Reflections

Rotting Far From The Tree

By Fungai Chigumbura, Zimbabwe:

I do not know who hated who first. Whose loathing was older? Did my father despise me before I  hated him, or was it the other way around. Maybe the hate was always one-sided. Certainly, I always knew he resented me. He made no secrets about that. After all, I had come at an inopportune time, right before he was on the brink of that big breakthrough that the pastor at church always promised him was right around the corner. His “well-deserved showering of prosperity” never came, and he spared no effort in reminding me that it was because he had to re-direct all of his efforts towards ensuring that I had baby food and diapers. He bore none of the burden of responsibility for my birth. It was never his fault, always mine for rushing out of his loins when I did.

He hated me first for sure. I didn’t even learn what hate was until I was at least eight years old, when that fat schlub Joseph had punctured my football with a rusty old nail, savouring my misery as the air deflated from the leather with a disheartening whizz. As the life fizzled from that ball, I felt a heat in the pit of my stomach that always arose whenever my father kicked or slapped it to life in me. Until that moment, I had thought it was pain. Watching Joseph smirk in bullying glee, I realised then, as the heat awoke, that I hated Joseph, and I hated my father. Dad beat me because of that ball, told me that a real man would have kicked Joseph in the balls until he puked blood. To drive the lesson home, he gave a practical demonstration on just what sort of stomp was appropriate.

When I was a teenager, I read somewhere that hate usually only exists between competitive rivals. That you cannot hate someone you do not respect at least on a visceral, primal level. Odd rumination, that. Did my father and I loathe each other because, somewhere deep down, we were actually competing? Moreover, if we were feuding, what were we locked in combat for? My mother’s attention, perhaps? Was he jealous of the fact that I sucked on her nipples longer than he did? Or over the fact that I only ever needed to cough to have her fawning over me, whilst she would not have done the same had he come home from work missing a limb? What were we in competition for, and what real man could ever feel threatened by something that came from him, and could have ended up on a piece of toilet paper on a different day? Essentially, if there were any contest at all, I sensed that it was between whatever ditheistic denizens occupied his soul. And maybe that was the heart of everything: too much of me was him. I was a constant reminder of what he could and might have been, and he saw it as his right to stamp out the vision of his wasted life that lived in me.

As I grew, I made sure to be as different from him as my genes and resources would allow. It was never easy; the man’s seed was strong, and I bore all his hard, uncompromising physical features. So strong was our resemblance, that my senile grandmother, on her dying-bed, mistook me for him, and admonished me for stealing kisses from all the girls and warned me that chasing skirts would be the death of me. I gave up trying to change myself physically and focused on being the opposite of the man that he was. Outstanding grades, an aversion for alcohol, one girlfriend from the time I was in high school until the day we got married—each variation between my sire and I was a confirmation that the hate I held for him had found purpose; it was the fuel that drove me every day to be different from him and would carry me all my days.

When he died, I shed no tears. If I felt anything at all, it was an annoyance at the inconvenience of his passing and the arrangements that I, as his only progeny, would have to make. My mother, bless her soul, wept convulsively as they lowered his coffin into the ground. Only she could tell you what she cried for. She had not loved that man in years, and she had constantly reminded him  that she stayed only for her son. Those tears she shed and the wails she sent into the cloudy sky when he was buried must have been from someone else.

As I watched them pile the dirt on his coffin, I wondered whether that vile bastard was laughing in hell, watching me. A few days before this, my urologist had gravely informed me that due to a deformity in my testicles, I was unable to bear children. One of them was apparently twisted and dead, the gruesome result of some injury I had likely suffered as a child. I laughed inside, with no mrith. This was the most cruel jape ever: I had finally found the one true thing that would irredeemably separate me from dear old father. I would sire no seed of my own, and might as well be a eunuch for all the difference it made. He might have hated me first, but I know that I will hate him the longest.

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