When Wells Run Dry

And the drought was so severe that the springs had ceased their playful spray months before and the dry riverbeds cracked audibly, sending up gasping pleas to the sky. It was almost as if a mean little deity sat on a chipped wooden throne somewhere in a parched forest, or on top of a mound of dirt, distributing water into enamel basins drop by painful drop with a contemptuous cackle trapped in the back of his dry throat.

In the same way, I doled out affection in stingy portions, when you were almost spent and could barely produce whispers from peeling, bleeding lips. It is possible that my well had simply ran dry- but I must admit- it’s more likely that you were attempting to pull water where only sand and sediment had sat for centuries. Your thirst was uncontrollable; even your pores cried out for what I could not (and did not want to) give. Your appetite demanded the most succulent of fruits, but all I could offer were the shriveled remnants hanging at the end of sagging branches, with juice that had long fermented and vanished.

More. Always wanting more. Why so greedy? Why couldn’t you be content with the memory of greener times? Your voracious consumption was not sustainable. Consuming all. Consuming me. You yourself, you were the wind that whipped through rainforests and stripped trees of their greenness. You were the dust that settled on the eyelids and inside the nostrils of victims as they entered their final rest. You were the supreme being jealously tightening the tap before anyone could taste the metallic sweetness of that life-giving elixir. You were the tornado and the sandstorm, the landslide that demolished any potential fertility and nourishment. You dried up the well, and then complained that it was I who didn’t know where to dig.

To hold the breeze in the palm of your hand…

The usual flowery phrases and sensory overload elude my grasp. Water through the evil little gaps in a basket, like trying to hold the breeze in the palm of my hand. Have you ever tried to balance day dreams on the tip of your nose? It is as easy as sewing a coat with cobweb thread, or keeping the taste of tomorrow’s sweetness on your tongue for longer than it takes for you to wake from your dreams. My hands search the ground for straws to clutch, but instead I end up dragging jagged fingernails through the dust, looking for…what? A keepsake, a snippet of laughter bouncing gleefully off the sagging walls of my mind, reviving- if only momentarily- an abandoned wreck in need of repairs. Or demolition? The familiar yarn I spin spirals slowly into a useless heap at my feet. Journeying to the other side of the horizon in a leaky canoe, like trying to describe the color of bougainvillea’s scent. Have you ever tried to hold the breeze in the palm of your hand? I caught it once, but when I tried to run with it- worry the leaves, whistle through open windows, lift up scarves and moods and possibilities- the level of freedom in my spirit was found wanting.

Storytelling Inception

I’m still trying to fill the gaps (*ahem* gaping voids) being left on this blog by my stalled creativity.

As you know, I’m a part of a little thing called Georgetown Stories, and by little I mean actually a huge deal and amazingly awesome and innovative and never been done before etc. I don’ t necessarily see film in my future, especially since I’m clearly at the amateur level, but a certain screenwriter-to-be roommate of mine has already agreed to adapt my novel (-to-be) into a movie somewhere on that hazy horizon called the future 😉

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For the sake of my ego, let’s not comment on the crossed legs. I didn’t think they were going to show…

Since I’ve started “vlogging” or should I say #doingitforthegeorgetownstories, I’ve entered this Inception-like dimension of  creativity where there are layers and layers of storytelling going on at the same time. Please stay with me- I make videos where I’m telling my own story, and then it’s almost like I have to step outside myself to edit them and look at them the way someone else would. But that’s only inception layer 2; I’ve also started this “Storyteller Series” were I plan to interview people who consider themselves to be storytellers: filmmakers, writers, poets, visual artists- basically anyone who is kind enough to let me stalk them with my iPhone camera. So I’m telling stories about stories within stories. Can you tell I just tried to make that more complicated than it had to be? You can watch the first two here:

http://www.georgetownstories.com/videos/storyteller-series-my-africa-is

Nosa Garrick is an intelligent, creative, stylish and all-around plays-no-games kind of woman who travels around the African continent telling stories that mainstream (code word for: American and European) media sources don’t often show. She was most recently in Dakar, Senegal aka my adopted home aka everyone please pray my post-grad plans work out so I can move back there for a few more months! Please check out more of her work here: http://www.myafricais.com/ If you’ve told an Ebola joke in the past 24 hours, then you need My Africa Is. Seriously, I’m struggling to understand how the deaths of thousands of people have become meme fodder…Is it because it’s just “those people over there” in Africa? *end rant*

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…and here:

http://www.georgetownstories.com/videos/storyteller-series-amadou-kon

Also, how many people can say that their professor has a Wikipedia page? It’s pretty impressive if you ask me, especially when that professor is so down to earth and tries to convince the class that the page is no big deal and that his friend made it as a joke!

