Today, I remember.
On most days I forget, the memories hidden beneath the boulders in the darkest and deserted part of my unconscious lest the gall spill forth and poison my entire existence.
But every now and then I remember, snippets, fleeting events and images. They sneak up on me and wrap their icy hands around me taking me on a journey to another time.
I remember being punished by you, kneeling down with my arms raised for hours. I must have been bad for you were sweet and would never hurt anybody.
I remember the burns on your body as you tripped over baby brother crouching behind the curtain doing God knows what and spilling the hot water you were carrying in a bowl all over yourself. I felt for you deeply.
I remember that one time when you allowed a stranger into our house and slept off on the couch. I remember your cries as you received strokes after stroke for your error of judgment.
I remember your screams of agony in the early hours of the morning of that fateful day as you held your head in what was the beginning of an agonizing journey towards Never Land leaving behind spent parents emotionally drained and bitter, bewildered siblings too young to understand fully the complexities of life and its brevity and ephemerality. Sometimes I wonder if it was all a dream: did I really have a sister? Did she really die? Why did she have to die? The gem of the house, the glue that held the family together and the apple of her father’s eyes.
I remember your smiles, forever immortalized in the still images printed on glossy papers. I wonder where they are now. It became too painful to look at them at a point and they had to be buried under old discarded clothes at the bottom of the trunk box. It had to be done, mother won’t stop crying. It was killing her. It killed me, of this I am sure.
I remember the nights spent outside in the cold, lying on hard benches, at the back of churches trying to move the hand of God to save you. I remember wondering why we were not at home under the comfort of warm blankets and the softness of the king-sized bed in the children’s room.
I remember witnessing the horror of that night. I was the only other person with you when it had started. I was confused and powerless to help you and just froze on the spot. I didn’t know it then but I think I do now, that night scarred me for life. It was the beginning of my face off with the cold, hard and brutal side of life. Since then, I have had many face offs. I don’t know what to make of the battles but I only know that I am still alive and breathing.
I remember the last time you walked out of the house, frail, thin, a shadow of your former self yet you walked tall as much as your strength could carry you. You were strong and fought to the end. I am not strong, I am falling apart.
I remember your favorite dress. A violet flowing gown with a sash at the waist. Or is that my last image of you? I can’t tell. I can’t remember beyond these details or maybe I don’t want to remember. Maybe I need to forget to stay sane and to keep it together or at least pretend to keep it together.
You left and everything fell apart. Mother is not the same again. She tried to be strong for us and did her utmost best and now she is spent, aging far more than her years. But it is all good, she has us to carry her now. Father misses you too, you were his favorite and he hardly ever had time for us. He needed you to love us but you were gone and he couldn’t love us. His love was tied to you and you took it with you.
I wished you hadn’t left us. I could have used a big sister, someone to look up to. Rather, I am all alone, drifting ashore life’s waters with no guide and fighting to stay afloat, trying to chart a course amidst the tempest.
It has been hard.
Funmilayo, you lived up to your name and brought joy to us but it didn’t last long.
I wished it did…
I had a sister once…and I miss her.