Reddish. Mixed with a little bit of yellow from the sun and the light blue it always had before rain fell. That was the color of the sky. The color of the skies that she knew. The one that was beautiful in the evenings as she watched the car being washed, as she sat down on her white plastic chair, the one that was brown and whose skin she loved to peel as she listened to the sounds coming from the uncompleted building which was a church. The sounds had a quality of sadness and loneliness but the alternate sounds of the noisy drums overwhelmed that after a while and the very bad speakers. She began to scratch her legs, her arms, the sweet spots bitten by mosquitoes. The spots were getting larger but she couldn’t help it. Later she would spray those spots with her perfume. It always burnt her skin but it worked . The itching would stop and later she could draw with a pen to mark the boundaries of the spots. The ink gave her the strange comfort that the spots were contained. She watched as the some neighbors passed to get into their apartments on the second and third floors of the rented building. There was the retired doctor’s wife who had accused her mother of wanting to destroy her waterleaves with her frequent washing around that spot and that was how they had quarelled even though some months earlier they had performed the act of “becoming friendly by sharing movies and exchanging husband stories”. There was the Barrister’s nephew who had been caught trying to rape the barrister’s maid and there was the open space where she could run and play and jump and beat the flowers because they were not being good students and learning the Integrated science she was teaching them.
She stood still and remembered she had not counted the chairs in the sitting room. There were four chairs of different colors. She knew that perfectly well, but she had to count them all the same. It was a daily ritual. She had to start from the right and it had to be with her head. She would nod as she said “one”, ” two” till she said “four” and she had to hold her breathe as she did so. If she failed, she would start all over , and she always failed even when she held her breathe perfectly. It was an obsession she could not control, but who would understand?
She heard the sound of the broom as it hit the carpet. Another cockroach killed by her mother and obviously sent from the village. That is what the prophetess who asked for “five thousand naira” before God could speak to her had said. They wanted to kill her family this month and so cockroaches had been sent to spy and do the job. How they were meant to do it, she had no idea but with every death of a cockroach, she imagined an old person breaking into pieces. She imagined them with smashed head, broken legs and dead, but so far no news of death had been brought from the village. She heard as her mother uttered a victorious “blood of Jesus” and “evil people shall die ” as she further poured some olive oil on the spot the cockroach had died.
She counted the chairs again. One, two , three, four…It was the sixtieth time that day and she was sick and tired of it, but obviously that was not so important…
Every now and then after a night of less than six hours of sleep, the stress ghost of achievement comes to haunt me. More intensely after a cup of coffee when my brain has taken off on a mad alertness race. I can feel the weight of pressure descending like a bucket of ice cubes and the need to run out like a rat in search of my saviour. The pressure is on and the pressure will be on. We understand that all greatness is fleeting, memories will die off and if they don’t when we die, we still will leave them behind for the next generation of potential dead people to forget them when they are dead, but this doesn’t stop the dread of the invisible ticking clock that yells at us to achieve , to achieve and keep on achieving something. What?
There are so many voices. The voices of “I have a dream, do you have one too? No? How about you jump in the lagoon? . The voices of “oh see Steve Jobs, look at Bill Gates…look at him, at her..at 14. Oh my? Just 14 and she built that? Genius!!” The voices of ” you should get married my dear. At 30. Your neck is beginning to have folds on them. Men don’t like that sweety. So, get married or die , love?” There are the voices that tell you how to start a business so well that when you are done knowing , you want to hide your face in a bowl and maybe sleep because sleeping is good for health and… The voices that do not take into account the nuances , the things we have learnt to call “setbacks”, “drawbacks”, the things called “tragedy and coping with it by taking a break from the rat race of chasing after figures, hitting higher bars and generally ticking things off in our to do list before we actually kick the bucket. Those things that make being CEO before you are 20 a major drawback. But why?
Why do we give into the pressure to feel bad about ourselves? For whom are we really doing all the things we do daily. Why do we need to publish that book before we hit 27? Marry that man before we are 25 and not a day later? Why do we crave to be the youngest to fly this or that or discover this or that? Writing a book is not bad, marrying isn’t, discovering isn’t. But what is it with the idea that having done it earlier or later is something that would cause death to evade us somehow? Why do we keep forgetting that everyone’s pace and race is different. Sure, life is made easier if somethings are done earlier and some later, but how about giving people the option of just being normal, comfortable and happy people who do their best daily even though they might never invent the cures for deadly diseases. The hidden people whose progress on our scale of success seem almost non existent until you get to know their struggles and how much effort they have put just to will to live one extra day .
True, original silence for me is directly proportional to my mental health. It’s the thin line between falling into apathy or remaining motivated to live, between dissolving into the surroundings and opinions of others or taking control of my life and mind. I need silence to think, to enjoy life, to be me. It is in silence that I remember myself and get in touch with the consciousness of my being.
Silence for me is connected to my sense of independence. I think it’s like what happens during the deep stages of NREM sleep where the brain processes pieces of information , discards the not very useful ones and frees space for whatever plans the brain has when we are awake. Silence does that by shutting down the noise and giving the STOP hand signal of a traffic warden to the mounting influx of all the attention diverting distractions that the world has to offer. In that way, silence is like a sieving net .
It is in silence that I can contemplate if words are necessary and how much they are. What action will my words bring? Are they like seeds that are thrown only to be eaten up, digested and forgotten? Do they bring a solution to a problem or is this all “just talk” . Am I merely stimulating a mind and leaving it no better as a body because it has not been spurred to create? I don’t just want to talk anymore and I don’t just want to listen to people talk anymore. I don’t want to be bloated with information and obese with inaction.