 

Just Out of Reach

I’m trying out this new thing where I ask myself everyday, “Have you written today?” I’m making the effort to blog more and to escape if even for a short while from other kinds of writing that I don’t enjoy so much, the kinds that must be “logical” and “have a point”. I can’t say it’s going too well since I haven’t liked anything I’ve written so far, but I think if I keep doing this long enough, something amazing will eventually come along! This is my attempt at writing through the block…

There’s a story stuck just in the back of my throat. It’s irritating, scratching at tissues but refusing to let me cough it up.

It’s hovering just behind my eyes, in that blind spot where sleep eludes capture during restless nights.

It’s playing on my temples, tap dancing, whirling around in place, mocking me.

It’s tickling me somewhere between my shoulder blades and tracing lines on the small of my back.

It’s floating above my head, all weightless and carefree. But my arms have been locked to my sides, incapable of reaching upwards and beyond to grasp it.

It’s whispering in my left ear, taunting me. I can’t swat it away, but its  teasing hum never subsides, it’s a refrain even for my moments of solitude.

There’s a story sitting on the tip of my tongue, resting gently on my fingertips, waiting at that point where the ink begins to flow, standing at the crossroads between fruitfulness and drought. Flow.

Hunting Game

Neither eloquent poetry, nor well-constructed lines of prose are enough to convey the impact of your actions. In fact, your corruption isn’t worthy of being immortalized through these noble art forms. Instead, here are a few directives you might want to take into consideration; the public is aware that a thorough stakeout…I meant investigation, takes time. In the meantime, should we spill some blood in an ancestral ritual to ensure that the dead are sent to a less tumultuous place? Or sprinkle it over everything; letting it settle on the reports and evaluations and statements, signed and banished to the dark recesses of a municipal building basement? Are we expected to watch in silence as it seeps into the scorching tar where it fell, stewing like the remnants of slaughtered prey, evidence of another successful day on the prowl?

You earned your fatigues, your hunter’s honor; you were certain this was your calling. Maybe you grew up with a broad-shouldered father, whose presence filled an entire room. The top of his head seemed to brush the ceiling, and his metal adornments reflected the light in a way you had only seen stars shine. Or maybe you sat wide-eyed in front of the television every Saturday morning as your favorite heroes emptied the streets of all that was vile, all the monsters that hid under your bed at night and the gnarled hands in shadowy hiding places snatching innocent souls. It’s possible that you spent your early years escaping these shadows and vowed never to lose yourself in them.

Somewhere along the way, your straight and narrow path turned into a dark alleyway stinking of smoke and retribution. You lost your purpose; the meaning of “doing your job” was hidden deep in the maze of morality, obscured by rows and rows of red tape. You became another obedient cog in a machine whose furnace is only satisfied with the ashes of the hopes and dreams of a people; their rights and dignity are logs for the eternally raging flame. You flashed, and shot, and slammed, and cuffed. After all, that’s the only language these people understand.

Perhaps you are just trying your best. You titter nervously beside the water cooler as your colleagues spit insults and crude humor, just so you don’t seem like a judgmental spoilsport. But you’re an okay kind of guy, you really are. After all, you grew up with friends that represented at least a fraction of the rainbow spectrum. We’re all people, aren’t we? The amount of melanin they were blessed (or cursed) with doesn’t change the way you view them. Or maybe you’ve studied the machine’s manual meticulously. You make sure to project your voice, but not too much; you starch your shirt and give firm handshakes. You color within the lines, most importantly, you always stay on the sidewalk. There’s nothing wrong with this, I have no right to judge you. You can’t go out there and look crazy in front of people! You are, and forever will be, an ambassador for everyone who shares the minutest percentage of your ancestry. That is absolutely unfair, and of course it’s not your fault if the others won’t pull up and shape up.

