Categories
Prose Self-Harm

Good Riddance by Ibrahim Williams

She told me Dan had become distant after he witnessed her psychotic episode. Her voice was tired, and her eyes were ringed in black circles. Toni and Dan were love birds until last week when he saw his girlfriend act up in public. He must have been embarrassed; I quite understand. But wasn’t love an affair of accommodation – in sickness, and mental health?

 

That morning when I pushed open her door, she was tucked inside her favorite pink duvet, awake. It was visible, the dried tears on her sad face. Her hair was mangled into hysterical puffs like each hairline was in revolt. I moved closer. She broke into a weak smile which I returned by sinking into the space by her side.

 

“How are you, sis? Were you able to sleep?” I asked. And though I knew the answer to my question, I stared down at her waiting anyway. She smiled again. Behind her was a gift pack; it was pink, and it revealed a piece of silk fabric peeping out.

 

“Do you want me to call him?”

“No, please!”

“What if he…”

She turned her back at me.

 

All this was before Toni went in search of suicide by jumping off the roof. I’m her twin! Doesn’t she understand that I, too, love her? I thought of all the moments we’ve shared together – the laughs around the house, the cries from our weekend movie nights, and the many silly times we got into trouble together.

 

As the ambulance dashed towards the Lagos traffic, blaring its siren in order to maneuver through the fleet of cars, I looked at Toni for the first time. And somehow, my anger dissipated. The sight of her body, strapped and immobile, sank my heart in a river of fear. I watched helplessly as she held on to life with difficult breaths aided by a dingy oxygen mask. It was hard for me to understand why. Could it be that her love for Dan was so much that the thought of losing him became…? No! It shouldn’t be. A breakup doesn’t mean the end of the world, or…am I being insensitive? Was it triggered by her… I thought it best not to be the judge of my sister.

 

Now that I stand by Toni’s wheelchair at the exit point of the hospital, the breeze blows playfully around us as we hold each other’s gaze with broad smiles. I watch as she reaches into her fancy bag, drawing out a silk pink scarf. She tosses it in the air.

 

“Moni,” she called. “That is Dan, good riddance”.

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Ibrahim Williams, 24, is a Nigerian writer, satirist, and a literary advocate for mental health. He teaches the English language and currently studies it as a postgraduate student at the University of Lagos. Though blessed with the ability to play football, he is caught in a shambolic love affair with Arsenal FC. Find him @purplepicks.wordpress.com/ or @ibn_williams on Instagram.

Categories
Depression Prose

Wanting Away by Jerry Chiemeke

You are lying on the floor, five inches away from the mattress. It’s no cooler down on this rug, but you are not exactly in search of lower temperatures. Curled on the 6 × 4 and breathing slowly is probably all the warmth you need, possibly the one thing that matters now…but maybe you are not out for comfort in these moonless hours.

You want space to mull over, to stare your soul’s emptiness in the eye, to brood over your disillusionment without the distraction of loving arms.

Surfing YouTube puts both your battery and your mobile data under pressure, and googling your favourite musician has long become an unexciting pastime. You don’t entertain the thought of praying either; for one, you can’t help but feel that it’s an easy pathway to sleep, and in any case, you took a shot at that option hours ago, but you felt no better. You can’t blame Him though, He’s a pretty busy Being, deserving of some real slack, even when your tears soak the communion railings, even when your knees sink into the tiles.

It gets to you, looking spoilt for choice one moment and left with nothing the next. It gets to you, being overlooked again and again, no significant additions on the last Google search of your name. It gets to you, populating your blood stream with blue and yellow pills just to boost stubbornly deficient serotonin levels.

You wonder if the tight shutting of eyes and quick gulping of water is even of any use: the disco hall segment of your life ended with your early 20s and the sound of bluesy guitars make up the soundtrack for your hours now.

You’re exhausted; of trying so hard to be funny in person to correct notions of you from people who couldn’t be bothered, of having to explain why communication is a real chore for you, of making her see that when you say nothing it’s not because you’re getting drawn to someone else, of dealing with “why so melancholic?” inquiries and “I just wanted to check on you” platitudes.

You are done with trying to make yourself understood or likeable, and you have come to terms with the fact that nobody’s going to love you right, that a hundred soothing text messages will never be enough, that God himself would have to come down if the pile of broken pieces that is yourself stands any chance of ever being put together.

You’ve run out of tickets to the pity party, and you just want to be away, this version of “away” being more of a feeling than a place, that fever pitch desire to swim across planets and watch your body float from the sidelines. Colourful photos from birthdays of acquaintances on your Instagram page are unable to cancel out the greyscale that is your default hue, and you know for sure that the ceasefire from the wars in your head has run its course.

