There is something about me thinking about where I was born, and spent my earlier years in this world. Every time I think about this place, it a roller coaster I can never get off. It is as if my head spins, continuously, until I beg it to stop. Until I fall on my knees, and lick its shoes. Even then, the rollercoaster leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Lately, I have been thinking about what it is about the place that makes me die a little bit on the inside. I barely remember anything, apart from the school I attended, the game shops we flooded every weekend, looking to play chess. The rivers where we drew water. The open sewage at the and of our estate, which swallowed a whole human being as I watched.
Somedays. I remember spending afternoons in the salon, or by the roadside, but something about these things keeps evading me. Like there is something that was always there, and I cannot put a finger on it. Something that keeps all these things bearable; the headaches after plaiting my hair, and beatings from my father after getting home late.
Then yesterday, it hit me; you.
The first time I saw you, or felt you, I was leaning against an old tree stump, watching as the other kids played. Before I knew it, you were towering over me, your right hand wiping the tears off my face, while your left hand slipped into my fingers. We stayed in silence, for minutes, my body seemingly at rest, but my heart and soul racing. I had begun getting accustomed to being the lone child; staying away whenever others mingled, sneaking around them, following them, unknown, because as much as I brought ‘shame’ upon them, I so much craved a sense of belonging.
I so much wanted to know how it felt to be wanted. For someone to ask me to join them. To be a valued member of the group; that they could never go anywhere without me. That they would cancel all their games because I was absent, or because my mother had shut me inside the house.
I had so much wanted these things, that a huge hole formed in my heart when I failed. That I devised methods of watching from a distance, without feeling the pain, or without waiting for the pain to consume me. Or without without letting others know I am hurting on the inside.
In the silence, you lifted my face to yours, smiled gently, and started pulling me towards the group. I hesitated, and you whispered into my ears: I got you. Come with me, and let us see who dares speak against you, or who dares throw you out.
I remember you being my voice throughout the two hours I was there: She does not like that. Do not touch her. Do you have a problem? Then face it off with me. She is not yours to treat as you like! Respect her, or else I am pulling away also.
I remember lying in bed that night, and crying for you. I remember my mother coming to me in panic, only for me to say I was crying because I had made a genuine friend.
I remember ringing the bell at your door the next day, following you inside, and building lego houses on your floor. I remember because it was the only time someone said I was brilliant, and lovely, and good at what I did. I remember because it was the very first time I rode with you on your bicycle, you taking me to places I had never imagined before, and saying all beautiful things about me.
I remember because it was the day I stopped bed-wetting. All along, it had just been a subconscious ‘act of rebellion’; wanting to be seen, and acknowledged. Wanting to belong.
To date, I still regret not letting you know we were moving away. Jumping onto that truck as if it was the one thing I had been waiting for. As if I was not leaving a huge part of me behind; you. As if all that had happened between us was insignificant. As if you were just another passing stage. As if I was entitled to meeting you. As if I did not remember it was you who taught me the meaning of life at such a young age. As if I was dying for this moment; to get away from you.
I still regret not asking of your whereabouts the first day I met your sister at my new school, a year later. I regret not asking her if it was okay to visit. I regret distancing myself from her, because her constant presence reminded me of you, and left abad taste in my mouth.
I regret letting her go on the last day of school. Even when she showed up sad, and fell into my arms, I assumed she was heartbroken for leaving me behind. Oh, how I wish I knew it was the onset of all the bad things I could ever think about.
On the day when it all happened, two years later, I remember sitting I class, uneasy, and thinking it was just my period that was making my abdomen ache. I remember the familiar bad taste in my mouth, and the feeling like I couldn’t breathe. I remember going out for a breath of fresh air, and feeling your scent, like deja vu, all over the air.
I remember the news hitting my ears in a whisper, just like the first time I ever felt your presence: He died last evening. We do not know why, yet, but he left a note on his bedside table. It had your name on it. Is there something you might know?
I remember only seeing ‘you’ after you were buried, crying at your graveyard like a kid who had lost its mother, and cursing my school for not letting me out, just to see you one last time. I remember laying my head against the cross, and wondering whether I had a hand at your death, or life, or the in-between
I remember, with sadness, my mother’s hands picking me up from the dust, and whispering: There is no amount of tears that could bring him back. The best we can do is hope and pray that we understand why he took his life away.
I remember because to date, I am still waiting for a sign.