"Horizon," A Short Memoir

My first kiss was on the splintered benches of a treehouse. It was right after we shoved our heads into a cold, chlorinated pool. Like dipping our heads in an ice bath, we immersed ourselves in the shocking sensation. Desire against desire. Fire kissing fire, we were shivering from both our wet shirts and awkward touch. We sat on splintered benches. Cold, shivering, beautiful creatures. Our hairs stood straight on our arms, our skin dotted all over with goose bumps from the chill of the chlorinated pool. We burned each other with our touch…
The first man I ever trusted shattered that trust to fragments. I am still cutting my weak fingers trying to pick up the pieces. The first man I ever trusted was my dad. Funny and lighthearted, he was the first perfect I ever knew. I still remember 2002. I lied and told you, Dad, that my legs were broken (of course you knew my true intentions!). You smiled, picked me up on broad shoulders and we soared. My toddler hands touched heaven that day as your soul touched heaven later that year…
My dad was on a plane from Lagos to Abuja. I was told that day was sunny, but I would rather remember it as storming. I refuse to believe a kind sky savagely ripped my dad’s  shoulders from under me. The wings of the plane malfunctioned. The plane went down. They all went down. I never knew planes were strong enough to snatch souls, to snatch happiness, to snatch hope. My trust crashed and burned with his perfect body that stormy day.
The only thing they saved of him was his watch…
Did time even exist if I could not spend warm summer days flying on his perfect shoulders? Did time even matter if I could no longer live those moments, those seconds, that he and I became the sky?
Not yet.
If the divine power I grew up believing in exists, I hope God lets us sit on the shoulders of the horizon, Dad, the same one that took your life away. The same one that shattered my trust into pieces, cutting weak fingers to fit these shards back together.
Years later after flying to America, Mom had found another man. A broken shell, he filled the vast emptiness with booze. Gin sweat lips used to knock Mom and I down time and time again. I felt my trust quivering with every insult.
It wheeled into a predictable cycle.
Love notes,
Heavy drinking,
The names (Oh, God the names),
Solace seeking,
Apology notes,
Love notes… (this time with flowers!)
I never thought I would be called a “goddamn nigger” by a man my mom loved. The first man she loved and married was quick to forgive, sweetly tucked me in, drank the joy of laughter instead of whiskey, I guess I am still drinking from sorrow’s endless bucket. I guess I am still cutting weak fingers over the pieces…
I can’t believe this! My petite, strong, beautiful mother once told me, “Jola, we come from royalty.” So why did she let this drunkard treat her like anything less? Why did she seek the love of a man filled to the brim with emptiness?
The very last time mom rejected him, I thought I would have to sing lullabies to both my parents’ spirits. I'm saying he could have killed us! It takes a dedicated hand to drive it through a wall. It takes a heavy fist, weighed down by intoxication. It takes a man half a minute to threaten lives, to strike fear, to break trusts.
It was ten o’clock that night. I was listening to Mother Mother and doing algebra. I heard heavy steps below my room. And I knew…
A few minutes later I heard loud cursing and drunken fists attempt to tear down the walls. I heard fists that threatened the entire structure of our home… I knew.
I ran as fast as I could to the phone. How could I defeat a beast singlehandedly? I remember crying hysterically. Mom’s voice broke to pieces. She was trying to stay calm but I could hear the struggle climbing from her throat.
“Jola! Call the police!” she screamed. She was a frightened animal, trapped into a corner. She knew she could not have both love and safety at the same time anymore, so she chose neither. My fingers had never flown so quick as the time I called 911 on a man my mom loved. The cold voice that came on the other end shocked me. It angered me, tormented me, did everything but keep me calm. The entire house burned with chaos, my mind drowned in chaos, the person on the other side of the phone responded monotoned. I felt like we were speaking different languages when she robotically asked, “Hello, 911, what’s your emergency?” as if my life was not slipping from beneath my feet at this moment. As if my mom and I couldn’t die at any swing of a fist. I hid under a table as I spoke to the alien on the end of my receiver. Like the drunken animal growling at my mom at that moment, I felt I couldn’t reach the person on the other end of the phone.
I choked out my situation and address to the robot, acid tears burning the skin on my face. When would this end? More loud and drunken steps and growls, more of the world sitting doing nothing, more of the world chipping away at my trust bit by bit by bit.
Mom’s boyfriend got arrested down the road for drunk driving. We were OK, physically. These are some of the memories I tuck away in a safe vault in the back of my brain. I thought I would never try to open it up. Like Pandora’s Box, now that I have opened it, there is no going back.
My first kiss was on the splinted benches of a treehouse.  I did not think twice about immersing myself in a strange sensation. The men in my life have shattered my trust into unrecognizable fragments, but I trusted that embrace. The strongest thing I have ever done is kissed someone. I feel my weak hands healing by leaving the pieces behind. I learned on a splinted bench, drenched in sanitized and filthy water, that trust is replaceable.
text: jola laguda
visual: jackie andrews

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