Monday, 29 July 2013

We are the misfits

I've been lazy with the blog again, forgive. My sister wrote something and sent it to me. I hope you like it!

We are the misfits

“We have just enough religion to make us hate each other, but not enough to make us love each other.”- Jonathan Swift

You may argue with me that it all would have been so much easier if I’d just kept on pretending I was someone else, pretending like I wasn’t different. I would have had friends, instead of being hated by almost all my peers and maybe my parents wouldn’t be so blinded by what they see as an imperfection and they might have seen all the other things that would have made them proud of me. It would have been so easy, you’d probably say. You wouldn’t have rocked any boats and caused so much grief. And you may just be right. But like all humans, I was born with an inherent selfishness and so I just couldn’t see myself giving up the truth about myself to please everyone around me.

The truth is I’m gay.

What a bomb, right? Now if you’re recoiling in horror right now, or making the sign of the cross, or saying any language equivalent of ‘Yesu mogya nka w’anim’ you should know I’ve heard and seen it all before. I’ve had people actually refuse to touch me, been all but kicked out of school, heard someone tell my sister she’d probably never find a husband because her little brother had cursed the family (boy, did she let him have it). I’ve had people refuse to room with me because they thought I had AIDS (I could have told them I’ve never had sex, if they’d bothered to ask) and was once almost beaten half to unconsciousness by one of my schoolmates who misconstrued my help as me coming on to him. People laugh at me as I cross the street and call me names, disproving the accepted belief that universities are intellectual communities. Basically, I’ve seen it all. I like to believe no reaction would faze me now, but then some idiot always manages to prove me wrong so I’ve stopped holding my breath waiting for that to happen. I was pretty used to it, the rejection, the anger, the hate. Being discriminated against for something I believe I have no control over became a part of who I was, like breathing. It was, until I met her.

I’d never really had that many friends growing up and at the time, I didn’t have any at all. When I was younger, and desperately trying to fit into one-size-fits-all mould that seems to exist around here, I managed to act ‘normal’ enough to have a few friends. It was sort of like a group. I laughed when they laughed, talked and walked like they did, pretended to get excited about porn the way they did. My heart wasn’t in it, but that was the way boys seemed to be, so that’s the way I was too. It was easier in Primary school and in JSS, when it was part-time and I could go home to where I was simply the weirdo of the family but high school was a whole different ball game and keeping up the act was too much pressure. So I caved and let pieces slip through, thinking I could pass through the herd unnoticed. No such luck. People started to notice the subtle differences, and I felt a sort of distance between my mates and I. The shit really hit that fan, however, when I had my first crush. For privacy’s sake (his, not mine) I won’t go into any details. Let’s just say it was a terrible case of unrequited love that ended with getting shot down and publicly humiliated.

Ouch.

After that all the rumors started and I became that gay boy everyone talks about. I got beat up a couple of times for no good reason, my parents were called and I was allowed to complete school only because it was my final year and my parents had always been generous benefactors of the school since my older brother (now happily married to a woman, my dad never lets me forget) had started there years before. I kept my head down and stuck to my books. My only reprieve was my own head, trying to take Jules de Gauliter’s advice “Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality.”

I made it through pretty much in one piece, albeit with a few scars both internal and external and spent the next few months trying to stay out of everyone’s way. Stuck in a large house alone with my parents, I retreated to my room, reading or watching TV, coming out only when sustenance became an imperative. My mother and father didn’t bother me; I guess they just didn’t know me anymore, now that I was this thing that had replaced their son. I heard my mother crying once, after my father had one of his rare morality fits and threatened not to pay my tuition if I carried with ‘this unholy nature.’ I felt sorry for her; if I could change, I told myself, I’d do it for her.

My sister’s visit halfway through my jail time was a great relief to all of us. Where my dad is undoubtedly the head of our house, my sister is its heart. For most homes it’s the mother, but in the Acheampong household it’s her. You just can’t help feeling loved when she’s around you, like you actually belong to something bigger than you. She was the only person who accepted me after I had my unceremonious coming out, who told me that even if she didn’t understand, or even really agree, that she loved me anyway, and always would. Also, that she wasn’t really surprised because I’d always been a bit of a freak.

Hah.

