Dear Lil’ Kaleb – Karlo Sevilla

You don’t want me to kiss you on the cheek because you are scared of germs. (Or, a once-a-week father deserves just this.) You don’t even want me to hold your hand when we walk, begrudgingly allowing me your upper arm instead. (Guess once-a-week father deserves just that.) But this afternoon, inside the mall, you reach for my hand as we stroll. (And I, your once-a-week father, feel blessed and forgiven.)

Tonight, you start working on your school project: a Christmas lantern made of used Mountain Dew plastic bottles. I wished you goodbye; I’m expected there on the mat twice a week. (Half-a-day, once-a-week fathers are like this.) You plead, “Tell your athletes you’re not going, that you’re helping me with my school project. Surely, they will understand?” Maybe. And maybe they won’t.

In an hour, I am here at the gym, far away from you and wondering how you’re doing with your homework. Each passing day, I feel guilty remembering every time I turn you down when you ask for one more round of chess, hide-and-seek, or any other game we play—once a week. And every now and then, my soul is crushed when I recall the time you told me, that when I was gone for two years, you shouted every time you saw an aeroplane in the sky, ”My daddy’s there! My daddy’s there!” And that you believed that one day, one will touchdown to take me home to you.

Kaleb, there are nights like this one, right before I sleep under a roof we do not share, when I wonder and agonise on how you’ll tell your own son someday: about your once-a-week father…who tried.

Written by Karlo Sevilla.

Karlo Sevilla of Quezon City, Philippines, has poems published or forthcoming in various literary journals and anthologies all over the world. He is the author of “You,” a small collection of love poetry (Origami Poems Project microchap, 2017). A wrestling coach and Brazilian Luta Livre practitioner, he emerged champion of his division in the 2016 ADCC South East Asia – Philippine International Submission Fighting Open. He tweets at @KarloSevilla.

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