It was one of those nights when noises from the generator sets entertain the lone moon and its companions that you came back. You had travel to Russia with your uncle.
It was a month of loneliness, and the more I looked towards the staircase wall that wore our secrets as graffiti, which only we both saw too well, the more I longed to see your face and slid my tongue into those soft lips of yours to see how you’d missed it, and me. We were eleven then, or maybe twelve, but our regular escapades began two or three years before.
The night a truck filled with chairs, a television set, clothes, bicycles, and a couple of things that darkness barred me from seeing drove in through the gate, I knew the empty flat on the second floor would get new voices running in and out of it. I offered to help cart some of the light belongings which your mum obliged, and the mildly-lit staircase carried my feet into the apartment, and into your heart. And a couple of months later, I would see you cat-walking past me, the little boils on your chest pointed stiffly at me when you looked back.
So we found ourselves on the staircase locking secrets inside each other’s mouth, and zipping it up with our hands on your waist, my bulging erection, your chest, and our cheeks. I was too innocent to remember how it first happened, but it just happened.
Our flat was the first place you ran into. We, my sister and a friend, had our eyes glued to Cartoon Network when your voice prompted our necks clockwise. I only smiled while others touched your skin to feel the coldness of Russia sitting on it. I wanted to do the same but thought that you’d have forgotten how my hands used to feel when you craved for it. You left that night, at least you saw me. The mission was accomplished.
I was in your flat with your sister when you brought back that scene. I told you I missed you badly. You understood that it wasn’t because you were away for a couple of weeks, but because I didn’t bury any more secrets on the staircase wall. Your sister went to play with the other kids and we started with the touching, then you led me to the staircase.
My stomach hurts, you moaned with my mouth in yours.
You told me you were fine, went up the stairs while I ran back toThe Emptiness in Lost and Forgotten People by Wale Ayinla our flat on the ground floor opposite the building. In the toilet, I saw sticky fluid coming out of my fully erected organ. I wonder what could have troubled your stomach and she is pregnant, this sperm must have found its way into her body, were my thoughts. I got scared and avoided you for a month to confirm your pregnancy, and when I eventually told you, you laughed at me, and we buried more secrets on the staircase wall.
I knew I was not going to see you again when you left for the United States.
But on that Sunday afternoon, a day after my birthday and a day before yours, I signed up on Facebook. I began searching, first – a combination of your first name and surname, and after a day of ‘no results found’, I searched your middle name and you appeared. I was overwhelmed and couldn’t sleep that night.
Through those late night chats and long calls, you would tell me how you were getting along with your new country, about Barack Obama, about life as a young immigrant. I envied you. The memories and secrets we kept safe in the darkness of the staircase made me want to get to where you were. I never did get to you.
You would then tell me about your new Nigerian boyfriend which you met on Facebook. Jealousy took the most part of me but I listened. I would search the guy’s name, check his pictures, think of how older he was than you, and you would tell me that I was your first love. At least that mattered.
After your Nigerian boyfriend ditched you, I comforted you with sweet words, assured you of a better boyfriend. I was broken in the dark room. You asked if I had moved on and I told you I hadn’t. I believed in miracles and I believed you would come back to me.
When you broke up with your Spanish boyfriend and classmate, I told you that you would get better. I was in my second year in the senior secondary school and I couldn’t concentrate. My grades dropped and I was cool with it even though my teachers took their time to counsel me. It still didn’t change the fact that you were gone from me. I felt like I alone wore those breaths, and kept those communal rendezvous in my head. I thought my head would explode.
You stopped replying my messages. I had a temporary girlfriend. Broke up eight months after. Graduated from secondary school and we became strangers.
The best way one remembers an old lover is by forgetting them for so long.
I kept remembering you in my forgetfulness and the memories faded away, maybe temporarily. Until today when I got a notification on Instagram that you followed me. How could I have realized how lost you had re-appeared? I saw you as a bird nesting on a tree without branches: something I learnt from movies and books, and the emptiness that came with your face gave no room for a refill.
My playlist shuffles to Simi’s Take Me Back, and I type this hoping that you’ll smile, laugh, and maybe blink your eyes when you stumble upon it. I won’t keep much of the nights for mourning, and because there are plenty ways to fill up a place for forgotten people: you think of them as though they never existed. You empty them in good music.
Wálé Àyìnlá is a Copywriter, writer and managing editor at Dwarts Magazine. His works appear or are forthcoming on Prachya Review, Kalahari Review, Brittle Paper, Dwarts Magazine, Sentinel, Bombay Review, amongst others. He is a finalist of the Kreative Diadem Prize, 2017. His chapbook, Self-portrait of an Exile is due to be out in 2018.