“Don’t make people into heroes, John.
Heroes don’t exist, and if they did,
I wouldn’t be one of them.”
– Sherlock (Sherlock: The Great Game)
Sometimes, Dami calls me “Superman”. Whenever she does, I remember to warn her not to repeat it, but I must confess that it gets to me sometimes. Sometimes it gets me all riled up and excited that I do stupid things. Stupid things like wearing my hoody as lose as a cape, and even though there is no big ‘S’ on my chest when I rip my shirt, I still take that leap that should see me soar with a hand pointing forward as if I am giving a Nazi salute. It takes the cold and harsh feel of the sudden concrete that welcomes my face and body with a tump, for me to remember that not only am I not Superman, I am no hero at all.
Now I am not saying that it is not possible for there to be heroes out there. Forget my opening quote, it was meant to be dramatic and let me tell you about a hero.
Today I mark (well, just by ticking the calendar) a birthday that wouldn’t have been. Yes, for about two decades now, I have been ticking off calendars I shouldn’t have seen. And this is because someone couldn’t help himself. I wish I can tell you the whole story, but the truth is I do not even know it. I do not remember anything that happened in the story that probably occurred during my phallic stage of life. And the hero involved??? It took me over a decade of searching and asking questions till I finally met him again. Prior to that whenever my parents (especially my mum) told me stories of him, I cling on to the thin sheets of flashbacks that stutter through the shutters of my shuttering brain. And I always felt bad about this. I always felt bad that I couldn’t remember anything but the first name of a man who went out of his way to save a dying child. Not to sound dramatic, but if my mum’s stories are anything to go by, she had either given up on finding the required pints of blood, or she had a written agreement with Jesus that he would perform a version of the Canaan wedding miracle with her tears. In this instance, tears would have to take the place of water, and blood wine.
December 2015, I met the man whose blood flows in my veins (and I am not talking about my father), after a long search and I couldn’t get myself to utter the words I desperately wanted to. All I did was sit a little distance away and enjoy that I was there. I allowed his laughter and the laughter of everyone in the room encase me as I dissolved into invisibility. It felt right. But when he left, I was once again filled with the urge to say, “THANK YOU”. Thank you for not turning your back. Thank you for giving me one more chance. Thank you for being. Thank you for not losing yourself to the human race. See, I wanted to thank him for more things than one, but I felt ashamed of myself when I looked into me and I couldn’t beat my chest of living up to his legacy. `
You see, Mr Chima is a hero. He is one of the few I have met in my life. I have been blessed with the curse of knowing more heroes than an average person knows. Blessed because it is great to be able to say, “there is bravery in this world, there are people who really care. People who do not wear ‘care’ like a prop to be brandished only when they are in one sleazy negotiation or the other.” But I am inadvertently cursed that I’d never be able to live up to the legacy the are building. However, I’ll take what little success I have. I would say thank you to the trees that have exchanged my carbon dioxide for their oxygen without asking me for a report of the usage of all the oxygens they have fed me in over two decades of my existence. I will say thank you to the parents who birth me and the family who loved me. I’ll spend the day thanking every friend who calls, not for calling, but being able to wear the not-so-honourable tag ‘Friend of Innocent’. I would thank them for not turning their backs on me and for cloaking me in the cold. I do thank God for life, but I must remember to send a long SMS to a young man who walked into a hospital ward, identified himself as a family member, and donated blood for a dying child whose mother had embraced the companionship offered by tears. He did it even when he knew the kid might not remember his face, and the mother was not there. It was not for personal gain. He is why I am where I am. He is ‘how’ I got to my ’Memphis’.
“Thank you for your precious time,
forgive me if I start to cry and
That’s how I got to Memphis,
that’s how I got to Memphis.”
– Tom T. Hall (‘That’s How I Got To Memphis’)