I find it difficult to celebrate the hurdles I’ve jumped over in the marathon of life. I owe several apologies to this body formed from dust and rib and grit in glory. The body that has housed me for almost twenty-three years. There aren’t many visible scars, a testimony of how well my body has been a sanctuary. I, in fact, look like what I have been through because it takes a kindred spirit like mine to see me, all of me. Like the bolt driver who felt led to tell me how much I was loved; he saw me for who I really was. It takes me back to this Bible passage about the Samaritan woman at the well whom Jesus saw. It is like walking this earth clothed, hidden and invisible and then someone points at you and says, “I see you.” It is being reminded that you too, are alive and living. I think we forget how easy it is to become unknown.
Home is a shapeshifter. On weekdays, it is the voice of my loved ones over the phone. On weekends, it is sometimes the body that envelopes mine on a queen-sized bed, the book that reads me, a group of friends on a screen, two kids that stir up my heart and food that surprises me. I have accepted that home can take different shapes, sizes and forms. For instance, home is the shape between the folded flesh of my belly. Home is as small as the faint voice in my head. Home is God in all forms; a silent answered prayer for strength, an unexpected kindness that allows me to be.
This body has known hunger. At the well, Jesus called it thirst. He referred to this metaphorical translation of thirst that the Samaritan woman could not comprehend. My hunger has been literal more than it has been metaphorical. Maybe hunger is yet another bully of adulthood that beats us into being scarred responsible adults. But when you are hungry, this statement is as irritating as an MTN MobileMoney alert without the money. I want to be fully satisfied but in adulthood, this sounds more like a wish for me. So, these past few days, I have been my own genie. I have been blowing all the candles and caring less about where the flames disappear. I have been having my cake and eating it, both literally and metaphorically.
Time has been passing by too quickly. I cannot believe that it has been five weeks, I think, since I spoke to my best friend. It is also one of the metaphorical hungers this body has known. It should be a day or two and not five weeks. It was the only friendship I was proud of and boasted about the most. Everyone that knew me, knew her; that was how hard I could not stop talking about her. These days, I wish I talked to her more than I talked about her. Everyone that knows me says I should do just that, to talk to her. I wish it were that simple. For the years I had known her, I had admired her for chasing after who she wanted to become. I have seen her consume identities and excrete them. I assume that was when I started to slowly forget who she was. Time waits for no man. I only wish it waited for me to catch up to her. A wish I know would never be granted in this lifetime, maybe the next one. And I don’t want to pray for her, I refuse to add her to the ghosts I pray for.
It is astounding how much fear seals away from us. I know this man likes me. I feel it in the way he stares into my eyes and smiles and how he stops himself from kissing my forehead when I’m leaving. But he is afraid and he is right to be. I feel his fear and I use it to protect my heart. We are limited in our expressions of care towards each other but we know we both feel something. How I wish it was love we felt instead of this fear we share. In love, there are no limitations only freedom. I have known such freedom before to know that what we have is anything but. And once you have tasted such freedom like the one true love gives, you would never want to taste anything else. These days it is what I pray for, a metaphorical hunger about to be satisfied. And maybe, this light heart is a testimony, these wide smiles growing between my lips when I pray are only gentle notices that my prayer is being answered.
There is this book that has been reading me; Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir by Akwaeke Azamezi. Some days, I arrive at the conclusion that pages in this book are full of whining and childish complaints. How dare a 30+ adult be so outspoken about their power and vulnerability in the same breath. I close the book and think, “nobody is coming to save you, stop being so pathetic.” That is usually the voice in my head when a thought pushes me to reach out: “I mean who cares? Everybody’s got an agenda and so what?” I used to think the bravest people are those who wear their hearts on their sleeves and over time, I have come to discover that there is a very thin line between brave and stupid. These people walk that very thin line every day. The rest of us? Why, we are just cowards with enough fear to cripple us for life. I’m almost done reading this memoir and by the time I finish, I would’ve been completely undone, reborn and mustered enough courage to walk that line myself.
Courage looks different for me than most. It is silence. Like yesterday, when my boss ordered me to pull up my dress and I silently obeyed. After he had seen enough of my cleavage, he decided to be a saint and admonish my slutty look. You should understand that fighting is exhausting. And when you have fought inner battles for so long, you are forced to rest. For me, courage is rest. For you, that looks like nonchalance. If you google the word nonchalance, you will find a wrongly accused victim of social media cancel culture. My parents used to call for meetings where I was the agenda and address my nonchalance, which they named selfishness. They would pause and wait for an answer to a question. They wouldn’t understand the tears I’d give as response when all they did was use their words and not hands like they used to. This is resting too, the absence of words that would appease them. For every beating they gave me, I would rest. My body has done enough fighting for a lifetime, she will be resting in the next one.
When your mother told you, your uncle laid himself to rest, you felt your body tremble. You wondered if your body was crashing from recollecting memories you shared with him. On your way home, you find yourself fixated on a silver watch on the wrist of a lady seated in front of you. You were surprised by the shame that washed over you. Over fifty years your uncle had been alive and none of those years held the memory you were searching for. You remembered to ask your mother how she felt after the call ended. This, you could never imagine: to lose a sibling through suicide. You were wondering how your grandmother felt at the time she saw her first child lying helplessly on the floor in his own blood. How do you clean over fifty years of fermented blood from a room that holds your son’s shadow hostage? I would lay down beside my child’s body and count all the ways I would have swapped my body for his. When the counting ends, there would be no blood to clean.
The man that invited me to a vigil church service laid back in the plastic chair beside me, asleep. He has known me since I was 15 and hopes to put a ring on my finger someday. Earlier into the service when we arrived, he set down his bag and walked back and forth, speaking in a different language quite similar to the people around us. This was his idea of lifting my spirits after my boss verbally abused me at work that day. His passionate prayer was not surprising to me as I had known a man that led me in prayer at 2 am and called me at 5 am to touch myself. This man beside me is the closest definition of a friend to me. So far, he remains one of the good ones in my book. Sometimes, I wished I liked him in the same capacity he did. It would be a good reward for his 8 years’ worth of effort; an answer to his prayers.
These days I find myself thinking about how lucky this world is, for the existence of African women. I see these women break their bodies into little pieces, invoke the Lord’s blessing and feed thousands. History has not been kind to African women but I am not asking for reparations. I only want to remind you that the bodies you feed from are not yours. Hunger is like that, it comes with greed. It will always never be enough that the golden goose lays golden eggs. I can only scream these words that women ahead of me have been saying for a long long time, “ONLY WOMEN HAVE AUTONOMY TO THEIR OWN BODIES AND NO ONE ELSE.”
It took me a long time to believe that this body is mine and with that belief came a voice I thought I had lost. That this body’s hunger does not need baptism to be satisfied.