No memory of daddy. The closest of what he was came when I was thirty. A friend with whom he had worked in the 1970s, had visited my newspaper. On hearing me respond to a question by my Editor-in-chief (Alfred Taban), she thought out loud. Soon as I left the office, she shared her shock. She thought the young man reminded her of an old friend, Richard Arop.
I was called back. “You remind me of Mr Richard. He died too soon. What happened to him, Alfred…how did Richard die? … I remember it was complicated. You must have been less than six months at the time…,” she explained, with short sobs. She would later share that the newspaper looked for a relative who would receive the proceeds from an investigation into environmental impact of tobacco processing, a project my old man had been working on when he was killed.
I may never know what happened to my dad, for all the investigations in the world. Whether he was poisoned and by whom and for whatever reason; is not a mystery. From my experiences in the camps in northern Uganda, death by poisoning was so obvious to tell and often enough the symptoms of the deceased can lead to which person or persons had had a hand in the act.
Mother will not discuss these details. My editor, who is believed to have been a close friend never discussed it. Another editor at a different newspaper was numb-struck when he was reminded of his old friend, Mr Arop, as he was called. We were on a flight from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to Beijing, China. I had, after several beers, gathered just enough courage to introduce myself officially, to a man I already knew had worked with my father for Heritage Oil Company and Nile Mirror newspaper in the Sudan.
For the first time in eleven years; I have felt empty to breaking point. It was an ordinary morning. I awoke to some music from my laptop. How many refugees and asylum seekers have laptops, I dare ask? I just couldn’t get myself out of bed. That night I had seen on the notice board at Building 12, that twelve of my colleagues had been transferred to several locations across the country. Yet here I stayed.
It is difficult for a man of my upbringing to shed tears. It is not in our DNA I have been told. I last shed tears about twelve years ago. It wasn’t even for one my closest friends; Hakim Moses, or “Mo” who had so long suffered from a mysterious illness and finally succumbed to it. But not before calling us to say goodbye the morning he would die. He knew death had come. He was so young.
To be torn between a failure to wail outwardly among an outpouring of teary sympathies and the admiration of strength in the ability to bottle it all inside is not a sensation anyone would wish to re-live. Ever. Mo was his mother’s only son. In a way I was also my mother’s only son; at least for my real father, with my real mother.
Countless times I have been told that the story you are reading will have a triumphant end. That its tragic nature is by default intended to produce something golden. Wishful thinking has never been my stronger pursuits. Never giving up has defined me in ways countless.
Tears like all other sensations are exciting. Shock has its own excitement. The cold of a barrel of gun digging into your ribs, the tinge of a bayonet scraping your skin hairs, the clinging of grenades and the smell of gunpowder are all powerful. I have experienced them all and more. But nothing comes close to the feeling of emptiness.
The Syrians in my camp have more sense of purpose; perhaps much more than I can bring myself to admit. The Iraqis are far content with life’s options for them. The Libyan has only but one dream. Having been rejected all over Europe, he wants to be moved to Malta. He has done his research. He knows Malta will take him and from there he will start yet another journey. He dreams of a higher sky. He wants to be in Mexico. No family, no friends; he can’t wait to be part of a Mexican paramilitary. A Gadhaffi soldier and die hard, his only guilt is the cowardice of boarding a ship into the seas. I wish to share with him the politics behind Gadhaffi’s overthrow. But I decide, that his own convictions need not be shattered. Information overload may work against his dream. I may radicalize this soft-hearted radical. I too am a rebel in my own way. A rebel of ideas. Ability to dream, to want something better, to move beyond social class, to take chances, to take a leap of faith into the unknown are all considered unacceptable in my society. Breaking barriers is punishable. It was little surprising that my mother at one point considered me a curse. That all the blessings of a son had been bestowed to the wrong son. Had it been for her, my much younger stepbrother was more deserving.
“It is what it is mother, but I am more than willing to trade birth places. But remember, I also didn’t have a say in the matter.” I cry.
A search for a place to call home has never been so long. I have been on this journey all my life. All I wanted was to belong. My curse was that I was different. I was smart where I needed to be dumb. I excelled where society expected me to fail. I made friends where loneliness was my best friend. I visited the library much too young.
How could I have passed my exams? I missed half the lessons. I played more football than my entire class combined. I even became the school captain and coach-player. Yet, following lessons from the basement, mastering echoes, I registered for my final exams, against the advice of family and friends. Sport kept me in school, but greed for profit, even by a church owned school, meant that I would miss meals and lessons. Classmates would offer their lunch or dinner, in turns. And I would return to the echo. I didn’t break.
There have been far too many breaking points for one lifetime. Lara Adele, my daughter, for whom I want to stay alive, for whom I seek this new path, with whom I continue to create a world; her mother understands that there are no guarantees. No relationship has seen more unchartered waters. Where she wants security, solidity, purpose and life; I have come short. For this reason and others, I have made her aware, that like my Libyan friend, I will continue to move. I will not look back. I can only move forward. She has every right to move on, for I wouldn’t accept her staying and waiting out of guilt. I wouldn’t want yet another person, as my mother did, to give up their youth.
It has been two days of dull lull. My name hasn’t appeared on the notice board at the front of Building 12. There is little communication on the next process. The only communication is that I must check every evening, at 10:00 in the night on the notice board. The waiting game is as part of asylum seeking is a fact.