Two things happened on Monday to make it noteworthy. First of all, it was a day when prayers were said for all souls in purgatory; or simply a day for the ‘Prayer of All Souls.’ I didn’t even know of such a day until I espied the update on my friend’s Blackberry Messenger timeline: ‘May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in perfect peace…Amen.’
Soon after this, I began noticing such updates popping up all over the social media feeds, people celebrating the souls of those departed. None of this activity however made an impact on me until I got a Facebook notification. It was a comment on an old post, a very old post, a Facebook note in fact, in those days before the existence of MyMindSnaps, when everything I wrote went up on my Facebook notes. Someone had apparently been playing undertaker and unearthed one such note, read and commented on it. When I got the notification, of course I investigated it. I clicked my way on to this old post, and after checking out and responding to this comment, on a whim prompted by a tug of nostalgia, I began skimming the smorgasbord of comments posted against that note. I laughed afresh at the funny ones and smiled wistfully at the ones that simply appreciated what had been read.
I have a number of friends who are diehard cheerleaders of my writing. They’ll always have something heartwarming to say about anything I pen, no matter how gratified or unfulfilled I may feel about the piece. Nonny Anyakwo was one such friend. He always seemed to believe that the road to my success would end up in Hollywood, you know, hobnobbing with the likes of J. K. Rowling and John Grisham, all of us elite novelists who’ve had our books adapted into blockbuster motion pictures. I remember he’d always say to me that whenever Hollywood comes knocking, I should let him know, and he’d be packed and waiting at the airport for us to jet off to become Beverley Hills neighbours to Stephanie Meyers.
Nonny dreamed big dreams for himself, for me, for us. To listen to him speak would feel like you were promenading up a stairwell of cottony clouds, right up there where all dreams come true.
And then, one day, he was made to stop dreaming. All that energy, those promises, those aspirations – the entirety was stamped out of existence when he fell to the bullet of a gunman. His death didn’t make sense…young death scarcely does. I was hurt by it. I was broken by it. I was enraged by it. In time though, I healed. With time, my memories of Nonny were no longer tainted by the cruel and abrupt cessation of his life.
I remembered him all over again on Monday – his dreams…that energy…those promises.
And that was Monday.
Tuesday dawned like the second sibling to a petulant firstborn. Soon after I got up from bed, I got swept up by the maelstrom of the day’s activities. This is Lagos, and the moment you step out the door, the city only affords you the rare opportunity to catch your breath during the course of your day.
And so, caught my breath, I did. In that moment, there came another Facebook notification (Bless you, Mark Zuckerberg). This time, it was the reminder of the birthdays being celebrated that day on my Timeline. I went through the list, and came upon a name – Ese Ekong.
The thing that drew me to Ese in the early stages of our acquaintanceship was the well of vulnerability I sensed in him, an echo of the turbulence that raged inside me. I saw a great many parts of myself in him, and the feeling must have been mutual, because we struck up a friendship really fast. We talked a lot. He had demons. He had pain. He had darkness. He told me about them, and together, we strived to help him heal. There were a great many times he made me feel like a big brother to him, even though the disparity in our ages was not that far apart.
And then, that friendship too came to abrupt but shaky end, much like that ambiguity an Alzheimer’s patient feels when he walks into a room and suddenly forgets what it was that brought him all the way there, a bit of mental awareness he’d possessed just seconds before. There was no reportage of Ese’s death, no feedback from kidnappers, no knowledge of any insurgency in the area where he was last seen. My friend just up and disappeared on his way home from a long distance trip. For months after his disappearance, there was a fierce exchange of information between friends and loved ones, as hope thrived and supplications were said. He would be found, we believed. He had to be found.
He is still not found.
The months have lengthened and hope has diminished. I know of mutual friends who have given him for dead. On some level, I have to. But there is this kind of pain that constricts my heart when I think about giving him entirely up, this nagging restlessness that comes from closure not properly attained, this guilt that throbs and chastises me on the risk of shutting the door on him too soon.
And so, as I mentally lit a candle for him on his birthday, I wondered if that lone flame was to celebrate his birthday or commemorate his demise.
That was Tuesday.
As for us, the living who are left behind, we’ll be fine.
Or we may never be.
That is after all what Life is about. It has questions whose answers Death oftentimes provides.
I am @Walt_Shakes on Twitter