An Old Flame

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An Old Flame

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If you asked them what caused their heart to beat surprisingly fast several decades ago, you would receive the same answer. In fact they would reply without saying a word, and all you would see is their reddening cheeks, and that ever-familiar light in their eyes. An old flame; Him or her. That late man or that old woman who used to be their love interest. Trust me, the light that appeared in my eyes when Ma Saphina told me her story was brighter than that which glowed in her own eyes, and if I were to write a poem about this feeling, it would read:
The spark; not red but blue, not blue but white – that fading cataract – 
like their unimaginable blindness, 
knows how to set the nerves on fire,
electricity flowing through time 
to memorable days gone.

Ma Saphina talked about falling in love at nineteen. “It was terribly beautiful,” she said, and she chuckled, flashing her awkwardly white teeth. “It wasn’t meant to happen the way it did, child. But we really do have little control over certain forces.” I shifted closer to her, handing her my handkerchief just in time as she raised her hand to her mouth coughing quietly. I patted her back and she smiled at me.
“He seemed to be everywhere I looked after I told him I liked him,” she continued. “At one time, the thrill of seeing him felt too good to be true. It was never like that before the first time I spoke to him.” I imagined her holding the planet – a small, green, blue, brown and white ball – and placing a hundred duplicates of him in a university, somewhere in southern Nigeria. I didn’t fail to make her drop one of them in the Sombreiro – that inlet from the Bight of Bonny. Such ubiquity could be real, given how well she described running into him several times a day.
“We became friends,” she said after clearing her throat, “but deep down, I wanted more”. I shook my head, as I thought, you were so me, mama.
“What is it, dear?” she asked, and my mind returned to her voice as I realized that I was getting lost in my own memory.
“Nothing, mama,” I smiled, and we both knew that was a fib. But the glance I received in return was not askance. I’m sure she read my mind.
Now as I lie in bed, wrapped in her woolen blanket, basking in the melody of Celine Dion’s Have You Ever Been In Love and Lady Antebellum’s If I Knew Then, I recalled Ma Saphina’s last words that night.
“My dear, the most amazing part of this terrible beauty is the fact that I don’t regret knowing him”.
Ma Saphina died in her sleep the next morning. The photograph next to her’s on my desk is his. The man she fell in love with at nineteen. I must admit that his resemblance to Chim is stunning. I’ll use these photographs for my debut book cover; Mom wouldn’t understand. I don’t believe this idea for my book cover is a grouse. 

Photo Cred: Google

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