It’s been ten years since we met. If I am being honest, I have been avoiding you. It would be easy to judge me, accuse me of abandoning you the way other people do, but if you hear me out, if you listen, you might understand why it was important.
Today is one of those days for you, everyone seems to float through life, and you have to crawl. Right now, you are hoping time will move quickly so you can go back to your desk and pretend to care about education.
You are listening to the rough roaring sound coming from the classroom. Although his speaking often leads to annoyance, today, it is the thing that keeps you from screaming out as much pain as you can. He walked into the room and ordered everyone out, except those supposed to attend his class. Other people looked for places to sit in other classes, but you and your friends aren’t that enthusiastic about learning; the steps outside your class make more sense.
You will sit under the light with books open, but no reading will take place. This is yet another opportunity for you to feel small and wish for invisibility, and they will grant you the courtesy of ignoring you. That’s why it works, right? This friendship of yours? You can sink into the darkness as much as possible, but that wall you are trying to squeeze yourself into won’t swallow you. It doesn’t have the power to do that.
Their whispers sting like daggers; the conversation has been the same for the last few weeks. There’s a wedding coming up, yes, one of those unicorn moments where there is such a thing in your life. Where you come from, people go from home and never come back. Weddings are foreign, and you would like to join in the chatter, but that is not your place, and you are not invited.
The reasons why your friendship works are that you know your place, something you perfected from long before you met them. You are like a chameleon, taking the least time to change and resemble your environment. They don’t want you in their conversation or their wedding, as long as they allow you to sit next to them, right?
The roaring voice in the class brings you back; why is he always so loud. He breathes his English lessons from the depth of his lungs, and if he were allowed, he would teach the entire school, no sound-amplifying devices required. Today he is not the enemy; he is the anchor, the only form of normalcy you have.
Why don’t they want you at the wedding? Well, that’s a question you have been asking yourself since you found out that the others had received an invite. If I allowed you, you would take all of our time together listing all the wrong things with you; that’s not why we are here.
They have been talking about it around you, whispering and giggling; it would be nice to enjoy that kind of laughter, right? Without wondering whether you are too loud and not in the way most people think.
You know taking up space makes a lot of noise, and you are not about to leave your place. Maybe they want you to know? You are unwanted. You are lucky you get to enjoy their presence. You are only as big as those around you allow you to be. You can only be who the environment is comfortable with.
You have been thinking these things. Perhaps you assume they see you this way because that is how you see yourself. If your eyes gaze upon your existence and all you see is an inconvenience for other people, why would you believe they see you any other way?
I decided to meet you today because it is a lie, and you need calling out, but more than that, you need comfort. Today I gazed upon you on those steps, and I couldn’t help but wonder what you would think about me. I look at you with sadness and pity; my eyes are no different from yours, only that we see different things.
Those ten years we have been apart brought many changes; that is why my sight shifted, why I can sit with you and not want to sink into the walls. The thing you were afraid of, the one that made you sit in your place, happened. You know, don’t act like your obedience to the situation and those around you has anything to do with your intricate commitment to being a decent human being. You are afraid!
You are afraid that if you sing, someone will be uncomfortable. The way your voice changes, from high to low pitches with little to no rhythm; surely, you wouldn’t want anyone hearing that, right? You shudder at the thought that more than two people give you their undivided attention. You don’t want to say something that reveals that you don’t belong.
These friends of yours speak of things you have only seen on television or read in the books. The last time they invited you to go anywhere with them, you had to scrape up a few coins to at least contribute for the soda. When they invited you for pizza, you cringed at the taste of cheese, how different it was from the plain food you ate at home. You refused to join in their parade against school food on most days; it almost always resembled what you had at home; perhaps that’s something common when you prepare huge amounts of food, that tastelessness.
They don’t know that you don’t mind it, the food. You especially appreciate the diversity, unlike your mother’s kitchen, where a meal can be repeated five days, and you don’t have the right to complain about it. Here, you don’t have to chop huge amounts of Sukuma wiki to cook for five people. You don’t have to eat the same food until it is finished and it doesn’t even matter whether there is a fridge or not.
This hiding thing you have been doing doesn’t work, but that’s a lesson we are still learning. Today was tough, but then so are many of your days. If anything helps you hold yourself a little tighter and with more kindness than these friends do, let it be that these eyes, your eyes, our eyes, look upon something quite different from wanting to disappear. In ten years, you stand away from walls or anything that hides a beauty deep inside you that you haven’t yet discovered.
The woman you are becoming.