When You Can’t Remember Loss

James Bekenawei on Loss

The only thing that hurts more than a bad picture is a lost picture.

Most times, to cement the details of an event in my mind, I take pictures. A picture is a frozen moment from a string of moments. Behind every photo, there is a story; behind every story, there is a past. The emotions that the images evoke give photos meaning.

“James, all our efforts today were wasted. We lost all the pictures,” Tunde said. I had just finished dinner and wanted to settle for a movie marathon when he called. “A virus attack or something. It affected the camera’s memory card also, so we can’t get the raw pictures.”

Hours spent selecting, sorting, and editing wasted. An entire day’s shoot, gone with the wind. The story behind each photo forgotten before it is told.

I delved into photography by accident. I have always loved pictures and have an archive of exotic photos. One day I took a photo with a friend’s phone and he loved it. It dawned on me then that I could create photographs not just collect them; that I could freeze time for the future because memory dims and forgetting happens. A blunt pencil is better than the sharpest memory, a blurred camera lens than the clearest mind.

Women who lose their babies carry the pain forever. My mom has five of us, but she still talks about the one that didn’t make it. That loss hurts her even though it’s been more than thirty years. Losing photos is the closest I have come to how my mom feels. I hold on to the carcasses of damaged hard drives because letting them go means accepting that the memories stored in them are forever lost. Sometimes, I survey the hard drives and wonder, why. Why didn’t I back everything up? Why didn’t I upgrade my cloud storage when I could? But the hard drives do not answer, they stare back and dare me to cherish memories I no longer remember.

One of my greatest fears is losing my memory—of waking up and discovering I can’t remember anything—and that even my writings and photographs, which I employed to freeze moments, can’t help jumpstart my memory, because they are lost. I fear losing an extension of myself via lost memories and photos.

In my desire to freeze moments for Throwback Thursday, I often let things go unnoticed and become unmindful of the emotions the camera cannot capture. Behind every photo, there is a story. But of what use is a story if it does not evoke the emotions that bind us to it? The remedy I’ve found is in the poem, If, by Rudyard Kipling: [to] fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run. To enjoy the moment, rather than merely freezing it.

© James Bekenawei 2017

Bekenawei James Robert loves to tell pictures, snap stories, and to question answers. He can be found on Instagram and Twitter as @bekexjj. He blogs at 4unansweredprayers.

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/sony-slt-a58-camera-sony-2033999/

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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The Appointment

Samuel Okopi on Loss

As a child, I longed to be baptised. I cannot remember a time while growing up as a Pentecostal Christian, that the opportunity to be baptised presented itself to me. Baptism felt like a watershed moment from which I would rise a complete Christian.

My secondary school didn’t provide for Pentecostal services so I attended Anglican services instead. One Sunday, our reverend father announced that students who desired to be baptised were to register and attend baptismal classes. These classes would run throughout the term.

I was elated. My golden opportunity had come.

Classes started soon enough. As a junior student in boarding school, time is an archenemy, and the threat of senior students commandeering your time for their selfish purposes always looms. Still, I managed to attend virtually all the classes and committed to memory, the cryptic questions and answers contained in the catechism we were given.

The long awaited day of baptism finally came. We were to assemble at the chapel by 4 p.m. for onward procession to the river bank. I was writing Junior WAEC exams and luckily, the only paper I had that day ended by 2 p.m.

Halfway into the exams, our fine art teacher came into the hall and announced that students must obtain poster colour sets from her, that afternoon, for the fine arts exam holding the next day. Art is my great passion and doing well at it mattered to me. I submitted my answer sheet long before others and dashed to the studio to get my colour set.

I met the studio door locked. The fine art teacher came an hour and thirty minutes later. By that time, the area around the studio was swarming with students. I spent the next two hours hustling to get my set.

The battle finally ended. As I walked back to the hostel with my colour set, all I could think of was having a bath.

4 p.m. Chapel. Baptism. My appointment with spiritual death and resurrection!

The time was already 5.30 p.m. I jumped into my white trouser and white shirt and raced to the chapel.

There was no one in white-and-white when I arrived and I didn’t know the location of the river. An old man I recognised as one of the cleaners, walked by and I asked him what direction the students in white-and-white had taken. He pointed at the way I had come. I didn’t wait to hear him begin his statement.