So when is the next expedition scheduled to take place? Or is it underway right now? Should we take cover? I suppose we must rid ourselves of the audacity to merely exist anywhere in the vicinity of your playground, I’m sorry, game reserve. Remain calm, hold onto rationality- to talk about calm at a time when rage is striking the ground like thunder thrown from heaven? To point out that remaining calm is easier said than done is a tired understatement. Let us wash the streets, scrub them with the tears of all the mothers left standing with empty hands, with the nectar of the futures that were stunted before they even thought about blooming. Unfortunately this isn’t strong enough to wash the residue and hate off your hands. Perhaps we can form a committee and convene a meeting to probe further into the question of fixing this putrid system which authorized you to aim and fire in the first place.

People Like “Us”

It’s not your fault. You’ve lost your way. I imagine that now when you look in the mirror your reflection is a stranger, that prodigal son that emerged from the harmattan haze only to find a lone drummer and a one-legged chicken not yet slaughtered. A lackluster welcome.

You’ve forgotten who you are. You’ve traded in that sweet soul for dreams of rooftop views and designer labels, and success, no matter the cost at which it comes. And imaginary friends you pull out of the air; you take them to bed with you and you’re still cold. They adorn your vanity with insincere praise; abstract appreciation and tiny unnatural hearts crowning a head filled with hot air. (It’s great to be “liked” isn’t it?)

Are you not aware that people like us don’t suffer from this? I can’t even call this suffering. Your mothers toiled endlessly, and their sweat was the only moisture to kiss the unrelenting earth. They cracked their nails and spirits, trying to cajole something, anything at all to sprout from the stingy soil. And where were you? Lamenting a supposed loneliness you have created for yourself. You barricaded yourself in a palace of haughtiness, held up by the beams of your superior intellect and all-round virtue, and you scorned any visitors, accusing them of jealousy. Anyone that tried to reach beyond those walls was met with the sting of thorns, barbed wire, fingernails filed to a point.

Lonely? Depressed? Child, people like us are all too familiar with these emotions. They are states of being rather than transient moments of feeling and experience. Your mothers’ leathery skin thickened to contain the void of disappointment and meaningless futures within, and to keep the useless promises of hope out. Theirs was a grim fate, a funeral shroud used as a baptism gown. The threshold of their worlds began and ended at the entrance of the homestead. Meanwhile your horizon remains limitless. What is there to cry about?

People like us don’t do this. Wipe that ungrateful face and suck in your belly, round and satisfied with too much meat. Straighten that back, and watch that slovenly swaying of hips. You don’t need that rest you take everyday, “to clear your head.” People like us are more useful, more instrumental and less ornamental. What a disappointment you have turned out to be.

The Last Affirmation

(an ode to all those shrinking violets who have outgrown the dark)

Have you ever heard the expression “painfully shy?” Are you familiar with the words “uptight”, “stuck up”, “introverted” or the crowd favorite, “not even all that?” I’m more than positive that all these words have been used to describe at least one person you know at some point in time. Or maybe it’s you? I was once told that shyness was actually a form of arrogance, not a distant relative only linked out of convenience, but rather a direct derivative, one state of being extracted and distilled from another. Think about it. Are you just scared of social interaction with large groups of people you don’t know? Or are you so convinced of your own superiority that you don’t find it necessary or worth your time to come into contact with anyone whose dusty feet wouldn’t dare to brush even the base of your pedestal? Listen to reason. Aren’t you flexing your ostentatious self esteem, polishing the trophy of your spectacular being in the face of others’ dullness? Of course you think you’re better than everyone; that’s precisely the reason you keep to yourself, holding up one corner of the room with your hunched shoulders, a sign of your silent judgment and disdain.

I see you.

