I... I did try, you know.
Oh? And then what?
The tapping began.
Do you hear yoursel-
Shh. The tapping. I know you can't hear it, you'd have to block your ears enough to go internal rather than external but let yourself be, then. Focus. Really focus. Can't you feel it?
This can't possibly be the reason you left.
I walked away for the same reason I didn't return that day. The same reason I smiled politely while crying and smiled politely while being used like a mop and broom and smiled politely while in the midst of a panic attack because someone caught me-
Sorry. Mop? And broom?
Grappled around for a bit, tossed aside like nothing. Useful for cleaning up what needs to be and not much else. It's funny but I remember being abandoned to clean the class alone in primary school and doing it all... Mopping, sweeping, windows... Do you think that's connected?
Hey. Hey. Focus.
Hey. Hey. Snap out of it. It doesn't matter! The why doesn't matter because you already know! You've known the whole goddamn time and yet you ask me question after question, expecting answers you already have because you have this idea that once you understand me enough you can fix me. Fix us-
That's not what I'm doing. Not what I'm saying, either.
You never thought of that, did you? Well, here it is now. The thought's there. Are you seeing the reason now? Is it all making sense to you?
Why? Just say why. It doesn't require this much talk.
No. I guess not... My gods, I'll never be enough for you, will I? Or for them. It's ridiculous, I know, to feel the world revolves around me so. To worry I'll be called out among dozens of students. To worry I'll be harmed again when I'm trying so hard to stay out of everyone's way- but I used the same tactic then too, remember, and look what it got us?
You didn't do enough.
Yeah. I didn't. I never do. I never will. Give up. Give... Give it all up. Feel how the energy has slipped from your fingers, now? The burst of... Whatever that was... Rage, colliding memories, emotion... All of it. Pissed away. Burnt right out. Knocked off the face of out teensy planet-
No, shit up, shut the fuck up because I'm not done. You don't get to tell me to focus like you aren't just as tired of it all as I am. If I could flip a switch and make us not care, I'd do it in a heartbeat. But I'd regret it. Because I want to care too much about the good and not at all about the bad but everything overlaps here. This world, this mind. You switch it off, it's off. Five four three yer outta here, you know exactly how this works. We've been there many times, that smooth empty pocket of space with no stars and other shiny things in between. I will not let you take us both down. I refuse. So let's work together. Try not to die on this never-ending journey. And try not to murder each other first all the way through. Alright, self?
Okay. But answer the question. Then I'll let you go. I still don't... Fully understand it. I felt your feelings. I was there through all the emotions. The energy flowed away from my fingertips, we balled them up and gave into the emptiness. The memory is there but no reasonable breakdown will suffice. So just... Try to explain in... Words for me? Please?
It didn't feel necessary anymore. It was the slip-away. The... I set an alarm for 6:30 but left too early even though I had a different plan. I left because it didn't matter anymore. Because it didn't make sense to stay. Nothing makes sense anymore, Captain.
Till the very end, perhaps?
Till the very end.
The first song in Hozier's new album makes this make more sense to me. As did an episode of Midnight Gospel titled "Annihilation of Joy". I recently understood the numb more. But first, a brief overview of my relationship with it.
Numb is an old friend... Like many other "negative" emotions. Calling them negative seems rude now... Probably because I try to respect and understand their existence more. Coming to terms with my own being and all that.
Numb was one of the strongest parts of my melancholia. Many, many years of a push and pull between feeling too much and nothing at all. Those were the two kinds of bottoms I'd hit, getting lower every time and I feared this one. I hated how it sucked everything out of me like a vacuum. How I would stare at the ceiling and wait for emotion that may or may not come, how it felt like the emptiness would last forever in those long, silent moments.
It took over many things. Relationships with people. The things I loved became muted, subdued, faded. I was fading along with. And the more I sank in, the more it made sense and made me feel insane all at once.
