Many times it is said life passes you by,
Tiptoeing to a never end,
or zooming past so quickly, your book is already done
But me? Life tic-tac-toes its way on to the next level,
my mind consciously in the moment and when I look back…
I often see a stage left untouched.
A memory left locked, inexperienced, but a memory all the same.
Like in sixth grade, primary school.
l am scrawny and short, black skin aglow with Vaseline,
hair a mess that escaped its rubber band ties hours ago,
eyes big as saucepans, soaking everything in.
I had been skipped in from the fourth grade,
“her mind is too bright” the teachers had said…
leaving fifth grade a memory nice and shiny,
left untouched to be borrowed from the stories of others,
pretending they were my own.
Like in 10th grade, secondary school.
I am still scrawny but with a little more flesh.
Hair neatly braided to a strict shoulder length,
my Jesuit school skirt helped to fit by my trustee safety pin.
All the pretty girls around me, my new friends;
Mercy with the beautiful hair, Natalie with the long legs and the honey skin,
Kay with the eyes and the teeth and the smile.
They all giggle as they share their stories of the boys they’d kissed.
I listen and laugh, and when it comes to me, I freeze for a moment looking back at my starbursts of memories and find it there;
another memory, dull and grey and again unlived.
And so, I come up with Boy.
Boy is tall and handsome and came from my old school.
Sometimes he plays football, and other days he’s on the basketball team.
Sometimes he’s called Brian, and sometimes Andrew, but never ever Tyler- those don’t exist in Lusaka.
Boy becomes my companion all through school,
always in my pocket,
ready to be pulled out in the event of skipped memory.
Tweaked and fixed as meets the occasion,
perfect enough for idealist me, and just real enough for them.
Like in university,
I am still short. Scrawny? Not anymore;
my bones wrapped in flesh and fat and insecurities.
My hair remains in its neat Jesuit school shoulder length braids,
and Boy in my pocket, flown with me hundreds of miles to Kenya only to be thrown out when I realise that I can answer that question with a laugh and a sigh.
But Boy is soon replaced with Beer and Sex and Travel and all the other memories I am too afraid to make but can weave with my mouth.
Soon, my hands are filled, shoulders burdened by unlived memories, fantastic stories and fear. Fear of the structure I have so intricately created, falling down at my feet.
my hands are free and my shoulders much lighter.
I am still short, I don’t think about what my body looks like,
and my hair is whatever I want it to be.
When I look back, I see a line of golden stars,
memories made from a life well explored.
And what about those memories untouched, unlived?
Well, they were never there to begin with.