I call my parents over weekends, usually on Saturdays, less so on Sundays. I start with my father, sometimes I start with Mum. She and I exchange text messages often so this seems fair. On a few of the Sunday calls, after the obligatory pleasantries, she will ask if I went to church. She knows the answer. I did not.
She will laugh and make a joke about how I am a young man in a big city and I have things to do. I will laugh along with her, hiding the true reason I did not go to church. I cannot bring myself to tell her that I lost my faith, that I no longer believes in the things she believes in.
There are weekends I will have been out on Saturday night, all the way into the wee hours of Sunday. Rousing myself in the early afternoon from exhausting sleep, I reach for my phone to see how my parents are doing. Most Sunday mornings, I have a leisurely breakfast of copious amounts of black coffee or tea, read a bit, or maybe watch a cartoon and nap on and off.
It is as if in the deep hopeful part of her, she wants me to go back, back to being a good Christian boy. Maybe a shared religion would be one way to reconnect with me, her only son. We used to be close, then I grew up and built walls around myself. There are parts of me my parents, close as we are, cannot get to. It is not something we have ever talked about or that they have wondered out loud, how I can love and care deeply at arm’s length.
And then I moved out. She feels the distance. It probably pains her, that I have grown wings in addition to walls.
Whenever I go home, she insists I stay longer. I would love to, for more than two or three days. I do not. My little sister comes alive when I am home. She runs to greet me when I walk into the compound if she is not at school and always asks whether I have brought her new cartoons (this is our shared intimacy). She piles on to my mother’s gentle exhortations.
The exigencies of a young and working life impose themselves, bearing down even on my conscience, numbing it a little. I could work from home if I really wanted to. I am not brave enough to ask to work remotely, even for a week. Instead, twice weekly phone calls, with the weekend ones being longer, suffice. This is what I tell myself.