I write today to share a memory fading into nothingness, a memory of tears that I refuse to say. Of childhood, not of happiness and smiles, but the story of tears I wouldn’t share, because what good will it be to remember the pains and tears, what good will it be to put my mind through it again, when I could easily let go? So today I start from the end to share this story because that is where it all begins.
The first, the one that ends every day to begin at the crack of dawn the next, is about that time I wanted death. Not just death, but the most painful type so that it hurt everyone as much as I hurt. Oddly enough, I was a child, the most annoying 12-year- old you could come across, so I could not be depressed, I could not know pain as much as I knew it then. But my heart was full and my eyes heavy with tears I shed every day.
I did not understand, no one did, so I cried more and that one time I was smacked hard on the face, just so I could have a real reason to cry. I stopped crying and stopped feeling, hoping it would end. It never did. So I picked all my father’s medications for his diabetes and hypertension and stared at them, wondering how fast it would be if I took all of it at once. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I cried again and got this terrible headache, which I secretly loved.
That story only ends now, but what about the other ones, about self-doubt and panic attacks, which are never-ending? Imagine being the second-best at everything, in class, in beauty, in attention. Everyone had something to say about you, not good things, not bad things either, just how you will never be as good as those other kids because you had such bad stage fright and your brain decided to shut down whenever you were around people other than friends and family.
Thing is, after a while it gets easy, you fit in perfectly with the wall, you are no longer hurt when you are called ugly, or when you are told that the only person who was almost a best friend to you was better because she was always ranked the first position in the class. The best part about this story is how everyone expects you to feel when you talk about the pain. You’re Nigerian, you know it is harmless banter, so suck it up and keep a straight face and act like your whole world did not shatter into nothingness when those you loved the most called you ugly. This very story is not over yet. When it is, I will be sure to let everyone know. For now, we move.
This other story is mine, but not mine to share, because I only got to see, I never felt, but isn’t that still enough to experience pain? I don’t know. It is about that time I cried to school and my teacher, the nice one everyone loved, asked what was wrong. I could not say because it was not my story, and who knows if I would make it worse by sharing, so I told a lie. I said I could not find my lunch money, so he gave me a hundred naira, just enough to buy one gala and one Bobo milk juice. This story is also about that other time I was told to remain in the bedroom while the adults talked and made peace, but they were being unfair. They believed the lie and when I came out to say the truth, they shushed me, because God forbid he was wrong. He was the head of the family and whatever he did was only meant to correct and not punish.
It is also about that time I first felt hatred, real hatred so I hissed and dodged the paint bucket that came flying at my head when I dared talk back. It is about when I finally stopped thinking I was at fault for the hatred that was spewed at me by the person meant to protect me, and so got into a big fight with everyone on the other side because, no matter how I tried not to, I could love no longer. You see this story will only end when the memories fade completely from my head, but till then I will just teach my heart to let go.
I have one more story; it is the last, I promise. For now, at least. It is quite interesting because even I do not understand it, so I want you to read not because you need something to look at, but so you could help me figure this out. I was a willing participant, or was I? I really can’t tell. I was six, five maybe. It was about that time I laid with him. Him, in this case, refers to my then seven years old cousin. We both laid on the bench together, to play he said, like in his fantasies, the ones he showed me from that magazine we were not supposed to have with us. You see, in this particular story, I keep blaming myself. Maybe I would have said no, but I was scared because what if he tried slapping me, like that other boy whose face I cannot remember any longer, and well he said it wasn’t bad, so I allowed myself have that one thing. We were caught and caned hard on our buttocks. I think that is why I still play the blame game with myself for things I could have said no to, but again what did I know. This is the only conclusive story I have; it stopped. Last time I saw him, he had grown into someone I could not recognise, and no one talks about it anymore, so maybe this story will free me from the guilt I feel.
18-year-old Osaki George is in her second year at the University of Benin, where she studies Mass Communication. She likes to think of herself as an introvert, but with just the right amount of motivation, she could be as extroverted as the next party buff down the street. When she is not neck-deep in schoolwork, she spends time reading, improving her writing, or schooling everyone on why radical/intersectional feminism is the best. And when she’s really bored, she looks up houses on sale at Banana Island, undaunted by her less-than-a-thousand-naira account balance. My twitter handle is @ambivert_writer