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Jerry Chiemeke is a columnist, culture critic and lawyer. His works have appeared in The Inlandia Journal, The Johannesburg Review of Books, The Guardian, Honey & Lime, Bone and Ink Press and Agbowo, among others. A lover of long walks and alternative rock music, Jerry lives in Lagos, Nigeria where he is working on a novel. He is the winner of the 2017 Ken Saro Wiwa Prize for Reviews, and he was shortlisted for the 2019 Diana Woods Memorial Award for Creative Nonfiction.

Categories
Mania Prose

BI-TREKKIE by Leah Holbrook Sackett

I’m the roommate that she didn’t get, the girlfriend you never met. I’m the statistic in your Psych 101. The life I was supposed to have is sediment at the bottom of a poorly stored red wine. You are in perpetual motion reaching milestones, making your dreams come true. I’m in suspended animation. Phantoms of the worst me eke out to make a spectacle, but these are just shadows, haunting the girl floating in stasis. I cannot make a real move, a solid contact. I am impeded by the misconstrued silence of my former self. I am trapped. A symphony of screams echo in my head, whether I am manic or suicidal or homicidal. My suspended animation makes my hell my own. To you, I am neutralized. But it is “Kadir beneath Mo Moteh,” – failure to understand. I open my eyes. You meet my gaze. “Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel.”- successful first contact between two alien cultures. Star Trek-TNG is playing softly on the television. I can see it from the kitchen, and I know what they are saying I’ve seen it so many times before.
You came in with Kim. I was making cucumber sandwiches. I had the counter covered with 52 cucumbers. It was in honor of Rosh Shoshanna. I should be at shul, but I could not face the yentas with their well-meaning inquisitions. Where have you been? I have a nice grandson for you. I needed solitude, even on this joyous day. I was trying not to tip the scale.
“What’re you making,” you asked.
“Cucumber sandwiches.”
“For a party?” you asked.
“I’m giving most of them away. I’ll go up and down the hall and leave them outside the doors.”
“Leave them outside?”
“Yes. I don’t really like to get to know people.”
“Okay, I can take a hint.”
“Not you, I’ve, I’ve met you before through Kim.”
“So, what do sanctioned people get, if near-strangers get cucumber sandwiches?
I was my bold self. I gave him a side-long glance. A come fuck me look, despite the fact that Kim had been trying to rein him in for three weeks now. Zach knew Kim was in for a package deal. I just threw signs that meant a good time.
We were young. I was raging sex. It was never enough. You recharged to perform again, again, and again. I’d heard Kim come home, the creak of the front door, drop of the keys in the blue porcelain bowl. That didn’t make me quieter, but louder. I felt so powerful to take away what she had valued. I intended to flaunt you like a new kill. I knew you would stick around. But I was surprised when I wasn’t bored with you. That summer was like a Tornado, I couldn’t place anything in time, but episodes of sex and Star Trek – TNG. Like always, my striking mania crashed. There would not be any sandwiches of any kind. You would be concerned, that’s all you could be but perhaps frightened. What had changed, you wondered? How could you help? You realized you knew nothing about my illness. You sick son of a bitch were drawn deeper into me than before. You seemed all kinds of wrong to me. You were the day, and I was the night. Your surrender was a whirlpool of what you confused to be depth. My horror was in lights at the carnival. I longed to drown in the barrel of bobbing apples. I could not get a bite of knowledge. You held on tight to my hair so I could not drown. I resented you, but I hated me.
I was the roommate that she didn’t get; the girlfriend you started to wish you never met. I was the forgotten statistic in last semester’s Psych 101. The life I was supposed to have was sediment at the bottom of another poorly stored red wine. You were in perpetual motion reaching for unattainable milestones, chasing dreams. I was in suspended animation. Phantoms of the worst me eked out to make a spectacle, but these were just shadows, haunting the girl floating in stasis. I cannot make a real move, a solid contact. I am impeded by the misconstrued silence of my former self. I am trapped. A symphony of screams echo in my head, whether I am manic or suicidal or homicidal. My suspended animation binds me to my own hell. To you, I am neutralized. ” Shaka, when the walls fell,”- failure. I close my eyes. “Darmok on the ocean.”I am isolated, alone.

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Leah Holbrook Sackett is an adjunct lecturer in the English department at the University of Missouri – St. Louis, where she also earned her M.F.A. Leah’s stories explore journeys toward autonomy and the boundaries placed on the individual by society, family, and self. Learn about her published fiction at LeahHolbrookSackett.com