Sitting here the dark, with strangers from another land, strangers with a different mother tongue, I’m so confused and scared. I wonder how I got myself here. I hear whispers but I can’t make meaning out of it. I can barely see their faces, only whispers. They speak French but I don’t. The inmate sitting next to me keeps on saying, “Comment vous appelez-vous? D’où venez vous?”, I found it very irritating, ‘cause he kept repeating it, but I had no idea what he was saying, I knew he was speaking French but my French was terrible.
The previous day, I was at the police station being processed for court; I couldn’t get a lawyer to stand in for me. I stood up through out the court proceeding for 2 hours until the judge passed his judgment, he said a lot of things like, “condamné à 20 ans de prison” but the only thing I understood was, “ 20 and prison”, later I was told I was being sentenced to 20 years in prison. I wept like a baby.
I was sent to prison for a crime I had no idea about in Douala, Cameroon. Another inmate approached me and asked, “How many years did you get?”, I was relieved, alas I’ve found someone who spoke English, I replied, “20 years”, then he asked, “what did you do?”, and I replied, “Nothing, it’s a long story”, he laughed and continued, “20 years huh? Tell me your tale, you won’t be going anywhere in the next 20 years, so you have all the time in the world”.
It was time for the couple’s dance at my nephew’s wedding party, they requested a slow song, the disc jogger played Dance with my father by Luther Vandross, they danced slow and beautiful. Moved by the song, I run onto the stage to go dance with the bride, I stood behind her back, held her dress and followed the movement of their dance, everyone laughed.
My father came after me to pull me off the stage, but I wouldn’t let go off the bride’s gown. My dad said he’ll spank me if I don’t let go, but I remember asking my father, “will you dance with me if I let go?”, my dad smiled and said, “yes I will, my son”. Along side the newly wed, my father and I were also dancing, I was only 7 years old at that time. Since then ‘Dance with my father’ became our song, my father and I.
Growing up I never met my mother, she left my father when I was only a two years old, my father took care of me. My dad said my mother left us because he was broke at that time, they were living on the streets with little to eat. My mom confessed she couldn’t take care of me. One morning, my father realized my mom had packed her belongings and left without a word. My father was left to take care of me.
My father didn’t want me to suffer like he did, so he worked hard for to make a living for the both of us. Growing up my dad was an auto-mechanic; he worked extremely hard to provide for our everyday needs. I never went to bed hungry, my dad provided my everyday needs. My dad was my role model; I looked up to him growing up.
Anytime we were both down, we played ‘dance with my father’ by Luther Vandross. My dad loved that song. The slow soothing melodies and rhythms helped him relaxed. The words in the song were such comfort to the ears. Every time my dad couldn’t sleep at night, he’d play that song. That song reminded me of my father anytime I heard it.
My dad gave me the best education he always told me he didn’t want me to suffer the way he did, life has been so cruel to him just because he didn’t get an education. My dad was very strict on my education; he sent me to the best school there is. Upon completion of my junior level education, I knew what I wanted to become, a mechanical engineer. I studied very hard in my secondary level education to get into the university.
I fell in love with cars, fast cars, I wanted a car. Before I left for the university I asked my dad to buy me a car. He didn’t, instead, he said to me, “If you get a first class degree I’ll buy you any car or your choice, if you get a second class degree, I’ll buy you any car of my choice, but right now you don’t need a car, it’ll be a distraction to your studies, I want you to study hard if you really want a car of your choice”, I said to my dad, “I’ll get a first class degree so start saving up for a Dodge Challenger SRT8 392”, he agreed, we made a deal and I left for school.
School wasn’t easy, it came with it challenges, tests and exams. My favorite part of school was at the workshop, we got to see how cars are built, from the designing stages to the paint job. I went to school with one aim in mind, that is, to get a first class degree and get my dream car. That’s it, everything else was secondary. In school my friends and I use to play lots of video games, especially racing games, Motor GP, Formula 1 racing, Need for speed franchise, Go kart games and even Mario Kart.
I graduated with a first class degree; my happiness can’t be expressed with words! I knew I was getting a car, a car I’ve always wanted. My dad was very excited, he was really proud of me. My dad organized a small drink up party for me and a few close friends, at the gathering my father said to me, “My son, you deserve everything, I haven’t forgotten our deal, I’ll honor it by the end of the night”.
