I have six memories of my father, mostly from when I was very young. Here, I collect them.
1 – It’s a fuzzy recollection of being on his back while he took me somewhere. He may have dropped me then, I remember falling. This could have been the time he took my younger sister and me without our mother’s permission. My uncles and their friends had to track us down and bring us home, back to our granny’s house.
2 – Another fuzzy memory. He was shouting over our bed. He may have thrown something. I was crying about something in my eye.
3 – We were sitting outside Pep in Umzinto. I referred to him as “Hey” because I couldn’t call him Daddy. He corrected me, and it was awkward.
4 – This was many years later. I sat next to him in a court office. My sister sat next to me. We were here for him to give permission for her to be adopted by our stepfather. Our granny was also there and she asked us beforehand to talk to him. Yet it remained silent, uncomfortable.
5 – I was visiting my mother on the weekend, from Durban where I stay for work. I received a phone call from an unknown number. At first, there was no voice on the other end. Then an elderly lady, who I think was his girlfriend, told me to hold on. He came on and spoke nervously. It felt odd to recognize the nerves; we’re similar when talking nervously. He told me he was okay, asked me about my job and mother, and apologized generally in an obtuse way. This call, I was certain, was in response to his acquaintance meeting me a week earlier while I was cleaning out my stepfather’s workshop. He was shocked that I was my father’s son and probably told him to get in touch. It was more than a decade since we last saw one another in the court office.
6 – My sister and I were driving late at night to buy Coke from the Total garage. I came up to an intersection on a hill. As I was about to take off, I noticed a figure step across the stop line. I had to stop abruptly to avoid an accident. I switched on the car’s bright lights in order to see. There, in the darkness, I saw my own face staring back at me. The light revealed muddy overalls on a man staggering across the road. He raised his hands in response to the light. He was so drunk. It was Friday. He couldn’t notice his son and daughter in the car. He continued walking, now sure that these strangers won’t run him over. We drove off.