I kept running even though I wasn’t sure where I was headed. Soon, I spotted an array of white-and-white marching towards my direction. Before long, I had caught up with them.

I saw my close friend—with whom I had memorised the catechism over the last twelve weeks—and anxiously asked him about the baptism. There were tears in his eyes. At that moment, I received a divine revelation that abiding in his eyes were not tears but the holy water of rebirth.

I lost myself to deep reflection over what had just happened as I turned back and walked a lonely footpath leading to my hostel. I had lost an opportunity that had eluded me for seven years. At some point, I met with the ground, wishing I could go under. The dirt, the weeds, and their budding relationship with my white-and-white deepened as I thrashed about, seeking the kind of catharsis that can come from shedding the waters of sorrow.

A wise man, who may remain unknown, once said: “Hell is the knowledge of opportunity lost; the place where the man I am comes face to face with the man I might have been.”

Two years later, I got another chance to meet the man I looked forward to becoming. And this time, the pain of memory ensued I kept my appointment for the meeting by the river.

© Samuel Okopi 2017

Samuel Okopi loves to sing, design, and fantasize about the future. He believes there is no end to learning and so, for him, every tommorrow is pregnant with new opportunities to inch closer to perfection.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/time-watch-clock-number-minute-1842099/

 

© Timi Yeseibo, 2017

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

She Always Will Be

Tomi Olugbemi on Loss

Dying does not hurt the dead but I fear it is different for Mummy. I often worry that she may be grieving too, floating about in some existential plane and mourning the absence of her husband and children. I chew on the meaning of rest in peace. Is it mere banality or is death a form of rest? Perhaps it affirms the belief that eternal bliss follows dying.

I was angry that barely two weeks after the funeral; a guest minister at church preached on God’s healing power. I was angry that many people believed her death to be God’s will: that He knew best, and Mummy’s time had come. I scolded myself for not coming home months before she passed and for believing that she was on a path to recovery. When Faith Evans voice came on the radio, three days after Mummy died, singing: every single day, every time I pray, I’ll be missing you; I closed my eyes, tightened my jaw, and wept on the inside, instead of telling the taxi driver to change the channel.

In Mummy’s death, I lost the only person whose personality traits perfectly mirrored mine. I took after her in the way she swallowed her pain to soothe others and in how she folded into herself and feigned wellness even when sickness or depression ate from her vitality. We loved alike, silently but on full throttle, often walking the lines between worrying about a person and loving them intensely. We remained quiet in the midst of strangers but could be extremely goofy around familiar faces.

Grief is not as persistent as it used to be; my life continues and I have to concentrate on things besides carrying the weight of sadness. These days, grief visits in spurts, like a houseguest rather than a tenant, revealing itself as sudden re-realisations of loss when I place my mother before things: Mummy’s key. Mummy’s car. Mummy’s dresser. Mummy’s cancer foundation or while watching a mother die in a film and remembering that mine died too. Grief is the sadness in Daddy’s eyes masked with a smile when he abruptly interjects her name, Funke, while telling an anecdote about her. It showed on my brother, Dami’s, distraught countenance as we shot his graduation photos sans Mummy. And my other brother, Tofa’s wishful thinking on Twitter that heaven had visiting hours.

Like all the tragedies that have befallen me, I do not know that full recovery is sure. I do believe however, that in time, we adapt to regain normalcy by holding on to the love of, and for the departed; and conjuring their pith by drawing from past events. Thus, memories become more profound, more precious, like little vials of moonlight set aside for the days when the dark feels too present. Because even though they are dead, they breathe in reminiscence.

In losing Mummy, I am reminded of love’s eternal pursuit, its limitlessness, and how it travels beyond the boundaries of physical contact. That not even death can quell its power.  I have learned to still love what is no more. I have learned that loving another person is a life-long endeavour and that loss is not the end.

I hope that like Mary Elizabeth Frye, in her poem, Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep, Mummy is wearing a glinting smile, saying: do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die. Although she no longer is, she always will be. Rest in peace, Mummy.

© Tomi Olugbemi 2017

Tomi Olugbemi is a poet. He spends his free time fretting about words and recovering from pessimism. He blogs at tomiolugbemi.com.

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/tea-rose-corolla-caf%C3%A9-book-teapot-1871837/

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loss is Present Continuous

‘Pemi Aguda on Loss

My story of loss is a story of losing. It is a story of the futility of will, and the limitations of drugs against the stubbornness of genetics, of body.

