“Dad, I know you mean well. But, I’m almost full grown and I need to make my decisions now.” Oscar said with all seriousness and almost desperation.
“Son, I walked this lonely path many years ago and this, these…. Take a look at where we live and the life you have. This is where it led me to.” Oliver began to stutter and snapped, and then he broke down in tears. It was a shameful sight. Oscar quickly reached out both forelimbs towards his dads big furry head and caressed it gently. They both cried and spent the silence staring at each other. Alvera (Oliver’s wife) looked with sadness from afar. She had been the only reason the entire family was not out in the cold shivering on this winter night. She was a hard worker.
Oliver grew up living for music. You know, sometimes in life, you find that special thing that you love. For Oliver, it was the grand, deep and rich voice of Louis Armstrong or maybe the harmony and smoothness of Jackson 5. Whatever it was, he felt he was built for music. Oliver’s dream was to be the first rat to make a living by singing. Did you say rat? YES, this is a story about a rat who decided to be an anomaly. If you stop reading now, I’d say you are biased. Do you have something against rats? C’mon, give the story a chance.
“Oliver, now you’d have to turn that turntable off and go to bed. It’s almost bedtime. You know we’d have to get very active at night when the humans are asleep. Your dad is tired and I don’t want him awoken before the night,” Alvera said with a smile. “Ok. Ok, mum” Oscar replied and turned the volume down a little before quickly grabbing Alvera’s forelimbs and forcing her to a slow dance, stepping to the soothing voice of Louis Armstrong’s ‘Wonderful World’. Oliver is what the humans would refer to as eclectic. He spent as much time listening to Louis as he did Frank Sinatra and Luciano Pavarotti.
“Dad, I’m 8 months old now, I think it’s time to go hard after my dreams. I have dreamt and day-dreamed about it so much, I’m certain this is what I want to do with my life.” Oliver Said to Lucio his dad. “Son, no rat has ever pursued a dream. We live for the moment.” Lucio said and paused for a moment as if he was trying to gather momentum to say what he wanted to next.“ All the male rats in this community and are either repairmen, burrowers, storekeepers or smugglers who steal food from the humans and sell to us at a reduced price. There are no musicians amongst us” Lucio said, looking as sad as he could. “Dad, I can be the first” replied Oliver. “Se quarto e cio che si desidera (Italian: if that is what you wish)” replied Lucio in his native accent. He didn’t blink or say any more words but the look on his face was one Oliver never wanted to remember.
A year had gone by and Oliver wasn’t anything more than a good husband and father. His dreams never amounted to much. Rats do not care for music as much as Oliver would have wished for. He found it hard to pay the house rent and take care of his family. Alvera had to work an extra job to support him. Through it all, she adored him as the king of her heart and never ceased to remind him how magical his voice was.
Oliver had met Alvera 6 months after he left home to build a career in music. She enjoyed watching him in concert. Many didn’t show up when the doors opened, but she always did. She thought Oliver was amazing and she enjoyed his techno beat driven love song ‘Take my hand Aria’. It was a classic. Everyone loved it and loved Oliver but not many were willing to pay to see him in concert or buy his record. All his dreams of headlining sold out concerts and inspiring the next generation had come to nothing. The words of Lucio: “no rat has ever pursued a dream. We live for the moment” often replaying in his head had become a mental torture to him. Now you understand why he wasn’t supportive of Oscar’s dream of becoming a poet. It wasn’t merely déjà vu, it was history repeating itself. Oscar loved poetry. He had been inspired by the works of Maya Angelou, Shel Silverstein, Nikki Giovanni and Pablo Neruda. His favorite poems were “Still I rise”, “I know why the caged bird sings” both by Maya Angelou and “Love is” by Nikki Giovanni.
Oscar was really handsome. He looked more like Alvera, she was a South-American beauty. He was the only child too and that made things more difficult. But after much contention and persuasion from Alvera, Oliver finally decided to let Oscar follow his dreams.
“Oscar” Oliver said.
“Dad” Oscar replied.
“I’ll let you follow your heart. I’ll let you pursue these dreams. Se quarto e cio che si desidera (Italian: if that is what you wish). Oliver repeated the same words his dad told him the night he left home on the same path Oscar was about to take. But there was a difference in his facial expression. His expression looked more like “make me proud son”. Unlike that of Lucio which was “I hope you don’t regret this”. Alvera spent the night cooking, baking, and frying. That was her hobby anyway. She cooked all the delicacies she knew Oscar would miss. She wasn’t sure Miami would have as much good food as Bogotá did. Oliver spent half the night writing a special poem to his dad. It reads:
THE SANDS OF TIME
A billion footprints
Stretching as far as my eyes can see
Which do I follow?
Which will lead to gold?
Which will bring me back home?
I must follow my heart.
I must make my own footprints.
I must carve a niche, as far away from the ones I see.
Maybe it wouldn’t lead to gold.
And what if I don’t make it back home?
What if I go too far to retrace my steps?
I’ll go as far as I can.
I’ll leave a map for a billion others behind me.
They’ll scavenge on my dreams
They’ll follow my paths.
And One day, they’ll find gold.
They’ll never forget the price that led to the GLORY.
It was my lonely steps… imprinted forever in the sands of time.
P.S: Dad, you are a dreamer, you are my hero.
Oscar finely folded the sheet of scrappy paper on which he wrote his poem and placed on the reading table beside Oliver’s bed. He had spent half the night crying and writing; actually, he did more crying than writing. He took a little nap and was up by 5 am, ready for the 6 am train to Miami. Alvera had packed a bag with Cake, fried rice, chicken and little cans of yogurt. I can imagine you are wondering if rats eat all those. Why do they come to your kitchen then?
“Promise me you’d come back home someday?” Alvera said, hugging Oscar tightly, trying so hard to hold back the tears. “Mom, I don’t know how the story would end, but I know that somewhere in between, we’ll stand on this same spot and hug each other again.”
“Adios Oscar,” Alvera said.
“Mom, I’m Italian, it’s arrivedeci,” Oscar said, “You had better work on your Italian before I come back home again.”
“Alright Mr. Silvio Berlusconi” She replied sarcastically.
“Stop it, mom. I love you” He replied with a frown and then a smile.
It was a long trip. Five days of train rides and wriggling around holes to avoid being seen by humans. He met a friend on his trip. She introduced herself as Doris, but he preferred to call her Blackberry. She was Nigerian and a true African beauty and simply amazing. Bonding came so easy; they were an anomaly among their kind.
Do you want to know what happened to Oscar?
Today, he is the most traveled rat of his time. He has stood before the presidents and kings of rat colonies all over the world. He is a renowned poet and professor of literature at Rattus College, Miami. And off course, he got married to Blackberry.
Tell me one reason you have not to pursue your dreams like Oscar did?
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Story & Poem (Sands of time) are an original work written by Richard Oti.
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