Someone once said that the old are in a second childhood. I could not agree more. Memories of a life never lived flood you till you start believing that it is not the wrinkles that make you old, but the weight of recollection of moments that live inside you. At this age, it is difficult to resist talking about ones past. No amount of education and pension can make you forget what you most enjoyed being – a young girl. But this is not the story of a young girl. This is the story of a sunset. This is the story of a sunset who was born at seven pm on the 13th of February many years ago and who died a few minutes after he was born. I was fifteen years old at that time and was bathing in what remained of the dried up river Rufiji which flowed through our village. I had discovered the benefits of bathing in the shelter of the ebbing afternoon and was happily scrubbing soap on my woolly hair when I noticed the sunset glistening on the droplets of river clinging to my jet black body. At that age I knew sunsets like the back of my hand. ‘Sunsets are like men,’ I used to think. ‘If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all’. But this one was different. He was, of course, not the first sunset to flirt with me, what made him different was his shyness. I decided to take matters into my own hands.
‘Hello,’ I said timidly.
He beamed for a moment and then said, ‘I love you’.
Whatever surprise I might have felt, I took care not to show.
‘Oh you do?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Will you marry me?’
‘But I am only fifteen!’ I said coyly.
‘So am I,’ he said. ‘But I am going to be older soon.’
Of course, I knew that would die in a matter of minutes. Besides, marriage was a public affair. I could not get married just because I felt like it one evening. This made me a little sad. I kept silent.
‘Will you at least travel around the world with me?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know. Do you have a car?’ I asked.
‘No,’ he said sadly. His eagerness faded a little but returned fast enough for him to say, ‘I used to, but it broke down the other day and I haven’t repaired it yet.’
I laughed in mock shyness. It embarrassed him greatly.
‘You are beautiful,’ he said finally. ‘Your parents must have rejoiced greatly when you were born’.
‘Not at all,’ I replied. ‘I am their seventh daughter. They weren’t happy. And anyway, my father left soon after. He has four sons with his third wife.’
‘But…,’ he stopped.
We looked at each other for some time.
‘Will you remember me?’ he suddenly asked in desperation.
I could see that he was dying.
‘Yes, if you want me to,’ I said.
‘I will remember you all my life,’ he said.
He watched me as the sky grew to resemble the colour of ash. With one last attempt to bathe me in his glowing embers, he died. I could do nothing to save him.
1.The words I was given were: black, ash, car, rejoice, sunset.
2.The title is borrowed from Achebe's short story of the same name.
3.I have actually quoted Aristophanes in the first line.