Each time we emerged from the car, we were swarmed by the gangs of cemetery boys who spend their days sleeping on the grave stones and smoking marijuana.
I was floored as we battled our way through the crowd of them, jostling, each fighting for the tip they’d get to show us ‘our grave’.
I stumbled along the muddy path, blurry eyed, deep into the forest, serenaded by swooping moths and with the street-fight banter of the boys behind us, urging us onward.
John’s hand, a warm reassurance, tugged at me ever so slightly to the left, off the main path, toward your grave.
I was dizzy with grief and the pungent smell of weed, as the smoke wafted up in tufts, swirling through the green green forest roof, captive like us, under the oppressive heat. The rot of leaves and bodies left a stain inside me. Even now I can conjure up the smell, the sound…
A few boys would run ahead of the others, shouting your tribal name, “Kpakpo!”, and the others, “Kpakpo Mingle!”. “Madam, this way-o, follow me, I will show you.”
We clambered over other people’s graves, some smooth polished, others caved in completely, the name barely visible.
The boys would jump, triumphant when they found you. They tore rabidly at the wild vines that had smothered the site, ripping them from their roots in a frenzy to please me, to ensure a good ‘dash’.
I was too weak to argue, to shout, “GET AWAY FROM ME, FROM US! HOW DARE YOU INVADE MY SPACE AT A TIME LIKE THIS?!” Instead, I blinked away tears and nodded. Docile, non-present.
And then I would be faced with a terrazzo block, rectangular, with a raised panel, it had your name, misspelled though it was, written across the front in bold black letters. And below it, “6 YEARS OLD”. And each time I see it, even in my mind’s eye, I weep.
6 years old, yet gone. And I could not find you there at all. I sat at the edge of the cool stone, above the earth that houses your body below. And I felt nothing. And I knew you were not there. Not dumped into the hungry ground, part of a chain of decay and growth.
You, being the soul that dazzled my days, and the light that screamed out from your eyes – this earth cannot hold you.
And I looked up, through the maze of branches and saw a glimpse of sky. Through the tears I saw you in not seeing you at all. My baby, you shine down now.
And after John mechanically took out his camera and recorded the event, I stood and walked numbly back, staring at the red mud under my feet, even as he negotiated with the boys who hovered close by, how much each would get, who helped most, who was most aggressive.
I needed to protect the fragility of my mind and my bleeding heart. I flew up above and left my walking shell, the robot below to make its way back to the waiting car.
And since then I visit rarely. No reason to feed the boys; to tear at the eager vines. Leave them rather, to their lives, to that cycle of decay and growth.
You and I, we are out of that circle. We are free now. You above, and me here for now – meeting in dreams and in the laugh of children. Meeting as we do in the aisles of the supermarket through memories. You remind me of the times we chose which face on the hair dye boxes we would be, and of course which one was John, and we’d laugh – and there I stand with a knowing smile on my mouth, in my eyes, you shine.