The truth is that the look on your face is not a signal for others to stay away, warning them that you’ll be bored beyond death into the afterlife by their platitudes. It would be better for them to conserve their energy and take their politeness elsewhere. The real truth is that your expression is a poorly disguised plea for everyone or anyone (anyone at all) to see you, and to cast aside first impressions, what do they mean anyway? These are all stale clichés overused and pounded to a meaningless pulp. Let me put it this way. It’s like having two warring sides trapped in one whole. There is a well-adjusted, self-possessed, and confident presence, someone who radiates ease, drawing others effortlessly into her force field. As she fluffs out her hair and gets ready to leave the house, a shriveled imp with a disturbing eye twitch and a hacking cough sneaks up behind her, “Where do you think you’re going like that? Who do you think you are? Not even that smart, kind, pretty, hardworking, funny, spiritual, even God is disappointed…”

Not even that smart, kind, supportive, organized, popular, humble, God himself made you and He’s looking down wishing he hadn’t bothered.

Is this making sense?

Alright, imagine that you have a dark room somewhere in the furthest flung corner of your mind. That dark room has a door with rusty hinges; termites have feasted on the wood panels leaving obscene gaping holes throughout. You push the door open, and you see a strange shadowy creature stirring in the corner. It’s the little imp, with an evil glint in its one good eye,

Not even that special, or wanted, or important. Not at all important. Not at all…

You slam the door shut and it is immediately reduced to dust. But the imp’s chant is playing in your mind in a loop, over and over and over…It ricochets off the walls in empty corridors, and hides under the voices of acquaintances that are not as happy to see you as they claim to be. It manifests itself in the blank stares of people who couldn’t possibly remember that you had met just the other day. It disguises itself as heartfelt words of encouragement from a trusted friend whose real aim is to ensure that the dreaded loop isn’t broken; your continued insecurity is like a footstool for their swollen pride. The chant echoes in the scolding of anyone you have ever loved, the only one you have ever loved, the people you grew out of loving: it’s not them, it’s you. You care too much what people think. You care too much.

I care.

How could anyone know about that dazzling personality? You are certain it exists, but it lights up only on your insides, providing temporary warmth, a paper shield for your quivering soul on those days when the attacks on your character are too sharp and threaten to rip your skin to shreds. Is anyone ever born self-deprecating? Did you come out with your head already bowed, or averted, or tilted back to avoid the tears from burning through your carefully created mask? Nature versus nurture. Were you taught to turn this mask into a default setting, welding it on to conceal your natural God-given radiance? Your very existence seemed to cause people’s eyes to narrow, blood lightly simmering to a boil as they watched you. Even they couldn’t explain why. And so the training began.

Your daughter has come on top.

 She’s rude.

 She thinks her hair is long, and so what? Tswwww.

 She thinks she’s pretty aaahma.

 You know she said this about her body- what, really? Her?

 I know she cheats on tests.

 She was posting Bible verses just the other day, but we know what happens behind closed doors.

Imagine the imp sits on your shoulders; it has a front row seat to your life. Keeping a close eye on you, making sure the show goes the way it should. Imagine your reflection is an indeterminate haze in a mirror stained with spit and tears. Imagine the mirror is cracked. Imagine it is whole but you don’t ever lift your head to look at it. Imagine your own “self” is so malnourished and lacking of love, that it hides in that dark, damp room in the unsearched recesses of your mind. Imagine that you’re so worried you’ll meet another empty glance, another mean-spirited whisper, another mangled text conversation, signals distorted in translation, so worried that you barricade yourself in that room. You decorate it with the false happiness of self-sufficiency and paper chains and flowers wilting fast. Imagine your fear of that chant, that loop, that refrain that punctuates all the better moments in your life; imagine that fear paralyzes you. And now the imp is hungry and you have no self-worth left to spare. So maybe you feed off others who appear healthier than you, spitting out unnecessary comments here and there in muted tones loud enough to make them feel a fraction of the discomfort you live with.

Picture your life, vast and largely unknown, stretching before you in a flurry of diplomas and babies and love and lust and contentment and grief and satisfaction. Now try to fold it over on itself as many times as you find possible, so tightly that it can fit in your pocket as you peer through the cracked window of that gloomy room. Anxiety? What are you anxious about? People are dying and starving and starving to death and burying babies and dreams and memories. If you want some real problems I can give you some.

I love you.

 For being confusing and frustrating. For that soul that is beautiful in so many unexpected ways, for that voice that is loud at all the wrong times, but still quiet when it’s absolutely necessary. For that fierce determination, even when it is hidden behind a curtain of unstoppable tears. For not feeling the need to compete, because you’ve already won and you’re the only one who doesn’t know it. Trust me, all the other contestants are very much aware that you’re worthy of gold medals, and laurels for your head. This is part of their game plan. For that fragile shell of sarcasm and biting wit and sass, for that truth that scatters the shell into a million shards, I love you.

