It’s been five years since I left home. Five years since papa had called me a fool baring his teeth, his eyes wide with rage, and his hands balled into fists. This was the day I had ruined Christmas, choosing my desires over Igbo traditions that papa said were as old as man.
“You are a fool,” he had screamed, as spittle flew from his mouth and fell on my cheeks. “Can’t you serve God like other men?”
“Papa, it is not the same,” I replied for the seventh time.
He stared at me as if seeing me for the first time, his white vest soaked with sweat. “You are my only son. You are to carry our family name to the next generation. Why would you be so cruel to allow yourself to be ordained a priest?”
“Emeka, do you want to kill me?” The lines on his face seemed to have multiplied in seconds or maybe I had never noticed them before.
I stood behind the brown leather chairs, not knowing what to do with my hands, staring with hooded eyes at the mole on his chest that rose steadily with his rapid breathing. I wished I could remember words, could form sentences, anything that would take away the grief in his eyes.
Mama silently wept at the entrance of the kitchen, her wrapper tied loosely on her waist revealing her black tights, her eyes darting from me to papa. The aroma of the recently fried turkey wafted into the sitting room causing my stomach to rumble with hunger and agony.
The need to serve God without a wife and any chance of a progeny was a choice I had tried to flee from. My earliest memory was of a priest towering over me, shaking my hand; his immaculate white robes seemed special. Papa and mama had stood behind me responding amen to his prayers and I knew I wanted to be just like him.
It also sounded crazy to me, this life of loneliness I had chosen. Every time the doubts grew within me like wildflowers, the dreams where I would always fall and grieve continuously would flood my subconscious, leaving me with nights without sleep till I shivered and begged God to take the dreams away promising to serve only him.
I watched papa that day, his hands shaking in anger I had never seen before, so I tucked away precious memories of the family I had broken in a faraway corner in my head where they could burn brightly to help me through the darkness that solitude might bring.
Memories of Christmas spent binge-watching Kevin outsmart Harry and Marv, the Christmas robbers in the Home Alone series. Me and my two sisters sprawled on the floor, mouths opened with laughter, while mama and papa sat on the chair making jokes on the foolishness of the thieves.
The lights from the Christmas decorations hung beautifully on the church in front of our home that warmed my insides and filled my heart with joy. The night sky sparkling with fireworks while the dry harmattan wind blew the leaves of the mango tree that stood outside our home.
The pranks I had played, throwing knock outs Papa bought for me at strangers as they walked past our home. The sense of togetherness, as aunties, uncles and cousins trooped in to share in the merry of delicacies mama would always cook.
I watched as papa turned to leave the room, his shoulders slumped in despair.
“Go and never come back, “he had said quietly.
The Christmas carols and decorations do nothing to lift my spirits as I conduct the Christmas mass. I stare at the faces in the congregation with the grin I learnt to master, to cover up the loss I feel when the waves of loneliness come crashing at the loss of my family, till I see papa. His eyes, tiny slits, wrinkled with a big smile on his face and mama waving her handkerchief to catch my attention.