Words by AfamThere are times that I want to write so desperately - like now. I want to say that I turn 24 tomorrow. I want to say that I’m grateful. I want to say that I’m strong enough to keep fighting in spite of it all. I want to say that in the land of fickle dreams, passion always wins but I can’t. I realize that I’ve said all those things, but where’s the compelling prose? And where are the beautifully woven sentences that present my truth in so clear a manner that you cannot help but feel as I feel.
I went to an engagement the other day. It was between an almost cousin and a step cousin. I know this sounds odd for you are either cousins or not, and step cousins do not exist, because if you are step cousins then you are not related at all. But the concrete definitions that the dictionary is made of do not apply in my life. There’s no colour to them and so there is no truth. My brother must be the son of my mother and father, but what of my other brothers who are only my brothers because if I were to lose them I would be just as undone as I would be if I lost my actual brother.
Many things happened at this engagement. The first was that I looked at myself through the eyes of the people gathered and marveled at the differences in perception. To some I was the well spoken driven son of two very decent people, to some I was a sweaty oddity who wasn’t worthy of a word, to some I was a private joke to be enjoyed through too long stares and strange smiles filled with debts unknown, to some I was a rude sweaty git, to some I was a long lost friend, and to some I was a mystery.
I saw someone I call my brother there. I was overjoyed. I hadn’t seen him in a year. I cannot explain why it is that we get on still. I suppose we met at a point when I needed someone different from me but like me, and he needed the same. Unions borne out of necessity enjoy a permanence that most others do not. I cannot say whether or not I still need him, or whether or not he still needs me but we’ve become a comfortable habit. Even his gentle insistent criticism of me is comforting because of its familiarity.
“You liked her at some point. Touch her more, and you’ll slowly creep from the friend zone to the bone zone.”
“I saw you hit on that waitress. You were too obvious. That’s why she shut you down.”
“You need to know more people. You need to be on Demilade’s level especially because you blog”
“What the fuck are you doing? Sit down!”
After all of that I pulled him close, and whispered, “fuck off.”
He’s part of the school that believes that if I should dance, it must be with somebody or for somebody, and that if I must go out, it cannot be alone. I do not blame him. My life is not his. He has not lived the life I live now. I would never have made it to Fashion Week if I believed that I had to wait for someone to go with. I will never make it out of here alive if I think that to do it, I must wait for someone to take me.
Sometimes I think about what I do, and wonder how long I’ll be able to keep on. I suppose I’ll have to stop soon. But not yet. At the end of everything, I don’t want to be left behind. This is what scares me. I see them look at me like some foreign entity with nothing to offer them. My name is not as old, my pockets are too shallow, and my talent too uncelebrated for them to flock to me en masse. So I must work harder than anyone else, sleep less than everybody else, and fight like I was staring at my end.
I almost died last year you know? Before that I thought that when death came I’d be willing. I was surprised when I found that I wasn’t. I screamed heart-wrenching bone chilling screams that I still hear in my waking dreams. I writhed and shook till I was more bruised than not, and when I thought it was over I saw Mama Afam and Papa Afam burst through the doors to save me.
I turn 24 tomorrow. I am old, but I am young. I am scared. I am surprised. I will continue.