We look back at our existence most times and discover that the tapestries that sum up our transient lives as humans would not have been complete or this ‘perfect’ without the different beings who we have shared or still share every moment with; physically or and in our thoughts and hearts. Looking back sometimes is not easy. We have to brush past some pictures; experiences that speak or tell pure pain and shame. Our mind’s orb captures the amazing people who once shared our lives with us and no longer. Along with them, we remember the different ills and mistakes that we have touched and made. But one thing most people forget, is that those errors, be they people, situations or things, are all a consortium of the very threads that make us. Without those, we may not be as smart or interesting as we are on this very sun. Aside the negatives, there are beings whose thought make our lips and eyes light up in different shades of smiles and happy tears. These are the ones that truly matter. They may leave us physically by death or peregrination both real and constructive but the warmth they have left in our lives with their tender touches, caresses and sight, create spaces sweet memories never fails to fill.
Mine at this very moment may not have been human but he was just as awesome, even more. In moments like this, sitting behind our house like I have been since morning, watching the path leading to Limn’s home lined with an organized soup of fruit trees brings back memories. The loamy toasted path leads crookedly through an orchard, beautifully spiced; quite thickly with every tropical fruit tree screed out in our hard-spined dictionary on my father’s study table. Lying on the grass, looking at the dancing treetops silhouetted against the azure sky has always brought me peace; an unspeakable kind. I remember our many walks via the path which led us through the orchard past Limn’s home and into the street as little waves of rain soak breeze wash over me fro and fro. I know what this means and I should move, run into the house or help mother pack our clothes from the line behind me but I don’t. She shouts at me to help her, raising her voice above the whooshing of the wind but I barely hear her. My mind lies transported into paintings of just past memories and dreams. A short bark makes me open my eyes as he pushes the disk into my hand obviously in the mood to play fetch but I am not. I am in a bad mood, something is wrong but I can’t place it. We are taking a walk through the orchard behind our house and the smells of fresh fruits caressing my nostrils from the fruit trees normally have a calming effect on me. But today, I don’t smell fruits. The air smelled strangely of sweat and hours of work like Uncle Ekene’s shirt when he would wrap me in one of his unwanted bear hugs as he customarily stopped at our house for a cold beverage while on his delivery duty. He used to deliver dad’s papers but now, he delivers building materials for the new company he works for. One small show of hospitality by my dad in a cup of tea was all it took to make him family. Some people are so quick to jump into your arms like that. A little ‘Oh come in for a cup of tea’ quickly turns them into blood. Lightning flashing across the sky and drops of rain bring me back to his plea to play fetch. I take the disk from him turning around to walk home but he doesn’t follow me. Suddenly, we are standing in a vast prairie with nothing but rain between us and the sky. There’s more lightning and I can see no more than a few feet in front of me, just tightly packed lines of grays and whites crashing around us.
His name was Cerberus. A powerful house-broken Alsatian with soft black fur. A weird name for a dog I know but trust dad’s love for Greek mythology to rub off on every being or thing around him. Like the way mum said he named me Theseus despite her protests. Who the hell names their kid Theseus in this century? Well, I guess when he came up with Cerberus for our dog, mum had no protest left. If you are still at loss, in Greek mythology Cerberus is a three headed dog that guards the entrance to the underworld. His three set of eyes, pure rubies from hell watch the entrance to the underworld to prevent the dead from leaving. Maybe I would have had a better name for him, something cool yet wild and tribal like Mufasa or Shreeh but according to my parents, he was a stray puppy who wandered into our home one warm September afternoon, a day before my third birthday and mom’s 27th. And yes, mom and I share the same birthday uncanny right? Dad went to the local radio station and around, to see if anyone missed a puppy but no replies came up. We all considered him a blessing and mom ‘mistakenly’ gave dad the honour of naming the gift and there, you know the rest. By the time I was six, it was a fully grown dog with razor sharp teeth and that mount rumbling growl that kept visitors on their toes… literally. He seldom barked and could strike with lightning speed when he wanted to. I remember that one time dad travelled for a week leaving mom and I at home and burglars broke into the house through my window. They told me lie face down on my bed and shut the hell up. Cerberus was at the side of my bed and he crouched, watching them pass, both of them. He didn’t bark or even growl. I am sure they only got the full import of what they bargained for as they shouted and cursed with tattered trousers and shoeless feet on the hot chase out of our compound. The amazing thing about him was his eyes, two black jewels that would make you put your hand on him for many reasons when he does wrong and not one of them would be to hit him. We were very thick as I told him everything, from the bullies at school to the new girl in class. He would surprisingly whine at appropriate places with short barks through my speech like he could understand me or maybe he didn’t and was bored and wanted me to shut up.
Last week’s Wednesday, he stopped eating. He would sleep too much and let out crazy howls in the middle of the day. Dad took him to the vet who muffled him and took blood samples. He came into my room yesterday with Cerb in tow and told me what was wrong with him. He had a disease, a rare one which was putting him through intense pain. It is incurable and he had to be put down the next day. I was confused about the meaning of the words ‘put down’ until he explained them and hot tears welled up in my eyes. I had felt this way before, this chaos buried within, a calm confusion, intense sorrow and helplessness the first time I saw mom experience one of her seizures. She was on the phone and I could see she was excited. I was waiting for her to finish so I could ask the cause of the excitement when she froze, clenched her fists and started jerking uncontrollably. My screams brought dad on scene, while I kept crying ‘help her… help her!’ Dad talked with me later while she was asleep. He told me mom has a condition called epilepsy and she got seizures and blackouts when she was too excited. I felt sad. Very sad, but he told me she would be fine, fine a word we hear very frequently but with little meaning or substance. He told me not to cry, that the first Theseus a child of divinity never did. In his words – strength and boldness in the face of despair are the hallmark of a true man – a hero. I blink back tears and pat Cerb who has fallen asleep on my legs. That night before I sleep, I spend time talking with him. I make a deal with him not to get another pet when he is gone. I tell him about heaven and the unending bowls of meatballs he is going to get there. But he doesn’t hear me. He doesn’t whine in approval. He is asleep.
The rain keeps crashing on the prairie around us and Cerberus starts barking, something he does only when he is scared. The sound of the rain and thunder drowns his barks and I become scared too. It falls more heavily and I can see or hear nothing else aside the cacophonic monstrosity of rounds of rain.
The knock on my door rouses me and I sit up on the bed as mum walked slowly into my room. Normally, Cerb was always the first to visit my room every morning, scratching and pushing at the door until I open it. The tears snaking from my mother’s eyes and the way she clenches her fist like she does when she is about to go into a fit tells me all I need to know. Tears fill my eyes but I don’t let them drop. Men don’t cry.
I open my eyes to see mom standing over me, her hair tossed here and there by the pregnant breeze. She looks at me comfortingly with eyes already keen with the thoughts swimming through my mind. I get up from the grass and amble back into the house, past the washing line and the little potted flowers dancing in the wind.
For Shreeh, that brown eyed mongrel I almost had…