 I didn’t realize until she said it how much I needed to hear it and I wished she was around more to say it.  She’d left home after her third year of university to study French for a year that had somehow stretched into four. She was happy there, she said, and she seemed that way. She deserved it too; nice people deserve to be happy, even though I’m finding that that doesn’t happen as often as it should. She had a million stories to tell, about France and French men, and French fashion, and French food, and French wine and even about the many Ghanaian expatriates she’d met on her crazy adventures. We all laughed as she waved her hands about wildly, putting on an exaggerated accent for effect. If you’d peeked through one of the windows that day, you would swear this was the perfect picture for a happy family sitting down to dinner. Sensitive as she was, though, she could feel the tension and coldness that had permeated the entire home and asked me about it after supper. She marched herself to my parents’ room amidst my feeble protests and stayed there for the good part of an hour, with me straining to hear from as safe a distance as I could manage. I still don’t know what she said, since my parents had sound-proofed almost every room in the house but it worked like a charm; at least until she left a week later. After that things slowly went back to normal, which was to be expected. It’s true that you can’t change people against their will.

Sooner than I expected my time of isolation was over and it was time to go back into the real world. For some reason I expected it to be different, somehow not realizing that five months can’t turn idiots into intellectuals. It was better I suppose; no one beat me up, or threatened me or anything. There were still the whispers, in my lecture halls and the hostels; I was still that gay dude. It’s just that now I seemed to have company, which really didn’t surprise me. I’d heard that there were a few openly gay people in the university I was attending. My sister, years before we’d both known for sure that I was too, had told me stories about the informal clique they had that cut across all the tertiary institutions in the country. It didn’t take them long to welcome me into the community; or at least to try. As I emphatically stated to the one man welcome committee, a boy dressed head to toe in shades of pink- pink skinny jeans, a tight light pink polo shirt and, incredibly, dark pink loafers- I wasn’t interested in joining Outcasts R’ Us just yet. Plus, I look terrible in skinny jeans, their unofficial uniform.

Shunned by the larger community and later even by those who I should have shared some manner of fellow feeling with, I spent my first semester drifting around with my earphones plugged securely into my ears, trying to block out my existence with music. Some days were better than most, when everything seemed bearable and I felt like I could do this, mark time until I could leave. Other days I felt like I couldn’t breathe, suffocating under the weight of everything I was feeling all at once, all of the isolation and hatred. It got so bad sometimes that I felt like I could end it all. Until those days became memories.

We met.

I could tell you how but that’s not a particularly interesting or funny story. Plus, I don’t think I could put into words how exactly we became friends. It was almost like we knew each other before, at some other time in some different life and we both had amnesia; like the meeting in the bookstore was some trick by the universe to bring us back to each other and help us remember who we were. To me, she was like a light at the end of the tunnel, a comforting embrace after a terrible nightmare. I won’t go so far as to say she saved me, but she gave me hope that perhaps I was worth saving after all.

Her name was Alice. She told me once that her teachers in school used to call her Alice in Wonderland- “frightfully unimaginative, don’t you think”- because she seemed to spend all her time in class in another world, never copying notes. She was, as a matter of fact, an excellent student, with a sponge-like brain that absorbed everything she heard or read. She’d breezed through JSS and most of SHS until “I discovered boys and parties were far more interesting than calculus and organic chemistry” (her exact words). And there’d been a lot of them. By the time her third year of high school had rolled around she’d gained quite a reputation for partying and fooling around with which ever boy would pay her the most attention. “I was stupid and lonely. Parents barely looked at me, except to give me a slight pat on the back when I got another A and I was never really good at making female friends- except you. Hah. “Boys were easy. Flirt a little, bat your eyes, show the right amount of skin and they come calling. Problem is the ones who do are never the good ones.”  She said all this very matter of factly, completely honest. That’s what I liked most about her, she wasn’t ashamed of the truth, or of her past. She wasn’t ashamed of who she was, she rather embraced it, saying that her past only served to enrich her present. An incurable optimist, she said that everything worked together for good as long as you chose to look at it that way (something I’m still struggling to do). She told me that God had saved her from herself, at a point when all that she’d done and all that she was becoming had started to rot away everything good about her. “It’s not always picnics and flowers,” she said serenely, “but from now on I’m sure I’ll be fine.” She even got me to follow her to church once in a while, proving wrong all those who thought I’d spontaneously combust when I entered the hall. I noticed people staring at us when we entered and I told her so. She waved away my discomfort, “Don’t worry about it. They stare at me all the time. Most people think I’m some kind of whore or something.” She shrugged her shoulders and returned to her Bible, and I did too.