I think I understand the point of it now, however. In two ways. The first is that it's there to protect me... From the other side of the spectrum. The muting may be extreme but it softens everything... Until nothing matters. I've had bad experiences that were only survivable, to some extent, because of the numbness. Because of the empty. Because negative emotions, despite the way they make us feel, exist for a reason. I don't enjoy them either but every last one of them works for you, just as the rest of your body, soul and mind try to.
The second thing isn't complex. Not to me, anyway. I've seen the quote many times that says we are the universe experiencing itself. If I am the universe the everything that has ever made me happy represents every star in the sky, every floating celestial body. New and old as they explode into existence and fade away into the ether. Every book. Every TV show. Every wonderful fanfiction there has ever been. My family. The people I've loved and lost the gaze of. Stars.
The empty is the darker part. The numb is what lies outside of all the feeling and emotion humans possess. Sometimes it has a cause but often times, it just appears to me. Usually when I put away stimulation and let myself drift. Or when I think so much that my brain shakes its head and shuts us down. The numb is a long blanket that occupies the parts of our existence that are not filled with things. Love and hope and rage and desires. The part that is just us existing on a planet for a little while. The us behind all the other.
I wouldn't say I enjoy it. It's not meant to be enjoyable. It's neutrality at its strongest. But there is no bright, burning star or violent comet crashing through the cosmos without the blanket of dark empty space between. There is a beauty to it. A need to it. It's the base of what we are. The behind. The underneath. At least, to me. Cut it some slack. Give it a listen. Allow yourself to be a while. It isn't there to hurt you. It's just...
I'd like... To be forgotten. No, that's not accurate. I'd like the person they see me as to be forgotten. I'd like to be given a funeral as who I am, not what they expect of me.
I already have a shaky idea of what it would look like if my family - my parents - were to bury me. They would gather relatives I never knew or cared about. Put me in a dress (I'd... Rather not) and maybe even jewellery. Maybe even do my hair in some way to make it seem I was a lovely Christian girl, the daughter of dreams.
I wouldn't say I'm rebellious. I spent a lot of my life trying to be perfect for them, actually. It's led to issues I'm working on but regardless, that was me. A version of me. Funny how even when things change so much, those little pieces and incorrect ways of thinking still stick around somewhere like an old piece of chewed gum.
So I do worry. That they'd give me a Christian funeral. Bring in a priest. Speak in Igbo as if I loved it. Talk about how I never got to have a husband or children as if that was a dream I had. About the people I could have been, the career paths I could have chosen, all of which would be their wants, not mine.
I've thought of this before. But briefly. Because back when I wanted to die that much, I suppose it hurt even though it wouldn't matter when I was dead, that the last time my body would be above the ground was going to be an elaborate, rich people party lie. Strangers apologising to my parents, praying for my soul. It reminds me of my eigth birthday party. Adults filling the sitting room. Me, my sister and a few of our friends to keep it down upstairs while they partied on our behalf.
But you're asking what I want. And... I don't know?
Well actually, I guess I do. I'd like to be in a suit. With my hair cut the way I like it. No earrings. Maybe even no shoes cos fuck em. Maybe some bathroom slippers. Remember me as I was in life. Except wearing a "man's outfit" cos I wanna be burned looking hot, I guess? I haven't worn a suit since I had to pretend to be a businessman during a secondary school presentation years ago. I think I'd like to some day when I feel brave enough. Why not the day I'm meant to go, as well?
I think I do want to be cremated. I don't see the point of burials... Personally. I understand wanting to return my body to the earth to be eaten and used for its nourishment. But burials of today mean giant slabs of wood and marble. As if people are meant to stay human-looking and alive forever. I know it seems like that's all we are but we never really were, were we? There's so much to a person beyond the things they've been taught by the world around them. Besides who they've grown to become.
