Last night, I took a bold step. I burnt my bridges and let go of the past. For years, I suffered and smiled. My eyes hid my emotions well. I doled out hugs from a hurting heart. I thought I was fine. Honestly, I thought the past was like a kite that you could just let go of the ropes and it’s gone; just like that! But I screamed in my sleep, my belly ached with pain-induced ulcers and the creases in my forehead told the story of my hurting heart. Only the discerning could tell something was wrong.
You know how they say, Don’t teach what you’ve not practised. I preached it too; with so much enthusiasm and vigour. Why try to placate an angry person when you have never experienced bile rising in your throat or a slight change in your voice as you stammer to express your feelings? I think it’s hypocritical to hug a person and say, “I know how you feel.” When your heart never burned with passion or when you never shed a tear before. Why try to understand what you’ve never felt? Rage, anger coursing in your veins crying out for a release.
You see, there’s a rising voice that seems to echo loudly. It’s the voice of “I understand…”
But let me ask…
Did you ever pick up a pen and a piece of paper smeared with tears? Did you ever pop seven pills into your hands just to cure the malady in your heart? Did you trail the lonely paths to the river and try to plunge there to end it all? Did you? Did you?
Did you look into the mirror and wish your caramel skin was exchanged for a lighter colour? Say, the colour of the sun. Yellow, fair and golden. Did you ever wish your eyes would lack that glow that made people think you were not hurting? You still understand, don’t you?
I learned never to blame a person who earnestly sought encouraging words or motivation, call it external validation, because many times their hearts yearn for warmth and tenderness. At least someone who could read between the lines and interpret the unspoken words. Don’t blame them when they decline your offer of friendship. They are calculating, and you are being tested for authenticity, being screened for wanton traits, the kind found in people who promised heaven and earth, swore to stay and even attempted a blood covenant, yet deserted them at the glimpse of their past demons.
Of the things I experienced, pain was the hardest to bear. I became numb as time grew. My heart grew cold as stone. I didn’t know how to feel, how to cry or even how to love. Whenever someone said, “I love you,” my mouth became too heavy to repeat those words, or to even take his hands and reassure him: If I can’t love you now; I might love you later.
My lips would twitch whenever people said, “I’m proud of you.” I would ask myself: what’s there to be proud of? Many times, I cried my eyes out, the weight of gloom threatening to break my neck.
Betrayal was on another scale. When I was violated, I called a girl whom I had thought a friend. And she laughed. I couldn’t wrap my head around her reason for laughing: mockery or whatever. I just knew that after that day I closed my heart.
The incident happened many years before I told her, but the memories were still fresh. It was a night when my immediate elder brother had gone to his friend’s house to charge and Mom had asked me to call him. She had forgotten that wild animals roam at night and I could be a prey. Well, I went to his friend’s house, but he wasn’t there. His friend, however, took the opportunity to feel my flesh. He slapped my buttocks many times. I heard some girls like to be touched and I should have gone with the flow. Hey, I’m not some girl. And I don’t fancy such “play.” And that was it, the beginning of my woes.
They say, poke a scar too much and it will bleed again. When this girl came back and started asking questions about my life, I wanted to scream, why do you care? When I needed you, you scorned me and made me feel less. After the incident that night, I had called her to hear some soothing words, but I was afraid of being blamed for what happened, and so I hung up before she picked up. I was not so close to my mom either, and I couldn’t tell her. I couldn’t tell her for two reasons: I didn’t want to cause a familial fight as this boy was almost family and secondly, I didn’t know what she was going to say. She might blame me still and ask why I didn’t slap or kick his groin.
I’d hidden under baggy tee shirts and oversized jeans many times so as not to show my true body form. When I was a blooming flower, someone crushed me while admiring my blossoms.
I cannot forget in a hurry when I was called flat. For many years my head and heart accepted the word flat. I thought beauty was being endowed. But, it’s just an additional factor, not the main. And this was one of the reasons I became envious of my friend, this girl I called that night. She once said her baby will never lack milk. I knew it was an indirect attack because I was a late bloomer. And I began to look up to her as the perfection of beauty.
I still wonder why those voices were more pronounced. I was just a child who should have never heard such words that crushed my frail and fragile spirit.
It wasn’t her fault. It was the way she understood things. I finally accepted that people who flaunt their skin colour or their beautiful faces on social media are most times not haughty. They are just being themselves. Proud of who they are.
I began to buy into the idea of being comfortable in one’s skin when someone I was meeting for the first time told me he was proud of me after our conversation. We spoke about an hour and he jokingly asked if I was ever going to add weight when I eventually entered school. I didn’t feel less. I didn’t wish I wore extra clothes to hide my body shape as I wore just a jean jacket and joggers with a light top inside. I felt free in his company, and even though he held my hands in his to see how slim I was, I didn’t feel awkward around him. I didn’t go back to my room to stare hard at the mirror wishing I had extra curves somewhere.
So, yes. I’m saying that healing is like the layers of the onion. You meet people who think beauty is about your curves or your edges. And you meet others who think it’s the warmth you exude and the aura you emit. Whichever way it is, accept that you are beautifully, fearfully, and wonderfully made. With or without pronounced features, you should be comfortable in your skin and not wish to peel out your external layer to appeal to someone else’s idea of beauty.
Emmanuella OluAgunloye is a young emerging creative from Ondo state. She writes to explore contemporary issues of depression, suicide and healing. She is passionate about women’s rights and seeks to use her works as a medium of liberation and empowerment. Sometimes, she also dabbles in copywriting and content creation. When she’s not writing or reading, she can be found knitting or cooking delicious delicacies.