THE BURDEN OF MEMORY

THE BURDEN OF MEMORY

I just finished reading Half of a Yellow Sun, written by author par excellence: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The novel had my attention the second I read the first line, and the plot ensnared me for a week… I read lines over and again. I referenced previous pages to understand the psychology of the characters and predict their actions. I got so intimate with the characters that ensuing pages often made me prophet. More than once, I stared at the sky after reading particularly emotional pages, watching words in the novel assume life behind what I subconsciously knew would be the glazed lull of my eyes. In the end though, it was the end that got me. Chimamanda wrote: “may we always remember”. Those words echo in my head like the sentence before the lowering of the hangman’s noose. They continue to chime like the Cathedral’s bell- loud, inescapable, and longer by the hours.

May we always remember….

Kpurakprakpagah!

I gripped the leather lushness beneath me to anchor myself to something while my legs automatically swung to hunt solid floor. Sitting upright, I looked out of the window, eyeballs dancing this way and that, hunting what had woken me so rudely from the ambrosia of sweet dreams in which I had been cocooned whilst nested in the back seat of the Benz. The sky brightened like a girl at the prom- a flash of light in a dark blanket- but it was just a flash. It was gone before I could catch a glimpse of the sky.

It must have been thunder. That noise must have been thunder. Because that quick flash must have been lightning.

I tried to recall the scientific explanation biology teacher had bothered with some months back in school but only came up with the dimples on the face of my new crush. Defeated, I slumped back into the leather seat.

That class must have been one of the boring ones.

My head tends to be graphic, so memories are accessed via their pictorial mental shortcuts; and thinking of my crush only occurred whenever I was trying to keep awake. Coming up with his face instead of drawings on the blackboard therefore meant the class I was trying to recall had been one of those spent daydreaming.

My sad face in the rear-view mirror is the mental shortcut to that summer, because that’s when it started. This constant battle of opposing wills within me: to want to forget, and to want to tattoo every last pixel of memory so I always remember.

It would be good forget. Some days I forget. Other days I accept that forgetting is impossible. Most days though, I admit I do not want to forget. If it would never be again, then I want to never forget; a reminder of what once was.

May we always remember….

It was not as goofy-looking as those of other boys. His face, that is. Smooth, oval, smiling, with brown eyes, perfect ears and smiling lips. It was the first time I wished I could sculpt, and the first time I wanted to touch a face other than my baby brother’s. He was confident, handsome, and happy.

Cream and navy blue. I would never have mixed those colours, but they sat on him like royal adornments. I had been staring at the tiny bob of his Adam’s apple too long before my brain processed the information from my ears saying that he had been talking to me. Mortally embarrassed yet unable to tear my gaze away, I had listened to him speak and….

Dark chocolate laced with nuts, and sprinkled with vodka. His voice was that sinful pleasure. Low, rich, a promise of hidden treasures, a tease of different flavours, all forbidden and thus that more oomph! I had felt myself melt, and I had just known nothing would ever be the same again.

May we always remember….

Peppermint and strawberry. That had been the taste of our first kiss; his the peppermint, mine the strawberry, and ours the strawberry peppermint. It had been stolen, as all kisses had been then. Anyone could have walked in on us in our spot at the back of the library, but it had been the one kiss that said it all. He had taken my glasses off, pulled my face close to his, and in the last seconds before our lips touched I had thought: oh no, oh yes, oh bad idea, oh God.

I had closed my eyes like I had seen all the filmstars do, then opened them seconds later to golden flecks in his eyes I had never noticed before, tiny sweat pores on his skin, my racing heart, our heavy breaths, and the knowledge that we had just crossed some line we hadn’t even known we had set in the first place.

Horses on the field. That’s what I thought when I had placed my palm against his heart after noticing the rythmic movement of his shirt. He had done same to me, and time had stood still as we sat there facing each other on the library bench, quietly listening to our racing hearts, knowing desire for the first time.

May we always remember….

Nerds. That’s what we sounded like many years after that first kiss, downing barbaecued meat on a rock, watching the sun go down, and arguing sociocultural politics. His friends had laughed at us debating point after point, swinging orange-butted cigarettes in the air in support or disagreement of our views. They had laughed at me harder because I was a freshman and I had known more than they thought I should know. I had watched them talk in silent hushes and thought I had been too much of a nerd and that they thought he wanted to ‘score’ with me. Many years later, one of them accidentally slipped and said how they had been in awe of the little girl with the smart brain, speaking tongue, and obvious love for their friend. Apparently they had thought he was one lucky son-of-a-gun, and wished he would not be so in love with me so they could steal me from him.

May we always remember….

Wine sheets, red pillows, and cream rug. That was his room the day we first made love. I had been scared, he had been frustrated that he couldn’t get me out of his system while I was dating someome else, and it had been pleasure-pain. I had decided he was too big for me, that we were never doing it again, and that he would finally walk away from my life after ‘scoring’.

Sweat strolling down my spine. It had just been the expression of fear, excitement, and trying to keep my pussy from clenching at the sight of him at my door the day after I had thought he had scored and that was the end. He had apologised for hurting me the day before; standing there in the doorway, looking to the floor like a reprimanded child. I had forgotten to think, that little mental voice had taken to chanting “he’s here” and I had felt my heart do the ring-a-roses. He had looked at me, and I had known it would be forever.

May we always remember….

Silence. The way my head had gone mute after a ‘friend’ had explained The Cassanova to me. It had made a lot of sense to understand- as she had explained- that he was one; it had also made a lot of sense to protect my heart before he broke it. I had run far from him. I became too busy to pick his calls, to forgetful to return the calls or message, and much busier to attend dates. Breezy run-ins became just that:  eyes avoiding his, hands glued in jeans pockets to prevent silly things like touching his hair, empty torrents of many words, and the stereotype “Hi” and “Bye”.

The screaming calm after the last cannon. That’s all I had heard after he said he “goodbye”. I felt bits of me fragment into hazes of memory, and realised that the heart-protection plan had been a sham. Ghosts of words unsaid, pictures of things undone…. And perhaps, the sentence he should not have said:

“It would always be you. The girl I loved with all my soul who did not love me back. All I wanted was a small bit of your heart. I knew I was not worth you, so the smallest bit would have been heaven. It was heaven… until you took it back”

May we always remember….

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