I am hungry. It happens a lot these days. I have nibbled on enough snacks to conclude that no amount of food will fill the longing in me.
Giving up on food I seek company, not just anyone’s, only from minds that can sate a fraction of the hunger. I keep my phone close, staring at it with longing and wonder why no one has reached out yet. I consider reaching out then check myself. I won’t grovel. That which is not given freely I do not want.
I sleep a lot now, it’s the only addiction I can allow myself to indulge in. It is considered the least harmful, but I have seen what it has reduced me to. It’s just as hard to give up as the others. I can’t have enough and when I am roused from its sweet comfort I am miserable and listless.
Awake, I am unsure what to do with myself. There is a lot that requires my attention. I look at the clothes bin with the cover hanging, about to topple due to the mass of dirty clothes beneath it. Black thick cobwebs stretch from wall to ceiling. Caught in one is an insect trying to fight its way out. I hit the cobweb with a scarf, freeing the insect. I long for someone to come in the same way and break me out of this invisible web that has crippled me.
Stepping over bits of clothing I venture out of my room for the first time that day. It’s just two hours past midday. Pretty early by my standards. I wonder what to do for the rest of the hours remaining till dusk. There’s dust on every surface, there are dishes in the sink, now crusted with hardened food remnants. I should take care of those, but I can’t find the strength to lift a hand. Of what use is tidying up anyway? It’s an annoying, tiring cycle; you clean, then use, then it goes back to being dirty and you have to clean again. Of what use is anything? What use is life? Who gave anyone the right to assume that I wanted to be created? Right now I crave oblivion, not life, not death, not the life after, just a state of inexistence.
Laughter floats in from somewhere outside, reminding me of a time I had enough of it. Where are they now; the ones with whom I shared those tear-inducing laughter? A tear falls. I swipe angrily at it with the heel of my hand. It is always so close these days and the more I let them pour the greater the hunger I feel. From where did the phrase healing tears originate? Perhaps from the same place as the quote when there’s life there’s hope. All lies.
Would sleep envelope me in its embrace I would go back to bed. For now a whiff of my smell assaults my nostrils. I smell of sweat, inactivity and lack of sun. I should open the windows and let air in instead I crumble onto the small kitchen stool beside the plate rack. Darkness is the only companion I can stand.
Why am I here? Just to be a pawn on the chess board of some invisible being? I have not been of use to anyone for so long. If I leave now no one will notice. I toy with the idea for a brief moment. Will there be tears and tributes? Will people share heart-rending posts of all that I was to them –all the things they never told me to my face?
The words of my mother float into my thoughts. Ọ buru n’iga ja mu nma ja nu m ya ka m nọ ndu. If you will sing my praise, sing it while I’m alive. I have lost hope that my praise will ever be sung in this life. For that I don’t want it sung in death.
The tears threaten now at the thought of my mother and I let them flow. Were she here I would have a reason to stay, but even that one blessing has been snatched from me, now I have none to count. Don’t mention my life; it is a burden.
Her simple wish had not been granted. She had her praise sung only after she had slipped from this life. It was annoying to hear everyone suddenly have a nice story to tell about her, more so when it came from the foreman of the building from which bricks had fallen and ultimately killed her.
When I went to demand that he take care of mother’s hospital bills he had answered without feeling, “The health insurance is only for our labourers. It doesn’t cover traders.” After she was gone he was the one who praised her the most and talked about how she made the best moin moin and kept the labourers well fed at a very affordable rate.
“Ahn… That Mama Kate na good woman o.” He shook his head in disbelief, mouth pursed and arms folded across his chest “And she no get big eye. Even when other people dey add money on top their moin moin say fuel don add money, she no follow. Ahh, God, why?”
It’s been one year, nine months, two weeks and four days. It shouldn’t matter anymore. I am fine now, at least that is what I say to people when they ask.
I am hungry again. I should fry some potatoes. I reach for the knife in the rack. I am too tired to get the potatoes so I remain seated, unconsciously skimming the pointed tip of the knife across the skin covering the green veins at my wrist, and think how lucky I have been since then.
I have a comfortable home now, one that doesn’t have a leaking roof or shared bathroom. Unlike the foreman, the owner of the building was compassionate when he heard what happened. It was too late then, but he did what he could. When he offered me the boys’ quarters and a job keeping the large compound clean after it was completed I was happy, then I felt guilt for being happy, but I grabbed the job like a lifeline and have handled it diligently since then, until recently.
I haven’t gone out to sweep in one week; I haven’t seen a life in that long.
Vibration coming from my upper thigh startles me and I jump, dropping the knife. I fumble for the phone in my pocket then peer at the screen, hopeful.
I pick just for the fun of it and listen to the automated message. On a whim I decide to talk back to the machine. I don’t know the things I am saying, I just kept talking till the call disconnects.
Reaching a resolve, i log on to Facebook and write on my wall WHEN I’M GONE DON’T SING MY PRAISE. I retrieve the knife and begin carving same words into the wall above the rack. I continue this till I am spent then I drop to the floor. It doesn’t have to continue this way.
I imagine mother’s voice scolding, I di nzuzu. You are silly. I falter.
One deep breath was all it took to force courage back into me. I push the knife deep into my wrist before I could rethink. The skin turned white, then pink, then red as the blood trickled.
It hurts, but is nothing compared to the worthless feeling that has been stifling life out of me. I did not have a say in my entry but I’m taking the reins on my exit.
I indulge in a fantasy about someone coming in, finding me and fighting to save me. I still have the presence of mind to laugh at the improbability. Asides the NEPA man no knuckle has rapped on my door for weeks. Help isn’t coming, not in this life and not in the next.
I accept that I will be descending into the fiery flames once I’m done from here, but what does it matter? If hell is real it can’t be worse than the one I have lived here. Relieved, I welcome the darkness.