it. I do not notice the rain has stopped. But I am in fathers study and am certain of one thing- the world will never see my tears again.

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