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The project aims at looking beyond the smiles of the next person, to see what’s really beneath, what’s really going on? How people really need help and won’t bother saying anything about it but would rather cover it up with a façade of strength, with a smile.
It’s time to look beneath the smile and lend a helping hand. People are going through real things, these are their stories.
We hope that you’d be kind enough to leave a comment. Your feedback is important to us.
This is her story.
The ‘Beneath the Smile’ Project.
How I Learnt My ABC’s: Peeling back the layers
A is for action. To do. Or at least the will to get up at 5:30 in the morning and do. That has to count for something, or I make it count. I have this bad habit of waiting till everything piles up before I actually get off my ass and act, and it works for me. Worked for me. Now I’ve been in the same place for so long that I have forgotten how to get anything done.
B is babies. Their smell, their tiny fists curled around your finger, their lips, their feet that fits in the palm of your hand. The beautiful curly hair. The innocence. The belief that all they have to do is raise their hands and they will be carried and nursed. The totality of their helplessness. How can you not love babies? How can you not want to be a baby forever? Young forever?
C is for closure. I think I read somewhere that absolute closure is unattainable. So I have half open doors for my past. I have unbolted windows that I hope to one day look through, or even climb through. I see myself scrambling back to safe known territory. The comfort of familiarity is so easy to fall into.
Do not say that I never warned you. I lay myself as open as an unwritten book and allowed him write all over me. I am that kind of lover. And you cannot fill my pages with your words and stain my lines with your ink just to place me in a shelf, abandoned to gather dust. You cannot say that I never warned you of a defiance to let you abandon me.
Evolve with me then. Let’s germinate our experiences in the same pot, watered with the same hopes and dreams and love and life and us. Let us grow. You, me, as the world trails behind.
F is for freedom. Listen, half the time I’m going to try to escape. I’m going to try to run away. No matter how many times you hold me down and assure me that here is where I should be, I am going to try to break free. I’m going to try to break us. Because I know no other way to my end except the one I am destined to. I must find my final stage. I own my applause.
G is for God. As in, please God don’t let me walk away from your mercy. As in, please God don’t let me be stupid enough to kick away the lamp at my feet and the light on my path. G is for Jesus. As is related to the Hebrew form Yehosua, Yeho, to save, to help. G is for God. G is a cry for help.
Heaven conscious. Help me be who you want me to be. Honestly, I will remain drenched in sin for as long as my back faces you. And my back faces you. Help.
I is for insecurities. I have to learn to stop pulling at my flesh as I stand in front of my mirror. I have to learn to leave my fingers out of my throat even after two apples. Skinny isn’t easy. I is for all the days I laid curled in a ball as my empty stomach growled at me and my thighs mocked me. I is for myself. I am who I am now because I decided to be. I is for me. I’m clumsy. I’m lazy. I hug too tightly, because the idea of anyone leaving terrifies me. I’m scared of the dark, I’m scared of heights. I’m scared of needles. I is for my uncertainties. Does he really love me? Doesn’t he see that I’m not pretty? I is for me, and the things I don’t usually tell people. Sometimes, I don’t even tell myself. I haven’t said it, but you see what I’m trying to say. I’m ambiguous about my body, myself, me.
Joking about suicide has never appealed to me. Or rape. Or domestic violence. It’s too deeply rooted in my memories, with my mouth shut. I hide all my scars deep enough for it to be my own buried treasure. Every time someone gets close enough to plunge a hammer into my mines, I am reminded of even how deeply I have to fold my rhythm. I hide all my scars behind walls that you would have to Chuck Norris-Van Damme-Bruce Lee through. I never joke about death either, but that’s another scar entirely. Bleeding freshly, still too sore to touch. I fear it might fester, and rot deep into my soul.
K is for kollege. That’s not how it’s spelt? I don’t know. I don’t know anything. Knowledge, and the desire that trails it. I know only the ledge on which I stand awkwardly on. I fumble with incompetence and I am submerged in indecisions as to how to proceed with my life. Let me knot tie up my choices.
Listen, these are things I don’t usually tell people. I dream in colours that blind me because nothing is ever really black or white so why settle for a dull gray?. Listen, I’ve been looking for you. I wanted to find you, buried prize, wilting roses pressed between books, I wanted to feel you in clear drops of rain camouflaging tears, I wanted to see you dance in the ecstatic moonlight of sight renewed, I wanted to smell you in fresh flower blooms. I wanted you with me more than I wanted my shadow. Listen, I wanted love. So I dreamed it in kaleidoscopes, hoping that the change would summon you. My love, listen. Let my heart speak the gratitude my mouth cannot form. This kind of love was never intended for someone like me, but listen, I love our love. You’ve taught me love.
Maybe I have been a love mascot for too long- cheering others on as I watched from the sidelines. And now, God has given you to me. I am being cheered. M is for more. Your love consumes me and still I need more. It’s the collision of hearts and we shatter and restructure into melted pieces as one. Morphine. Habit forming. MSIR. Pain reliever. Methadone. Addictive. Euphoria. Cognitive confusion. But give me more. Methaqualone. Hypnotism. You have my heart dangling on a string as you puppeteer my soul. Maybe I have been a love mascot for too long, but being part of the game now feels so right.
Nobody else has ever loved me the way you do. It seems hopelessly romantic to peel so many of my layers and reveal a deep craving for love being satisfied by him, but here is the deepest secret that nobody knows, I was made for love. He was made to love me. Nobody else understands how safe ripping out my heart and placing it in his hands has been. Nobody. No body fits so perfectly with mine. A merging of souls. A tangling of desires. And I’ll be honest enough to say, everyone else was what I needed to be sure of him.
Opium. Our love is my opium.
P is for parenthood. Parents. I’ve always had both my father and mother merged into the soul of the woman who has loved me through and through. And the battles she has fought for me have thickened my skin in preparation for the battles I am to fight for her. I am her soldier. She is my father. P is for penis. Or the female equivalent of it that strengthens her as she dominates a man’s world. P is for pain. P is for panadol. We get pain, we live through it. And the passion and pain are going to keep us alive.
Q is for questions nobody has the courage to ask so we pour hope down a well of hopelessness and despair in a country that holds a land of dreams. You see, sometimes words and actions are too complicated to say out loud so we remain in shadows, even after years of independence we choose to sit under the wings of those who released us. We refuse to fly. Q is for quitting, or the uncountable number of times I have given up on Nigeria. And yet I keep holding on, I keep hoping. Que Sera Sera. Nigeria will be what she is destined to be.
R is for remembrance. But I don’t remember you. You were taken when I was two: too small to have alive memories of you so all I am left with are references. Another R. When she talks about you, the love remains evident. R is for requests. I wish I got to know you. R is for regrets. I wish it didn’t hurt so much when someone jokingly calls me a bastard. I’ve stopped fighting boys on the playground for it. R is for reality. I will always be the girl who grew up without her father.
Seen me? Seen the layers I have peeled back to reveal? No? Then the story continues still. Stories etched in my soul and scaring my mind. S is for smiles. Beneath my smiles are layers unending.
Trust that I would never be fully able to peel back all my layers. I can only beg for time unending so as to have eternity with you. An eternity of discovery. Trust that my layers can never finish. This is the best way for me to remember my ABCs: through my hurt. This is for me. This is for you.
• • •
Don’t just read, say a prayer.
A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?
N.B. The project goes on with Tomorrow’s ’Her Story, XXIV’ by An Anonymous writer
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