I start to write this story in my head while staring at myself in the mirror, combing Cantu-covered fingers through wet hair. As yet more strands of hair with white bulbs at their roots, which confirm closed follicles, leave my scalp, I know that I want to write about losing hair, the continuous loss of it.

Balding is a word I’ve come to love. Okay, like. It is not a kind word. Like the cold probing instrument in the hands of my trichologist, it zooms in so my scalp resembles a desert on the monitor, and it leaves no place to hide. Balding lacks the soft landing of hair loss, which is gentle in its s-es. As the tongue leaves the upper palate on the second syllable in bal-ding, friends flinch, and you might find yourself recoiling from the widening patches of gleaming smooth scalp.

In losing hair, you will meet your insecurities on the street. You will come nose-to-nose with the monster of your vanity. Your fears will move into the apartment next door with ashy bald heads, ears pressed to the thinning wall, waiting for your next sigh. You might even find yourself shifting to the second-person point of view mid-paragraph. Anything to distance yourself.

I have met the indignities of fighting hair loss. Rubbing onion juice and foul-smelling concoctions on a situation that my mother’s head, my grandmother’s head, and the trichologist’s report tell me won’t change. And yet the irony is that I reacted to expensive Rogaine with a face full of hair so that for the first time in my life I was worried about too much of that furry substance—multiplying on my legs, darkening my arms, lowering my hairline . . .  it grew everywhere but where I wanted it.

I want to say that I’ve found freedom in this losing. Like the woman who empties her savings and travels the world on hearing she has a month left to live, it would be nice to say I’ve gained some irreverence in styling my hair. That I now dye it in a range of colours that would make my mother clutch her heart. But no. Within this stubborn body is still a wishful soul.

In a way, every story of loss is a story of losing; it never ends. Scalp where hair used to be; pillow where a head used to be. But in the roots of the stubbornness of body is also the resilience of body. You will maybe hurt less every day and my hand will rise less and less to my scalp, searching.

I’m losing, but I’m adapting. What I see is that despite the futility of will and the limitation of drugs, adapting is a way for my stubborn body, not yet thirty, to forgive itself for its own shortcomings.

  1. Cantu – Brand of hair care product; conditioner.
  2. Rogaine – Minoxidil; slows hair loss and promotes hair regrowth.

© ‘Pemi Aguda 2017

‘Pemi Aguda writes short stories and flash fiction that have been published here and there. Her short story Caterer, Caterer won the Writivism Short Story Prize 2015. She co-curates the website, Nik-Nak.co

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

We Never Lose What We Value

Ife Nihinlola on Loss

It was the morning after a long night that I’d spent working on copy. I was sleep deprived and my mind was slow to react to things around me. So when my phone dropped to the floor, I reached for it sluggishly. The danfo that I rode in had body parts, which moved even after the bus stopped, held together by the ingenuity of welders and panel beaters. We were on Third Mainland Bridge at 6:30am and moving as fast as the dying engine could permit. I looked down, saw asphalt through a gaping hole, and knew I had just lost my phone.

Kathryn Schulz, in an essay titled, When Things Go Missing—a wonderful piece that stuck to my guts days after reading—quoted Abraham Arden Brill, who said, “We never lose what we highly value.” I have thought of the many ways in which this is false. We do lose things we value. They slip away from our hands, like my phone. One month without calling a friend becomes six months of not keeping in touch, and then a relationship is irreplaceably lost. The same goes for the loss of faith. It might be gradual, but the heart knows it is gone.

We groped the floor as the bus sped along the bridge. A woman with a little kid on her lap—bless her soul—kept dialling my cell phone as if calling it would make it reappear miraculously like a genie.  The bus conductor rearranged the jerry cans, wrenches, and other bric-a-brac stored on the floor beside the door. But as all this was going on, I knew my phone was forever lost. In my six months of using that little Samsung device, I’d grown to love its size, its understated beauty, and its hard metal shell that accommodates my clumsiness.

Phones have become a large part of my living, serving as everything: from library to notebook to entertainment system to life planner. Although I’m always in need of a good phone, my finances are set up in ways that replacing what is lost is a decision that has to be made with extra thought. Do I just buy a cheap phone whose loss, when it happens, won’t hurt at all, or do I buy a phone capable of meeting all my needs—which means it would have the capacity to store information that stands the risk of getting lost again?

