It is only 2:00 in the morning. You wake up restless after failed attempts to fall back asleep since Mama’s call woke you up from that fascinating dream where you had been having a sun tan on the beach in Miami (PS: she had called to ask you if you still remember to say your prayers and read the Holy Book!). You decide to put a sound track to your life and indulge in some cleaning. You vacuum clean the room carpet, and dust the tables, change the bed sheet and oust the dishes into the dishwasher; you wash the toilet, and scrub the tiles, and once you’re done, you smile, feeling a tad more relieved and humane than when you woke up.
You re-arrange your book shelf as you intend to storm the bookstore later that day for some new addiction(s). Then, you stumble upon your old photo album snugged up tightly amidst a bunch of forgotten memories. That photo album had been given to you by your favourite cousin as your first birthday gift at the age of sixteen. You smile as you remember the look on Nlerum’s face when you hugged him and painted his cheek with a pink thank-you kiss; that is a one-too-sweet memory that always leaves you smitten.
Curiosity, boredom and a little too much time on your hands kick in and find you plucking the album out, and seating on your newly made bed to flip through its pages of a piled-up-and-stashed-away past. Every picture of you holds a bright bold smile that is not your own anymore. You remember indeed that the album hosts some of the best days of your life– with or about Nlerum. He had either been the one taking the picture, or the one bombing it, or the reason behind the smile. Nlerum.
He was your second Cousin– the son of your mother’s first Cousin. You had met him occasionally at family parties (PS: Grammy’s birthdays were kind of made in Heaven) where he inspired your heart with his shy familiar smile, and afterwards, you had attended the “family school” and been entrusted to his care. You saw him as a big brother, although he was just three years older than yourself. And he loved you, oh he did. You had known; yet, you had thought it was just as a brother loved a sister– deeply, protectively, and that was that. But it had been more- a rippling-staggering-overfilling more. Nlerum had spoken love to you in all the languages that there were, but you had been too naive to hear it; or maybe you had just been an ardent ignoramus? It doesn’t matter. Hearts are made to be broken, and his had been broken by you.
“The heart was made to be broken”
You flip the old album cover close now, and rid your eyes of the droplets of water waiting to fall. Nlerum. You remember you had seen the last of him about ten years ago, during his final year in school. You had bathed him with a dozen more pink kisses as you wailed about how you would miss him. That much had been true. He had asked you not to worry, as he would come check on you as often as he could. You saw his eyes, squinted in that manner that said he was dead serious about what he had just said. You had believed him. A few weeks after, Mama had called to tell you he died in a ghastly accident on his way to your school. You had wept, bitterly. At the funeral, and even days long after that. But now, as you remember, your sorrow is deeper. Something unnamed, and immeasurable.
You stare into bright nothingness, wondering if perhaps, there was something you could have; and in fact, should have done differently. And as you wonder, you rock yourself to Birdy’s Skinny Love, as it plays in your head in Nlerum’s voice.
© The Short Black Girl, 2016.