My Choice

I remember the day he was conceived. Jessica and I were in my bedroom.
My parents were out for the weekend to visit family or something. It began with
a kiss; her soft, tender lips met mine. My tongue ventured forth into her mouth
and was welcomed. My clumsy hands cupped her 36B breasts hidden beneath her
cotton blouse and bra. I ran my hand through her hair and she grabbed onto
mine.  Our hands moved over each other’s body, our tongues locked and our
pelvises ground together. I fumbled with her blouse buttons.

She pulled off my t-shirt. I put my hands up her skirt caressing her smooth
thighs. I hooked my fingers into the waistband of her panty and ripped them off.
She undid my zipper and grabbed my member through the fly of my boxers. We were
both hot and excited. Without words she guided me into her. I thrust gently from
the hip; her body clenched pulling me inside. I smelt her perfume, the sweet
scent of Angel, as I kissed her neck. She dug her fingernails into my back and
moaned into my ear. The warm, afternoon, summer sunlight poured into my bedroom
through the window, kissing our naked bodies. The sweat built upon her brow. She
bit onto her bottom lip as the rhythm of our dance increased. She writhed and
squealed, my breathing got heavy and with one final thrust I froze in ecstasy;
hovering over her flushed, wet, beautiful face. It was my choice to not use a
rubber. It was my choice to leave when she said she was pregnant. It was my
choice to never call her. It was my choice to ignore the fact that I had a son.
It was my choice to open the door and let him in when he arrived at my door
three years ago. It was my choice to allow him to stay.

Joshua arrived at my door three years ago. I answered the knock and before me
stood a sixteen year old boy with a striking resemblance to a sixteen year old
me.  He was handsome, with an athletic build but his face and eyes bespoke of
pain and loss. Before he spoke I knew who he was. I knew the questions that
would be asked. I knew the shame I would have to face, the sorrow, the regret,
the disappointment, the anger the hate.

“Hello. Daniel? Daniel Johnson?  I think you are my father.” Joshua mumbled the
words staring at the floor.

“And you would be?” I asked the question aloud to the boy but in my head I said,
“Of course you are son. Welcome home.”

“I am Joshua. My mother is Jessica Nolan.”  His voice was soft but hard, a voice
of one who has weathered many storms.

“Nice to meet you Joshua. Please come in. Take a seat,” he walked into my house
and I couldn’t help but feel I was witnessing a thief assessing my home for loot
and access and exit points. “So why do you think I am your father.”

“Because Jessica said so.”  He wandered around my lounge.

“How is Jessica?” I asked not knowing what else to say.

“You ask as if you care?” There was anger in that statement. Anger that he had
every right to express. It cut through my heart nonetheless; a reminder of my
mistakes.

“I… knew your mother when I was about your age, she was a wonderful girl.”
I was amazed at how I seemed so casual despite the situation. “Can I get you
something to drink?” I asked as I walked behind him, not because I didn’t trust
him but because I was absorbing every little detail and reaction of my son.
This is what it must feel like when you stand before your infant waiting for him
to take his first steps, waiting for him to fall and get up again just to walk
to you.

He said nothing for a while and the settled on the couch. It was evident that he
was confused, and scared; he clearly had no idea what he was doing or how to
actually do whatever it was that he came to do.

“I think I am your father.” I said after an awkward silence. This admission was
made much like the way I live my life, like a coward. I did not face the boy as
spoke but rather concentrated on the neighbours dog pissing on the street pole.

“Why?” was all the response I got. I turned and he stood right there his eyes
level with mine. His tears brimming in the inherited gifts from his mother:
large almond shaped, hazel eyes.

“Because I was weak.” I answered and turned away unable to face the beauty of my
son.

“I meant why do you think that I am you son.” He clarified. Still standing
directly behind me.

“You look just like I did when I was with your mother.  The only difference is
your eyes, her eyes. I am sorry but why have you come here? “

“Because I wanted to see the man who gave me everything.” His answer was bitter
but sincere.

“Sorry?” I turned again to face him, searching his face for meaning behind his
words.

“Everything I am is as a result of you.”

I had nothing to say to such a statement. I never saw his mother from the day
she announced the pregnancy and never communicated with her either.

“You sure you have the right guy?  I don’t know what your Mother told you but…”

“She told me everything. She told me how you two met in high school and she fell
in love with you. She told me about the days you two spent alone in the parks
just sitting together in silent bliss with each other. The dreams you built
together. The plans you had. The first time you kissed her behind the science
lab in ninth grade.  The way you got beaten up trying to defend her from the
guys who teased her.  How she fell in love with you with every passing day. She
told me about the summer day in your bedroom when you shared a bed together and
created me. She told me about the fear in your eyes when she told you about me.
The way you walked off when she said there will be no abortion. She mentioned
losing you after that day. “

“Joshua I am not proud of what I did. You know the truth so why come here now
crediting me for your life.”

“I am alone. I am in trouble. I am scared. I have never had a father. My mother
was great but it is not easy for a girl to manage on her own when she is
pregnant. I owe every tear to you. My life has been shit thanks to you.
Everything I am is your fault.”

