I stare at her picture. I look into those deep brown eyes—and I remember.
My mind drifts slowly back to the beginning of time—when my first tragedy was of Mother disposing a toy I had. I remember as the tintan sound the toy played resounded in the trashcan. Blue and yellow keys of the toy filled the back of my mind and stretched until they formed the figure of my Bratz doll.
Watching Jade the Bratz doll lose a leg, not getting the flavour of caprisonne I wanted are the kind of tragedies I long for right now in my life. They are so trivial now, but so meaningfully tragic, to a two year old.
My mind paces forth a few years—away from diapers and bed wetting and moves on to the joy and sadness of adolescence.
The house comes to mind. It was a huge four storey house that overlooked a canal and some rural buildings in the Market, only if your apartment was at the back. If your apartment was at the front, all you saw was peace and serenity of the high-class. Creamy coloured buildings with wealthy inhabitants. They were professors who worked in the University ten minutes away, or bankers with offices in Victoria Island. Whatever professions, their children went to the University staff school—an almost prestigious school for both the staffs, and the non-staffs or the University’s International school, a secondary school.
Monday mornings, the green of our uniforms lined the roads sporadically. You couldn’t miss us—neither could you miss the nervousness that boiled up in our bellies, over forgotten assignments —or the strokes of cane we expected to receive from our teachers for entirely different reasons—these were the tragedies that occupied our mind when you saw us in the green uniform. If father wasn’t getting paid well at work, we took no notice. If a far off relative died, we felt no pain—it wasn’t our tragedy.
The Ogunnaike’s had two girls one of which was my best friend. I had just one sibling, a brother. So it wasn’t weird but natural that the Ogunnaike kids and I were close.
It was glaring that we were from different backgrounds even though we were all friends whose parents drank wine and ate samosas together on Saturday night.
Their parents were Professors in the University, mine were Lawyers. Our family went to church every Sunday; theirs rested on the holy day. Their Mother was a talkative half British woman who rapped on and on from topic to topic. Our mother was a conservative woman who only talked so much when she was in court—or scolding us. I didn’t wear earrings and trousers—they adorned themselves in gold, short skirts and skinny jeans.
Despite these—our differences, our hearts still matched and fused as one. We were unmistakably family-who hung around together, had sleepovers and stuff.. The story was a predictable one for us—we would grow up together—the older sister would marry my elder brother, Funke and I would work in the same Law firm and get an apartment together.
We’d planned our future—sketching the kind of house we’d like to build and the kind of businesses we’d like to start. We shared secrets under candle light and laughed to hilarious Little Miss Jocelyn scenes. We danced to Michael Jackson songs and mimicked Beyonce under the rain.
Even when we moved on to ISL; acronym for the University’s secondary school, and were unfortunately separated in different classes, our friendship strengthened. We spent breaks together, and brainstormed ideas to make money.
We were eleven when we planned our first estate party. A grand affair, no one expected eleven year olds to be able to pull off. It was a December party—an extravagant affair that grew even more extravagant as we advanced in age. With all the support from our parents and Siblings, Funke and I, almost twin sisters, made a dramatic career shift from wanting to be Lawyers to wanting to be Event planners.
It was the year I turned fourteen, everything changed—a one of a kind tragedy. Father was being transferred to a different part of Lagos—a promotion in fact. It was a good thing to them but not for we children.
Since the time we’d started planning our lives, we’d never envisioned that there’d be any change as having to move. We were to leave the four storey house in Harrison Estate and move to Lekki Phase one where another school waited for my brother and I. It was a tragedy, but we promised to keep in touch.
We kept in touch the first year but by the second year, we started to drift. She was reaching out to me but I was smoke in the clouds, ungraspable. This and other factors made our hearts unfuse and return to their rightful places. Time passed and sometimes, the name Funke won’t hit the right chords in me.
I was growing up I told myself. I watched as my dreams collapsed and made no attempt to start over again. Social networks somehow still kept us in touch, but there was the barrier that even the internet couldn’t prevent. The distance was there, taking a step further apart each day, until we were both at the far ends of the earth, on opposite sides, separated by a mass of people, activities and distractions.
I stare at her picture blinking back the tears in my eyes. She has a broad smile, one I loved and loved to imitate. I can’t smile back at her. It’s just impossible. My heart and head pound; one’s the talking drum; the latter is the modern drum set—hitting it on every side. I close my eyes. I close my mind. How can this happen? I ask. Her voice rings in my ear. I feel her skin on mine.
I long for the days when we ran in the sand at the backyard of the four storey house, or when we acted out beauty pageants. I long for the time when we were kids with big dreams. I wipe my eyes. I whisper her name.
There was this time I saw her before I got admission into the law school. . I was driving but she was in a bus—and I wove ferociously at her as I wound down the glass of the passenger’s seat. But that was it. I was too overwhelmed for words. And then the bus zoomed away.
Was there something I could have done? Should I have known she would be gone away from me soon? If I had known, I’d have come back to her. Because my heart was a magnet, always wanting to reach out for hers.
I’m overwhelmed now at her death. That she is dead is a shock. That she has been dead for over two months is another shocker. Is this how much we were far apart? How is it that I didn’t know?
I know that I kept on saying I needed to see Funke. I kept on promising to send her a message on facebook and get a date with her—I kept this in mind every day for three months and finally, yesterday, I made a move.
I went to their house in the university, a house they had gotten a few months after we moved away. I got the address from a mutual friend. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I planned to surprise them. I had no idea if she’d be at home—she was after all, a medical student now. But somehow, I found myself there, knocking.
It was Aunt Florence, their Mother who opened the door. She had tired eyes. She looked older than ever. What had time done to this once beautiful woman I asked myself? She broke the news after a glass of water and light talk.
I stared, too stunned to speak and after some moments of awkward silence took my leave. I observed the university roads last night, looking for the spot where she died–where she’d had the car accident. Her mother had said it was not too far from University’s secondary school. I stepped out and shouted at the heavens. I was angry at everything, mostly at myself.
This was the worst kind of tragedy—not one I’d ever imagined.
I stare at her fair arms. For moments, I linger in their embrace.
Then I drop the picture, move to the kitchen and bother about the kind of wine in the fridge not being the kind I want at the moment. It’s a fruity wine called Eva, but I’d asked my cousin to stock the fridge with alcoholic wine—something right for the sadness in my heart.
I let it bother me but I finally smile, remove the cap and drink straight from the bottle. This is the kind of tragedy I want.