It had fallen out of the photo album – the fat leather-bound book with clear pockets that held snapshots from the past. Our past. It was crumpled along one edge, as though it had been balled into a fist and then smoothed out again.
The fist must have been an inferno of anger, hoping to crush the present that was distinctively different from that past. The past of four of us smiling, holding one another – happy. Arms were draped on shoulders and around waists; one head was cocked to the side as an ocean of wavy hair rippled in an attempt to reach the ground; a lopsided smile was spread across a face to hide the shiny tracks of the braces underneath, and wide red-rimmed glasses perched on a nose, one slip and it would’ve been at the very tip. My family. Perfect to the point of imperfection – bound by a pact of unconditional love. Mum, dad, Salma and I. And that picture had been snapped only 2 months before our rollercoaster of happiness spun wildly off its tracks.
They said they had tried to save her, but I doubt they even lifted a finger to keep her alive. How could my near-reflection be snatched so suddenly without them being able to help her? With all the wires, medication and technology at their disposal, Salma didn’t survive the accident, and I blame nothing but incompetence. I’m not bitter, I’m just real – as real as we both were when mum felt our kicks and jabs beneath the taut roundness that she carried around with her. We were two, yet together we were one, and now with Salma gone I’m probably only half the person I should be.
We were inseparable, Salma and I, and the photo of us together was a stab of a reminder, even though we’ve since moved home twice to get away from the painful memory of her leaving us. Salma and Habiba was the soundtrack we always heard; Mum shouting for us to get this, do that and for the love of God turn off that horrendous music! Large lovers of life should’ve been our middle name, because we loved living for the moment, as ‘every second is a dropped jewel that needs to be spent wisely’. That was Salma’s line.
I flipped through the photo album for an empty spot and placed us on a page that held no other pictures. It was sufficient as a memory of all that was then and all that no longer is. No Salma. No dad. No us.
© LaYinka Sanni, December 2011