Not even important, not at all, you should be sorry-

 Unapologetic. This is the last justification. Waste no more of your precious words.

“You are terrifying and strange and beautiful, something not everyone knows how to love.”* I won’t tell you to love yourself. I won’t sprinkle affirmations around your desk, scribbled on fluorescent sticky notes. I won’t tell you that even the combination of Chaka Khan, Pippi Longstocking, Yaa Asantewaa, Tina Turner, and Mary Magdalene has nothing on you. No inspirational quote or Buzzfeed article can capture your essence. You’re more than just a reformed wallflower, a loneliness addict in rehab.

Have I revealed too much? Have you not become vulnerable?

No dear, I think this is what I call freedom.

This is the last affirmation.

 

*Warsan Shire, “For Women who are ‘Difficult’ to Love”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye, My Temporary Lover

More thoughts from Dakar…

I wanted you to sing to me. I had grown accustomed to hasty lullabies flung over my mother’s shoulder while she fanned a reluctant flame, or loving strains whispered to me long after I had fallen asleep, another hard day of work completed. I wanted you to sing to me, to speak to me tenderly, to bring offerings of fabrics and drinks to my family, humbly asking for my hand. Instead, you spoke to me in a bastardized mix of phrases and predicates, faint traces of grammar lessons you never paid attention to. You shrugged your shoulders when I delicately pointed out your mistakes, ready to applaud your efforts to correct yourself. You carried on, contorting the names of all my beloved places. The haunts of my childhood, towns with melodic names, appellations lovingly bestowed eight days after birth, corrupted in your bitter mouth, hacked apart with your lackluster accent. Popenguine. Ziguinchor. Sangalkam. You didn’t bother to learn the names of my children, they were just props in your collection of rare objects. Aïssatou. Ndeye. Moustapha. I wanted you to sing their harmonies, but you were never quite on key.

Why did I try? I invited you into my world, laid all my wares before you. Your hands invaded all my nuances, manipulated my curves and felt every crevice. You were trying to see if I was worth the “bon prix”, worth taking back and being put on display in your ivory tower for all your people to ogle and admire and criticize. I was exotic enough for the moment, the highest of cheekbones and the longest of necks. Beauty incarnate, elegance itself. I would do. In the same way you chewed up and spat out words in a twisted mess, you mangled the parts of me that suited you and discarded those that were too mundane. Your greedy, sweaty hands roved and roved over all my goods, and picked what looked most authentic to accessorize your pale life.

And yet, when I tried to introduce you to my aunts, the one who was not wanted and the illustrious Madame Bâ, the disapproving Uncle Leopold and the eccentric neighbor Soyinka with his shock of white hair, you offered a wan smile out of courtesy. Your hands had barely grasped theirs in greeting before you turned away and sought more exciting things to satisfy your wanderlust. You wanted to explore with me…explore me, exploit… You carried on with your expedition, taking and taking. You said you needed souvenirs to remember me by, and I foolishly obliged. I knew you did not fully understand, nor would you ever, but accorded the privilege of guest status you gained access to all the secret trappings of my being. I unraveled lengths of beads from around my neck, my wrist, my waist. I smudged the kohl from my eyes, extended my palms free of their red stain. I wanted you to experience me in my truest form, in my multitude of realities. I offered you the finest mbazin, but the ill-fitting garment you produced did not do it an ounce of justice.

I wanted to dance with you. I wanted us to sway together as the strings plucked our pleasure in liquid form, harmonies deliciously languid and painfully expectant. I wanted you to fly feet off the ground driven wild by the escalating rhythm. We would disappear into a cloud of dust and emerge laughing and arguing about who fell first. But instead, you stayed firmly planted in the sand, your joints creaking and complaining as they were not accustomed to moving in that way. Your hips remained immovable, but I loved you for trying. At least I did, until you whispered to me with your mouth curved in that cruel smirk, more disjointed words about how this wasn’t a “real” dance anyway.

