AN EMPTY BOOK?
HAVE you ever opened a book, started reading, and had zero to no idea what you were reading? Maybe there were even a few missing pages. Yeah, that’s my life. On February 14, 2006, I was born to my mother, Tahneezia, which is a whole separate book.
But the book that is page-less remains that way after 16 years. That book is about my father. It is also about me.
I have always wondered why my fingers are so fat while my mother’s are long and skinny. Why my skin is so dark and chocolate and my mother’s isn’t? Why do I have those three little beauty marks on the left side of my face?
Inside this book are so many unknown questions about me: Who I am? Why am I the way I am? This book is not lost. It wasn’t taken away from me. Whenever I tried reading it, it was mostly page-less.
My heart itches for the empty pages of this book to be filled. This book is about my father.
For as long as I can remember, the word father, dad and daddy rarely came out of my mother’s mouth. I would see my close friends experience daddy-daughter dances at Girl Scouts or their dads in the stands during our volleyball games or even at honor-roll assemblies. I didn’t care as long as my mother was there to pick me up from late nights at the Boys & Girls Club, long community service hours, and sleepovers from my friend’s house.
One day, however, as I was filling out a form for an internship, I was forced to deal with that book. There was a question about my father’s ethnicity. Suddenly all the feelings came rolling through. His absence affects me whether I like it or not.
Still, that one book in my library goes unwritten. Of course, I know simple stuff like his name and where he is from; but I cannot pinpoint him in a picture.
I don’t have the privilege to tell my friends I have my dad’s eyes or nose. Or even that I’m smart like my dad. There were times, I started thinking other people were better than me because they had a two-parent household — they were smarter.
That caused my behavior to worsen. I was just angry at anything and everything. I started to feel worthless since I didn’t have a father figure in my life on whom I could tell boys who would mess with me.
Every day I would walk into my library and go straight to that row where that book is. It remains empty. Still to this day, I ask myself am I okay? Does he even care or miss me?
Fast forward to 2020 and COVID-19 — in my very first year of high school. My whole family is proud of me. My mom is so excited for me to go to high school. My grandma is telling all her church friends about me, and my uncles are happy I am growing up. That’s when I realized the amount of love I have in my life.
I also realized that I haven’t had a father all my life, and yet I am amazing. I am so smart, achieving things like college board honors, passing multiple AP exams, and being accepted in leadership programs like keystone. I am an amazing volleyball player--and my father doesn’t even know.
I finally realized that no man, dad, boyfriend--or whoever--can justify my greatness. I am the one putting in all the work--and getting all the credit.
So, that book not having any pages doesn’t sound so bad after all.
Simaya Hammond won Honorable Mention in the high school division for the 2022 Discovering Me…Without You Scholarship Essay Contest. She is a student at the DC Banneker Academic High School.