‘I thought I could stop
time by taking apart
Nothing can keep. Nothing
is kept. Only kept track of’
—Paul Tran (Galileo)
Time is stealing him from me. As one day bleeds into another, I find that I can no longer recall his scent. The same scent I sought out daily, burying my nose in the crevice of his neck, taking deep, long breaths. In this sacred ritual, I was absorbing his essence and impressing it unto the surface of my lungs.
Every breath was home, I am homeless now.
Nothing can keep and nothing is kept so I do not know how I expected to keep these memories of him. I do not know how I was so foolish as to underestimate the power of time. Perhaps it is not foolishness, perhaps it is the fact that our love was galactic, of another world so I assumed it was impervious to time. It was because every time I looked into his eyes, I saw eternity. I can no longer see his eyes.
I am fighting a battle with time.
On some days, I win. On those days, I see us sitting at Terrakulture, laughing and sharing food, our spirits dancing in the wind to a song only we can hear. On those days, my face is cradled in his palm and he whispers life into my ears. On those days, I can feel the heat of his breath on my neck, I can feel his tongue trace along my belly, I can see the desire in his eyes, I can smell the lust that always simmered between us. The days I win, I feel like a god. It feels like we defeated the darkness and that we are still bathing in the marvellous light.
In my victory, there is deceit.
The days I lose are brutal. There is a visceral pain that comes with the betrayal of your mind failing to remember happiness. On the days I lose, we never existed. It’s a kind of paralysis to plead with your mind to remember joy, and it refuses. The world in which he and I loved has been consumed by fire and submerged in water. Our love is Sodom, is Gomorah, is the sunken city of Atlantis. Our love is the wood that termites have eaten and turned to dust. Our love is the carcass that vultures are waiting to eat. Our love is a nameless and shallow grave. On the days I lose, our love is nothingness.
In my defeat, there is truth.
Time will kill everything. Even us.
Time has killed everything. Our love is buried beneath the passage of time.
Nothing can keep, nothing is kept.
I cannot keep you.
’They are in the past now, just fading memories.
This journey changes everything, nothing is the same
The person you shared your life with no longer knows your name.’
—Ruth Murphy (Alzheimer’s Journey)
I could never forget his name. Even if I forgot all else. What does forgetting even look like? How do you forget a man whose pieces you search for in the mouths of other men? How do you forget a man whose dreams you carried in your soul? How do you forget a man whose laughter lulled you to sleep? How do you?
What does forgetting look like when even after I am in the arms of another, I replay our moments in my mind like my favourite film. There is a kind of love that keeps memories alive, despite frequent efforts to bury them in the sand. Bodies that refuse to rot, memories that refuse to fade. I read a lot about people suffering from Alzheimer’s to understand how they forget everything, even the children they split their bodies to birth.
One of my favourite films is The Notebook. In it, a pair of lovers wrote a book chronicling their epic love story and the man reread it to his wife when she developed Alzheimer’s and forgot him, forgot their children, forgot their love. As he read every line, I could always see the desperation in his eyes as he pleaded with her to remember him. She never did. Then at the end, as he read her the same story he had read her a million times, magic happened and she remembered. The power of love caused all her memories to come back to her and she called him by his name. In that moment, the man felt validation, relief and most of all, I’m sure he felt their love was undeniable. Even though time had attempted to steal him from her, it turned out that time had merely borrowed him. Love will resurrect memories. Even from the deepest abyss where we tossed them, the power of love means they do not die.
Whenever I think of resurrection, I think of Ezekiel 37, the prophet writes about the valley of dry bones where God led and commanded him to breathe life into dead things:
“He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry……. So, I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.”
This is the way love resurrects dead memories. This is why they never die. No matter how hard we try.
But what do we do in the meantime? How do we make sure memories are just memories? How do we heal and not chase after a love that no longer exists? How do we make sure memories do not form a noose around our necks? How do we free our hearts to love again? How do we win a battle against time? I will tell you how I did it.
First, chose the rest of you. Choose your head, your fingers, your neck. Choose the birthmark behind your ear. Choose all the little things that make you, you. Look at yourself and will yourself to become whole. Remember the time before them. Remember that you existed, that you were whole. Command your Ori to take you back, to completion. Then your heart will come back, in a slightly different form. A little bruised but you will be whole.
Second, cry. But not too much. Just enough to wash away the pain. To rinse away regret. To baptise you as you reincarnate. Your rebirth will be glorious. But as you cry, you must keep the water beneath your neck. Do not drown. Tears have a way of blurring your memory. Welcome the mirage. Embrace the distortion of your past. It is necessary. We must confuse time, weaken its hold on us.
Three, starve the darkness. Feed the light. Always feed the light. In the darkness, you will never win against time.
Four; laugh, write, jump. Do not be still. Time is always moving, so must you. Do not allow sorrow to take hold within you. Do not allow sorrow to build a mansion of despair within you. Seek joy. Run. Sing. Do not become a statue.
Five. Love again. Love yourself again. Let love bleed from every crevice the pain is pouring from. Love is the ultimate joiner. Never forget. Your Maker will. You will be whole again.
‘But though ocean waves may sever
I from thee, and thee from me,
Still this constant heart will never,
Never cease to think of thee’
—Mary Weston Fordham (For Who)
Fire is as formidable as time. I read somewhere that ‘love is friendship set on fire’. Maybe that is why we never forget those we loved. Burning something is an irreversible process. It can never be undone. Ashes will always remain ashes. The Phoenix does not exist in our world. If you freeze someone’s heart, it can thaw. If you burn it, it is burnt.
Perhaps memories drenched in the intensity of love are not permeable to the decay of time. Oceans have indeed severed me from him but yet the smell of his perfume stops me in my tracks. Yet when I close my eyes I can see the gap in his teeth and a mouth spilling over with laughter. When I close my eyes, I hear the melody of his voice. There is a kind of imprint a soulmate brands on your heart, comparable to tribal marks my people bear. The passage of time does nothing to erase the ila of an 80-year-old woman. With wrinkled skin, sagging breasts and eyes that have seen the passage of a thousand moons, her marks will never fade. They sit on her face with the confidence of those that cannot be moved. This is how my memory of him exists.
They are tribal marks that have weathered all the storms, yet remain seated, remain present. Several moons have passed and I remember him like I left his bed last night. Time has tried to fade them the way an ugly scar heals. Yet scars remain, even when they are healed. With time, scars become a thing of beauty or a nonentity unworthy of any attention. Who am I, this small girl, attempting to battle against the elements? What madness has possessed me to exchange blows with time? It is the madness of love. It is the intensity of a thing that refuses to die.
When they ask me who I am and what I have done, I will tell them I am Mofiyinfoluwa, the one who battled time. And won.
Mofiyinfoluwa Okupe is a young Nigerian woman studying law at Durham University with slim chances of practice. She is addicted to Twitter and occasionally publishes pieces on her Medium account. Her work is published on The Kalahari Review. Her work major revolves around the complexity of human emotions and how we as human beings deal with them. When she is not writing, you can find her fingers deep in a bowl of Nkowbi or affirming the beauty of fat black women.
This entry appeared in The Memory Issue