The sound of drums grated your nerves. You failed to see how this could be considered music. You failed to notice the exhilarating effect they had on my sisters surrounded by a circle of eager spectators. You failed to listen to my stories of ancestral triumph and defeat, to the ways my cousins reclaimed their compromised nobility and built shaky nations where empires had stood just the other day. My stories of cultural movements and newborn intellectuals in impeccably fitted suits failed to tickle your fancy. You failed to perceive the romantic wistfulness in my eyes, the nostalgia for a time I had never known. Or lack thereof. You did not even sniff at my apathy, my longing to be more like you and your own, nor did you understand your role in my cracked mirror reflection. You failed.

Please tell the others. If they are only looking for sweet mangoes and wide hips, for immaculately starched boubous collecting red sand as they sweep along, for chivalry and chauvinism wrapped in a confusing dark and handsome package, for “cute” little keepsakes to collect as ransom for my forgotten history, tell them not to come. It is not the right season for mangoes, and I am fresh out of cheap tricks.

All Rights Usurped®

You can probably tell that my mind has been all over the place since I’ve been in Senegal. Or maybe you can’t because I’m so good at acting like I know what I’m doing 🙂 In any case, this particular post isn’t entirely based on my experiences here. It’s more a collection of things over a long period of time that I’ve only recently started seeing with new eyes. Recently I’ve been writing these stream of consciousness not-really-fiction posts but I hope you enjoy reading! 

You do not own the copyright to anger. Righteous indignation is not your birthright. As far as I’m aware, no one handed you a large manila envelope, official wax seal still drying, containing a patent to that particular brand of condescension that you call justice. Thank you, the sentiments you have expressed are a “nice” gesture at best. “Nice”, like a stranger helping you pick up your now ruined papers from the dusty roadside. “Nice”, like someone saying they are sorry for your loss as they rush you off the phone, ignoring your sniffing and tears on the other end of the line. You are not the first, nor will you be the last to be appalled. “How could they do this? How could anyone let this happen? How?”

Let me tell you a secret. No, not here. Not under this sacred tree where women cried out to resolutely silent ancestors for salvation, where old men handed out  wisdom in bite-sized proverb-shaped portions, where tired farmers simply sat and sat until it was time to coax food out of the stubborn dry earth once more. You are not invited to this gathering, not welcome here. Not unless you shed your coat of “knowing better” before you arrive. I repeat, for this is highly important; you are not the first, nor will you be the last to feel the way you do. A host of others before you have come, seen and felt disgust. Bravo, you are able to empathize with your fellow humans. You are indeed, human. Here is your ID Card. Don’t be confused, this does not grant you access to an entire history. You will not immediately understand, not in a week, not in two  months, not in four years. Please try to understand this, these people are aware.

It doesn’t take critically acclaimed documentaries produced by a man in tortoise shell glasses,nor socially conscious bloggers who purchase Fairtrade everything to create awareness. Your concern is appreciated, but you do not have the right to pick and choose where to direct your outrage without bringing an offering of respect, nestled humbly in a bag of kola nuts. You do not get to apportion blame, nor do you earn the right to share in ancestral resentment leveled at former masters. Solidarity grows out of an understanding that someone’s suffering could easily be your own, and as a fellow human being you are deciding to support another human in their struggle, while respecting their agency and their efforts to transform the situation.

I imagine that you are growing more and more perplexed. How does one scold another for caring? Child, and yes, I call you child because in the eyes of this most regal and most ancient land you remain in your earliest stages of infancy. I do not condemn you for caring, again I extend my congratulations. You are indeed, human. But when your caring leads you to shut your ears to any further explanation, or to believe what UN official reports tell you, and what college professors preach as gospel, then your cause is lost. At least you are mature enough to realize that buying a pair of comfortable shoes from a “socially conscious” business creates more problems than it solves. Again, the blogs (and some common sense) have served you well.

