Have you ever waited for someone and they didn’t come? Have you felt the anticipation and excitement that starts a wait, felt it change to worry and trepidation as you made excuses in your head for why they delayed and then felt even that ebb away to leave disappointment and regret? Did you resolve never to wait again only to find yourself rooted to that doorway the next day, doing it all again? Have you ever stared at the road for so long, you close your eyes and you still see the black tar, like negative imprints on your eyelids? Have you felt heartbreak, like a pain in your chest, hurting with every heartbeat? Were you that girl who lost faith and just let the world push her around, took all the bad that happened to her as her reward for being brought into the world?
Have you lived many lifetimes? Have you given up on making friends because their times came and they cut their ties and left you behind? Did you watch in shock as that boy you sat beside for years was taken away before you could blink by a disease that a cheap pill pcould have cured? Have you felt well up with joy for that sickly girl as she moved up to better life with a grateful family and felt deep sorrow as that vibrant boy you admired was pushed out into the cruel world, into the hands of a person who already had too many to care for but still took him in because an extra head meant an extra cheque at the end of the month? Did your heart shatter as they led him away while you looked on in the hallway and cried? Did you find yourself on the little pallet you call a bed, staring up at the ceiling, wondering what would be your lot when your turn came; if you’d go up, down or out?
Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if you weren’t you? Do you see that young man with the black clothes he’s torn into shreds and his head shaved in half and wonder what he was trying to prove by destroying a good shirt and who he was trying to prove it to? Did you wonder what it would feel like to dress a certain way to prove a point to someone else? Do you see that girl with the colorful face and the tight dress that looked like it was going to tear at any moment and wonder who she’s trying to impress and why? Did you wonder what it must feel like to pay a ridiculous amount of money for a box of coloured dust, just to look pretty? Do you wonder what people think when they see you, if they only see your doe eyes and don’t see the pain inside? If they see your how your lush raven hair that falls to your knees and envied it, not knowing it was being groomed to be cut and sold so they could stitch it to their heads and pretend it was theirs? Do you wonder if life really is easier for everyone but you or if everyone is just like you, wearing a masked smile to cage the pain inside?
Have you ever felt responsible for someone else? Spent your days watching out for them, lurking around them, just out of sight but always within reach? Helped them do the laundry because their little hands weren’t strong enough to scrub away the dirt? Showed them how to tuck in their beds because they always forgot which fold went where? Did you watch with pride as they faltered at first, then became better and better at doing the things they needed to learn to survive? Have you ever taken the blame for them when they slipped up, surrendered your back to the whip and comforted them afterwards as they cried because they felt guilty? Have you felt the kind of joy that comes when they see you coming and involuntarily break into a smile? Have you gone to bed tired but proud because you lived your day looking out for someone other than yourself?
Have you ever thought of running away? Have you ever stowed away every naira you earned, begged for and pilfered in the stuffing of your pallet; denied yourself of sweets and personal treats so a lack of money wouldn’t cripple you when your opportunity came? Have you ever daydreamed about not having to worry about your looming fate and just living for the day? Have you ever wondered what it would sound like to sleep in a room all to yourself? No sniffling or tossing or the occasional snore? Do you spend your free time planning how to find your way to the village you saw written down in your file and finding the person to whom the name listed as your grandmother belonged? Do you spend your days hiding your excitement, trying to remain the sad eyed girl everyone pushes around so they don’t suspect? When the time comes, to leave the false comforts of the four walls of this orphanage behind, will you take it? Will you rise above your doubts and disappointments and fears and slip through that gap in the fence?
This Christmas, when I turn fifteen; I will not wait for the system to swallow me up and take me away. I will not let my dreams be drowned in resentment and regret. I will take my chance and act, I make my own way.