The old man was going to fall. His cane was not strong enough to bear his weight and his legs didn’t seem fit for the job either, so I reached out to hold his hand.
“Always hold his hand!”
I shake my head fiercely. I hate when my mind does that to me. I hate that I am forced to remember bits and pieces of my life that I want nothing more but to forget. I want to push the “forget” button so desperately, but right now I give him my hand and he places his hand in mine, the frailty of it an almost painful reminder of all the things I try to forget. When I look at his face, his smile is so grateful, so relieved and for a second, I feel good, like I may be redeemable but then the memories come trickling out like spilled water from an overburdened kitchen towel. So, I look at his hand instead. I focus on the spots of hyper-pigmentation, on the lines which my mother always said came from all the farm work she had to do growing up.
“You have such an easy life, you don’t do anything! All I asked you to do was watch him”
I leave the old man sitting at the bus stop, I smile at him, wave and keep walking. I walk a lot these days. My friend used to say that only people who cannot be alone with their thoughts listen to music while they run or walk. I like to drown in my thoughts. I like to feel them latch onto my heart and pound away. Maybe I’ll feel less when I have no heart at all. I like to walk, even when it’s so cold and the wind blows until I can no longer feel my cheekbones. I used to only like to walk with one person. He used to be my person. My person was born seven years ago. He liked to build sandcastles at the beach and eat ice cream until his entire face knew what it tasted like. My person was a really little boy. We called him Mudia.
“Momo, can we go to the beach?”
“As soon as I’m done with this book, okay?
We went everywhere together. Half the time, he chose the places. He wrote me the best love letters. I’d find them on my table in the mornings and they’d say things like “you are the bestest sistuh in the world”. He was smart like that. I pull my coat closer and it’s like I can still smell him on my skin from carrying him whenever I could. My mother is a single parent. My dad died just before Mudia was born, almost immediately after we moved here. She works three jobs and she’s always exhausted. But she does her best. So, it was always the “Mudia and Esomo” show around here. Mudia and I were twelve years apart, so sometimes I was too much of a teenager to appreciate all the coolness that he was, but I swear I was a good sister. I promise you that I loved him, that I still love him and I miss him like a part of me died. Everything reminds me of him.
“Sit here, I’ll be just a minute, okay”
“I‘m hungry, where are you going?”
“Mudia, don’t whine, I just need to talk to get something from the store and I don’t want you walking up and down. Stay here with Mr Bean, okay?”
“Okay, but hurry”
I am jarred out of my thoughts by the blaring of an ambulance as it speeds past. I watch it until I cannot see the lights anymore and then I start to cry. I’ve cried everyday since Mudia died two years ago. The wound is so fresh and like an infected wound, it refuses to heal. It reopens every time I hear a child sneeze or say “I love you”. It opens whenever I see my mother, whenever she does anything for me; I don’t deserve anything nice. It reopens when I find my Mudia’s letters or a video of us on my computer. Everything breaks my heart these days. It takes the smell of burning to cause me a panic attack.
Something’s burning.” Mudia! What have you done this time? I said stay pu- Mudia!!”
He’s blackened. Almost totally charred. At the feet of an electric socket. The bread and juice fall to the ground and everything else seems to happen in slow motion. Shaking him, calling 911, calling my mother and watching her accuse me.
How do you ever forget that? How do you forget what they smelled like? What their laugh sounded like? I need someone to teach me. I fear that I ceased to exist after he died. I cannot remember any day after that. They’re all just one day, one long day of walking and only stopping to cry or sleep. Every day, I try to remember if I’d told him how much I love him that day. I wonder if he’d said the same. I wonder if he hates me for leaving him behind, for not taking him with me. I’m sorry I didn’t take him, I just didn’t want him to get sick.
A snowflake falls to the earth. Mudia loved to play in the snow.