“I am sorry son. But I was afraid. What would you do if someone came to you and
told you stop everything because you getting a baby instead. I regret the
difficult life you had to live but I am happy you came to me. Does your Mother
know you are here? ”

“My mother is in bed at St Augustine’s. Cancer is tiring.”

“Is that why you sought me out?”

“I had nowhere else to go. She is dying, I know she is.  She fights everyday to
go on. She fights because she is afraid to leave me alone.”

“What happened to you grandparents and you aunt Sophie?” I asked recalling
Jessica’s family.

“Many family’s don’t take to kindly to having their teenage daughter being alone
pregnant. Especially when the family places a lot of stock on appearance. When
mom refused to abort me her parents bought her a small house in the city and
then they left. We never heard from any of them ever since. My mothers biggest
curse has always been me and still she fights to hold on.”

I could not help but feel guilty. Jessica was a beautiful young girl with dreams
of being a doctor and the academic record to realize such dreams. When she loved
she loved with all her heart and made you the better for it.  I never deserved
her. Joshua stood before me a product of easy choices that I made, a product of
love and cowardice.

Joshua looked at me, pleading for a shoulder an embrace, something, anything.
I stepped closer to the familiar faced stranger and extended my arms. My son
embraced me for the first time in my life. He cried and I held him in my arms.
Is this what I would have been like to hold him when he arrived into the world
crying, naked, and afraid? A stranger in a big bad world. I loved him. I
regretted everyday I lost and every tear I brought to his angelic eyes.

“Why?“ the words were uttered after a while, and at first I thought I was
hearing things but he pulled away and searched my eyes hoping for something.

He probably hoped that I left for a reason.  What would be a decent reason to
abandon you child. I was not poor, quite the contrary. I didn’t have any
appearances to keep up; my parents were not politicians or priests. I was not
leaving for some secret government mission. I was not dying. I was just scared.
I ran and have never stopped. Jessica’s love was so true that it scared me I ran
trying to find myself, trying to grow up and be able to face her again as a
better man worthy of her. The problem is once I started running I forgot how to
stop.

I forgot to turn around. It soon became too late and I was too weak to turn back
and face what I left. I don’t believe I am a bad man just a scared one.

“Because I was unworthy.” I said.

“Unworthy? That is a sad excuse.”

“I am here now.” I answered rather defensively.

“But I came looking for you, the decision was not based on any initiative from
your side.”

I could not respond. He was right. Ignorance was my bliss for sixteen years.
I often thought of the life I could have had with a beautiful wife and children
instead of sleeping beside some prostitute who was paid to just warm my bed; my
body to inebriated to perform the way I hoped it with when the business
transaction was entered into.

“You are a stronger and braver man than I. Thank your mother for that.  Joshua I
know this may sound like, bullshit but I have prayed for the day I meet you.
Prayed to be able to call you son. Prayed to be your father…“

“I pray for one thing these days. Peace for my mother. Listen save your love and
apologies I don’t care. I am here for one reason. I need your help. If it works
I won’t bother you again. You want to do anything for me just do this please.”

“Sure, what is it?”

“Come with me to the hospital to see my mother. Let her believe that we are a
family: that you have claimed me as your son and that you want me in your life.
She needs to feel that I am safe and loved so that she can rest. I cannot stand
to see her suffer any more. Please this is all I ask.”

My son was pleading with me for a simple gesture and I stood there poised to
refuse him. I could not see Jessica. I could not face her disappointment or her
loathing, or worst of all, her indifference.

“Please. Just afford some peace, you just have to pretend, allow her to rest.
Just come with me to the hospital me let her see us together and then once we
leave her room we can go on living our separate lives.”

That afternoon, for the first time in sixteen years I met the woman I loved. She
was bald, skinny, but her beauty was still evident. It was then that I realized
that Jessica was plain looking but the love that she held within radiated with
inexplicable beauty.

“Danny, Daniel Johnson. Is that you or is the medication causing me to
hallucinate again?

“Hi Jessica. It’s me. How are you doing?” A stupid question I wish I could have
taken back as soon as I said it.

“Well, well ghosts do exist. I am just brilliant. Just trying a new look.” She
smiled as she patted a spot on her bed indicating that I should sit. It was just
like her to joke about everything.  I was torn between laughing and crying.

“I was a fool Jess. “

“No arguments there.  Is there something particularly foolish that you are
referring to? “She took my hand gently in hers.

“You. Us. Joshua. I am so sorry Jess.  I should have been there.” I broke down,
sobbing uncontrollably. She struggled up and put her arms around me and it felt
right and familiar.

“Danny, it’s okay. You chose the life that you wanted and I chose to continue
with the one that we started, it was tough but we are okay.”

Jessica and I spoke for hours. Joshua sat outside patiently.  I asked Joshua to
stay with me that night and learnt later that he had nowhere else to go. With
Jessica in hospital money was tight and he hopped from friend to friend for
sleepovers.

My son was home and for the first time I felt that there was no reason to run.
We arranged for Jessica to be brought home and we hired a nurse. We got married
a few days later and I buried my wife the following month when cancer carried
her to Heaven.  Joshua and I are still strangers but with time I believe we can
be friends if nothing else. He is more of a man than I ever was and I respect
him more everyday.

Life is a choice.  For the first time I am living.

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