“We are the misfits.” She used to tell me. “Most people are just herd animals, but we’re not. We have to stick together.”

“So we don’t get trampled?” I asked half-jokingly.

“Exactly.”

As life would have it, sticking together wasn’t an option. I lost her one rainy Wednesday. They say the truck sped right through a red light, and what chance does a Kia Picanto stand against the weight of a garbage truck? It was over quickly, they said. I just hope she didn’t see it coming; I can see her complaining to St. Peter, “A garbage truck? Seriously?!” I miss her, some days more than others, like when I hear one of the songs she made me listen to, or the psychology lecturer is being particularly boring. I’m alone again, but somehow it’s not the same. I’m not so sad anymore. I’m a little calmer, a little freer, a little more of the me I think I want to be. And I wish I could tell her that she made me that.

I still see her sometimes, in that vulnerable period between sleep and wakefulness, when my heart seems open to more than life seems to offer. She’s there, shadowed by the sun shining behind her, laughing in her carefree way. She says something I can’t make out, and stretches out her hand to me but she disappears every time I reach out to take it. I love her, truly, and one day I hope to see her again. But right now I think I’m enjoying this. I’m starting to live.



Thursday, 23 May 2013

Gone.

I was about to start university.
I was looking forward to freedom from my parents.
See, my parents right, they were so controlling, especially my mother.
"We love you," they said.
"We want to protect you," they said.
"Stay at home and read a book."
"Go on the computer and learn something new."
"Help your sister to draw."

Blah blah blah.

They were overprotective but don't get me wrong,
I loved them.
They were good to me.

But then they weren't.

Let's talk about my mother.
She's beautiful.
I remember when she would get ready to go out with my dad,
she would wear that bright red lipstick that I loved on her.
She would come show herself to me when she was done.
"Ama, how do I look?" she would ask.
She looked lovely.

See, I have all these memories of my mother and I.
We talked about everything.
We talked about boys, we talked about sex.
She once said to me, "let me know when you're ready to have sex so I can show you how to do it safely."
She was awesome.
She was my everything.
She taught me how to cook (yes, I can cook guys. keep it moving)
She taught me how to read before my mates ever could.
She made it so I could speak to her like a little girl would to her older sister.
As I said, she was my everything.

But today,
today I miss my mother because she's not here.

She's dead.

She's still alive but yes, she's dead.
She changed, I don't know how.
I don't know why.

She said I ruined her life when she gave birth to me.
She said if it wasn't for me she wouldn't have gotten married to that "useless man."
She said she gave away great opportunities because of the man she married, because of me.
She said, "I'm not your mother any more."
She said, "forget about me because you don't exist to me."
She said, "I don't love you any more, maybe I never did."

I didn't understand. I still don't.
She blamed me for things I could never have been aware of.
She blamed me even though she was the one who opened her legs one night,
the result of which was ME.
It was her decision. not mine.
But she blamed me anyway.

I'm writing this post because today I miss her.
And when I miss her, all the good memories I have of her surface.
And then I smile.
The type of smile that reaches your eyes.
And then I think of how happy I am to have known her.
She was special.

Is special?
Was.

But it doesn't last long, this happiness.
The bad memories always come, like flies on yesterday's trash.
They always come and ruin everything.
And then I get upset.
And then I want to cry.

And then my eyes go empty.



Wednesday, 8 May 2013

finally

I am dying. 

That in itself is no news. We’re all dying.
 My assistant headmistress once said that everyday we live, we die. It’s true. We’re all dying, slowly fading away into the dust from  which we came, souls drifting upwards, or downwards, or nowhere at all depending on what you believe.

 Except I’m not fading slowly; in fact, my mother said I’m disappearing right before her eyes. But don’t tell her I said that. I wasn’t supposed to hear it, I’m supposed to be in a coma or something; hopped up on so much morphine I can’t feel a thing, they said. It’ll help me cope with the pain, they said. At least that’s what they told my parents. It was the first time I’ve heard them agree on something in years. 

They lied though.
 It doesn’t really help. The pain is still there, lingering, attacking in weak moments, killing my resolve to die with some manner of dignity, although I believe that ship sailed when I wet myself that one time. You’d think that with such constancy that somehow I’d grow used to it. That the pain would become familiar, an old friend, and I’d just forget it was there. 

