Where did she go, the one who bought my silences and unsaid words so dearly?
There were neither any precociously articulated avowals of eternal faith nor was passage fare paid for parting sentences. We waded through the ocean braving the jitters of midnight walk long-winded talk first-time coffee and spilled cookie crumbles. And secrets were jettisoned in the middle of the sea when nobody but the two of us were looking, plop upon plop, drop by drop, blurted whispers streaking between blink and stare into the shelter of “don’t tell anybody else” pretence.
How will her pawned secrets be mine to keep when she has bought out her debt, taking flight like that crow which paused mid-air above my ears in greeting only to ruffle my hair against her wing before flying away into anonymity into a roost-filled tree?
Why did she shut herself into passageway of darkened rooms thus? I feel my way through a battle formation of light switches, successively switching on lights, groping for the next by a slender shaft of door ajar light. Every victorious flicker only leads me to another and soon enough it’s the switches I seek not her.
How is it that phone calls die as phantom key strokes, undialled, mails lapse into hurried and her face binned like a boredom-dissipated doodle.
When I was a child I used to buy groundnuts in rolled-up Reader’s Digest cones. Once, to my intense agony, I happened to read the words. Perhaps I’d wanted something to keep munching to the thought of.
Recall is a traitorous, while the article was memorable enough to have created an impression on me, an impression to make me to this day, it wasn’t powerful enough to stick around in scrapbook glue or even as a half-remembered sentence. Whenever one of those yellowed magazine shets that have escaped archival imprisonment, recycled rebirths and failed groundnut shell paperweights land at my feet I will remember that I had read something that was lost to me forever.
I know that my worst nightmare will come true when I’m singing my daughter to sleep or playing rhyme games with her, when I’ll be pushed off my seat halfway through the swing of the lullaby/rhyme and fall hard on an empty ground, voice hoarse and strained with a recklessly hopeful repetition of those fortunate first lines, beseeching the others to return to my memory. But they won’t because I will have forgotten the songs of my childhood. Save the beginnings. Beginnings (of anything) are usually coarse enough to stay on top when memory is ruthlessly sieved.
Sometimes you need only one conversation to know a person. I think I know the one whose memory prompted me to start this story. Because that’s all I’ll ever get with her. Would it make a difference if we spoke again? I wish it would.
Some things have happened to me more than once, even regularly throughout my life, but how many versions can I recall? One. I realise my reality in cloned days stood-up seconds and fleeting moments of happiness that were so desperately longed for but finally everything has been recorded as a single copy each.
One conversation in an acquaintance of hard-fought smiles and embalmed confidences. A split-second childhood with only one remembered rendition of “Kai veesama Kai veesu” (How does the second stanza go, anyway?) bouncingly sung on my mother’s knees. And only one shot at that blissful void of complete forgetfulness.
6 months ago