I Hate That I Can’t Remember Your Face

March 18, 2022

In March, we’re bringing to you letters written by women to women they love, miss, cherish or just remember. To celebrate the support women continue to show each other, this is #ToHER.

From: A woman who never wants to forget her best friend

To: Evelyn, her best friend

Dear Evelyn,

One might say we were an unlikely match and I’d understand. In fact, I had the same sentiment when my family moved into the neighbourhood and I saw you for the first time. You were loud with a bubbly personality, all the things I wasn’t.

But to our parents, we were so similar. The same age, from the same ethnic group; to them, it was the perfect recipe for a great friendship.

“Go on, talk to her. She’s the same age as you.”

You beat me to our first words to each other. Typical you, so intentional and sweet. Whenever we fought, I’d make up my mind to come to you, but you’d beat me to it. I’d find you at our backdoor, obnoxiously calling out my name to ask me for something you obviously didn’t need and then we’d be friends again.

The details of our first conversation are insignificant but symbolic. I was too young to know it then, but it was the beginning of the greatest friendship I ever had.

From that day, we stuck together. “Thick as thieves” was child’s play to us. Siamese twins were more like it. Although we went to different schools, we always left the house together. We literally started our periods at the same age, 13 I believe. We gossiped about the boys toasting us, well, you, because you were the beautiful one; the one everyone adored and loved. I was honoured to be your friend. 

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When I started writing this, I thought it was just a letter to a friend, but as I wrote, the words revealed something else, something more. 

Do you remember?

The first time we kissed? We were playing mummy and daddy; we were only playing pretend, but it felt so real. We did it as a joke, but from that day things changed. We’d sneak in quick kisses and pecks whenever we could find time away from prying eyes and ears. 

Do you remember?

The time Aunty Kelechi caught us and threatened to tell our parents? We cried and begged her for weeks not to tell anyone and that we had stopped that “’bad thing” as she called it. We didn’t, but still, the thrill of the pretence was just as fun.

Do you remember?

All the times we’d spend learning Nicki Minaj’s rap? From Moment for Life to Roman’s Revenge God, I miss the old days when we spent all of our time dreaming of what we’d be like as adults… It’s not as fun as we thought it’d be, ba?

Do you remember?

The day before the last? You came over to collect a CD from my house. That afternoon, I roped you into playing football with the rest of my family into the evening. When you left, I told you not to stay up late watching it, since you had school the next day.

Do you remember?

That night. When the fire took you? No, you possibly can’t. That’s the burden for those left behind. They are forced to remember. To live with the memories or the betrayal of forgetting those memories.

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I watched from the street as the fire grew. It was late in the night and everyone tried to get you out. There was nothing I could do. I kept praying for a miracle that somehow, you’d survive. I watched my prayer disintegrate as many toiled and failed to rescue you from the fire. I watched them carry you away.

The other day, I passed by your house and tried to conjure up a memory of us together, but it’s been a decade since that day. but your face was missing. I could see us playing in the compound, I could feel the euphoria of the moment, but I couldn’t see your face.

I told someone about it, and they said that sometimes the brain pushes back traumatic images and memories to protect us. Dissociative amnesia, they called it, but it still felt like a betrayal; to you and to our friendship. 

These days, I don’t remember us every day, but on the days I do, the weight of your absence is almost crushing. But I — with glee — bear its remembrance.

I’m sad I have to move on without you. I want to go back to playing pretend with you. Maybe we would have been brave enough to make a real family together; you’d be mummy and I’d be mummy too. I know I can’t have that now, but at least we have this letter.

I’m glad I get to share your memory with the world.



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