[ 2006 Young Explorer Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Honourable Mention]
It was a hot summer day so my friends and I decided to go to the beach. The crystal blue, clear water was very refreshing and invigorating. We were just playing around, splashing and laughing joyfully, when my father’s voice interrupted our giggles. My father’s voice was deep and sounded like thunder and African drums at the same time. He called my name and by his tone of voice I knew he had found out that I’d broken his favourite razor.
I started home, my hands trembling, beads of sweat running down my face. I could no longer hear my father’s loud cries; the beating of my heart was all I could hear. ‘Thump, Thump.’
The road under my feet was hot and dusty, but I could care less. My house came into sight. Usually after school I was happy to see our white four room wooden house with blue shutters and a great amount of fruit trees in the yard, but not today. I just stood on the road brain dead, but my feet kept moving. As I went up my walkway and saw my father’s red, old, beaten-up car, my feet moved slower. My eyes saw everything as if it was the last time I would see anything. My ears picked up every sound, from the rustling in the bushes to neighbors pots and pans.
I opened the door to my house, and, before I could step in, a big muscular hand grabbed and dragged me in. It was my father and he was angry. His veins popped out of his neck, his face was turning red, and I could swear I saw smoke coming out of his ears. Then, I saw a familiar and frequent visitor of mine – the strap in my father’s arm. I knew the drill. Pants down, then my father raised his hand. I felt my skin ripped off my back but I did not scream or cry because I knew that would lead to more.
After my father was done, he sent me away and I went tearing down the road back to the beach to soak my wounds. I met the boys playing and by the look on their faces, I knew they felt sorry for me. They, too, were all too familiar with their own fathers’ strap. They gathered their stuff and left me alone. At last, I was free to scream and cry. My tears flowed like an infinite waterfall. No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop crying. I felt bad and hypocritical, since I was always bragging to my friends that real men do not cry and here I was whimpering like a homeless dog. The tears finally stopped. A new emotion took over. I was angry with my father for beating me over a rusty old razor. I decided to look for a job and move out of my parent’s house, then never talk to my father again.
After a couple of hours in the sea, I felt the cool night breeze and decided to go home.
When I reached home, my mother’s car was in the driveway. The smell of her cooking made me feel a little better. I could hardly enjoy my dinner for I was still sore and could hardly sit properly. However, that was not the worst; I had to sit next to my father. My mother must have sensed the tension, because she did not mind when I wanted to go to bed early, which she usually did not condone.
A few minutes later, she walked into my room. I preferred my mother to my father because she had a sweeter and gentler nature. She sat on my bed, I put my head on her lap, and she stoked my long curly hair. She asked me if I was upset and I replied yes. She said “you might think it unfair for your father to beat you for something so old and which has no monetary value but it had sentimental value to your father”. She then told me the story of how my father had gotten that razor from his father when he joined the army. His father now thought of him as a man. My mom told me, “In those days when your father thought you were a man it meant that you were responsible and ready for life”. When she had finished the story, she asked if I realized why it meant so much to my father. I did and I never felt so bad in my life. She got up, turned off the light, wished me sweet dreams, and went out of my room.
All night I could not sleep. I realized I had destroyed the one thing my father cherished. Probably the only thing he had left from his father. I got up and went downstairs. I saw the pieces of the razor and I decided to fix it. I went outside and walked, barefoot in the dew-covered grass, to the toolbox to get the soldering iron. I stayed up all night fitting and welding the pieces together; by morning I was finished. I gave the razor a polish until it shone as new. I still had some time until my father woke up and decided to make a wooden box for it, which I lined with velvet my mom had lying around the house. I went back to bed dreaming of my father’s surprised face.
I came down to breakfast to find my father staring at the box in front of him. I told him to open it. He did, his face lit up with the brightest smile and most appreciative look a man could have. He told me he could not keep it. My face fell with disappointment. He pushed it towards me. “Here, it is yours, because today you showed me you are a man; and maybe one day when your son turns into a man you will give it to him”. I never felt so proud in all my life. I looked at my father and realized that like me, he was holding back his tears.
I will never forget the day I became a man.
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