My Father and I / by Jeffrey Waters

“You okay?” my father asked one more time while we were back stage.
“You’re gonna be there right?” I asked as I looked into his eyes raising one of my brows slightly
“Yes.” he said with a smile.
“Then, I’m ok!” I said confidently. I was ok. I mean, it was a tough task and a bit dangerous too but I was ok. I knew that my dad wouldn’t let me do anything that would hurt me. I knew that once he was there, I was ok. If anything happened he would figure something out. He always did.
“You’re up kid!” James alerted me quietly as he lifted the curtain slightly for me to walk through. My father took my hand immediately and we both made our way to the stage. The crowd cheered wildly as we appeared on stage. I couldn’t explain how I felt at that moment. All I knew was that I was glad my dad was there with me. I would have passed out if he wasn’t.
My father helped me up the stairs and made his way to the other side of the rope. Just before he left he whispered; “Remember kid, eyes on me!” The crowd went silent as I took my first step on the tightrope. Just as we had practiced, I positioned my feet in the right places and did all the tricks needed to maintain my balance. I didn’t look at the ground or the crowd. I looked straight at my dad. He was smiling and his face was calm. For some reason, that made me so confident. If he was calm, I was fine. I knew that if I was in danger he would do anything to save me. So I could trust him. I could trust the expression on his face.
About half way through I had gotten pretty comfortable on the ropes. Obviously, I had mastered the tricks and I was doing great. I was so proud of myself. I wondered what the crowd thought of me. I was so sure they were amazed and excited. For some reason, I felt that seeing the expression on their faces would inspire me. Besides, it would only be a quick peek. I took a quick glance at the crowd but it was too quick to notice anything. I looked again, slowly this time. At first, it looked like they were amazed. However, after looking closely, I saw that they were not amazed but in fact scared.  Some mothers had their little kids look away just in case something happened. This surprised me. I mean, I knew what I was doing was a bit dangerous but I didn’t think it was more dangerous than entertaining.
Just then, my father called my name softly. “Eyes on me.” he said quietly but firmly.
“Sorry” I whispered back.
Even though I fixed my eyes on my dad, my mind was far from being on him. I couldn’t stop thinking about the expressions on their faces. They were supposed to be enjoying this. Did this actually look that dangerous? Was this more dangerous than I thought? I looked down to see how far I was from the ground. I almost choked on my saliva when I saw the distance. I looked at how far I was from the end. Even though I had gone past half way, I still had a long ways to go. I looked at the rope to see how thin it was. For some reason the rope looked way thinner than it first did when I stepped on it. This was actually scary! What if I fell and died? No matter how good I was I could still make mistakes.
The sound of murmurs from the crowd brought me back to reality. It was then I discovered that I had stopped moving for a while. Some people in the crowd stood up to leave. Some just stared in terror. My heart sank. I couldn’t disappoint the crowd. I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t disappoint my dad. I couldn’t move. I wished I could disappear. I wished I could jump and cover up somehow. There was nothing I could do. I was stuck. I heard my father calling my name but I couldn’t look him in face. He asked me to look at him throughout and I didn’t. I was doing pretty well when I was. I ruined it. It was my fault. I didn’t want to see the disappointment and fear in his eyes. I didn’t know what I would do if I saw fear in my dad’s eyes. If my dad was afraid, I was hopeless. Instead, I struggled in my head. I struggled to no avail. Confused, depressed and frustrated, I resolved to face my dad. It was my only option. What else could I have done? Filled with guilt, I raised my head to look at him.
I would never forget that moment. I couldn’t explain how I felt when I saw that my dad was neither scared nor disappointed. His face was as calm as it was in the beginning. He beckoned at me to come to him. Somehow, that gave me so much energy; so much hope. I did. I didn’t look down or look away or think. I just walked till I got to him. I don’t really know what happened after that. The crowd went wild but I didn’t care. I had learned that it wasn’t about the crowd. I had learned that the only way to get the crowd was to focus on my dad. It was all about my dad and I.
“How could you be so calm?” I asked
“There’s something firmly hooked to your belt behind. I put it there myself. Even if you missed you step, you would simply hang there and I could come get you if you wanted and then you could back on track.”
“So why didn’t you just say so when I was stuck?” I asked puzzled
“Because that’s not what you needed to hear.  You wouldn’t have finished if I did.” He said raising one of his brows as though he was looking for a confirmation. I flushed. That was so true. “Besides” He said grinning “I needed you to trust daddy!”

 ~Mayoo Lawal