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ON THE OTHER SIDE

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A short story by Roli Hazel Oburoh

It’s been a hard year for everyone, so you’re told. You’re told because you hardly keep in “check” with the outside world anymore. You used to write in journals, like two years ago. Always wanted to keep everything on record. Then you just stopped. It didn’t seem worth it anymore. You filled in every blank page of that overly decorated pink book and one day you set it ablaze, literally.
You felt like you were scribbling down those “wildered” experiences because you needed an outlet, you needed to make sense to your senses what you were experiencing. You were in reality trying to put the bits you could “see” together.
It wasn’t clear then what you were really doing. Between the pain filled incomprehensible letters to God and the solitary campaigns you drafted for yourself; your self discovery freedom speech and the endless autobiographies met for no one in particular, you “was” trying to fill up a hunger.
At first, you pressed endlessly into Yahweh thinking your hunger came from a need to commune closely with the creator. Then with the hate, anger and feeling of betrayal that followed, you pressed into your career. When it became unbearable, the void, you pressed for love. You thought that had to be it. That hunger, it was always there. No conversation long enough, no food tasty enough, no song sad enough could reach in deep.
There was a time, you tried, not too well to bury it in. You could wear neat clothes, brush your hair, maybe teeth and walk on like you had you all in control. That didn’t last very long. When the darkness tore you apart from inside, suppressing made it more difficult, it surfaced. It was everywhere. The pain, the tears glued to your eyelid in broad day light, the unkept look, the unkempt hair, it didn’t take more to give you away.
It wasn’t just Satan’s blow; the literal feeling of being feast for a pack of hungry demons, the hurtful assertions of Jesus’s hate, the massive weight of depression, the conscious fight to retain your faith, your sincerity, your heart. It was hard. The change could slip in and out without will, the suicidal thoughts. No it wasn’t just that.
It also wasn’t just the mockery, the pity and betrayal you felt from friends, the attacks and set-up you didn’t even realise were there. What wasn’t clear about it? The conversations with, the experiences with, and the hate adding up to the same thing? Was that bleak? No.
It was that you were too blind to see, too wrapped up in being a lost cause that you didn’t notice you were the very center of an epic Hollywood movie. Finally, your cherished illusions and delusions and presumptions have caught up with you and you are finally almost mad.
And one day you just got tired. Tired of feeling sorry for yourself, tired of wanting to be seen, tired of being asked what your fucking problem was? . Babe, you have everything. If I had half what you had, you’ll only see me through show-glass, they would say. So you stopped running and started fighting.
It wasn’t easy at first. Very miserable first attempts if you might add. Still, you tried. You stopped waiting “for” Jesus to come down and pick you up, you started looking to be strong.
Let’s say, you started with the looks. Early two hours morning inconveniences, endless grooming on YouTube and the relatives you made on Instagram who didn’t even know you. And then, with the renewed excitement for life and what the future held, you did it. You were ready. Ready to step into the world and conquer. If it got too hard, well, you had a new circle of friends to pull you through. It was follow come with the glam just in case you were wondering how that happened. That was it, you thought.
See, in this narrative from zero to hero, you sometimes forget to chip in that a huge part of your “elevation” is credited, I’m sure you meant inspired, by your encounter with a certain person. The thing about being played is that you don’t realise how deep you are in the story line. Every plot twist, every angle, every line even recess time is determined by the players. And this certain someone was the player. The beginning of a new chapter you could never have seen. A different kind of scheme, an era of a different kind of misery, pun intended. And a higher quality of pain, if you prefer.
You could accredit this to life or nature or truth or the compensation of goodness or the consolidation prize of sadness or whatever. In reality, it is really just Yahweh. Satan might be an excellent manipulator and “that” was meant to destroy you but you see, God is a perfect strategist.
Pain is cruel but what is more cruel is not realising you’re in pain. And while you struggled with the long suffering of unrecipocrated love, the diversions he brought into your life, the more vivid interruptions that was him and him alone and the ever abiding gut feeling that something just wasn’t right about him, you convinced yourself it was okay. It was afterall, he was afterall, better than a perpetual feeling of defeat that wasn’t lacking in your “earlier” oppression. At least, this rat could blow your feet while he fed on you.
So you started to prepare for him to tell you how much you were a waste of space, he told you were beautiful, intelligent and even stupid you, manipulative. Aren’t you the queen of hearts now. For him to tell you he was in love with someone that could never look like you because they were better, he told you he saw only you. He didn’t really say that to be sincere, but he stayed six hours with you on that cold white faculty bench and laughed at all your biting boring jokes. So your friends enforced your cherished illusions again but now you were no longer almost mad. You were happy. “You think a guy would spend so much time with you if he didn’t love you. He doesn’t have other things to do? It’s just, he can’t help it. He wants to be with you” they would say, sounding stupid and smiling silly. But you were happy. And they were happy for you.

So you waited and he didn’t do any of the things you expected, again, you grew tired. Tired of waiting for doom. Tired of not growing tired with him. Tired of knowing you were halfway under and still not feeling subdued because it was him. Tired of knowing you were in an arena but too crippled by love to fight. And this new “captor” grew weary with the futile resistance, mine obviously not his. He restrategized. And one Monday morning you wake up and you realise you’re surrounded by enemies and traitors.

A short story written in twenty minutes, June 2020. First published on The Pen July 25th 2022.

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