I carefully unpacked a section of my bookshelf to get behind it. I have, over the years collected books on various topics and qualities, all of which I now refer to like my clothes and shoes because owning a study submerged in books has told on the size and quality of my wardrobe. My books are my clothes. So, I edged my clothes away to reveal a swollen folder-like object coated in dust, all the way to the tip of its pages.
Seven years ago, I had etched it there for safekeeping. Maybe I just desperately wanted to swim off
the shore of the unbearable tug at my heart whenever I flipped through its pages. Today, I freed it
from its corner with surprising strength and calm -two things I was deficient from some years ago.
Naomi stood gaping expectantly at me with those big, round eyes - her mother's carbon-copy. "Daddy, what is that?" She pointed at my hand. "And why is it so dirty?"
I sat down and busied myself with cleaning out the dust from its covers with a napkin, so I didn't respond to her question. It also helped me steady my heartbeat because anxiety had begun to settle in.
I flipped the cover open to reveal the first page, designed with photos plastered expertly with the aid of glue to create an impressive collage. I thought I was ready. I thought the years had faded most, if not all the hurt my heart had weathered.
"Daddy! You are crying!" I heard Naomi whisper to me; something she didn't have to do because we
were alone in the study. Most importantly, we were the only two occupants to a mansion of multiple
rooms and space large enough for a dozen people. Much like the dusty folder lying in front of me, every corner of this house is webbed in memories.
I didn't move to wipe my tears because shame was less of a contender where pain reigned. So, I welcomed the tornado of emotions, surging through my veins, presenting themselves as tears before my little girl.
I pulled her closer by the waist, unashamed of the stream on my face.
"Do you remember last week when you asked about your mother?" I asked her, also in a whisper.
"Hmm hmmm," She replied a little too flippant for my mood.
"...And I told you Mummy had travelled. Do you remember?" I asked amid a growing stream on my cheeks.
"You always say she travelled. Doesn't she want to come back? Does she not like us?" She played with her nails as her unassuming questions she set fire to my eyes and the rain came pouring.
"Naomi, your mother loves us so much. She loves you so much but she had to go. You can't see her but she is with us now". Somehow, she suddenly felt capable of comprehending the omniscience of a lost loved one.
"This is your mother." I pointed at a timeless photo of Mira, dressed in traditional attire, elegantly posed with a stellar smile.
"Do you remember her?" I took a chance on that question as she was only a little over two years
when her mother passed away.
"Do you remember her?" I asked again, partially willing her to say yes, even though I knew the chances were next to none.
Naomi alternated her glances from me to the giant album in front of her. She bit her lip which was her
contemplating to maybe tell me the truth or lie to spare my feelings. She had always been very intuitive
as a child.
"No. I don't remember her" She replied, looking squarely in my eye.
"You were young when she left... when she slept, so you wouldn't remember her. But this is your
mother" I pointed at another picture of us, kneeling for prayers on our wedding day. "This was Mummy and Daddy on our wedding day". I reached up to my cheeks to dry some of what was already an ocean.
Naomi watched me in silence and resumed staring at the album again. She didn't move to flip the pages and I was grateful for that. And when I had gathered myself and the ocean on my face had become a drizzle, I asked her to dish her food from the kitchen. She boisterously sprinted off from my side but she came back to whisper yet again.
"Mummy loves you too Daddy" before running off again.
I smiled and whispered to the air I knew Mira occupied around me.
"I love you too".
Then, I stood up and etched the not so dusty album, in front, away from its previous hideout.