No such luck.

 It still manages to surprise me now and then, catch me off guard. 

It’s a bitch.

 So I lie here, waiting, listening. I’m sorry if I’m sounding a little dreary, but when all that seems to define your life is this one thing there really isn’t anything else to talk about. And believe me, it’s no picnic. Just be thankful I’m not spinning off into a long tale of the history of my illness. I used to be far more interesting than this, so much more, you know. You probably would have liked me. I was friendly, pretty outgoing. People said I had a good sense of humor and I rarely got angry. In those days, before I became Mary (yes, MARY) the sick girl, I was Mary the sports girl, Mary the actor, Mary the life of the party. Now I’m soon to be Mary the dead girl.

I wouldn’t mind so much if it wasn’t so dreadfully boring. In the beginning, when I was fully conscious, most of the time I had visitors. My friends would come around and tell me stories, and we’d gossip about all the latest happenings in school, in the neighborhood, in church. They’d exaggerate and downright lie to create the most unbelievable stories, till we were all screaming with laughter and one of the nurses threatened to kick them out. We’d talk about everything except the reason why I was in the hospital, and underneath the smiles, I could see the worry and sadness etched in their eyes. But how we laughed. 

And when they left and my parents were out trying to find some way to keep me breathing the nurses would sometimes keep me company too. But not now. Now I was at endgame. The clock was ticking fast, my friends had gone to school and nobody wanted to talk to someone who seemed too far gone to notice or care. I’m not, I wanted to scream. I’m still in here.  I can hear you; I want to tell the doctor who tells my heartbroken parents that it’s almost time. Don’t write me off, I want to tell my dad, who can’t bear to look at me anymore. Stop crying, I want to tell my mother. Talk to me. Tell me what’s going on in the world. 
How is my friends’ WASSCE going? 
How’s William and Kate’s baby doing? 
Anything so I don’t have to think about this all the freaking time. But they can’t, because right now all they can think about is this too.

I feel myself drifting away faster now, but slower all at once. I’ve long since been unable to tell what day is it, and now days and nights mingle into one big stream of life. Minutes, which should be more precious now, pass unnoticed as I continue to exist in some realm of my subconscious I previously didn’t know existed. I can’t see them so clearly now, they’ve become nothing but globs so shadow, standing over me. The doctor says something I can’t make out. I know it’s him because he’s the only one who talks around me; as if my parents are afraid their words will be like magic to make me disappear. 

I wish they’d had more children, someone to focus all their attention on when I’m gone, but there’s just me, and they’re already on the brink of divorce.  

Too late now. 

And then I start to cry. I shock myself in this, as I feel, barely, the tears slide the side of my face onto my pillow. It’s been ages since I’ve been able to show any outward signs of life. I’m proud of this until I realize what it was; my final stand, my last goodbye. And then I know what the doctor said, “Any minute now.” I’m scared. I know I’m not supposed to be, that by now I’m supposed to have made my peace with this but I’m way past what should be and trying to get used to what is. And all I can think about is all the things I’ll never do. 

It’s not my life, but the sum total of all the potential futures I could have had. 

And so I cry.

I cry for my mother and my father, who are losing their only child, but only a little. 
I cry for myself most of all. 
For the husband I never met, the children I’ll never have, the life I’ll never live.
I cry for the future, full of pain, and joy, success and failure, that I won’t know, still only a little.
I cry most of all though, for something that didn’t make me sad at all. 
I cry from the beauty.
That tiny, bright light I saw beyond them, beyond my crying parents and somber doctor. 
I make as if to move towards it, ad I find myself weighted down. I look back to see what it is. It’s everything. The future I never had, the past I didn’t want to let go of, the people I wanted to hold on to, all muddled up, mushed up together, dark and swirling. 

Then I looked back at the light. It was a far better option. So I let it go. I bundled them all up and let them go. I took it all; the babies I never held, the man I never knew, the friends I would never again see, the parents who wouldn’t see me grow up.

 I bundled them up, and let them go, repeatedly, in a sort of slow rhythm, casting them back into the sea of life from which they came, those great dreams. I watched them float away from me, until they seemed like someone else’s life, scenes from a movie. 

And I walked on, free, unencumbered. I took a last look at my parents to say goodbye but they seemed so far away. And I walked off, into the lights, into the beauty.

 I was free.

 I was home.