I met this man last year. Just once was all it took for him to leave an indelible mark. We kept in touch through emails mostly. I kept saying i was gonna call. And then yesterday, like mud splattered on my windshield, is the news that he passed.
So I wrote this last night while I could not sleep and while it rained. It is also a result of reading Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much is True. I love twins by the way but you guys know that by now.
Rest Well Kunle Olaifa. And thank you.
His sadness is like a waterfall. Beautiful and rare. Powerful and never-ending. Loud yet melodious.
I do not know its source. I only know that sometimes the waterfall slows to a trickle and that these are my favorite times.
I watch him sleep sometimes. I watch, like a guardian, seeking the tributaries of the river that feeds his sadness. I watch and count the worry lines on his brow, number the gray hairs on his head, fight away the demons that threaten to take him from me.
When we go out together, I hold his hand and lead. I take paths that lead away from the world’s sadness so that he has no chance to gaze upon these and get even sadder. I take the paths known only to robins, those excellent birds of new roads.
I have never asked why he is so sad. I have never asked why when he is inside me, his eyes fill up with the beginnings of a waterfall.
He is perfect in spite of this sadness. He is whole irrespective of the tear in his heart. He just doesn’t know it.
He showed up at my door early this morning and even though I looked hard through the peephole, I couldn’t find the sadness. I opened the door to let him and a couple of autumn leaves in.
‘We are going on a road trip!’ he exclaimed happily.
‘To where?’ I asked, laughing at his animated face.
He shook his head, stretched out a hand and pulled me out of the house.
I don’t know how long we drove. I fell asleep at some point and only woke up when the car came to a halt.
‘I wanted to show you where it all began, where it all ended,’ he said quietly as we walked past headstones, the ghosts that owned them, angels and flowers.
‘I was not born alone and every day since he died in the car accident that should have killed us both, I have wondered if I missed my destiny by failing to die with him. ‘
He was telling me nothing I did not already know so I waited in silence for him to continue.
Somewhere, someone was sobbing and I wondered if it was at fresh grave. I hoped that it was a new loss, a new pain and not an old wound that had failed to heal like that of the man that held my hand.
‘Here we are,’ He said as we stopped in front of a marble headstone.
January 31, 1981- August 20, 2014.
Beloved son, beloved twin, beloved friend.
We said nothing for a while, letting the wind do our mourning for us.
‘Tell me about him,’ I finally said.
‘He was a good man, so good I wake up sometimes in a sweat wondering if death is still out there, having finally realised it made a mistake and took the wrong twin because someone so good shouldn’t have to die, you know?”
“He gave so much and then gave some more, gifts that keep giving even until today. Some days I am at a restaurant and a stranger walks up to my table to hug me, to say thank you for some past seed he sowed in their lives. I can never bring myself to tell them he died. So i pretend i know what they are talking about and hug them back.”
“He made everyone laugh. He was one of those people that selflessly gave all of themselves. I was born first but I have always only wanted nothing more than follow his lead. ‘
‘When we were children, we used to play pranks on people where he would pretend he was me and I would pretend I was him. Those are my best memories of my childhood-the times I was him. He was the better part of me and these past few years have left me soulless and wondering why I lived while he died.’
He hesitated, his eyes moving from the gravestone to me before saying:
‘And then, I found you, Omokehinde.’
‘I used to miss him like I would miss me if my soul no longer existed. Then you showed up. I thought I was lost forever, untwined, and then I found you. Omokehinde. The child that comes after, the child that leads…my brother, my sister, my healing.’
I sighed through my tears and wondered what my sister would think of the man that stood before me. I wondered if she would like him. I wondered if she would mind that I had found myself a soul mate to take her place. I wondered if it was okay to be a twin again; this time, not by blood, this time, by choice, this time, by heart.
I knelt beside the headstone and together we cleared the weeds that were starting to show up on the grave.
‘Will you marry me Omokehinde? I know this is like the worst place to ask but I…’
I kissed him then because we were at a graveyard, a place where words were unnecessary and people were easy to see through.
Somewhere above us, a robin started to sing and I smiled. My twin sister had loved robins best of all the birds.
Photo Credit: Greg Westfall
Song of the day: One Republic – Feel Again