Caring, the softest and sweetest of emotions, turns ugly when you do it the way you do. A firm, warm hand on a shoulder heaving with grief turns into a sharp slap across the face. Do you assume that the person you are attempting to comfort does not know the situation they are in? Do you presume to teach someone how to grieve, and how to move on from grieving to re-building? There is a faint waft of supposed superiority on your hot breath. You are angry. How could they? Your anger veils your eyes in thick black mourning cloth. You stuff your ears with cotton, you refuse to listen further. Instead, you decide to do your best to counteract this corrupt, broken-down system you have come to meet. You clap and sing and “Repeat after me!” and you are convinced this is going to blow away the sands of time and exploitation that have settled in the cracks of a once well-oiled machine. Your shaky hands touch wounds they have not yet been taught how to heal, reach places they should not be authorized to enter, and you go home satisfied that you have done an amazing thing.

Again, this is not an indictment on your actions. It is not your fault. Your arrival was marked with outstretched arms, with people ready to bestow undeserved responsibility on your naive shoulders. Where you were met with quiet dignity and resistance, you failed to recognize it. These people all need help, whether they know it or not. And yet you long to feel at home. The fanfare of culture entices you, as it is prone to do. Perhaps you feel as though you are peeping through the window, watching a party you were not invited to. Or perhaps you misplaced your invitation, or you misunderstood it. You wade through market after market, sifting through trinkets and fabrics and hair pieces. With the right costume you can integrate…right? Admiration or appropriation, where does one draw the line?

Come, child, sit down on this mat. You have much to learn. Come, let me show you how to tie that wrapper tightly around your waist. And you, with your sun-burnished skin, you also have much to learn. Your language rises and falls with the same musical cadence, your round hips sway to the same rhythm, but you remain a child. Come. You are welcome.

Why I Write

Sometimes I’m petrified that I’ve lost it. And by this I don’t mean the type of losing it where you have to explain to your perplexed and skeptical family that many years ago, a group of old white men in white coats decided that depression is in a fact a real disease and that you have it. By losing it I mean the ability to touch pen to paper and write lives and worlds into existence. Somehow, bony fingers tapping angrily at metal don’t hold quite the same appeal. I’m scared of waking up one morning, fingers itching to create, tap-tap-tapping away at nothing.

This does not make you different; you have writer’s block. Welcome, you have officially arrived. Your ticket admits only one. One soul, not many characters clamoring to be written into reality. Please sit down and enjoy the show, but don’t talk too much. You really are not that special and frankly, no one cares to listen.

 I crave whatever is a step beyond the horizon, whatever is just above the highest summit you could reach. Infinity + 1, I want to write what is just behind the mind’s eye, ever so slightly and frustratingly out of reach. I want to write that declaration of love that is perched precariously at the tip of my tongue like a baby bird taking its first flight. One gust of wind could condemn it to a fear-filled descent, paralyzed in terror, fatal impact with hard earth. Or, soaring above summits and beyond horizons buoyed by the warmth of success and acceptance. In fact, I want to write just to write, to soothe the pain in my back where the stab of all unwritten stories is lodged, throbbing and throbbing for release.

Selfish. Never content. Is this really why you write?

 I want to cause riots. I wish to destroy, to uproot, to incinerate. Before you call a “professional”, someone who could help me “work through my issues”, listen. I want your mind to riot. I want the possibility I write to dance down a street in your head and remove all your insecurities and misconceptions. I do not inspire bloodshed and looting, I bring to you an emotional revolution. I want to tear down the boundaries that stand between you and your ancestors, to bring you back to the soil that formed you. How? I want to write away the pain, and years of not belonging. I want to write you a home that transcends an icy reception on foreign shores, one that surpasses the reluctant welcome offered in the dry heat of harmattan, like clockwork, year after year. I want to re-build, let the words caress your shoulders and gently push them to open back up, strong and broad. Let the words circle your neck and elevate the carriage of your head, before they massage your aching muscles, smooth out the knots in your back and undo your wrinkles.

Idealistic. How powerful do you think your words are? Can they support the weight of this burden? How can they take away the bite of cruel reality?

I want to write shooting stars and long nights spent talking about the imprint you want to leave on this earth. I want to bring life to those caricatures of the people we could have been, who we are, who we would like to be. I want to write not for writing’s sake because it sounds vaguely like music, familiar strains teased out of a balafon that other day centuries ago. I want the words to give you a mirror, a shoulder to cry on, a call to action, a prayer. I want to write the collision of alternate universes, even if only one aunt reads and feels the impact, but  is too scared of my moth wing-thin ego to point out all the mistakes. I do this for you.

 

Writer.