You absolutely have to read all this before listening to the mp3 file.
Beloved. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?❤️
The year is 2018. I am walking towards the hospital section of my school. The walk is a long one but I do not mind. My uni is reputed to have one of the largest land areas in Nigeria, and this holds true even in the College of Health Sciences.
The balmy breeze slaps my face in a continuous rush. It is slightly cold, and I tuck my hands in the pockets of the oversized sweatshirt I had on. It belonged to a friend from four years ago, and this is one of the many things I remember him with. We barely talk these days, both of us separated by time and distance but he remains one of my favourite ones.
I am close to the gen area now. It is opposite the behavioural science department of the school. That department was once my favourite place to read at some point but that has changed now. The noise from the gen is distracting so I unplugged my earpiece and switched off my phone’s light. Up on to this point, the path is unlit and untarred, but the light from the hospital at this point makes it easy to see unaided. I am almost at the hospital complex and I will be seeing J soon.
J is one of my closest friends here in college, and he stays off-campus. I forget what he came to do tonight but meeting up like this isn’t unusual. J is a music connoisseur, his eyes always lighting up when listening to expertly produced beats, always getting off on seamless track transitions, and forever fixing me up with new music and updating lit playlists. Meeting with him now, and he tells me he has just copped a new album. He handed me an earpiece and urges me to listen to a track. It is a dance number and my upper body sways to it. We are on the second floor of the hospital and the wide expanse of the hospital and school area is visible from here. In the distance, we could see the glittering lights of the main campus.
J is a dance freak as well although he says he needs to learn more dance moves, and he practices frequently. I am swaying to the music, but he is moving his whole body. I tease him about his dancing, and he challenges me into one. I know next to nothing about dance, and I have learned how to sway my body while sitting. Dancing requires a willingness to look stupid, and that is my major grouse with it; although my body will tell you it’s ‘cause it struggles to be bound into certain motions dictated by beats. Nonetheless, we turn the music up, pose side by side on the second floor of the hospital with the breeze blowing in the dim balcony, and perform uncoordinated dance routines while looking over the university grounds. Two figures dancing into the night.
It is 2020 now, and this year has been heavy. Continuously dishing out large boluses of tragedy punctuated by little joys. October has been the heaviest so far with everyone I know being continuously hurt over and over. Joy felt like an alien thing and grief hung heavily in the air. I had my first panic attack in over four months, and I cried at merely listening to the radio or scrolling through Twitter. I watched as my friend cried on a video call, and unable to comfort her, I could only whisper incoherently until she stopped. I and a couple of friends clutched at joy by sharing funny stickers, videos and teasing one another. We did random check-ins to ascertain others were fine. We celebrated one another wins, even when it didn’t feel like a win. And we applied ourselves and taught one another not to forget. This time is an exercise in remembrance and we sought to actively remember and seek out reminders.
The 2016 memory is one of my favourite memories in school, and I am pleased to have shared this with you. The human brain – at least my own brain – seems to forget certain experiences quickly. And there is no telling which memory it decides to forget and which one to keep. We do not get to choose. Forgetting is a passive activity that occurs with little active input from us. In fact, if you must remember to forget, chances that it’ll be harder to do so. This makes it obvious that remembrance is a verb.
The act of bringing forth memories and actively searing it onto your neocortex and amygdala in order not to forget is an active assignment. In 2020, I think of it as an act of defiance. You see, everything everywhere is urging you to forget. The sweet fallibility of the human mind, the activity of the government gaslighting us, older generation saying ‘maybe it’s for the best, you should all move on’. Everything is reinforcing selective amnesia. But it is at this point that I become a student of remembrance. For Tina. For Kolade Johnson. For Jimoh Isiaq. For Oke. For the victims of the Lekki Massacre. For the unnamed fallen. For the unknown fallen. For them all.
This is however a heaviness I sometimes don’t know if I can shoulder. And it is for this reason that I dig up memories of happy joyful times. Of 2018 and of childhood. Of the beautiful times in between. Of late-night gist sessions with my family. Of sleepovers with my girlfriends. Of dependable memories in a stable controlled environment. Of daily school routines, repeated rhythms and patterns. And I learn to seek joy, permit myself to feel them.
It is a marathon, and I am willing to be present in my full form, in full remembrance, in full capacities, of joy and sorrow, each fleeting and cyclical; and this is how I know best, to show up.
The days will be arduous […] so you need an arsenal of laughter behind you for various heartbreaks that are on the way. You know, that doesn’t mean that we won’t win, whatever winning looks like, but all victories come with heartbreaks along the way – Jericho Brown.
I know it has been heavy lately, Beloved, but all we’ve got is ourselves, and I believe we’ll make it through. I hope this makes it a little less heavy and a lot less alone for you.
I’ve got the gist wrapped up for you in the audio file. Thankfully, I was able to convert it to mp3. Phew, I almost lost hope. If you made it here (and didn’t play it before reading as I said not to) here’s your cue to go listen to it.
Sigh, I can relate to this
Relevant links: My Al Jazeera piece and the piece on Chief Funmilayo Ransome Kuti. If you’ll like to cop the anthology I contributed to, you can get it here. If you are bothered about putting your card details on the site, you can get it from me directly. All you have to do is reply to this mail. I’m counting on your support.
Stay safe and well, Beloved
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So long, my friend❤️