The pen

Three days before my father died
I lost the silver pen with my name on it,
a twenty-first birthday gift from my aunt
I’d kept for almost ten years.

That day, supervising students in Khayelitsha
putting up a netball hoop, I came home
to ask to borrow his tools.
We walked around the garage and I ticked
off the ladder, drill, nails and screwdriver on my list,
and he suggested, I add a hammer and level.
Somewhere between stacking and loading
the car, I lost my pen without even noticing
it had slipped from my hand.

When I went home late that day,
I negotiated with loss as I always do,
not going back to the garage to look for the pen
in case it wasn’t there,
to keep its absence incomplete
so it could come back one day.

In three days,
the impossible sequences of death.

I went back
over everything we’d said that day
and the years when we didn’t speak
and the reconciliation, almost wordless,
when we walked towards each other with our eyes down
and wept while we hugged.

The night he died
I felt the completeness of loss,
of absence without negotiation,

and yet what was still there,
that moving towards each other,
without looking.

“The pen” by Gabeba Baderoon from A hundred silences. Used with permission of the publisher, NB Publishers. All rights reserved.