My love for walks started with my father.
When we still had money, I loved riding with him to buy petrol for the generator. We would sit there, not speaking, listening to all my favorite people on the radio. At the filling station, he would give me the money and ask me to get the keg out to be filled- I liked the sense of responsibility. But the walks; I loved them more. The walks started when the money went. We would take the short walk out of our small estate to the Malam to buy candles because petrol became too expensive.
But because there was no radio noise to fill the quiet, we spoke instead. We had long conversations of what I wanted to be; what he wanted to accomplish and what he wanted for us- each child. We would walk so slowly, walking past the bigger houses that were lit up with a thousand lights because they had money to buy petrol for their generators. Past the smaller houses like ours, some bright, some dark. Walked slowly as fast cars zoomed past and other pedestrians briskly overtook us. Till we stopped in front of our faded red gate.
Father always looked a bit sad when we got back home. I didn’t figure out why until recently. I think Father got sad when we got back because it was a rude jolt back to reality. See, Father was a dreamer, he had these big aspirations for himself and the family. Laid-out plans spoken about very zealously-
And Cece would go to the London Business School, he would say; his words cutting through the air in rising pitches. BB should do his Medicine at Harvard. And you, I’m thinking Italy or France; learn the language and take the world by storm! His hands would flutter about in wild gesticulations, emphasizing each word with a flick of his wrist. And a wistful smile would grace my lips as my mind sauntered to a picture of myself in a heavy green coat and a floral scarf around my neck; trudging snow and going somewhere in a hurry.
But getting home was like a douse of cold water at three in the morning because the dreams were just that- dreams. Nothing was happening. His projects were still failing. We were still being called out at school because the fees hadn’t been paid. We were still eating meat only at night. We were still buying candles.
So, whenever we stopped at that faded red gate, those palaces we had built with our words quickly faded into nothingness. But Father was such a sport; he’d bound into the house with jokes for mother and sweets for the little ones. We found other reasons asides candles to go on walks. Just him and I. And then, we stopped looking for reasons at all- We just did.
I paint now. I was a sculptor a few months back. I was writing for a magazine last year and I was a freelance photographer before that. A boyfriend once told me I was a lot more like my father than I thought. Picking a project and then abandoning it in pursuit of another dream. We fought that day. Not because he was wrong, not because I did not agree with him; but because it had never been put to me that way. I fought against it. So cold but so true. Abandoning one to chase another.
My younger siblings are grown now, working in banks and owning schools while I paint and write and play my guitar and take long walks. But I find that my walks do not end when I arrive at my tiny, cluttered apartment; it doesn’t end when I see my battered wooden door, I go on dreaming. I have translated it to what I call my art. I sing my dreams, I write them, I draw them. My life feels like a leisurely haze of pastel colors. Surely, this isn’t a bad place to be.
None of Father’s dreams came true. The rental service business died faster than his plastic production venture; the restaurant’s failure was put down as the fault of the corrupt manager and the fumigation stint couldn’t continue when the machines died on him, could it? We never moved into the huge house in Ikoyi we drove past in the Mazda that Christmas morning and although BB aced his SATs and later, GRE; he never crossed the borders of the country.
I should probably say instead, none of Father’s dreams have come true because he hasn’t stopped dreaming. I visit him four times a month, every Sunday. My parents live now in the cute flat my sister bought them after her last promotion. We walk, even slower now that he’s supporting himself with a stick. We walk, past the houses that are all lit, because it is an upscale area. We walk as the faster cars cruise past. We walk on the lush lawns and neat pavements. We walk. We walk and dream.
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