I am nothing.
I exist beyond the confines of space and time. I do not exist beyond the confines of space and time. And suddenly, consciousness.
I breathe, I live, I move among the living. Conscious but not alive. I think, but I am not. I am everywhere and nowhere. I feel nothing. I am a part of the world, yet I interact with nothing. Empty, hollow. A vacuum.
I see the man playing with the street dog. It brings back a memory, faint as wind. His grandfather, playing with a dog, many generations before this dog. I wonder if the man knows. I wonder if the dog knows. Such coincidences wrought for no one to take notice of. No one. Except. Me.
I find myself drawn to this man. He is nothing special. A father of four. He stretches himself thin, trying to care for his family. He once dreamed of being a musician — the best trombone player in his entire town. He was going to play for the world.
But such dreams are unrealistic. He had mouths to feed. He lived in Nigeria. He became a banker instead. A practical solution in a practical world.
I think I watch him so much because he is like his grandfather. His grandfather, the pipe maker, could bring Eurydice back from the dead.
When his grandfather was six, he would cut down the stems from pawpaw trees and drill holes in them to play beautiful melodies. His grandfather, who put aside fluting, for his yams. His grandfather was no village fool. But, he would play on some nights when his wife and children begged him. Their hut would come alive as the very mud that caked the hut seemed to adore his music.
The great-grandson had, has so much talent. But his trombone lay unused in a dusty case at the corner of the study.
The man got up every workday. He got up to count other people’s money. He had adjusted to the cold air conditioning of the bank. It seemed to have formed a hard shell around him. A shell that didn’t crack, even in the hot harmattan sun. Each day, some part of him seems to wither. Perhaps that is another reason why I am so drawn to him. He is considered to be alive. But there is so much nothing in him.
It is dawn now. The man finds his dusty, old trombone case. His drawn face cracks into a tired smile. He tiptoes out with the trombone so he does not wake his four children. He walks to the opposite end of their yard and begins to play. And the nothing in him builds into something so beautiful. Something tangible.
Sometimes, I think I exist just to watch moments like this.
The sun peeks out of the clouds to watch the scene. The beautiful woman, watching him from afar. She looks at her husband with new eyes.
The eyes of an adoring child, the light sleeper, clinging to his mother’s wrapper. The pawpaw trees in the yard that bow to talent. The man, playing the trombone, as tears flow down his cheeks. And nothing compares to this.