(Spoiler Warning: This is a very soapy piece.)
For most of us without unfortunate memories of sexual abuse, evil stepmothers, or lost breadwinners, childhood was bliss. For us, it was simple and uncomplicated; an open field without boundaries. And we endlessly speak of cherishing the memories. What we don’t confess is that the memories are sometimes so beautiful, so perfect that they are painful. So painful that we perhaps don’t even want to remember.
An old friend from boarding school found my number recently and called. Soon as I heard his voice, it brought back a rush of memories I couldn’t handle. I just couldn’t handle it. There was excitement at hearing his voice, but the truth is, it wasn’t pure excitement … there was a keen, stronger, sense of loss. He gave me his phone number and I promised I would call him the next day, but I didn’t. I wanted to, but I … couldn’t.
Make no mistake; his call brought back beautiful memories of boarding school. We were a gang of four and he – scrawny, troublesome, unlikely he – was head of the gang; and we had so much fun: we were the envy of seniors and classmates who couldn’t understand the bond that saw us fighting savagely in the morning and regrouping by Night Prep.
When he called, we agreed we had to meet up when I return to Lagos; and of course to keep in touch until then. When I dropped, I decided not to. But just a few hours ago though he sent me a text: ‘Do you still go by your favourite appellation: the indefatigable orator?’ I laughed out loud to myself. I had actually forgotten I used to call myself that… I was grateful for his bringing me back that memory – and I smiled at the verbosity that has not been a part of my being for many years now. I smile as I remember that which I no longer am.
I am certainly glad to hear from my old friend … but I don’t think I want to see him when I get back to Lagos. I am not … I am not sure it will be a good idea. The memories I have of our friendship are so beautiful, too beautiful - almost too sacred to be tampered with by the realities of the present.
There is also the gnawing fear that we have become so different that we cannot become friends in the now, and the ensuing frustration and sadness at the lack of reconnection I don’t think I want to deal with. Why does life happen to us?
It is the same feeling that sucks me in when I look at the backed-up files from my old laptop. In fact, I dread looking at those files, and yet I do - I am hopelessly drawn to the times past: decisions I came to, mistakes I made – I read the amateur writing, the letters to mentors... and each time, clichéd as it sounds, my eyes get moist … those times were so sweet they are sad. Does that make any sense to you?
Those files have poems written; proposal sent, queries replied, applications made, letters penned – it’s a bag full of dreams and life in those times when I had just made it into the whole world armed with all the innocence that there was. A vista untainted by rejection letters, angry rejoinders, office politics, failed dreams and real betrayals. Those were times when I was protected from the consequences of my actions, when I could say what I really felt and carry no burdens from any of it.
Dimeji’s call had an even stronger effect that those. It made me cry. It just made me cry. And even now, my eyes are tear-filled. But you see, the tears are sad, but they are also sweet …
Let me share the song I am singing now, as I write and cry, with you. It is a song from our ‘Song book’ in secondary school (Mayflower, Ikenne):
From faraway, I hear sweet voices calling me
And in my thoughts, come memories flooding fast
A childhood song, in all its dear simplicity
Brings happy tears to one whose childhood days are past
Sing on my heart, for days that will not come again
Oh sing those songs of life that was so fair
Now from afar come voices easing all my pains
And sorrow dies, and memory drives away all care …
It is still morning yet in my life so I have quite a load of innocence left, and naivety is yet an abiding part of my makeup, nay a part I stubbornly hold on to. But those were the days when I didn’t even need to think about it first; I was blissfully unaware, unselfconscious – I could just be …
Maybe I will go and see Dimeji after all. After all said and done, I am eager to relive those beautiful beautiful moments – I want to remember; to share. But I will go without any hopes of renewal; without any plans to rekindle. Because if that doesn’t happen, the sense of loss will only be sharper – and more painful.
I will go only to bask in that beauty from what is now a long time ago. And perhaps remind myself to make sure that what is now, and what is ahead should be as sweet if not sweeter than what I left behind.