by Mr Ibrahim Haj   29-11-2004

Elsa was sort of a spoilt  young, high school girl. She was very popular at her high school.  Prince Mekonnen High school, in Massawa. She was very attractive. A cut above the rest. Her dad  adored her. Her mother had died when Elsa was only 5.  She could not remember her mother. Her father did not bother to remarry.  He did not want his daughter to live with a stepmother. She was his only child. She was everything in his life. She was the apple of  his eyes. He lived for her.

Masawa was hot in summer. The months of July to September were not welcome in Massawa. They were very hostile months. Temperature soared to the high forties.  Those who could afford fled Massawa in search of a sanctuary. A cooler place. The heat was suffocating . Intolerably.  Kids suffered most. Some families chose to go to the town of Ghendaa.  Ghendaa is located half-way between Massawa and Asmara. Roughly. It had a nicer climate. Beautiful orchards. The sight of its lovely orange lemon trees was refreshing. Especially to those fleeing the heat of Massawa.  Others went a bit farther. To Nafaseet.  Nafaseet was even cooler. It sits on the sides of two steep mountains facing each other. Only 20 km from Asmara. And few others moved to Asmara. Life in Asmara was a bit expensive. Not many could afford to holiday in Asmara. Elsa’s dad was amongst the few who did.

 While in Asmara Elsa’s dad spent lavishly on her. She was allowed to choose the dress she liked. She wore popular Italian fashion. Her shoes were made in Italy. He could afford it. He was a pharmacist. However it was not so much his affordability to spend that stood out. It was rather his willingness and readiness to spend his last penny to make his daughter happier that set him apart. Made him unique A Unique dad of a unique daughter. Bound by a unique relationship. That was partly to do with his effort to make up for her for the loss of her mother.

By now Elsa was in Grade Ten .Every thing, up to that point, was going smoothly as far as her relationship with her dad was concerned. He was happy with her. She was happy with him.  They were happy with one another.

Then suddenly a storm struck.

 Elsa’s dad got a rumour. Shocking news. Unexpected news. His daughter was in love. In love with a teacher. And if that was not bad enough the teacher she was attracted to was said to be an Ethiopian. An Amhara. His name was Eshetou*

Elsa was from a very conservative Christian family. This was too much for her dad. He could not comprehend it. He did not know how to handle the situation. He decided to talk her out of this unacceptable relationship.

“This is not good for you. Not good for me. Not good for the reputation of our family”, He pleaded with Elsa, “Please break up anything you have to do with that teacher”

She denied that she had any thing to do with Eshetou.

Few days later Elsa did not come home from school. That was the first time in her life. Her dad new what was happening. She had run away with Eshetou.

He looked for her everywhere. He searched high and low. He left no stone unturned. Four days had passed and still no word of Elsa.  On the fifth day he found out where she was hiding.

 She was hiding at the residence of the Port Massawa manager. The manager was himself an Ethiopian..

Elsa’s dad went up to the residence of Port Massawa manager. He was turned away by a security guard. He was warned not to come again. Threatened.

Elsa’s was engrossed by a deep grief. His child. His only child had disappeared. The investment of his life. His life savings. All gone. She was the reason for his living. And that reason has now gone. His life began to crumble around him.

He thought of only one option. Only one path. And he took that path. He took his own life. He was a chemist!

The news shocked Massawa. It was winter. But it felt hotter than the heat of July, August and September added together.

Elsa reappeared when she learned of what happened to her dad. She was inconsolable in her grief for her beloved dad. But her grief counted for nothing. Dad was gone. Gone for ever.

*This is not a fiction. It is a true story. It happened in the late sixties. In fact Eshetou was my English teacher at Sheikh Al-ameen elementary school. He was a very nice man.

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