By Sheillah Maonga
To read part three, click here
I shook my head. Koni was not to know. Ever. She would end the marriage, if she found out, that was for sure. She would not get past the deceit. The lying by omission is something that she would neither forgive nor forget.
I remembered years ago, after I had been with Koni for a few months, and we were talking about our childhood. She had spoken so strongly about her absent father. How she would never forgive him for walking out of her life. She said it was an unforgivable sin and she would rather have a dead father than an absent one. Because I did not want to lose her, I did not disclose about my son that I had never seen because I had walked away from his mother. So, instead, I spoke about my absent father too. Echoed her sentiments, even though I hardly thought of my father at all; so I held no grudge against him.
I did not know my father. I doubt he knew that he had a son either. But that had never bothered me. Maybe it was because there were so many of us, fatherless children, that it was the norm for me. In my village, during my childhood, more than half the children I knew had no fathers. Even Josephina did not know here father. This was because an army post had been temporarily erected in our village to combat tribal conflict that was the result of the election results. Many of us were conceived during this army occupation. As was always the case, the dissident voices were quelled by the army, a semblance of peace was restored, and the army moved to another area where they were needed, leaving in their wake many a pregnant woman. My mother was one of them. So was Josephina’s. And so many others. It did not bother me not to have a father.
I looked at the young man before me, debating what the best plan of action would be. I did not know what he wanted from me and I was not sure I could give it to him. He said he wanted a father. I could not be that to him. To be his father, I would lose Koni. To lose Koni, I would lose my daughters, my law firm and my friends. I would lose everything if I took in this young man. And what would he gain other than a broken man that would not know how to relate to him.
I looked at the young man before me and felt immense sorrow. I was sorrowful that I was not the father that he had come to look for. I was not the man he had diligently and patiently waited for the whole day. I was a man who just wanted a simple life. And because of this simplicity, he was not invited in my life. Once again, it was crystal clear to me, in spite of the guilt I felt – and as it was many years ago with his mother – what path I would take.
I looked at the young man before me. I didn’t say anything to him, just held his gaze. He seemed to read my mind, for he stood up and without a backward glance, strode out of the office and into the darkness. I contemplated calling him back, if only to wish him luck, but my voice caught in my throat. I watched him as the night enveloped him. I felt relief, then quickly followed by remorse and it finally settled into a disturbed peace.
The shrill of my mobile phone jolted me into the present. I must have been there in a daze for quite a while. It was a text message from Koni. She wanted to know if everything was fine and when I would be home.
I called her back. I could do with listening to her voice. If only to remind me that I had chosen her and, in the process, let down my son. When she picked up, I said, “Koni, I am on my way home. I will be there within the hour. I have finished with the young man. I doubt he will be requiring my services in future. I cannot and could not help him.”
The tears started falling as I walked into the darkness, heading home to my wife and children.