Buried in time
Memories of you are buried deep into my head like rocks into soil, firmly, and with no definiteness as to when it was planted – the rocks in the soil, your memories in my head. Even more buried are the emotions I feel for you, clad in regard and unreciprocated love. I have taken pills of depressants to fight the ailment the thought of you brings to my heart. The more pills I took, the harder I loved and wanted to be adequate enough, just for you.
How little words can tear deep into our memories, exterminating the beautiful memories we made, I will never know. I grew in your eyes, and under what I thought was love. The sands we played with and the memories buried beneath them; the horses we mounted and the galloping pain that followed; the see-saw of happy times, and the never stopping merry-go-round of pain that cycled afterwards; all that could have been memories to hold on to fell like the biblical Goliath before David.
We were happy together. For a long time everything seemed perfect; little did I know those times were the calm before the storm. Young as I was, I would eat from your hand, and you mine. We would sit and watch the sun set. On some days when you visited, your face would be as dry as a desert, laced with grains of hidden pain and hard work, behind an oasis of joy that was buried in your eyes. On days you came back sweaty; I would wipe your forehead with my cloth and sing to you. Mother had a habit of beat me for wiping your sweat with my shirt, until she got tired. But it was always worth it; watching as your face transformed from a wet, worried, anguished form to a dry, full-of-expectations, happy one. I always admired the transformation. We buried seeds of fruits and waited for them to grow. Most of those seeds came out well, but with them came a tree of displeasure, and an apple of discord that settled on your soil – our soil.
Soils reminded me of your skin. How you could be dark in a week, looking red at times, and white on rare moments, bust mostly brown. Your heart, mind, and body was engaged too much with not letting your father down that you cared less what you looked like, as long as I was happy with you, and he too.
On some days, the wind blows joy, dreams, and love, on some days, the air carries heartbreak, disappointment, and broken dreams. On one of such bad days, you had asked me, “what would you like to do when you grow up?” and I had replied “write about us.” Showing my almost brown dentition as I said it, hoping to be embraced by your smile, but I had met a scowl accompanied by a reprimanding expression on your face. I could swear you wanted to hit me, but you couldn’t. You weren’t in the position to. Mother would never allow me see you again. Not that she liked you being around anyway. “That big sack of weakness” she had said when I asked why she didn’t like you much. You wanted me to be a lawyer. To grow up and wear suits, while telling men and women under wigs and cloaks why I think a particular rich man deserves to breathe, be granted sick leave so they can spend funds embezzled from the government. In all your scenarios of what a lawyer was, you never for once mentioned a poor man, or woman, who needed my defence. They were always about expatriates, politicians, and plainly successful people. “It’s a boring life” – from the moment I told you, and I needed no arbitrator to tell me things were no longer at ease. “You want to grow up poor, complaining about failed book sales and little promotions? Talking about friends earning better for lesser work? Going home with more complains than money? Do you want to build a home that way? How will you see your parents as a writer? You would go to your mother and beg for clothes, and your father to beg for will? A writer is poor. Please be a lawyer, apple of my eyes.”
I was broken by your words for many reasons. I thought you shared my dreams, I thought despite the different bed sheets and roofs that we lay under, we still saw the same dreams. But I was determined to write about us; even if they were sad tales. I sat in my room one day watching as the evening air carried away our memories while mother told you at the door that I didn’t want to see you. I cried over it as you walked away. Your short, black hair would wave to me and my tears would wave back. “Your love would not be the reason my ambition would be abandoned” I consoled myself.
I went ahead to study writing as a discipline. I was told of how you severally came looking for me, of how you came knocking and begging my mum to not let me grow up poor. But my resolve was tight, with no gap for weakness, just like your dentition. I wanted to show you, to tell you, to let you know that a writer could be rich, successful, and not have to worry about book sales. I was ready to show you that I would weather the greatest of tempests as if I were Poseidon, and come out unscathed.
Mother would tell me about you, about the disappointments you felt. Mother would surprisingly ask me if I thought I was doing the right thing, and if I wasn’t too harsh on you, but I would say “no. my head knows better than my heart.” I heard you wouldn’t stop fighting too; that you wouldn’t stop running in pursuit of your father’s happiness. In keeping the name your father had worked for, and his father before him. But I was different. You had told me this yourself. “You’re a special channel of different energy,” your eyes had glistened as you told me this. You had been honest when you said the words.
I had heard you lost your father. I had buried all the indifference I built on the memories of your wishes for me, to come and pay my regards. But it had taken the power of all five of your siblings to stop you from hitting me. I remember telling you as I left, head tucked in the ground like a dog casted away by its owner, that I love you. I had meant it, every bit of the sentence. But you would say to me, “You’re inadequate and undeserving of my affections.” I wouldn’t ache more than I already had. I would only spend a long time telling myself I was undeserving of your affection. And I would never look back.
“I want to dedicate this award to my father. Because of him, I have made you all bleed through your eyes, at a time or another… and to laugh too. More than he knows it, he has been my motivation”
I stepped off the podium, teary eyed and heartbroken than I ever was. My handkerchief became soiled with the only expression of my heartbreak – my tears – as I made it out of the exquisite attention of the hall. “Best writer of creative fiction,” the award in my hand read. As prestigious as the award made me, I still felt emptiness. My wife understood this in the car as we drove home, my mother in the backseat in her unspoken words grieved with me, but everyone else only cared about the smile before the camera. A wise man had once said, “Smile for the camera, die silently after. It’s what keeps the market going.” Was I that wise man in one of my many books? I wouldn’t know. The same way I wouldn’t know how father felt hearing about my many successes. He had told me he loved to read newspapers; I have tried to picture his expression when he would read that I had become a Nobel Prize for literature winner. But memories of him were faint. As faint as the colours of my hair that had lost the blackness it carried in youth. The hair that reminded me of yours, as you walked out that day, when mother had told you I didn’t want to see you.
For years I would try to understand why you had impregnated mum, knowing well that your father – the one I only saw only on his obituary posters – would not allow you marry her. I would never know why you would treat mum like a stranger every time you visited, while giving me all of your love. I would never be able to tell why you wanted me to be a lawyer so desperately. But what I would forever remember were your words, “You’re inadequate and undeserving of my affections.”
Perhaps I could say the same of you now too.