I have this stifling feeling that makes my temples pulsate. I fear I’m forgetting Eben. It’s not on purpose, I’d rather not. Thinking of Eben though, hurts. It makes me question how love, an emotion so pure, can asphyxiate one to numbness.
This feels like a dream, my eyes have cobwebs I can’t blink away. I feel his toasty hands and the exfoliating brush of his beard. The room smells of him, sandalwood and vanilla. He lifts away from me, and I awake. I’m alone and his side of the bed remains neat. If it wasn’t for the pictures and videos, it would be hard to remember him in colour. In all my dreams I want to freeze time. My mind battles with the fact that it knows he’s no longer around yet here he is lucid with his dimples. I want him to remain and not disappear the way he always does. He always disappears sometimes leaving me running after his fading silhouette. I thought I’d be better by now.
Sima says I’ll never get better because I too have frozen myself in time. Refusing to socialise in any way. She wouldn’t understand. Sima left her heart on a dancefloor somewhere in Cancun and refuses to fetch it afraid to give it to anyone.
I remember how Eben and I used to share a teabag. Not out of poverty but because I once told him how I grew up poor, sharing a teabag with my siblings till the water ran clear. We created this ritual as our way of being grateful. It was like a prayer. Now it’s just me using a teabag twice, grateful for the memories with Eben. I’m grateful that I once breathed the very air coming from his nostrils because of how close and long he’d hold me. What I would give to have him sitting across this table right now passionately sharing about his students who always ask for assignment extensions with the most interesting of excuses. To be honest Eben was continuously amused at everything. He made it a point like he was trying to show me how to love life in the most uncomplicated way.
God, I miss him.
I decide to go to the park this morning. It is a warm morning promising an even warmer afternoon, so I take my sun hat and am grateful that people may not recognise me. I want to be alone with my thoughts in public. My body misses doing the things it used to. It just feels amputated because those are the same things I used to do with Eben.
The moment I lift the packet of bread, Maud walks up to me with a determined gait and plops on the bench.
“Fancy seeing you here, is Eben not joining us today?” she asks cheerfully.
I pause. Maud’s head drops. I hear a sharp inhale.
“Rose… I’m…” I hug her.
It dawns on me the kind of love I shared with Eben. That others still see him when they see me. A chill of gratefulness nurses my spine until I believe it tingles through my arms towards this older woman I’m holding. I know she is mortified. I would be.
So I quickly say to her matching her previous cheerful sense, “Thank you Maud. But Eben took a transformative lecturer post in heaven.” She silently laughs into my shoulder and we both bubble slowly into full laughter till we’re teary eyed.
“I hope you won’t be relocating too.”
“I’ve considered it, but I have some unfinished business with earth.”
“Good. I missed you, feeding the ducks alone is quite a task.” We laugh some more. Maud has just opened up a way for me to heal through humour, a way to see the life lived with Eben as fond and not teary. Maud and I continue feeding ducks together and, though generations apart, we have both found a common topic close to our hearts. My Eben and her Harry.
A week before I woke up in fear of forgetting Eben I went to Sima’s house. We were celebrating her birthday. It was my first time “socialising” without… Never mind. I went to the party to be polite but something pleasant happened. I met someone.
The moment I saw him, time slowed down and all I could see was him. We caught the other staring a couple of times and each time I forgot the person already conversing with me. I found my curiosity towards him heart palpitating. I wasn’t sure it was the message I wanted to send. I was holding back, and that evening having exchanged contact details with him, I had a lot of guilt. I didn’t respond to his first message. I cried. I felt I was leaving Eben behind, and I wasn’t sure he would want to be replaced. I was stuck thinking about the duration. Is it too soon to move on?
We eventually found time to speak again. I kept searching for Eben in his face, in his mannerisms but Nare was all Nare, no Eben. I was crestfallen and relieved.