Just... Burn me, man. Let me turn to ash. I think ash is a weird, beautiful concept. The way it moves and fades into the wind. I don't want to be dropped in a specific place. I just want to join the breeze. I want them to take me to different places, places that aren't choked up in noise and city-living... And just... Throw me into the air. Heck, they can travel to do it. A little bit of Paris, a little bit of Italia heh... Why not? My sister and brother should do it... I trust them most.
And then it would all be over. But I worry. That I would be buried the way the parents want me to. It's part of why I don't mind the thought of dying alone, in some strange country... Body never to be found by family. I don't want to go the way they bury their relatives. With the pretence and the keeping up grand appearances. I don't want someone to ask a child "why aren't you smiling more" at my funeral the way my aunt did to me at her mother's funeral, as if being around the guests/relatives/utter strangers meant I had to play a part. Be a puppet.
Acting is overrated. And yeah, it likely won't mean a thing to a dead person, whether there's an afterlife or not but I don't want to have my death the way people made me feel I had to be in life. Just throw me to the breeze, the sea, into the void of nothing that was always a part of me. Let me be sucked away, never to be again... Probably. No way to tell, really.
I always wanted to be a bird, a cloud, a piece of the wind... At least my broken-down body would get the experience of that for a moment. That alone would be enough.
I’m A Little Teapot
Well, to pour out, I think,
Spilling calmly and coolly from the mind and fingers,
Not necessarily satisfied but just
Let you have some respite a short while.
I think human beings are expressive creatures like all animals and all living things.
Holding things in is genuinely a health hazard for us, that's how bad it is.
But spilling is difficult, especially because
Emotions aren't something you can make another person feel,
Nor are experiences.
I often marvel at the fact that my twin and I
Were born around the same time and have lived together for always, yet
Like and dislike and give a damn about
Such different things.
Like all creatives, poets want to spill out.
Like all nature, things have to be let go of at some point.
Cycles and movement and flow and all that.
The natural go of things.
So some people paint and some sing and some dance and most do all of these in their different ways,
And poetry then is pretty stories and journal entries
That are happy-go-lucky or swirly painful suffocating
That help us breathe a little easier for a
Little while sometimes.
Distractions for reader and writer alike.
A place to release a small piece of your small, homey, self-ful infinity.
They aren't always pretty but we try to make them so,
Even without fully thinking about it.
I used to think being a poet was all about rhyme and stanza and perfection
And then I read some Bukowski and some
And I read enough magic to realise
It's just a cup that runneth on over
In split-up lines and parts
Like all other writing.
Nothing special and
Everything that is magical
All at once.
I like that about people.
Everything we create is more masterwork from the hands because
It comes from somewhere and someone
With a heart and a maybe soul?
I like that we create things.
That we build these giant rectangular-ish things to nest in
And other rectangles to sleep in
And often write onto or type into more rectangles for some momentary
And I like that no matter how good or bad the things I send out into the world might be,
It is mine.
And it always will be mine.
And no matter how similar it is to anyone's, nobody can ever take that away from me.
My mind is my mind,
My poetry is my poetry,
My madness is my madness.
People may bear witness for a moment, be moved, be bored
But I'm not here for them.
I do not write for them.
I never truly have.
The pen can only mean something to the being who creates with it.
My phone and I have many more
Little scratchings on the wall to go.
And many more happy-go-lucky, swirly painful suffocating experiences,
Drifting in and through and away,
To fuel them.
On my phone is photographic proof my picture-prone sister
On my phone is photographic poof my picture-taking-prone sisterOn my phone is photographic poof my picture-taking-prone sister
Wanted for our father's birthday cake while he was away on business.
It's weird how no one wants to write their ages on their cakes.
I wonder when it happens.
When they stop celebrating with the giant numbers printed out or in wax form
"10s" and "1s" and the lot.
When does one go from wanting it known to feeling like it creeps on you?
My father seems so well put together sometimes
In his little human skin suit that it's
Only the cracks, at times
That remind me he is human.
He is critical.
He is a leader or whatever.
