Frankly Told: I Am
As if the weight on his shoulders pulled him further down, he sank into the leather couch with a sigh. He felt relief in the little apartment he found himself in that Saturday afternoon.
Little girls could be heard in one of the bedrooms speaking loudly, possibly playing a game. In front of him, sat a tray with a pitcher and two glass tumblers. The orange juice stared at him longingly but he wasn’t interested in quenching the dry throat he seemed to have developed. He cleared his throat and just as he began to look around, out she emerged from the kitchen with a platter of finger food.
“I’ve got serviettes too, just in case you don’t feel like licking your fingers clean,” she quipped as she closed the gap to the sitting room.
He smiled softly but it felt forced. She set the platter down on the glass coffee table and quickly moved to serve him a glass of juice. He tried to gesture that he was not particularly thirsty but she forced it on him with a stern look. He took it and the cold slowly sipped into his hand. It felt almost relaxing.
“So, how are things, really?” she started, seeing as he was not going to run straight into the first sip.
“Things are…” he exhaled. “Well, they are.”
“Now what kind of answer is that surely?” she retorted.
“What do you want me to say? Things just are.” He resigned.
“When someone asks that, it is where you give generally how things are, you know, any highlights of your days. The good things, the bad things, you know?” she explained.
“I know, you’re right” he sighed. “Well, things have been on a low if I am being honest. They have not been great but they have been… okay.”
“Mh… okay at least there is some honesty there,” she poked. “So what has been making things so low?”
“Ati some honesty? What is that to mean?” He ignored the question.
“We wacha, answer the question,” she pushed.
He paused. She tried to maintain eye contact with him but he darted his eyes away. He took a sip to lull the silence a bit, almost seeming to formulate some form of safe answer.
“It’s the girls,” his head fell. “This week has been T for tough, for real. I mean, generally I’ve been seeing this downward trend since a while back and I thought I could pick it up but … I am struggling.”
He looked up and found her eyes on him. He could only look away and readjust himself on the couch. Seemingly forgetting he was holding a drink, he spilled a little on his thigh. He smacked his lips, as he gently placed the tumbler on a coaster and she silently passed a serviette to him. He took it, a little embarrassed at his state and nervously scoffed at himself, patting himself down dry.
“Why didn’t you say something earlier?” she asked softly.
“I don’t know, you know how I am, you know how us men are. I just thought I could solve it and figure this whole parenting thing out without stressing people.” He said and his lip quivered. “Can I really?”
“I see… I see.” she said but before she could add more, he was on his feet and had walked towards the balcony door.
He stood before the two shut sliding glass doors with his hands akimbo. He felt the pang of tears in his throat, like if he spoke, the words would cause them to flow out. He was exhausted, he could feel it in his bones.
“You look like you need some rest.” She finally threw out. “Here, eat.” She slid the platter a little ways on the coffee table. “Come on. Eat.”
As he turned back, out of the corner of his eye he saw three little heads poke out round the corner of the room and almost like clockwork, the mask was on, a warm smile.
“Auntie, auntie, please can we watch TV in your bedroom?” one of them threw across the living room, amidst the giggles.
“Okay but Unco is there, so you need to talk to him first,” she said, sweetly.
“It’s okay, daddy will say it’s okay.” One of them said, “ I will talk to him.”
“Come.” The little girl gestured to the other two and without delay, they were off with their voices getting softer until they were behind a shut door.
“Raising a child, isn’t easy.” she said shortly after they left, “Let alone twins.”
She stood and picked the tray with her, forcing it before him. He picked a couple of samosas, stuffed then down his mouth. Then a couple more and a couple more. Finishing chewing, he swallowed and patted down his mouth with the damp serviette.
“And you are doing a splendid job this far.” she said, as she raised one of her hands to his shoulder. “Which is a lot more than I can say for most.”
“But… How do I even know I am taking the right steps?” He asked, defeated. “What happens when they look around and see other kids with moms and thery don’t have one? What happens when they need to talk about ‘girl things’? What happens when-"
“Ah, ah ah ah. Take it easy. It is one step at a time.” She said. “Do they have a roof over their head? Yes. Are their bellies full at night? Yes. Do they have the basic necessities? Yes and more!”
As she took the platter back to the coffee table, she continued, “When the time comes, you will have to find a way to honestly answer all those questions. You and I both know this. When the other things come, I am here.” She patted her chest. “Isn’t that what family is for?”
“But you have to realize, you are the first line of defense before anything else. You are their father, you cannot afford to look so downtrodden.” She smiled. “Those little girls, they adore you. I know you are tired but you need to keep reminding yourself and if she was here with us she would do the same. No doubt.”
Her smile slowly faded but in her eyes she held hope.
“But she isn’t here now…" she trailed off.
“I am.” He affirmed.