Tuesday, September 4, 2012

49 seconds. (Yellow Brick Road)

Clear, bright blue skies of Monday morning. I’m headed to the office, cursing in the traffic over lousy drivers and obnoxious okada riders. 7:45, I’m thinking about my clients with a 9am appointment; the hole I just noticed in my jean and how I need to watch the new episode of KUWTK over lunch. Life isn’t minute for me. And then the phone rings. Its quick what my heart does, it stops. Literally cages in my chest, somehow still struggling to jump out through my mouth. The voice. It is sympathetic. It knows confusion in the way it goes, “he’s dead”. Then the okadas and the meetings didn’t mean anything to me. He was gone. My precious little Chimaobi.

My mouth holds a circle for a while, and I think my feet goes moist too. I’m not sure, the car behind honks too loudly seconds later. And those hawking in the traffic hug cars tightly while a bargaining takes place. The birds wiggle in the wires stretching across the street. Life stopped for me. Just that once.

I spent the summer of 2010 with my cousin and her 2 beautiful kids. She being so young, we had so much to bond over. Tv shows. The Kardashians. Basically just about anything. I was new in town so she showed me around, had fun and served as a stylist for her even. Over the time, her son was endeared to me. The pale green leaves will catch our laughs during the evenings and I’d throw him up to the skies occasionally and catch him as his eyes widens with terror. He would laugh. I too would. I’d kiss him when his laughter breaks down to his jaw and his mom would joke, “oh you better not be gay my son, you’re enjoying keside too much”. We all laughed.

So on hearing such news from her brother, I pulled over and texted her to say I heard the news, and that I love and I’m praying for her. Did she need to hear that? I don’t know. I just didn’t have words to say. One would think it would be a cold day in hell when words fail me, but there it was. I couldn’t articulate.

I was almost numb, and I felt awful about it but the rest of the day went by as planned. I buried my self in work- shutting out every thought, feelings, everything. But at night, just like the crawling ants on sugary stuffs; the guilt snuck up on my blind side. The guilt of not calling her was killing me more than the actual tragedy. Snuffing me out like a twine rope around my neck. I still wouldn’t call her.  

So after consulting on what to do, I decided it was cowardly to not phone. And asides that, I just couldn’t keep the guilt at bay. It was everywhere, hanging around me like a loose button. I called her on Tuesday. It rang 3times before she picked. Ofcourse I knew she had my contact, but the panic that overwhelmed me, made me stutter, “this is keside”. Her voice, light and cold like the fading fickle of harmathan birthed a lifeless “I know”.

It lasted 49seconds. I didn’t say anything. She didn’t bother either. Just the clinched, “God will guide you through and I’d keep praying for you”. Again, I didn’t know if that was what she wanted to hear but after she broke down in tears, I just thought that would make a perfect conclusion. So, that was it. 49seconds.

Yes, the point about praying for her, I wasn’t too sure of. What exactly would she want to hear? That there’s a loving God who allows crappy things to happen to his children because he knows they can bear it? What if, perhaps she will never be able to “bear” this loss, or get over grief? Could that also be God’s plan to make her miserable for life? Because some people actually do get stuck in grief. Some try to numb their pain with drugs or alcohol or sexual indulgence. Some withdraw and isolate themselves. Some look to find help in the company of those who have walked the road before them. Some surround themselves with mementos of their lost loved one’s life, and some need to rid themselves of the unbearable reminders of what they have lost. Some couples are driven apart. Some become closer. Some embrace the comfort to be found in religious faith, others blame God. 

Blame God, yes I thought. Maybe I should’ve asked her to do that. Perhaps it would make her feel better. I wonder if she’s shoved with so many religious bants from every open space around her that just makes her want to yell or break things. Maybe the cruelty of religion is choking her to death. I feel guilty again, for promising her that God will heal and give her strength. There is no way to predict how this experience will affect and reorder one’s life and relationships. It is an emotional tsunami. And it was totally inappropriate and cruel to demand that she conform to anyone else’s expectation or religious timeline.

When something utterly devastating and nerve wrecking happens, my faith tends to lean towards a bear market. It staggers. It’s sort of like how we feel good when we think we have a free system, where everyone gets a fair chance in democracy, even though the opposite is true, as a plutocracy disguises itself as a democracy. Its the same with loss, death. Tragedy. You feel deceived about the promises of joy and goodness. You feel ripped off, somewhat.

You just wonder. For a while longer than your faith permits you too. You wonder a little, then you dare to ask it. Maybe you don’t even wonder. You just question God.

Chimaobi. Young one; so promising and full of life. Well he’s gone now. And I know. I know that people die and I know that terrible things happen in this world. I’m not oblivious to that. What boogles me is knowing all these and still NOT living life to its maximum. 

I also wonder why people live the way society expects them to. Yes, this is a societal statement. It is a statement about our rejection as humans, of anarchy, or extreme idealism, and our need to be put in line, and told what to do by embracing the idea of “law”. People who are ashamed to be themselves in public or those afraid to speak up on injustice. What is even worse off than those who conform to these visible restrictions are those who cave in on what the “law” feels is emotionally correct. Those damned fellows in unhappy marriages because of the religious stigma on divorce. It hurts to see such because there’s a poignant saddening beauty the minute you realize you just don’t love someone again. 

