My father and the tan car

My father and the tan car
Tan Mercedes Benz

My father wears cardigans and poor-boy hats, unironically.
My father drinks whisky with milk.
Sometimes with coke.
I really think it’s gross.
I’m also scared to try it, in case I like it.
In case I start to understand him.

My father is wearing his usual 2 piece cardigan.
He takes the top cardigan off and stays in the cardigan vest.
He’s sitting on our maroon couches,
Drinking from an off-white enamel mug.
I remind him that those belong to my mother.
I’m four years old.
I haven’t seen him enough to know who he is.
My grandma teases him for his small eyes.
She calls him china-man and I giggle along.
I don’t know that I look like him.

My grandma gives me wine gums.
She calls them, “klein mannetjie”, little men.
She does this to spite my father.
He’s asked that I not be given candy, so my teeth don’t rot.
My grandma thinks he’s a little man.
She continues to give me candy.

My grandma can’t eat candy
My grandma is diabetic,
She still buys jam every month.
She gives me some jam in a Tupperware every Sunday for the school week.
I spend my weekends with her.

My grandma lives 2KM from my mom and me.
She’s in a wheelchair and taxis hate this,
I push her the whole 2KM for a visit.
We do this many times while I’m in high school.
My grandma and I are best friends.
I braid her hair and she repeats stories from my childhood.
How she could hear me coming from a street away,
My mom would hold my hand till we were a street away,
Then I’d run the rest of the way.
I'd Give her a hug then hold my hand out for the customary R1 for Simba chips.
I’d spend the weekends with my grandma eating Simba chips.

I’m 20 years old and I’m depressed.
I come home in December with no plans of going back to school.
My grandma consoles me without speaking.
I spend most of that holiday at her home.
I buy her sugar-free cola & Simba chips.

My grandma won’t eat.
It’s been 3 days and my grandma won’t eat.
My grandma isn’t responding when I talk to her.
Mama? Mma? Wa nkutlwa?
The ambulance is here.
Mama is still not responding.
I hold her hand at the back of the ambulance.
I tell her it’s okay.
She’s going to be okay.
Her eyes hold wonder and peace.
She can recognise me.
She smiles.
This is the last time I ever see her smile.
The world doesn’t end in 2012, it ends in January 2013.

I am at my grandma’s house.
She’s here too, she’s in her bedroom.
I go to see her one last time.
My father is here too.
My father wears a cardigan and leans against a tan car.
He promises to give me this tan car if I finish school.
My father is lying, again.

I’m 24 years old and I went back to school.
It’s been 4 Januaries since I last saw my father.
My father is laid to rest.
I’ll never see him or that tan car again.
I don’t go to his funeral.
I don’t care about my father.
So why can’t I breathe?
My father didn’t care about me.
Why did I go back to school?
Why do I notice every tan car in the street?

I’m 28 years old and I forgive my father.
My father never gave me that tan car.
My father gave me the opportunity to practise compassion.
I forgive my father for the unforgivable.
My father has taught me how not to be.
I look in the mirror and I don’t see my father.
I forgive my father.