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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Falling From Lofty Heights

Timi Yeseibo on Loss

We are all dust passing through the air, the difference is, some are flying high in the sky, while others are flying low. But eventually, we all settle on the same ground. ― Anthony Liccione

To reinvent yourself in your late-thirties, you work with a job coach. She will turn the years you spent chauffeuring your children to and fro school and swimming, and ballet, and football, the months you spent volunteering to cut out hearts and read poetry to classes of fidgety children, and the days you spent  hosting meetings for a diverse group of women, into credible examples of leadership and teamwork. On paper. A resume that she has to work on you to believe.

You believe. And you can tell every interviewer about yourself, stitching the holes in the years between your first degree and the present in a perfect line.

Still I did not get the first job I applied for. Or the second or the third. Each time I finished strong as a close second, I vowed to eliminate the words consolation prize, if I were God for a day. The ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm is what Winston Churchill described as success. I did not feel like a success, but I tweaked my resume and wrote more cover letters.

With bills mounting, I prayed, “God, anything. I will do anything, even hospice care.”

Then one day while waiting at the bus stop, I saw a woman I used to know in orange overalls with the insignia of the town on her chest and back, using a pick-up tool to clear rubbish—empty cans, funnel-shaped cardboards with remains of mayonnaise and patat, and a lone pink mitten—from the road, trash bag in tow.

It was not the harshness of the sun that kept her head down, spring was just emerging from winter; the sun had not yet roused itself properly. It was shame. She had lost her former status just as I had. She could not and would not raise her head to say hello, even though I no longer had a car. Had she not seen that my coat, fraying at the cuffs and hem, was one from a few seasons back? I looked at my bus pass as though there was information on it that I had not yet read, and I let her name die on my lips.

I was no longer so sure about my prayer. “Okay God,” I prayed, “not just anything.”

I landed a clerical job, which I would have rejected when I graduated with honours fifteen years earlier, a mindless job that did not even require the kind of critical thinking I used when I played Mahjong Titans.

One evening, I took a file full of reports to my boss, a woman in her mid-twenties, whose jawline was just discernible from her neck. Colleagues whispered that she was a casualty of one of those expensive diet plans. She barely glanced at the reports before signing. She had come to trust my work, and she commented on my level of accuracy.

“You’re better than this,” she said, looking at me, searching for my story as if I had written it behind my eyes. “You should find another job.”

“I know,” I whispered, as if it was our secret, “it’s just a matter of time.”

I no longer worry about bills and I use my brain to do the things I love. I saw a man in his fifties begging for alms. His pale blue shirt tucked neatly in navy trousers, set him apart. Although his eyes were weary, he stood as though he had steel in his spine.

I am seldom asked, who are you, but I am always asked, what do you do? It is easy to confuse the two.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/levitation-young-woman-in-the-air-1884366/

 

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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.

February, in Retrospect

language

February some say is the month of love. Work that should have been finished in January dragged into February and filled February with editing and late-night reviews. It meant that I put new projects on hold, but who was keeping tabs when love was in the air?

“How old are you?” I asked the man who seemed smitten by me.

“Thirty-six.”

“And you’re not married?”

He started to explain the difficulties of finding the girl of his dreams, and I realized he had read my question wrong.

“I just wanted to know if you’re married,” I said softly when he paused for air.

“Oh?” he said, and then smiled, reminding me of the way he looked a few days earlier, when he had accosted me at the supermarket with, “Let me help you, you look tired.”

I had been dragging my feet behind my shopping cart as though the sum of the hardships of living in Lagos, sat in it. He charmed me into small talk and out of my phone number.

Later when he called, his many compliments and my thanksgiving done away with, there did not seem to be anything left to say. I was surprised that a man, who had used a shopping cart effectively, could not find his voice. He must have interpreted my silence as a semi-colon because he said, “Your driver seems nice,” referring to that night when my driver retrieved my shopping cart from him and loaded its content into my car.

My driver is not nice; my driver thinks he should be my boss, but I did not tell him that. I asked him about his line of work instead of putting a full stop at the end of his sentence.

I persevered to get to know him because I am curious about people, not because my friend had said, “You never know, why not give him a chance?”

But I knew. A woman knows. I knew that I did not always want to be the one to steer conversation to a place of interest for both of us. I knew that I could not continue receiving SMS messages like this:

Gud mrn pretty. hw waz ur nyt. u r sum1 worth reely lykng. deres just sumtin abt u. hapi Sunday.

I would not, and none of my friends, would abbreviate their text messages like that. It would take too much brainpower.

“I think he lied to me,” I said to my friend, “about being thirty-six.” 

I replayed several incidents for her to decide. They revolved around language, or rather the lack of it.

“Or maybe he is thirty-six, but his brain is nineteen.”