Loss is an inevitable part of this world where everything, humans inclusive, comes with an expiry date. All kinds of loss can probably be read as a shadow of losing life in the end. “Regardless of what goes missing,” Kathryn writes, “loss puts us in our place; it confronts us with lack of order and loss of control and the fleeting nature of existence.”

Loss, of any kind, often works like a flood that cracks the dam of my mind. One minute I’m sad that I’ve lost my phone and the next I’m wondering about lost friends, lost time, and the brevity of life.

My reflex reaction to loss is to do everything I can to avoid pain. I spent most of my childhood learning how to avoid connecting with people to the point where I missed them in ways that make the heart break. But emotional insulation comes with its own kind of pain. One stands the risk of becoming stunted, incapable of fully expressing the range of feelings needed to make a healthy inner life, incapable of loving. One cannot afford, for fear of loss, to shut the heart to the joy relationships can bring.

Perhaps, the ultimate lesson in the loss of my phone is that after two decades and a half spent on this planet, I’m just learning how to live and love.

© IfeOluwa Nihinlola 2017

IfeOluwa Nihinlola writes essays and short stories and has been featured in online magazines such as Afreada, Omenana, Klorofyl, and Litro. He works as an editor and is an inaugural fellow of aKoma’s Amplify fellowship. He is a fan of Zadie Smith, is looking for a replacement for Pringles as muse, and blogs at ifenihinlola

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/man-mobile-phone-person-smartphone-1868730/

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hope, Our Common Denominator

hope

Our realities are splintered in Nigeria—along class, religious, ethnic, and other lines.

On the way to my hometown from Lagos for the Christmas break, I slept through most of the trip, but a few kilometers into the town, I opened my eyes and saw fog over the trees by the road. The chilly winds had not yet blown over Lagos in the days preceding Christmas, and Lagosians wondered if the harmattan had become another casualty of 2016. The faces at home, however, were already ashen, dry from the harshness of the harmattan. The economic recession that plagued the country seemed to have moved in the same direction as the dusty winds, enveloping small towns on its journey to the big city.

I only know of how hard things have become because I dwell in between the exuberant hope of Lagos’ upwardly mobile circles and the despair in the rest of the country. Twice, over the festive season, in Lagos, I heard people say that things aren’t as bad in the country as they seem and wanted to transport the speakers from the bubble of this vibrant city to my sleepy hometown. A part of me wanted to criticize them for being myopic, for thinking their experience was typical of the rest of Nigerians.

But the mind knows only what the eyes see. Yes, it’s necessary to imagine the lives of people different from us so we can be good, empathic humans, but there’s also harm in thinking people who can’t yet see others as others are, are evil. This almost always widens those splintering gaps between us to the point where they become gullies. But we are closer to one another than we think.

Despair can cripple the imagination and blind us, limiting our vision to the fears of the present. That unflappable belief that what lies ahead is better than what is behind is difficult to preach in the face of a crumbling economy and rising political tensions around the world, but hope is the thing we cannot let go of.

Many at the start of the year usually display this hope, this higher level of optimism. Ends and beginnings are like points on a Mobius strip. There’s really no difference in the way the days run, but somehow, by placing a marker in time, we are able to generate optimism, to look up for instructions or guide ourselves into better living.

“Radical hope is not so much something you have but something you practice;” the writer Junot Diaz said in the New Yorker, “it demands flexibility, openness, and what Lear describes as ‘imaginative excellence.’  Radical hope is our best weapon against despair, even when despair seems justifiable; it makes the survival of the end of your world possible.”

Even I, usually skeptical of the feel-good-nature of the start of the New Year, have set aside goals, lists of things I’d like to get done by the end of the year. This time last year, I had no plans beyond seeing the next day. Now I’ve added more material dreams to the basic necessities, but the desire remains the same: to live better. And I know I’m not the only one doing this. Both the millionaire in the mansion in Ikoyi and the starving civil servant in Osun state look forward to a better 2017.

We can expend energies arguing about the different degrees of better, but we all share the need to look in the future and see ourselves in better conditions than that which we’re in today. To lose that ability is to lose all verve to live. The least we can do, in the face of difficulty, is hope.

