Sometimes I wear the color of my mind in clothes. When people see me and ask why are you dressed like that, are you mourning someone? I answer usually with a nod or a shake of my head and no words, because how do you explain to people that your mind is in touch with feelings your body hasn’t deciphered yet. How do you tell them, the black shirts you are wearing is how your mind mourns the memories your body has chosen to forget. It is true that the body never forgets but sometimes, it does, intentionally too, to get one over the mind.
On those kinds of nights, when the color of my mind overlaps into my present, my body would remind itself of my many worries, my nose would dry the mucus in it into twigs and stuff itself as I attempt the tasks of breathing. I will sniff and snore till the airways clears. Other times, while the struggle to move the twigs gives way and mucus ran free with trepidation down to the reefs of my lips. My skin will thereafter remember to switch on its heat and I’d burn in readiness of the aftermath of a stuffed nose. On those nights, to find any rest, I’d have to swallow some chalks for relief. This is how I know the mind and the body are no friends.
Lidia Yuknavitch often says “the body is a collector of memories”. Whenever I think of these words, I imagine my body as a separate entity besides my mind. I imagine both entities in a ring, wrestling for superiority. I imagine the many conversations that happen between my body and my mind, the time my body insisted on sleeping while my mind would rather read and I found myself succumbing to that long ago doctrine which I was taught while a boy in Sunday school that the body of man is only a vessel—a separate vessel from the man himself, for man is a spirit who lives in a body. So in that way, when man dies, it means that perhaps, the body has been triumphant in his lifelong battle with the man.
I once had to tell a friend who was hurt about her lover leaving about how her memories were responsible for the torture she was feeling. She didn’t understand, she claimed that it wasn’t supposed to hurt so much since she had moved on and was already on the path of healing. Healing does not kill memories, in fact, healing immortalizes them, I said to her. The brows on both of her eyes creased into confusion as she raised her eyes to level with mine. When we get wounded and our wounds heal over a period, it leaves scars. Some scars leave and some scars take residence in our body forever. And because the body is the landlord of the scar, it will always exert itself with every given image that reminds it of the wound. The body can retain memories for as long as it wants even if the mind attempts to erase them.
When sometime last year, my girlfriend called time on our relationship and left me, it was my body that took memory and relayed the great sex, the laughs, the lunch and dinner dates, the incredible insomniac conversations and the long romantic walks like a never ending loop in my mind, torturing me and making me forget the times she made me cry, the forgotten slaps and scratches, the nights she took a knife to her wrists and the helplessness I felt, the morning afters when she pretended that the previous night didn’t happen and the times she left me for being too depressed before returning again to tell me how she couldn’t live with someone like me who preferred the company of his depression, as if.
It was the body in collaboration with my memory that selectively led me to grovel and beg her to take me back. And when she refused, it was the body that refused to let go, not me. It was my body that insisted that I was in love with her and that I would never meet anyone like her again, not allowing my mind to acceed to the fact that love is another deception of memory. I was done with the excesses of the relationships, I was done even though she was the one who left, but my body was not. I like to think that the body is a villain and the mind is the protagonist. It was the body that made Eve yield the serpents’ cunning at Eden afterall.
I once had a long conversation with a blind man, he was colorful in his description of things, of places and at that moment, I found that here was one person who had been able to conquer both body and mind. While his body had to rely on his mind to function—unlike myself—the privilege he derived from being blind was all too clear to see. He told me how his blindness afforded him the chance to be fragile and invisible. How it afforded him the chance to put all of his faculties to use, his mind especially.
I didn’t lose my eyes by accident, he said. I think it was my destiny to be blind. I didn’t lose my eyes in one day, it was a slow and confusing process. Each day the world lost its color to me and soon everything became a blur before the darkness. I was a teenager studying for Jamb, dreaming of how my own university experience would be like. As you’d have expected, I failed the exam. My parents and I became pilgrims at different hospitals all over Nigeria until the day I began to embrace the darkness. The darkness was his body convincing his mind about its weaknesses. But by embracing the darkness, he allowed his mind to impose upon the weakness, this was how he learnt how to see without his eyes, how he trained his other senses to stake their claims.
Some days ago, I was with a friend, we were exchanging banter as was our usual way when of a sudden, he said Tolu, do you know my fear of being broke made sure I became broke and stayed broke? It was a simple question with rhetorical properties. I answered yes, not because I understood him immediately but so that we could move from the gloom such topics was sure to birth. But as I left him that day and went into my own solitude, his question assaulted the quietness I was trying to achieve with the solitude.
How many times has the fear of something held me back, only to land me square into the face of the problem. For me, fear is and has always been an offspring of the body, a cousin to memory. Fear incapacitates us in many ways and some of us have come to see fear as a teacher, so we allow it to prescribe how we feel and what we feel. But if my little experiences haven’t taught me much, they have taught me about the possibility of conquering body, not so I could lose my eyes and embrace the darkness but so I can remember who the boss of me is, my mind deserves the control since it is the seat of reason.