He is husband and father, hardworking son to some no longer alive people and every
Thing he does,
He does with the desire to be the best.
Or as good as he can.
He knows so much about
He expects everyone to act at least a little like him
But don't we all?
I don't tend to see him fall apart.
In the angry way, of course but never the sad way.
Man or not, he doesn't feel comfortable doing so.
He'd rather lock himself in his room with bread and water by his side when he feels extra upset,
Some little grievance
Take it out on someone else.
The man isn't perfect.
And I don't think I fully realised
Till recently enough that his own version of perfect,
The one he always tries to make us follow
And that he really is trying his best to adjust it...
The hurt he's done and will do still remains but
The past is hard to think about.
I drank from the River Lethe, yet the few sticklers left in my empty head are the worst ones
And he's aced some villain roles, I suppose.
But he's so... Old now?
He's survived so much?
Gone through so much psychological shit he likely won't ever see as "that bad" or
Like me, he cares sort of a lot about how people view him.
Not enough that it utterly swallows up his life
But enough to make too many choices based on the eyes...
I wonder if life gets better or worse as you get older?
I'm about his age divided by three so maybe I'm not one to talk
And he will probably always see me as a small child with very little to say
But I think it's a mix of both.
It will always be a mix of both.
And that sort of terrifies me.
I spent my entire childhood searching for happiness,
And the perfect formula for the perfect little girl.
Throwing that all away takes time.
Learning to rock with the boat as wave becomes ocean and ocean becomes wave again is
Kind of a lot.
But here we both are.
Ebbing, flowing, clashing, isolating.
Three times and three divided each other's ages.
It's not about the way that certain someone makes you feel.
It's not about that bully from the past.
It's not about the eyes...
And it never was.
Why do you put in so much effort, child,
When you were always going to be here?
Always meant to exist?
Why do you torture yourself so much as if it is by your hand that humans are such convoluted complexities of kind and cruel, as if it's
By your hand that it's all burning down day by day?
Why the self-cruelty?
Dry your eyes.
There is no certainty to any of it for any of us.
Just a lot of dancing around, whether for fun or to pretend it is so and
I say we make it interesting when we can.
So let it go.
And fall away.
The world spins on whether we dance or not.
Don't make yourself a puppet for them.
Don't bind yourself to judgement and insults and shame and hatred.
Don't waste your days on the strings of faceless, heartless, soulless things who don't care for the you you know you are.
Give the dance a pause.
Drop the hammer, put down the briefcase
And pick up some scissors, stranger.
It's not over till it's over.
So while you're here,
Shred that twine entangling your bones to pieces bit by bit and
Spin about however you'd like.
Do a cartwheel.
Shift side to side.
Lay on the ground.
The world is yours.
It always was.
As long as you give up on proving yourself to them and
I remember the day I met you. There was an ixora in your hair... Your caramel skin seemed to glow under the sun like glazed pottery. And I was amazed. And I struggled to keep my gaping to yourself. Didn't wish to alarm you. Didn't want you noticing that I existed at all because it's so much easier to admire a person when they're unaware.
You chew your pencil when you're thinking, you know. Its a habit of yours. I find it endearing but also ridiculous. We're in university and meant to be "adults" by now, yet you keep a pencil next to the pen you write with so you don't damage the glass when you're in need of your thinking tool. I wonder if the pieces stain your teeth? How it tastes on your tongue... It must swirl and swirl with all the bitterness of wood and lead...
Oh, to be a pencil. To lose my head between the curve of your lips, lost the swirl of your tongue, bathed in your slick like an unholy baptism...
Excuse me. Excuse that. Ignore it.
And I remember the day you first smiled at me. How I marvelled in it, threatened by all your majesty. How I couldn't meet your eyes as you asked for my number. Later on, you told me you'd noticed me. And of all the guys who couldn't stop looking at you, it was me, the girl that couldn't rip their silly eyes away that you found worthy of your curiosity.
