I speak, I can. These were the first words I spoke on this foreign soil. The lady across from me examined my face. She was searching for something. That something had been clogged up by bloody rags and stitched close with hollow words. I dug a grave for that something and left it anonymous- to be forgotten. She asked those four menacing words, what happened to you? I swallowed my past whole, leaving it lodged in my throat, preventing me from speaking. Her eyes begged for a response, so I answered with a loud silence.
My name is Nia and that was my first therapy session.
I am an immigrant from Malawi and I have been in this gloomy country of England for 5 months 13 days and 32 mins. Yes, I have counted every minute that I have been here.
England echoes my feelings back to me. Their sun's battery here seems to be running low, making the land dim and bleak. The sky is depressed; constantly weeping. It is perfect. If you have not noticed, I struggle to find joy in life.
I came to this country with my father and older sister, Nzeru. We are the same age, but she was always more mature than me since little. My father (a flawed but brilliant man) left behind all that he knows for us to learn all that he does not. My sister Nzeru has let this new land whisk her way with all its charm and wonder. Yet late at night when drapes block out darkness and electric lights shine in place of stars, I feel guilty. Guilty that I have not moved on; the memories are like scabs that I pick open. This new place was meant to save me from myself, but I'm still lost in what was.
Life. Has beaten me into a coma.
My therapist, Laura, told me to transform my pain into words on paper, so now I am reflecting on my life. I go to Laura because I have not spoken since we arrived in this country. Words tire me. I used words to fight before, but it was scrunched up and forced back down my throat as punishment. I have learnt from experience that a girl's words are oil to water; it never gets through. In my country, girls were often married off young and had children too early. This foreboding fear loomed over my sister and me our whole lives. When we were children dancing with the dust and dreaming of becoming doctors, pilots, and teachers, my mother was planning something I dread.
The fear yanked my leg and dragged me to its crawlspace nestled in my trachea.
I can recall the day I was ripped away from my sister and home and bottled up and wrapped like a present for him. I was 14 when it happened. My thought was that my life would be different, but that's a foolish hope I had. I am to become a wife and bear children for him.
A goat. Three chickens and 115 kwacha. I am worth nothing but that.
I was brought to his house of mud walls and a thatched roof. The sun seemed to turn its face down in pity. My feet dropped to the still warm ground. There was a tree bent skew as if the wind had carried all the girls' cries over the vast country and this tree bent as a sign of respect. I followed him into the house like an obedient dog. He unwrapped the gift and I sunk to the ground. I was not there. I did not exist. It did not happen to me.
I do not like to dwell on that time in my life, but I feel I am still sinking into that ground enclosed by those four unstable walls. Wishing that it would implode on me. I am not there, and I know that if I leave my physical body it will cause more pain to the already wounded. Nzeru was left back at home all alone with my mother. She blames her for many things, I did too once, but I forgive her as she did what she was taught. My father left to find work in South Africa, and we did not hear from him for 2 months. Watching my mother cling to the hope of his return loosening gave me an understanding of her actions.
My father returned, late, but he returned nonetheless and took me away. The damage was already done, but I got something many girls did not; a chance. Every day in this new country, I try to get better and not wallow as I did back home. Nzeru has made new friends at school and introduced them to me. I recently got invited to join them out at a party. My therapist Laura believes this could be the spark to relight my flame. Maybe breathing won't become a strenuous exercise every day. maybe I can make this place my new home, a safe home, a loving home. Maybe I will catch the virus joy that's dangerously contagious here. Maybe I will want to want to
live. Maybe i’ll pursue love with wondrous naivete as i did once before.