A Broken Sandal

…the interplay between satisfaction and regret in an individual’s life.

Format: (Personal Narrative) Text: Visual and Poem

Theme Statement:

An individual with failure in their life will build an illusion of satisfaction as a means of shielding others from the truth. However, this will crumble over time, thus revealing the regret that has haunted them for so long.  

Baba’s pride towers over his fifty-three years of life. 

It sits as a centerpiece in our home like a black hole that consumes every bit of conversation that does not revolve around him. It boasts proudly about his travels around the world, making a life for himself with the grit and determination unmatched by any other human being in the universe. Every few weeks at dinner, he would retell his life story like an old man with all the wisdom in the world. When I was young, his stories used to mesmerize me.

“You children growing up in Canada,” he says in disgust, “We had none of your luxuries. I had one pair of sandals that I wore for the entire school year. Whenever it broke, I would take it to the shoe store, and the uncle would resew the plastic into the hole. I would wear it for a few days, and then it would rip again. I would have to fix it by myself, using your grandmother’s flimsy string as best as I could. Look where I am now. Look at what I have made out of my life.” 

Running his fingers through his thinning hair, Baba would call his aunts and uncles back home, reverberating his story verbatim across the poem. He could write a novel about himself back then, and he would have if life had gone according to his desires. 

Baba jumped from country to country, living in stinky college dorms of the top engineering universities of Bangladesh. He flew across the world to Sydney, Australia, where, without ever having touched a computer, managed to graduate with a masters in mechanical engineering. Baba jumped from space junk to comets, gathering the momentum to scale dangerous planets that circled incessantly trying to take him away from his destination.  He only returned to Bangladesh to marry my mother, and was off again on his quest to reach the sun. Never satisfied with his present, Baba barely came home, always out in the universe looking for his dream. 

His goal was America, the land of opportunity, where he could finally rest and be satisfied with the life that he had made for himself. And he did make it there, managing to get a student visa for 2 and a half years. He was at Mercury, inches from the sun. He could feel the heat, the opportunity, the chance to breathe again. The universe was in his hands, and he knew that.

But he slipped, right when he thought he was there. The visa expired, and he was forced to step back to Venus. Money was running low, and Toronto was the only option. He worked as a security guard there, laboring night after night without any fulfilment from his actions. A friend advised him to move to Calgary at a time when the economy was booming. He stepped back to Mars, and Earth. The sun, once ever so close, became separated from him by thousands of light years. Though he did work on and off as an engineer, Baba finally walked on the low edge of the sky on December 1, 2015 with his empty briefcase and pink notice, signaling the end of his dream.  

I never saw the pink notice, but I did see his proud face, glaring at his children, challenging us to question his fate. “It was not my fault. I worked incredibly hard. It was my circumstances that put me in this situation. I am proud of what I have accomplished. I am proud.”

He said it like a mantra, almost as if he was trying to convince himself of the fact. Over the years, I saw him refusing to leave the house, now finding comfort in reliving his past life by sharing it to his kids. This time, however, none of his stories would match. He would add new details, an extra polishing to his words, oblivious to how we learned to never trust his words anymore. It was as if, instead of fixing the sandal of his life, he was throwing it into the dark, denying he ever had one in the first place.   

My mother would narrow her eyes in confusion, squinting to see the truth, but never commented on anything, as she would later tell me, ¨Your Baba´s face changes when he makes himself sound better than he is. Let him. Let him be satisfied. He is an old man after all.¨ And, he was. In his stories, his hair was full, facing glowing with the heat and passion of youth, something that, according to my mother, he had never regained since leaving America. 

To me, Calgary was home, but Baba saw it as returning to the space junk he had left behind in Bangladesh. He spits on this city, blaming it for all of his problems, ¨No jobs in this place. We need to move to the east, so that when you turn twenty-one, Nazeefa, you can apply for your family to move to America. We can still go there, you know.¨ 

Baba would say these things, and then sit in front of the TV screen, passively watching the lives of others, barely noticing his novel of life sliding off the couch and landing with a thud on the dusty floor.  I had thought that he would go back to work, but everyday, he would stand beside the kitchen table, the overhead light revealing his balding head and silently rock back and forth within his mind. Other fathers who had been laid off from the oil and gas sector had taken on jobs, such as taxi and uber driving. Yet Baba, a ghost of the jumper he once was, hid in the cold darkness of small rooms with vinyl blinds where the sun´s light would never touch his skin. He had enveloped himself in darkness for so long, that he had become it: a black hole absorbing all the light within my house. His regret reeked from out of every one of his moves, but he tried to mask it with his illusion of satisfaction – his illusion of pursuing a dream without jumping towards it like he did before. 

The universe was in his hands, and he knew that, but his illusion of satisfaction envelopes him to this day, and I do not dare to shatter it. But if I could, I would tell him this:


You stood in a small room waiting for the sun, waiting for it to come to you, waiting for it to open your front door and dust of your dreams for you, waiting for it to spill light and glory of the past into you. You were once a jumper, a shaking finger fixing a sandal that allowed you to jump to great heights. But just because you didn’t reach the sun does not mean that your life is over. Yes, a dream is the only way to breath, but you must find a more useful way to live than this. 

I would tell him this and much more. I would pick up his novel and read it out to him, without the lies, so that he would feel content with all of his achievements. I want my Baba to see that he is not a broken sandal, that he is not frayed with time and circumstance.

But his pride towers over all of us – over his fifty three years of achievement. No matter how high I jump, he will never let me see the regret hidden within his darkness. 


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