We laughed; it seemed altogether plausible.

When our laughter subsided, I accused her of being cruel. She quoted Chavez, “Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers.”

I was troubled by her inference. Wasn’t the shorthand way he fashioned text messages a positive measure of his ability to adapt to a mobile culture? Weren’t his text messages a genre of contemporary poetry; language is fluid, after all? Or, was it not more likely that the eight years between us equal a generation gap because as some have said, a different language is a different vision of life?

“Let’s keep it simple,” she replied. “It is either he’s nineteen or you are a grammar snob.”

In March, all my delusions will fall off.

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

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A Landscape of Friendship

friends-landscape

 

Sotonye and I were friends first. I forget now, how we met, that memory superseded by memories of our friendship: the innocence of it. We walked around town and hopped on buses to places too far to walk like the old amphitheatre at the university. One afternoon, we sat together on a leather beanbag, shoulders rubbing, while we fiddled with the controls of my parent’s Panasonic sound system. We took turns to put our cassettes into the tape deck and listen to each other’s mix tape.

“Sit apart!” my mother’s voice startled us. Before I could understand the implication of her words, Sotonye had sprung to the chair farthest from the beanbag, and from me, in the living room. That day heralded the beginning of the end of our friendship, I think.

After I met his best friends, Charles and Karibi, I saw Sotonye less and less. He caved under my persistent interrogation and admitted that he had kept a distance because Charles had warned him that girls like me could derail a guy’s destiny.

I should have told him that I was hurt, but I did not. I could have pointed out that in his stead, Charles was now spending more time with me, the destiny-stealer, and Karibi was a close second, borrowing books from the library to feed my love for books, but I did not. Universities were on strike and Sotonye was convinced that his future lay in the United Kingdom. His plans to relocate consumed his focus.

Ten years have passed since the alliance—three boys, then two boys and one girl— we formed crumbled because we grew up and went to discover ourselves on the map.

Presently, Charles and I are having lunch after a chance encounter earlier in the week, and I am reminding him of how we met. He is laughing so hard, he begins to cough.

“That’s not how it happened, didn’t I meet you first?”

“You wish,” I say, rolling my eyes.

“I can’t believe I did my guy like that!” He slaps his thigh, still amused.

“Better believe it; do you know where Sotonye is now?”

“Last I heard he’s still in the UK, directing theatre productions or something weird like that. That’s what Karibi said when I bumped into him, last year.”

“Karibi . . .” I say wistfully.

“You always liked him. That traitor who swooped in when I left for school—”

“No, it wasn’t like that at all. He was like a big brother to me.”

“Yeah, right!”

“Go away joor. He was the sweetest boy I’ve ever known.”

“That’s because he didn’t shave your head. Abeg, leave that thing!”

“We all were great friends . . .”

“Yes,” he agrees, “but you did not understand boys.”

We distill years past by exchanging phones and swiping photos, who’s this and where’s that, make our puzzle pieces fit faster. But photographs cannot capture all. Suddenly, Charles looks down at his drink and admits to being a closet alcoholic.

“It’s not so bad,” he says, looking up at me.

I nod. In the movement of my head and the steady gaze of my eyes, there is no judgement.

“Why don’t you tell someone who can hold you accountable on the road to recovery—”

“What! You haven’t changed! You’re still naïve . . . like back then . . .”

I trace the rim of my glass with my finger, uneasy and unsure of what he means.

“You still think everyone is like you, and everything is black and white,” he answers my unspoken question.

“No not really—”

“You trust easily. Haven’t people hurt you . . . enough?”

I sigh. Maybe I should not have let him look at all my photos.

“I am no longer afraid of getting hurt. But this isn’t about me. Isn’t your secret too heavy to bear alone?”

“I’ll survive. I haven’t told anyone . . . I don’t even know why I told you.”

I know why he told me. In just two hours, we have travelled back to the road leading to my parent’s house, where, unable to stop his voice trembling, he confided in me about his parent’s impending divorce.

The moment passes and we reminisce about happier times, about the place near the overhead bridge where we met in the evenings after Sotonye left. Charles would arrive with a packet of cigarettes and after he dragged on a cigarette a bit, he passed it round. I took tentative puffs while Karibi backed away as if it were a snake, reminding Charles of his asthma and me of the dangers of lung cancer.

“I gave up smoking,” Charles says. “Best thing I ever did.”

I nod again.

“You were the glue . . .” he begins.

“Nah,” I say, “Sotonye—”

“It’s true, everything was centred around you.”

He signals to the waiter for another drink. I shake my head, no.

“Do you think . . . answer me honestly, Charles . . . that boys and girls can just be friends?”

His answer is slow to come.

“I don’t know,” he says at last. “Even back then, Sotonye, Karibi, and I, wanted more.”

 

© 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.