Love, it’s a curious thing. When it’s fresh it is new, it is exciting and you wake up every morning just aching to spend another day with the person you love. Then you get married, have kids perhaps and things change. You fight. You fight over NOTHING. You grow to loathe the person you used to love to wake up next to. The world closes in on you and things don’t seem the same anymore. You daydream about what life used to be like, how much love you used to be in and ask yourself – what happened? But you don’t do anything. You sit in there and ponder. Maybe sin a little, but you still stay in the marriage. You’re “keeping the law”.

Seemingly, we have become too lazy to realize that tomorrow isn’t promised. That everything that needs done is for the purpose of today. We just tail blindly with the haunting social commentary and then somehow we realize through the course of life (perhaps not the severity but) that we are sort of stuck in this cycle, and instead of doing the right thing and acknowledging and changing it, we say “Best man wins!”. Or something that justifies our laziness to exhaust today’s potentials.

I still fear for her. I lay in my bed whilst the birds and the frogs present an unpleasant harmony, the dark blue clouds host an array of glittering stars that seem to be spread out carelessly. I’m listening to an indie artiste sing about death. Or heartbreak. Or something, but I fear. I fear because the coward in me can’t find ways to communicate with her. I fear because, the reality of the unknown and the unforseen could be far more deadly. I think a lot too. Of how this would affect her life, and most selfishly, how it would affect our relationship. 

I know a little about grief. Recently, I have been interested in exploring grief as an emotion, because I firmly believe that unless experienced on a deep, personal level, its sort of an emotion that is not possible to describe. It’s also a stigma to talk about it and sharing it with others brings a little or no consolation but it all comes back to the fact that grief is an individual process. There is no one way to experience it. It’s not a scheduled allotment of time; it could begin directly after a tragedy, but then again, it could begin five years later, or ten, and it’s going to last for as long as it’s going to last. Some people have the coping skills to move on. Others remain in despair for the rest of their lives. Is the former the right way to go about it? I don’t know. Coping skills could refer to anything. If one person finds solace in friends, family, or faith, another person invariably takes comfort in an emotional vacuum of his or her own creation. They may plunge into work or distract themselves endlessly with personal projects. They may even abandon their lives altogether and then delude themselves into believing that nothing bad ever happened.

But grief is always personal. You never get over the loss, but I guess with time, your feelings do change. It is like carrying a needle/safety pin around in your pocket. Its light. Weightless. You carry it around for so long, sometimes you forget it is there. Then one day, for no reason or one, you reach into your pocket for something, and suddenly there it is. It cuts you and drips blood. The pain becomes fresh, suddenly, and you’re back to that phase. Its almost like you never left.

My cousin will now be able to anticipate the shock of the first time someone asks her “So how many children do you have?” and she will know that her feelings of overprotection for her remaining daughter are normal and to be expected. 

I’ve been talking to a few people trying to get me out of this funk and I’d casually ask them, “What if your perfect life morphed into something dark and dreary, with one day following the next in slow motion?”. One told me she doesn’t live her life on “what ifs”. It was so powerful and well put together in the way it seemed like she really lived life to the fullest. 

So I suggest you just live your life that way too. Without the what-ifs. Just put one foot infront of the other because things happen. Unfair things, your toys get taken while you’re a kid. Painful things, accidents. Lustful things cycle during your teenage years. Confusing things. People that are lost and struggling to find their way home. People ending their lives on purpose. Brief beauty. Friends disappearing into the mist, then emerging, and on down that road you keep going. And going. And going.

Life is non stop. There’s no trying to turn around and change what has happened. This hit me so hard today. I hung out with my bestfriend today and my beautiful, amazing sisters returned from camp. Its the most I’ve been happy all week. And suddenly, I felt guilty. I wanted to curl my lips and sulk some more. Listen to more Bon Iver and wallow in misery about how life dealt me a great blow.

And then it hit me. Life doesn’t stop for me to grief. Its a harsh reality. Even though it did stop, those seconds on hearing my cousin tell me about Mobi’s death. It stopped. The air hung so far away and for less than a minute, life stopped for me. But then it moved on. People kept dying in different places, hearts were shattered and crappy things kept happening to innocent people.

So that’s it. You just keep walking. Learn from the loss and keep going. Finding that high road is hard. But I guess you learn through loss. It becomes your guide. What worked? What didn’t. Just 49seconds, and down that road you go again.


1, Normal Song- Perfume Genius.

We obviously connect lyrics to our personal realities and I have done the same with this song. The words from the singer pour out so delicately when he pleads.

"Comfort the girl.
Help her understand
No memory
No matter how sad
And no violence
No matter how bad
Can darken the heart
Or tear it apart"

Beautiful music right there. Says everything I wish I could say to her since God won't let me know if he's heard mine.

2, Sorrow- The National.

I think this song is about depression. He talks about how sorrow "found him when he was young" and how it "won." Depression can be overwhelming and consuming for some people, and he really emphasizes that. It channels on the dangers of self pity which is a potentially lethal state of mind.