‘Have you considered that my daughter here is a soon-to-be pharmacist?’
‘Have you considered that she is now completing her bachelor’s in pharmacy and will proceed to do her MPhil in the UK?’
‘Have you considered, young man, what kind of future you, an unschooled farmer, will have with her?’
I stood there, silent, as his words echoed my worries and fears.
I thought about Mmeso, hiding behind the door, whispering prayers to God to give me the wisdom to say the right things to her father. A part of me wanted to be angry, to protest in groans and empty proverbs about how a man’s today does not determine his tomorrow. I wanted to pace around this majestic room with gilded furniture and cold air that wafted from softly purring air conditioners, thumping my chest, and telling him about all my plans. All our plans. My tongue yearned to tell him about the acre of land in Achara I had just purchased. I was going to plant dongoyaro trees all over, Mmeso was going to do her masters in the UK to learn how to make drugs, and come back so that together we would make malaria drugs in the country, and tons of money too. I wanted to tell him about our dreams, hopes, and aspirations, and how they were not foreign to him, but when I looked into his eyes, I stopped cold in my tracks.
I saw fear for his daughter, fear that I would take her back to a life he had fought so hard to leave. I also saw disgust, and I realised that I reminded him so much of all the things he once was; poor and wretched, with only ambition and hard work to call his own.
I understood in that moment that Chief Opalugo was afraid, and I pitied him. All these years spent swimming in money, yet the scars of poverty, the deep marks of want, had never left him. They still tormented him daily. I saw all of this in his flared nose, heaving chest, and now wet eyes.
I walked up to him, seated so majestically, and placed one hand in his. Our calluses told all the tales we would never tell. I told him, “Mmeso will be fine. I will not let her suffer or lack, neither will I let her beauty be withered by the strong rays of poverty. I will work till I break my back if necessary. I know she is the apple of your eyes. She is the apple and light of mine too. Chief, Mmeso’s future with me is one of happiness. I swear it.”
Chief did not say anything, but his heaving chest slowed, his nostrils no longer flared, only his eyes were wet, and as he enveloped me in a gruff embrace, I felt his fear fall as tears on my shirt, and I think he felt mine too.
Oyor Okonkwor (@ChrisOyor) is a recovering writer who lost his voice and has found it again. He writes because he wants others to know that they are not alone.
This story was published as a finalist of the AFREADA x Africa Writes Competition. Writers had to produce a 500-word story from a dialogue in Chigozie Obioma’s latest novel, An Orchestra of Minorities.
Related country: Nigeria