© IfeOluwa Nihinlola 2017

IfeOluwa Nihinlola writes essays and short stories and has been featured in online magazines such as Afreada, Omenana, Klorofyl, and Litro. He works as an editor and is an inaugural fellow of aKoma’s Amplify fellowship. He is a fan of Zadie Smith, is looking for a replacement for Pringles as muse, and blogs at ifenihinlola

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/candle-light-dark-hope-flame-group-813005/

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hands That Bind

hands-that-bind

1.
The girls in my dorm sang Shakira’s Whenever Wherever, as someone drummed on a wooden surface. I stood in the middle of the room twisting my waist, when from the window, we heard, “Will you keep kwayet!” We paused but did not keep quiet. We whispered, “Will you keep kwayet,” to each other, mimicking the voice of the matron on night patrol, and stifling laughs. After she walked away, we resumed business. It was still my turn to dance. In that moment, I overcame my self-consciousness and danced with all eyes on me. I rarely dance in public because I still feel self-conscious. But when I do, I remember that night in secondary school and I feel light and free.

 

2.
In this photograph, we rest our heads against each other’s, you in a blue swimsuit; me in black, at Tarkwa Bay Beach, where the waves roll and froth like white foam. We roomed in the same dorm in junior secondary school; bunk beds joined so we lay side by side, the ceiling nearer us from our top bunks. While others slept, we traded stories, gossip, and laughter. You are in my earliest memories of holding hands. Sometimes, while others went to the dining hall for dinner, we took long walks, hands laced together at fingers and talked the way teenagers do: in earnest and in jest. You are the reason holding hands has become a lifelong habit. I peer at the picture once more. Even in the water, my right hand is on your elbow.

 

3.
One night in our first year in the university, we dressed up and headed to a room full of teenage bodies pumping hormones and loud music coaxing hands into the air. I was dancing with a guy when another guy stood behind me. In seconds, I was sandwiched between two sweaty, gyrating bodies. My eyes searched for her across the room. There. Also sandwiched between two guys. Our eyes met. We slipped away from the crowd. Side by side, we sat outside, silence wedged between us. Cool breeze brushed against our skin as trees swooshed around us, and above us, the big moon watched.

 

4.
I used to tell my friends, “If you’re going to sleep on my bed, your legs have to be clean,” and they could not understand why dirty feet irritated me so much. One night, in my room off campus, three of us sprawled out on my small bed and talked about the future, how our hard work would translate to wealth and travel. We promised to make time to hang out no matter how busy our lives became. Someone was supposed to sleep on the other bed across the room, but when I woke up, it remained neatly laid. Perhaps our tangled limbs heralded the future we had planned hours before, the connections we would always share. For once, I didn’t mind seeing dirty feet on my bed. Maybe I even smiled.

 

5.
Back then, physics and chemistry tried to make school frustrating for her. I didn’t know what it felt like to pour effort into something and not get the desired result. When she cried, I held her, wishing I could share my good grades with her. After secondary school, we proceeded to different universities. When we met again, she asked me about school.
“I haven’t been doing very well,” I replied.
She looked at me for an infinitely revolving second, “What happened?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know.”
She held my hand, “Kemi, you have to do well.”
I didn’t know what to say, but I knew she understood this kind of struggle and heard my unvoiced frustration.

 

6.
For weeks after we broke up, I didn’t tell my friends. All I wanted was to heal from this thing I mistook for love. Then I told them.

What? Is he out of his mind?
How could he have done that?
Kemi, you have to let go, that guy never even deserved you in the first place
.

Two years later, she still says, “He’s such an asshole.” I want to reply, “Babe, relax. I’m long over it,” but I smile instead.

 

7.
On one of our evening walks in senior secondary school, I asked you about your biggest fear. “Old age,” you said, “wrinkles, shaky knees, and dementia, that’s scary.” I imagined myself, grey and waddling to my favourite chair in the living room, but I was not afraid. My biggest fear is getting old and looking back at empty years of tedious inaction, never having achieved what I was created to do, and wondering if memories of Shakira’s Whenever Wherever, are phantasms sent to tease me.

© Kemi Falodun 2016

Kemi Falodun loves words and fine sentences. She writes short stories, essays, and occasionally, book reviews. She blogs at KemiFalodun.

 

Photo Credit: AdinaVoicu/ https://pixabay.com/en/hands-friendship-unit-together-1445244/

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.