“Black man don’t cry” these were the words my father said to seven years old me.
A loud cry awakened my entire household “Ette Okon wake up oooo!, your farm is on fire eeeehhhh!!!!” voices shouted from outside with banging on our door. My father wore his old torn kaftan and ran barefoot followed by my mum who had just her wrapper on, “Okon watch over your siblings” she shouted as she ran following my father who ran like a mad man, I remember swearing that his feet didn’t touch the ground as he was so fast.
I managed to get my siblings Eno and Udoh to the place that was once the biggest farm with palm trees and all sorts of crops now reduced to ashes.
My mother wailed, threw her hands in the air like she was fighting with some evil spirits, causing Eno and Udoh to start crying, not like they understood the exact problem but seeing mama cry that way made them cry too.
My father, he just stood and stared like a lost man, I don’t know what he was thinking but I suspect his mind was blank and lost.
“Aaarrrrrhhhhh!!!” He screamed and looked up for a minute and that was all, not even a tear.
The next days after that night, I watched my father closely just to catch him cry, a tear at least will convince me that he was human, but Ette Okon proved me wrong. How possible? This man had the best farm in the entire town and he saw it turn to ashes and still won’t cry?
I summoned courage and walked up to him as he sat in his favourite chair just for him, “are you okay, father, you’ve not shed a tear” I asked innocently and my father being a man of few words said ” Black man don’t cry”.
Now Uyai, your mother, my wife was fighting for her life, the nurse said she might die as she had lost too much blood trying to give birth to you, our baby. I held her weak hands and stared at her white face, my heart was full, my throat dry, I felt like I was going to burst, but I dared not to cry.
“Push!!!” the tired nurse said but your mother was too tired, I felt my heart fail but I dared not to cry.
“Breathe My dia”, the nurse said but your mother was going already, my knees shook like leaves but I dared not to cry.
Then she smiled, why was she smiling, it was too peaceful I didn’t like it, I had seen that smile before on my mother’s face but that was her last, immediately I screamed and cried like a baby, I was wailing, pouring out all the tears I had not allowed the world see in twenty years, I jumped and fell to the ground weeping like a child for all the pain I had covered for so long in the name of being a man and I felt so free for the first time, a burden had been lifted, a chain broken, a new me had been born, had risen, just then I heard you cry out, I rose to see you. Crying wasn’t so bad after all.
My son, as you read this letter, know that there are lots of emotions in this world, laugh all you want, love deeply and cry if you have to, black man can cry too.