J I K E L
He checked the letters he wrote on the paper before showing his father.
Father clapped heartily. “Very good! You learn fast!”
He beamed at the man, pride swelling in his young heart. He was the happiest child whenever he was taught new things by his father. He loves learning, and being praised when he learns them fast.
“Come here,” his father said, and he obeyed. When they were close, Father lifted him and made him sit on his strong lap. “Papa’s so proud of you!” The man pulled him in an embrace.
Jikel didn’t know how long his arms were around his father, but he was sure that this was the longest embrace they have ever shared. And he felt happy…
The child closed his eyes, finding comfort in his father’s warmth.
A cool breeze came through the open window of their humble shack, and he felt his father quiver. Thinking that it was from the cold, and feeling cold himself, he tightened his little embrace. Only, it made Father quiver more.
Jikel wasn’t closing his eyes anymore. “Papa?”
The man did not respond and the trembling continued.
It was when his father let go of him that he caught the man wipe his eyes. Father was crying. The man then faced him, giving him the best smile despite the sad eyes. “You really are like your Mama.”
“Yes. You’re both very smart…” the man was combing his messy hair with his rough and calloused fingers.
“Oh…” Jikel’s young mind processed what his father said. “But Papa, aren’t you smart?”
Father laughed, but it did not quite reach his eyes.
“Your mother was the intelligent one.” The man said, his gaze somewhere above him. Perhaps on their wet wooden door or their creaky cabinet… he wasn’t sure.
“But sometimes… she doesn’t think.” His father smiled weakly…
“She chose me…”
Jikel just gave him a confused look, not understanding what he meant.
His father finally looked at him, a kind smile from his tired face. “It’s nothing, son… your Papa just remembered something.”
Another breeze touched his skin.
“I got my good looks from you, so it doesn’t matter. Don’t cry anymore.”
Somehow it just made his father cry harder.