Stranger Daughter

I lay on the ground reading a book when my daughter, Elsa, walked passed me and sat on the couch I plopped my legs crossed at the ankle. Elsa sighed loudly as if a heft had just been thrown down on her slender shoulders; remitting subtle signals of distress was her way of getting my attention, though it never worked on her mother because she was too impatient for an attitude that wasn’t voiced out. I obliged and set the book I was reading down, and then I indulged Elsa in the friendliest manner.

“Who ripped the head off your teddy bear and Barbie dolls?” I asked. I waited for a second and Elsa didn’t respond, so I picked up my book again and feigned reading and minding my business.

Elsa sighed again. She is the most beautiful creature when she gets in one of her moods, she had these large eyes that when she was downcast I found the rheumy look irresistible, a petite nose almost invincible, blending in her face like it was concealed with makeup except for her nasal passage, curved seductive lips with voluptuous redness, thick and framed by a unique ridge that gave her face a strong charm. Her lips had a black line all around that made it look like it was traced with kohl at birth and a tight jaw. Just like her mother, but more beautiful.

I uncrossed my legs and took it off the couch, sat up, and then joined Elsa where she sat to wrap my hands around her smallish frame.

“What are you reading?” Elsa asked.

“Some book to pass the time,” I said

“What is it about?”

“Women who gained freedom, to put it lightly, what is eating you inside and causing you to send me mixed signals?”

“Nothing,”

“What are you feeling?”

“Nothing,”

“It can’t be ‘nothing’ when you get like this, I can hardly ignore you when you get this way, please tell me what is the matter?”

Elsa smiled. “It’s about a boy; he doesn’t seem to notice me,”

“Oh,” I said. I rolled my eyes and I had a smug smile on my lips.

“You see, that is why I didn’t want to talk about it,” Elsa said, and dug her elbow slightly into my ribs that caused me to cough out a laugh.

“Do you want to try your mother instead?” I said, matter-of-factly.

“No, mama will spark at me, I am here for the simple fact that only you will understand, and that I can always come to you at any given time,”
“Seems like I am all you have got for now if it really bothers you and you wish to talk, don’t let the ‘oh’ and the faces I will make keep you from talking,”

“Promise not to make funny sounds and make me feel judged,”

“Won’t make funny sounds but I can’t promise you I will not judge you by making funny faces,”

Elsa chuckled. “Well he’s handsome; at least I think he is,”

“Is looks about this boy all that matters to you?”

“Of course not, papa, he is brilliant and he notices little things I don’t even know are there. He is kind when he doesn’t have to be and his smile is sincere. I love it when he laughs, papa, you might look around searching for a baby when he laughs, his laugh is so innocent and pure like when you throw a baby in the air and catch him. He has large strong hands, a determined jaw and most times he sits quietly by himself reading a book, just like you, but not like you, like him, friendly and detached from his entire surrounding.”

“I understand,”

“Do you? Each of our encounter stains my mind with vivid details, he smiles at me whenever he sees me in school and my belly turns itself like spaghetti, I have so many feelings in my chest and I wonder if he is also preoccupied with thoughts of me like I am of him,”

“Well…”

“Oh papa, I feel sick,”

I kept quiet.

“So, what do you think about everything I just said?”

I held Elsa’s fragile little hands and whispered into her ear and watched her smile.

“You think I’m in love with him?”

“Yes, and there is nothing wrong with being in love with a boy, it is very natural for a boy to make you feel this way, but you are too young to be in love or having such scourging feelings, at least not now.”

“When can I have these feelings and be able to understand them?”

“Maybe when you are forty and old enough to understand all that you are feeling, but for now you have to focus your mind on other things, like school, ambitions?”

“I do great in school, I am always focused?”

“Yes, baby girl. And I’m proud of you, but these feeling can cause your focus to dwindle, give your foundation a little shake that might disrupt your whole progress, and do you want that?”

“No papa,”

“Same applies to me. You are free to have these feelings, aren’t they fun, bittersweet? But you cannot act on them, at least not yet, maybe later when you are free, now you have a lot on your hands.”

I held Elsa close and cooed.

“I want to give you away one day, at the right time, to someone worthy of interest, who trusts your worth, who notices that your nose scrunches when you smile. I want to walk you down the aisle and give you away, knowing there is someone who will try just as hard I have done to make you happy and protect you from every form of harm in this world.”

“Please, papa, don’t give me away to anyone,”

“Exactly,” I said, and then laughed, softly. “You are still a baby.” I kissed the top of her head, “you are still my baby girl but you won’t always be a baby,”

“I will always be your baby girl,” Elsa said.

With neither of us saying anything a moment of meaningful silence passed.

“Mama is cooking I should go and help her in the kitchen,” Elsa said, breaking the silence.

“Yes, you should, and if she asks what we were talking about don’t tell her, she will panic and become strict with you,”

“Why?”

“She felt exactly how you are feeling when she met me, and years later look what happened, we had you.”

Elsa laughed and her nose scrunched, and then she got up and was off to the kitchen. I picked up my book and continued reading, excited about the future.

 

Photo credit: Los Angeles (California, 1985) – Eli Reed