Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Painful Perfection ...

(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, clich├ęd 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.

7 comments:

Wole's Girl said...

Chude,
first of all, in the words of the American president, "I refuse to negotiate with terrorists", "threats and other forms of coerion will not make me budge from my position of comfort. Nuff said!
As for your post, there are tears in my eyes, you have touched me in in some of my softest, most vulnerable places.
I too keep a lot of memories in a big black dusty box in the dark upstairs attic that I never open, because of the precious, friable memories of an era that would never return I put in there might disintegrate on contact with the surface.
I have even avoided putting the deep, so-sweet-its-nearly-melancholic feelings into the written word, not only because they would sound like syrupy gibberish, but because Im irrationally possesive of those feelings, I will keep them golden in the forge of my belly, where they remain mine, untainted by my now sophisticated cynicism, and like that simple, ordinary fly who walked into eternity by accidently bumpng into a piece of amber, my myriad emotions as a teenager standing at the cross-road of the sweet present and the heady rush of enthusiasm and trepidation for the future, is probably commonplace, but saving them in my safe place, protects them in my private golden orb, and perhaps giving them a shot at eternity.
I know, Chude..this one, I know

Chxta said...

My friend go and see the guy, what is the matter with you?

uknaija said...

Go and see him and if it doesn't work, it doesn't work

mystoriesmytestimonies said...

you are an excellent writer...
i like this post cos u made me think of my childhood friend who has been in america for 2 years and each time i find an excuse not to see her ...she had a baby boy last year ..and i promised myself that i will go...but never did....this year i hope to be there for his first bday...

maybe, u are right...the memories are too beautiful ...or maybe i am hiding from something... or maybe i think we have changed so much...
i still dont know the answer... but i know that my childhood memories are still my BEST...

Chude! said...

Thanks Peju and My stories for sharing these delicate feelings. It is more comforting when one knows that there are others who feel like you do ...

And to Chxta and Uknaija - thanks for prodding!

laspapi said...

I know what you mean by wanting to leave memories untainted by the present. But the flip side is you can build on what you once had. C'est possible.

As for Mr. Novia et al and the vituperative outpour on Ebuka, I kow you're holding the fort. That confrontation is being talked about everywhere.

Ah eg, who is "Wole's Girl?"

The cocaine mule caught on the way to the US? He did the crime, now he'll have to ...

The economic situation here should make us all murderers if we followed his example.

Tread softly, chude, but carry a big stick.

The indefatigable orator (did I spell that right?) Who told you anything's changed about your speech style?

Chude! said...

actually you are very right - all of us would be murderers amd more if we gave in to the economic situation.

Wole's girl? Someone actually asked me recently if that was your wife!! I am sending you an email now about who she is and about the 'big stick'.

And well, me, I tell myself that my speech style has changed - all things are possible when you believe!!!