Life and General Fiction StoriesNaija Stories

Burn the Past

Imagine this with me for a moment: what if human beings were created without emotions, especially love? Can you envisage the kind of freedom we would have? No worries about loving someone, no fear of heartbreaks, and certainly no pains! The pains that accompany heartbreaks are the worst of it all. Now, stop imagining and come back to the real world, for what you imagined can never be possible. Emotions are the bane of humanity, quote me anywhere.
 
Please, don’t mind me, I like ranting whenever I’m in a bad mood—which is like every time these days. About what I said earlier, forget it; you can continue loving and being in love. As for me, I’m done with that bullshit, for good. Want to know why? There’s no other reason than the oldest reason of all: I’ve been heartbroken. Again. After all her promises, she still acted like the rest; well, she acted a little bit differently, but you get the point, right?
 
Let me cut to the chase and stop this mindless chatter. My name is Celestine Nwoye, and this is the third time I’ve been jilted by a girl. And their reasons were fairly similar—“I thought I could cope with it, but I couldn’t”—that’s their closing line. Third time! I’ve gotten to the perfect score of heartbreaks.
 
A round of applause for me, please.
 
Let’s continue, shall we? I’m forty-one years old, and still unmarried. The reason has always been my medical condition, and nothing else. You see, I suffer from a condition known as cerebral palsy. Pretty fancy name, right? The condition is one that affects the brain, impairing muscular coordination. In summary, I can’t walk well, neither can I control things with my hands properly. Hell, I can’t even sit well. It’s that bad. You see why I haven’t found favour with the girls? None of them wants a vegetable for a husband, and sometimes when I’m in a sarcastic mood, I tend to see reasons with them.
 
But there’s something about me that’s been the only consolation in this whole world; something that has set me apart and has made me to be in the limelight ever since I was a young child. I’m talking about my brains—I’m very intelligent and I possess a quick mind. Say what you want, I’m not bragging. It has been this incredible brain of mine that has helped me to reach the peak of my academic career. I’m currently the only Professor of Aeronautics in Nigeria. Yet, my stellar career hasn’t bagged me a constant life companion. Such a shame.
 
As I thought about all this, I recalled how I met her, my last girlfriend, Emilia. It was at a state dinner organised by the governor to mark his third year in office. Immediately I saw her, I was stunned by her arresting beauty. She had the grace of a tiger, and the face of an angel. She was talking animatedly with her friends when I wheeled my chair towards her. When her eyes met mine, I signaled her to come. She did come, and we spent the rest of the night chatting, laughing and getting to know ourselves. For the next four months, we were inseparable; she never seemed to notice my disability (or so I thought). And then, I asked her out, half-hoping that she would say no.
 
“I was beginning to wonder if you would ever ask me to be your girlfriend. And yes, I want to be your woman.” That was how she replied me. It was indeed a blissful time for me, so why would she then turn around again to tell me that she wasn’t interested anymore? That I was a burden she could bear no longer? I guess I would never find out.
 
The shrill ring of my iPhone brought me out of the dungeons of the past. I looked at the screen and sighed in exasperation. It was Ndidi, my church member, who had been on my neck for a long time now. She wanted me to accompany her to visit a centre for disabled children. According to her, seeing someone who is disabled and was able to be a great man was the greatest gift she could give to those children. A part of me agreed with her, and the other part didn’t. I mean, let’s be frank, what kind of role model would I be to those children? The kind that can never get married? Or the kind that was probably the most embittered man on the planet? But all these I kept to myself.
 
“Hi Ndidi, how’re you?” I said into the receiver.
 
“Hello Celestine. I hope you are ready?” Could I have told her otherwise? Within the next couple of minutes, she was driving me to the centre. I just hope this expedition comes out well, at least for the children.
 
We were warmly received by the staff of the centre, and we were shown to the children. Now, you might laugh at me when I say this, but no problem, I deserve the laughter. You remember what I said about not being able to love again? I was dead wrong. When I sighted those children, with all manner of deformity laughing and playing as best as they could, I couldn’t hold the trickle of tears that escaped from my eyes (the same eyes that couldn’t produce tears when Emilia left). I edged closer to them, not wanting to encroach on their happiness. But they noticed us first and their chatter quieted down. Their matron introduced us to them, letting them know that I was like them in another form, and that I wanted to talk to them. Then she gave me the room to talk.
 
Up until that moment, I didn’t know what I wanted to say to them, but as I stared into their eyes, I saw the beginnings of what had become an integral part of me. And so I sought to crush those things before they grew in them.
 
“My dear friends,” I began, smiling brightly at them, “do you know that you’re different from the rest of the world?” Most of them nodded, and a few just kept on staring at me. I continued, “The thing about that difference is that it is what makes you unique, it is what sets you apart. Embrace it, flaunt it, revel in it. Make it to be your logo. I believe that all of you want to be one thing or the other in the future, imagine what impact you would have when you are, say a blind music composer, or a dwarf gynaecologist. Sounds good, right? It increases your fame, believe me. I’m a living witness.
 
“Another thing, how many of you have been insulted by people because of the way you look?” This time, all of them raised their hands, and I continued, “That hurts, I know. But know this: people only insult or deride what they cannot understand. It’s okay to feel hurt when you’re insulted, it’s okay to even cry about it. But don’t let the sun catch you crying. Don’t give them the satisfaction of seeing you hurt. After you’ve cried, wipe your tears and make sure you succeed. When you do, no one can insult you to your face; they can only do that at your back. And it doesn’t matter there.
 
“Finally, always know that the world is waiting for people that are different from the rest to make it better.” When I was done, they all looked teary-eyed at me. I had struck the right chord and was happy about it. I spent the next three hours with them, laughing and making new friends; I saw then that there was more to love than I ever thought. This was also love. And for now, it would be enough for me.
 
When I got home that day, I sent Emilia a message, telling her that I would be honoured to attend her wedding ceremony. Didn’t I tell you that? I’m very sorry. Yes, she would be getting married in three week’s time. I’d forgiven her, and as I thought about it, maybe I would even give love another chance.

Maybe.
 
 

 

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