Tearswelled up my eyes and my lips began to tremble. It was a feeling ofdisappointment mixed with a sense of betrayal. I clutched my mom’sblouse and looked up at her face as if to ask why. It was meant to bea joyous occasion, but where is the joy when you have to watch yourlife’s biggest hero leaving? Every step that Papa took towards theairport’s checking counter seemed like a step towards oblivion. Isecretly prayed for something to change his mind but then I realizedthat fate was not something anyone can control. I felt so helpless.
Mysisters and I hurriedly filed through the security gate as weattempted to catch the last glimpse of our father before he boardedthe plane. It seemed that our actions had caught the chubby securityguard manning the gate off-guard because he came running after ushuffing and puffing and gesticulating while shouting that we had toleave. Our mother got infuriated, and she scolded us a lot. It mademe miss Papa for he would always defend us. We went back home, andunlike the other times, Papa was not seated on his favorite rusticchair that was always right in front of the television. There was achange in the atmosphere and mood, but that was not the only changehappening.
Monthswent by, and my feelings of betrayal and disappointment morphed intoa type of resentment towards my father because he left. I cannotdeny that I yearned for his presence it was easier to dislike himthan to confront my real emotions and the lack of closure. Papa wouldcall every week to check up on all of us. Every time he called Iexperienced a rush of conflicting emotions to the point that manytimes I would engage him in incoherent conversations. At times Irefused to talk to papa when he called. I wanted to push my fatheraway so badly, yet I wanted to talk to him for hours and hours. Ofcourse, I could not talk to him for long since my sisters were alwaysclamoring for the phone as they also wanted to have their chance tospeak to papa.
Ayear went by, and he had he had missed my first play and my baptism.Two years after my father had gone to America, he came back. Thetiming could not have been more imperfect. When he came home, I wasstudying for my National Achievement Tests. My father and I had fewconversations. They were awkwardly formal. Papa was a stranger to me.I felt the distance in between us since it was very different to theway I talked to my uncles. My uncles were the central male figures inmy life and conversing with them was easy. A week later, my fatherwas back in the United States. Soon after I was in high school andPapa was not there to see me off.
Oneday as I was walking with my best friend Angelo to school, we decidedto take a shortcut that cut across a construction site. We had barelygotten halfway when I felt a sharp pain in my heel. I immediatelyrealized that I had stepped on an upturned nail. I began to removethe nail slowly before I took off my shoe. My white socks were soakedin crimson color. I bit my teeth as I threw away my spoilt shoe. Angelo looked at me in surprise as he picked up the shoe I hadthrown. “This is an absolutely good shoe!” he cried out.
“Papawill send me money for another pair,” I said as I pulled out myspare Converse shoes. I did not understand why Angelo was eager totake my damaged and bloodied shoes. That was until I looked at hiswell-worn leather shoes then I had an epiphany. I felt ashamed of myactions. Angelo and I had grown up in the same neighborhood livingthe same lives. Papa had gone to America to look for a brighterfuture, not for himself but for my siblings and me. I was clouded ina feeling of shame, guilt, and disappointment as I had spent most ofmy childhood blaming my father for leaving yet I never empathizedwith him. If he had not gone to the US, my shoes would resemble thoseof Angelo. I took my shoes and placed them in my bag. I had twothings to mend. My shoes and my relationship with Papa.