What my dad told me kept ringing in my head, I got carried away and started drinking more, I told my friends I was getting a new ride, they were excited as I was, I told them it was the Dodge Challenger SRT8 292. They obviously haven’t heard of the ride before so I went online to get a picture of it. I showed them the car
My friends screamed with excitements, I told them we’ll go for a ride around town tonight. One of my friends went outside to bring more beer to drink. I had too much to drink, but I wasn’t completely drunk! Moments later my dad called for me, I went as soon as possible. I knew it was time.
I went to my dad’s room, he was sitting on his bed, he asked me to join him. I sat next to him, then he said, “I’m very proud of you, you’ve done something I wasn’t able to do, tonight is your night, celebrate how you see fit, but life is too short, we mostly chase after irrelevant things In life, ignoring the most important thing, what I’m about to give you is the most precious and most important gift I can ever give to you, all I need you to do is to read and practice what you read, my son, I’m very sorry that it took so long for me to give you this, this is all I have for you”
He gave me a parcel. I unwrapped it, my face changed colour. The gift my dad gave me was a Bible. I laughed and said, “What is this? I was expecting my car keys, dad, if it’s a joke, please cut it, I’m not really in the mood”, my dad said, “son I know you weren’t expecting this, but that is all I have for you, you needed motivation to do well in school, and I am proud of you, But knowing God is far precious than a car, my advice is, put God first and all other things will be added to you”
I got angry, threw the Bible to the floor and left the room. My dad burst into tears, I could hear him calling my name but I left without turning back. That was the last time I saw my dad. That night I went to the club to drink and drown my disappointment. I drunk too much and started buying free drinks for strangers.
One lady stranger approached me, she said, “you having a rough night huh?”, and I said, “you talk funny, your accent, where you from?”, she replied, “Cameroon”, and I asked, “What are you doing in Ghana?”, “My brother and I and touring west Africa, so we here, next destination is Togo, Benin, Nigeria and finally home, Cameroon, we’ve already been to Guinea, Sierria Leone, Liberia and C’ote D’ivoire”, then I asked her, “Can I join you guys? I feel like leaving town, a get away sort of thing”, She agreed, I went back home, dad was asleep, packed a bag, took some money and left for Togo.
Everything was fun from Togo to Benin to Nigeria until we entered Cameroon, my companions said the Cameroon custom officers will give me a tough time, they gave me a some documents in French and asked me to sign them, they said it will testify that I’m a tourist, with it no police will bother me, I did exactly what I was told even though I had no idea what I was signing.
I was fast asleep when I suddenly heard, “Sortez! Sortez! Sortez!”, “Nous voulons chercher la voiture”, it was the police, they told me to get out of the car, they want conduct a routine check. During the search, my companions started running away, the police chased after them, I was confused, I had no idea why they were running, a policeman was told to keep an eye on me. The police went on with their search, when they opened the boot of the car they found 50 parcels of dried Indian hemp, Marijuana.
I was arrested. Apparently the documents I signed were documents attesting that the Marijuana were mine. Those Cameroonians were not related, they were drug traffickers, trafficking drugs across west Africa. I was deceived. Now here I am, in prison serving twenty to life.
I was released from prison after twenty years; I was deported back to Ghana. I had nothing, Ghana had changed, I couldn’t recognize some places. I didn’t know what to do, I was too ashamed to go home or even contact any of my friends.
It’s been a year now since I got released from prison, I was working as a mechanic in a ghetto workshop, I was sleeping on the streets, I couldn’t afford a day’s meal. Many times I decided to go back to my father and ask for forgiveness, but I couldn’t, my story was too ugly to tell, I didn’t have the courage to face my dad.
I was at work one day when I heard this song playing, Dancing with my father by Luther Vandross, I was moved, that song brought back so many memories, I started to cry. I left work very early and decided to go find my father. I went to his house, but the gates were locked, it looked like no one has been there for a while now. I went to my father’s workshop; there I was told my dad died 5 years ago. The new manger of the workshop, one of my father’s friends recognized me; he told me my dad left something for me.
He gave me the same parcel my dad gave me 20 years ago along with the keys to his house. I went back to my dad’s house to cry, I didn’t get the chance to say I’m sorry and or ask for forgiveness.
In the middle of the night, I woke up, I wasn’t able to sleep, I picked up the Bible and decided to read. When I opened it, I saw a note my father wrote for me, in summary, my dad had left me all his inheritance including all his 12 auto mechanic shops, in the Bible was a key, a key to the garage. I opened the garage and parked there was a Dodge Challenger SRT8 292 registered 20 years ago
Copyright © 2016 by @AbokiCleDre
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