lzspr_tsqpw-john-towner

“The dark of the night concealed it for you. Like a firefly in a jar, money in a piggy bank, currency folded and tucked away in the edges of wrappers.”

***

The morning is not your favorite time of the day. The dawn brings with it an awakening of body, mind and spirit; an awareness of not just the present but of every other moment after it. It is there. Always there right before you. It lies just beyond your grasp and just after your reach. You are not exactly certain how to attain it but you don’t try too hard to as well. It is okay where it stays; far enough to not be too close but close enough to not be too far away.

The morning is not your favorite time of the day. You dread the light pouring into the windows, fighting hard to pass through as many cracks, corners and crevices as it can regardless of how closely you have pulled the curtains together. You cannot shut it out. The morning seeps in. It enters your skin. You feel it move and swell in your pores. Its pulse is yours. It has a life of its own within your being.

It is not so much the morning as a time of the day that you detest, but what it portrays. It speaks of a time when you must decide. You must rise. You must become. You must lift yourself from your bed. The four cornered poster you had laid your head, set your being, become one all through the six hours of the night, dreamt dreams, drooled, rolled, snoozed, all through which time your skin had once been one with the sheets.

The morning makes you peel yourself away from all you had spent so long in the night becoming familiar with, demanding you meet it with all the enthusiasm expected for the unfamiliar. It is an impossible and unfair task, but you do it because you must. It is the morning and you must rise else you are dead. You must trudge along your bedroom floor and welcome the burning sun into you. You must let it come in and move through you, melting away the night until you are reborn and new.

When that happens, you no longer know who you are. Asleep on that bed, covered and wrapped in sheets that you quickly became one with, you were someone. The dark of the night concealed it for you. Like a firefly in a jar, money in a piggy bank, currency folded and tucked away in the edges of wrappers. But the day exposes the real you, and when it does you must decide. As you are no more who you have hidden to become, you must now choose who you are: Who the light has exposed you to be.

It is not the morning you dread but what it entails: the deciding of who and what to become; the putting together of thoughts; the dressing up. There might be those who enjoy the waking up; fluttering eyes open to the crisp morning air, spreading lips wide for a sometimes unnecessary yawn and struggling in that brief moment of restlessness as they try to decide whether they are ready to get out of bed.

But that is not you. The rays of the morning sun are not soft and welcoming; they are foreboding, and you approach the day with as much hesitation and reluctance as you began it with. It is not yours. None of it is yours. But you know you must and so you do.

You think about your day and try to decide who to become. Hesitation turns into anticipation and your palms begin their usual dancing-itching ritual. The sweat pools on your forehead—just below your hairline—and you decide to choose something that covers your pores’ inability to hide your nerves.

The dark-colored one was not your favorite, but it helped you do that. It was strong and knew how to withstand just about any kind of pressure and situation. You remember that one incidence with the wrench that had you locked in a tight grip. You could feel the pain so hard you were almost certain it would break apart.

You shut your eyes in preparation to hear it rip all the way along the sides and expose your naked, bare self. But it did not. It just stayed there. Together. Daring. Black ebony as dark as night and as rich and thick as dark chocolate. Unblinking and unmoving. It was at that moment that you fell in love with it. That was the day you realised there was some good in it. It was strong. There was no breaking it.

But you also knew you hated the stares you received when you wore it. The eyes bore so deep into you they seared the bone. It made you shrink so far into yourself you began to feel like a hermit crab or a snail in a shell. Hiding away long enough until you had to find another shell to protect your fragile and vulnerable form. Forgetting that your shell was nothing like the crab’s or the snail’s, but instead everything like the tortoise’s. Hard and already cracked, there was nothing getting through it.

You are thankful for that, but you have also wondered if you could perhaps bleach it as well. You once soaked it in a tub of boiling washing liquid. You scrubbed so hard it turned raw and squeaked to the touch. But there was no lightening it. No changing of its basic chemical nature. It was a rubber ball; when you threw it to the ground with as much force as you could muster, it only bounced right back up.

It did not mirror the weakness you wore it with, it exuded its own strength. It lived and moved and breathed a life of its own. Devoid of you. Away from you. In spite of you. There was nothing about it that showed it had been to hell. It did not wear its emotions on its sleeve. It did not need validation from you to feel well.
You wore it with fear, day in and day out, and even now, you still do. And you wonder how such symbiosis could exist with so much contrast. But was that not the nature of life? The weak hid under the strong and the strong protected the weak.

Your hatred and hesitation for the mornings was not only in protest of the day, it was in hope. Hope that one day, one bright morning, you would rise beaming back at the sun and not cowering away. And you would wear the dark-colored one with such grace and precision, adjusting and straightening out the problem areas that wrinkled—feet, hands, neck, forearms.

And when it is on, you will walk to the long mirror hanging on the wall right next to the window with the rays of sunlight fighting to pass through the closed curtains, with your chest puffed out like a peacock in heat, shoulders squared and back straight, as you admire with pride rather than longing the skin encasing your being and how it glows in the morning sun like the dying embers of a fire. And you will be confident enough to take on the day, clothed in nothing but your thick, richly colored melanin and knowing that there was no better covering to live in.

 

 

**************

Post image by JOHN TOWNER via Upsplash

About the Author:

BK6NMoBBn79Ronke was a participant at the 2015 Writivism Creative Writing Workshop. She is currently getting a degree in Communication at the University of Ibadan.

Tags: , , ,

2 Responses to “This Skin You Live In | by Ronke | An Essay” Subscribe

  1. Simzah 2017/03/09 at 05:25 #

    Yes! Love yourself, love your skin. It is yours and yours alone. Take care of it and let it shine. This is such a beautiful piece.

  2. nimo 2017/03/09 at 08:15 #

    Beautifully written #BlackGirlMagic

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

On Helen Oyeyemi | An Essay

helen oyeyemi (1)

It was Helen Oyeyemi who first made me realize what I’d always found dissatisfying about short stories. A short story […]

Tsitsi Dangaremgba to Teach Master Classes at Durban International Film Festival

TSITSI DANGAREMBGA

Tsitsi Danganrembga, the renowned Zimbabwean writer and filmmaker who gave us the groundbreaking novel Nervous Conditions, will be teaching master […]

Africa in Dialogue Publishes e-Book of Gerald Kraak Award Interviews

gerald kraak interviews africa in dialogue

Gaamangwe Mogami, editor of Africa in Dialogue, has curated interviews with the twelve writers and photographers shortlisted for the 2017 Gerald […]

Bernard Matambo’s Lyrical Emigrant Story Makes Best American Essays 2017

bernard matambo

The Zimbabwean Bernard Matambo’s lyrical emigrant nonfiction, “Working the City,” published in Transition‘s issue 121 and named in Brittle Paper‘s […]

Chika Unigwe’s Student Writes Her the Letter Every Professor Dreams of Receiving

19095277_10155480594766055_8764199255508426184_o

African writers who are professors seem to have a knack for effortlessly winning the hearts of their students. In 2013, […]

Eight Writers Shortlisted for Writivism’s Short Story and Koffi Addo Nonfiction Prizes

Writivism has announced the shortlists for their Short Story and Koffi Addo Nonfiction Prizes. Both prizes’ longlists, released last month, named […]