All my life, I waited for you. Now, when I sit in the shade of the peepul and play with the grass, you wander around the front porch searching for me, weeping, begging for one last chance… It is too late now. Once, I waited, hiding, waiting for you to find me, waiting to be swung around in a circle, my arms thrown out into the air, the wind whipping my face. Then, you walked away and left me bewildered, hurting. Now, it is too late.
All my life, I looked around to see if you were there. When I brought home my messy drawing of a brown bear just like Teddy to show you. When I bruised my knees because Nini pushed me down. When mama scolded me for drawing on the walls with crayon. When I was hungry. When I was sad. When I wanted a ‘there, there’ kiss. I looked around to see if you would be watching, waiting, calling to me, gathering me into your arms.
You were never there. Never. Not one day.
All my life, I wanted to play with you. Catch-catch. Hide and seek. Running. Tummy-rub. Tickle, tickle. Water games in the bath like Nini plays. Mud games. Snakes and ladders. I wanted to sit next to you, to snuggle into you and play for hours, to see you smile and muss my hair happily. To learn new games, new things.
But you were never there to play with me. And I played alone, all day long, scratching my name and your name into the sand with a long brown stick and drawing a heart next to it.
All my life, I wanted to ask you questions. How does the sun move from right to left? How come mama’s hair grows all straight and beautiful, but mine grows curly? How many birthdays more before I become a big baby and not a small one like now? Can I have a puppy dog? What is a smoochie? Will you come to school with me today and hold my hand and buy me orange mints in front of all the other boys and girls?
You were never around to answer any questions. Whenever I came to you, you waved a big hand and said, ‘Later, later’.
And now, it’s too late. Now, when I’m pale and white and no one can see me. Now, when I call out for you and mummy, but no one can hear me. Now, when I tug at your shirt or mama’s skirt, but no can feel me. Now, you want to play with me. You cry over my photo. You cry into mama’s arms. I see you sometimes. You fall on your knees and beg God for ‘one more chance with my precious baby’. You scream and rage and weep till tears dry like salt on your cheeks, saying ‘they’ve taken my baby away, my baby, my child, my precious’.
But all those days, when I wanted to walk next to you, with my small hand tucked into your big one, dressed like you, looking like you, walking like you-
when I wanted you to lift me up and cuddle me-
when I wanted you to love me-
Where were you, daddy?