By Katiso Thatho, Lesotho
For some reason he found a lot of comfort in the friendship of this young teenage boy whom he had only known for a few hours. After finishing their breakfast the two began to chat for a while. Rex told Hopolang all about his life. How he had lived at his grandmother’s with his mother for the last seven years and hadn’t seen his father during all that time. He also told him how his mother had died two years ago and how the loss had devastated him. Hopolang also shared the story of losing his family because of alcohol. How he had always dreamt of being a musician but was coerced by his parents to study accounting instead. He even sang a few notes and was surprisingly good. For both of them it was almost as if they had finally found someone to share their heavy burdens with, it felt very liberating. Hours passed as they continued to talk nonstop until it was finally time for Rex to leave. After that day Hopolang went to the tavern hoping to run into Rex but alas he was never around. Once again the bottle was his only friend. The aroma of those scrambled eggs still haunted him; it was just too similar to that of those cooked by Mampho. One day while he was at work he received a call from an unknown number. His first instinct was to ignore it but for some reason he felt the need to pick up and so he did.
“Is this Mr Hopolang Lehloenya?” asked the lady on the other end of the line.
“Yes, this is he.”
“Okay! We have you listed as an emergency contact for one Retshelisitsoe Lehloenya.”
“That’s my son, what’s the matter?” asked Hopolang with a slight quiver in his voice.
“He was involved in a car accident. Would you please come to the Queen’s Memorial hospital at your earliest convenience?”
Without responding to what the lady had said, Hopolang grabbed his car keys and drove to the hospital as fast as he possibly could. It was just by luck that there were no traffic cops between his workplace and the hospital. As soon as he got there he asked about his son and was quickly directed to his ward. The moment he got inside he was shocked by what he found. The boy lying unconsciously on the hospital bed was his good friend Rex. It was at that moment that it all clicked. The time Rex started living with his grandmother was right around the time Mampho had left him and the death of His mother also coincided with that of his spouse. He couldn’t believe that he had fallen so far that he couldn’t even recognise his own son. Part of him wanted to turn around and run but as he thought back to his conversation with Rex he realised that it would only further hurt him. He slowly walked to his bedside, almost as though he was being pushed towards it by some invisible being. Once there he looked down at his son as tears welled up in his eyes. He quickly wiped them away and grabbed Rex’s hand.
“I’m so sorry son. I don’t know why you’d even want to know a worthless piece of shit like me after all I’ve done to you. I stayed away because I knew you’d be better off with your mother than with me. Even when she passed I thought anything that might happen to you was far better than what would happen if you lived with me. Looking back I was probably just making excuses because what I really am is a coward. To think you’d end up doing the one thing I hoped you’d never do – become an exact copy of me. I promise if you wake up I’ll do my best with what time I have left to be something that resembles a father to you.”
Hopolang sat beside his son until the nurses came in and told him that visiting hours were over, after which he made his way back home.
As it turns out, the boy had always wanted to reconnect with his father and despite getting no objections from his mother; his grandmother was firmly against it. He had always felt like something was missing without his father but having his mother around made the emptiness a bit more bearable. It was after her death that he broke. He dropped out of school and set out to find his father against his grandmother’s wishes. During his journey he had picked up the same habit as his father which is what eventually helped in tracking him down. It had been a while since finding his father but he never really had the courage to talk to him. Not being recognised by his own father only sunk him further into the abyss and the pain of it all had consumed him. For him, dying in that car accident would have been a relief but alas life had different plans for both of them.
Hopolang drove home feeling more miserable than the usual. Once he got home he quietly got out of his car and entered the house. Immediately after closing the door he collapsed on the floor. Tears flowed uncontrollably down his face and soaked the ground on which he laid his head. He didn’t just cry for his son. He cried for the dreams he had turned his back on, for all the times he had to be strong and put others before himself “like man should”, for all the pain he had put his wife through because he was not true to who he really was, for abandoning his son because of his cowardice, and because he realised that things could’ve ended differently if he had faced his demons instead of trying to drown them with liquor. Strangely enough the more he wept the more he felt as though a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He hadn’t really cried before, at least not since he was a child, after all, “monna ke nku ha a lle.”
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