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“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” my dad asked.
“I was afraid that you would scold me.”
My dad and I were staring at the sky, our eyes glittering, as though a sad, romantic movie were being played there. It was an emotional moment, deeper than the soap opera my mother was watching.
“Does your mother know about it?”
“Tell her now!”
Paranoia was not part of my father’s personality trademark. He was the kind of man who would take a bullet from any statement or mistreatment without batting an eyelid. But on that starry night, something changed inside him. It was as though he was undergoing a dark metamorphosis, his heart reacting to a strange new psychological entity. As the stars got brighter through the night, he became more agitated — you might think he was allergic to stars.
Mum on the other hand concerned herself with human nature — how people fell in love, broke apart, and the emotional cause and effect. The complexities of relationships thrilled her a lot. She believed soap operas defined what she thought about love.
“On the other hand, I don’t think it’s necessary to tell her,” dad said.
I wished that he wasn’t thinking aloud as he spoke those words. Sometimes the sky made people say things they didn’t mean to. His uninhibited, firm voice proved he really meant what he said to me.
“If she finds out grandpa’s ash-jar is missing, I’ll tell her Tom broke it.”
Tom was a curious cat who occasionally slept, ate, or played in our house. Our house seemed to be boring from a cat’s perspective. A neat house such as ours has less chance of accommodating mice or giant cockroaches. On the day grand-pa’s jar fell, Tom was chasing mice in our backyard. Mum wouldn’t notice that; she was busy chopping vegetables as she watched the soaps.
Dad wanted to preserve the peace in the house, even if it went to the extent of lying. The night, as we knew it, wasn’t an ordinary one. Our eyes were still glued on the sky. Dad was struggling to see the sky clearly, without his glasses. Occasionally he wiped out the tears in his eyes with a handkerchief. He was short-sighted.
The tears in my eyes came out of frustration. I had confessed my worst secret to dad, yet I still felt jumpy. All my dad could do was to hold me close, and give me slow pats on the back.
“Guys!” mum shouted. “The world will not end! I heard it in the TV!”
A sigh of relief was followed by grief. If the world was still there, there was a high chance dad would still punish me for breaking grand-pa’s jar. As I reflected on my confession, mum was busy making fun of dad’s belief that an asteroid would hit and destroy the world as we knew it.
In turn, dad told her how she missed the beauty of a starry night. The sun was slowly rising now. The three of us stood in a curved line gazing at the rising sun. Mum had forgotten her soaps. Dad had forgotten his eye condition. I had forgotten to keep some secrets to myself.
Teddy Kimathi's book of poems The Milky Way in Words is available on Amazon, Book Country, National Book Store, and Angus & Robertson Bookworld.