*This is a short story that I wrote as a part of the honor project in The Short Story Writing class, spring semester 2019.
The sun is shining and the leaves are falling from the trees as Somali heads back to school for the fall semester after a wonderful summer break. It is usually a long commute for her but today does not bother her at all.
Her first class is Communications-108. Her classroom is located in the Cultural Arts Center, her second most favorite building on campus after the library. She arrives at her classroom ten minutes ahead of time and finds that she is not the only student who came to class early; as there are many students who are eager to meet their professor and new classmates, and to discover the class’ journey.
She sees a group of students siting in the front of the classroom and assumes that they are her classmates. Some of them look younger than her, but some look about her age. And YES! They seem smart. The professor arrives, unlocks the room, and invites her students into the classroom. Somali sits in the second row between two students. Her professor opens the class with “My name is Stacy Peterson; you can call me Professor Peterson.”
Professor Peterson goes on to explain the class’s grading criteria and other important matters relating to communication skills. After this introduction, it is time for the students to introduce themselves. She hands out to each student a small piece of paper with a question on it and asks them to find their partners who also have the same question. Somali leaves her seat to join four other students. The question for her group is “If you could have a cup of coffee with anyone living or dead, who would it be? Why?”
The students take turns to answer the question. One of the students in her group said that she would choose her father since they were the only two in her family who drink coffee. Another student said she would drink her cup of coffee it with her grandfather so she could ask him about her mom’s childhood as her mom never talked about it.
Before Somali’s turn, the male student who sat on her left said that “I want to drink it with my dad because I lost him when I was very young. I would like to get to know my father more.”
On hearing his answer, Somali feels something hitting her in her heart because like him, she had lost her father at a very young age. But then she thought to herself that perhaps this student’s childhood experiences might be very different from her.
Then it was Somali’s turn. “My name is Somali, if I could have a cup of coffee with anyone living or dead, that person would be my father. I lost him when I was in grade fourth. I have lots of questions to ask him, and I am sure that my feelings toward him might be totally different if I had a chance to sit down with him for a cup of coffee as his 26-year-old daughter.” She spoked these words bravely to her classmates before settling back into her seat.
She had ended her answer when she actually wanted to say more. She knew that she needed to control her emotions because she was not on the stage speaking to an audience. She was in a classroom with strangers, some of whom might become her friends in the future.
After class, as she walks to her next class, she cannot stop imagining herself drinking a cup of coffee with her father. She would look him in the eyes just the same way he used to look at her and converse with him like any daughter would share confidences with her father. She assumes that he would have stopped drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and weed, and cease beating her mom and her siblings. She would also ask him about his experiences during the Khmer Rouge regime. How did he manage to survive? Where did he meet her mom, and how did they end up getting married? Of course, her mom had told her about these events, but it would have been exciting if she could hear them from her dad.
She would also ask him what had made him become so violent toward his family? She would tell him about her job when she was an artist, and how amazing she felt on stage. She would share with him her dreams and her life’s goals. And of course, she would want to hear his opinions and receive his advice. She would tell him about her ex boyfriends and perhaps introduce him to the new one.
The questions that she would ask him are countless. But no! The reality is that she cannot. She knows so little about him and there are host of sad memories that he left her and her family.
One of those memories was when Somali was 8 years-old and her sister, Samiya was 10. Their father was drunk and decided to give Samiya a haircut because she had long dark hear that was full of head lice. Their father came home smelling as if he had been showered in alcohol. Noticing that Samiya kept scratching her head, he called her to come into the kitchen. Somali followed her sister who sat on a chair as instructed by her dad. He grabbed a knife accidently cut a piece of Samiya’s scalp along with her hair. Blood was dripping from Samiya’s head as she screamed in pain.
Her father was too drunk to know what he was doing. Somali seeing floods of blood dripping onto the kitchen floor, began to cry. Her mother came rushing into the kitchen, grabbed a towel to cover her daughter’s head, and yelled, “What the hell are you doing? You stupid asshole.”
Somali was surprised to see her mother shout at her father for the first time and this did not do her any good at all. Her father was very angry at this point and grabbed Samiya who was still bleeding and crying painfully out of her mother’s arms and threw her against the wall. Somali ran to hold her sister, and the two of them kept crying while they witnessed their parents fighting.
As she sits in the bus on her way home that evening, Somali cannot stop thinking about how she would feel if she could have a cup of coffee with her father. She takes out her phone and calls her mother, “Hey mom, can we meet for a coffee this weekend?”