The 19th Christmas

I learned my maths when I was three.
Because you said, ‘it would make papa happy.’
Because it would make papa proud.
And I want to make you happy.
I want to make papa proud.
So I did my best.
Not just in Math, papa; they said
I was getting better in English too.
And colouring.
When Card day came, my teacher
even came personally to me
And smiled.
She shook mama’s hand.
I didn’t understand much that time.
Only that it was good.
And I want to show you something that is good.
So I took the card and the star badge
And searched for you in school.
But in the end, you were not there.

Why didn’t you come papa?
When you came home late that evening,
Mama pulled you to another room
And closed the door.
I was awake that night
Because I could hear you two talking.
Your voices were loud
Though you both said ‘stop shouting.’
What was it about, papa?
Tell me your secret too.
I want to know papa’s secret.
I can keep it, just between us two.
Oh, if I showed you the card and the badge,
Will it be enough?
I bit my lip and smiled
And hurriedly got up.
But when you finally saw it,
All I got was a distant look
And a pat on the head.
So a best student wasn’t enough, huh,

But was it really that disappointing
For you to leave?
I know it must be for work but
You did well working and still coming home
So why now, papa?
I held your hand and cried
while mama told me to let go.
Mama said it was for the best.
But I know that was faked … that smile
I couldn’t shake off this feeling
that when I’ll let go, I can see you no more.
I could not forget
Our exchange by the door;
That look last night,
That obvious lack of a smile.
But as I cried that day, you bent down
And told me to work hard.
You will be back soon.
You will not be far.
And then you let go.
And then you left.
But I held onto that promise, papa.
I will work hard.
I will do my best and
Make you proud. So that
one day, you will come back and
Be happy.

A year passed and I keep getting better, papa.
I topped my class this time too.
I always smiled like you told me to.
You told me not to cry, so I didn’t.
I tried to contact you so many times
But a call or a reply, I received
Neither of it.
How are you?
Are you eating well?
Do you sleep well?
Do you think of me?
Did you miss me?
I missed you so much, papa.
And I’ve always thought of you,
Thinking how life would’ve been
if only you were here.

Papa, I know you’re busy but
You should also rest once in a while.
‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’
Didn’t you say so yourself, papa?
You know Christmas is almost here too.
What about that promise? That you’d take me to the zoo?
And buy me a dollhouse.
A friend even told me
She saw you once on a nearby city,
Buying a dollhouse.
But that’s strange, papa.
Even after New Year, I never got
the dollhouse.
Was it the mailman’s fault?
Did he got stuck in traffic too?

Like how you got stuck during graduation?
I sent you an invitation,
I thought you’ve received it.
I thought you’d be coming.
Did you know
I graduated at the top of my batch, papa?
I passed the country’s most elite school?
I will be leaving in a few days after graduation.
That I won’t be back until a year.
Even just for a day, I wish…
I hope I can see you.
Mama will be alone for a year.

I did what you asked me, papa.
I’ve been a very good girl.
Can’t you see?
I’m now praised by many.
Because I did well.
When are you coming back, papa?
It’s almost Christmas again.
I’m 19 now. And independent.
But inside…
I feel like a wreck.
That feeling when, in the eyes of others,
You are strong. And independent.
And you wanted to be. I wanted to be.
I wanted to believe I am.
But the moment I got home, all I do
is curl like a ball.
And cry.

Papa, when will you come home?
I’ll wait for you again.
But please, don’t take too long.
Because it hurts, papa.
The person I’ve been struggling for,
The one person I wanted proud
Can’t even see.
And I don’t know
How long I can hold on
To this smile.
And that promise.

Why can’t you just look here?
Why can’t you just come home?
Everything I did.
Is it still…
Not enough?



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