I don't know why you stayed as long as you did. I'll never understand it, Amina. I never did deserve you - even now, after everything that happened, I still think you the most precious gold in the world. But gold has little meaning without the gaze that its glow excites. Maybe that was the reason things crumbled.
I forgot that you could shine with or without me.
It was too easy for you. That day? At your wedding? Watching you take the hands of that man I had never met and kiss him the way you once did me... I still feel your lips on mine, Amina. Fresh, brightly coloured ixora in a world of dull cocoa pods. I still drift to the thought of what you and I could have been.
But here we are. A man between us like we always feared. You would rather have children and security than be with me, I suppose. Than be yourself. Truth be told, I wish I could but I still cannot understand... I would have chosen you in every reality. Risked my safety after hiding myself away for all these years in a country like ours to let myself love a woman. Love you.
Maybe it's my fault. I should have known from the moment those ixora petals brushed against my mouth, curious and gentle and desperate like an act of worship, that it would not last.
But yours was an altar I would still bow the knee at. A devotion that no being on earth could ever understand - it was sick and toxic and too dependent and too unhealthy - and a piece of my soul will long for you forever.
You have many children now, this I know. Every photo you take is all fake smiles and glazed eyes. Your ixora are still just as red. And yet they are paler and drier than I've ever seen.
You're miserable. Perhaps I could have noticed. Saved you. Forced you to see that it would only bring you sorrow. But I did not know. How could I? I only had enough space in my heart then to love you - I cared too little for myself to truly believe I was a better option. I wonder if you cry as often as you once did, in the dark, with me. I wonder if your soul is in even more hidden pieces. Pieces you and I once shared in the dead of the night, clinging to each other's warmth like thirsty mosquitos.
You were my succor. But perhaps we both abandoned each other. I read your letter. I'm sorry but it was found by your maid before your husband came home and posted to the world. They know about us, now. Your husband knows how you dreamt of me every time he touched you. He is livid, as you'd expect, not that his emotions or existence matter to me at all.
I know now that you loved me. Loved me still. Despite how easy it should have been not to - how easy I thought you must have found it. Do you remember that day? The day you left? I have so many memories of you, Amina. So much love and regret and anger and adoration and pain and nowhere to put it, anymore. At least, when you were still here, these emotions had a home. They are listless, now. I suppose I always have been.
I'm still holding onto hope that you simply faked your death to get away from that madman. I'm still hoping you'll find me some day and tell me how long you've searched, take me back to your place and show me how much you missed me all these years. I was there. Always there. You could have told me. I did not know.
I'm sorry. I shouldn't cry. It would upset you, my gold, I know that well. I'm leaving the country. Our story is a bit famous, now... I suppose people are surprised that older gays exist in this country. That it is not simply a crazy by the younger generation of Nigerians, brought on by white people and the internet. History and fear washed us all away. But to be a cocoa bean or a fiery ixora?
I've been too dull a shade for too long. It's time for another path. The people here will not leave me alone, Amina. So I am going far away. This letter is the last you will see of me. The last thing I will do before I hurry myself over to the plane is bury it close to your gravestone, to live with you forever. Some part of me, the devotee, wishes to join you where you've gone. But I know better. And I plan to live the rest of my life remembering you as you were. Because it seems no one else knew you as well as I always have.
Rest, o? Obi m. Ifunanya m. Omalicha! I left you a tiny bouquet of your favourite, little red flowers. It was all I could do and that will always be my biggest regret. I read about how hard you tried to forget about me. How you forced the thought of me away like I was a plague, desperate to be good enough to be acceptable to the world and to your religion.
No more of that. It's over. Rest. Sleep. Dream of me. Perhaps this was what would always have been. Forever awaiting each other. What a sad way to live. What a sad way to die.
If nothing else came to mind in those painful last moments, I hope your mind flashed to me. To a soul that has always been yours. I hope you remembered that you are loved.