An Unusual Life

An unusual life

© Folakemi Emem-Akpan

 

I do not speak English; neither do I speak Spanish or Italian or German or Yoruba. In fact, I do not speak at all.

 

Born with every organ functioning but my ears and throat, I spent my formative years away from home, sequestered in a school with children that suffered from the same malady of deafness and dumbness as I did. Even when I went home for holidays, I was essentially alone. My three brothers were separated from me by far more than deafness. They were boys, expected to make something worthwhile of their lives. I was but a girl.

 

I retreated into books, was sucked into a whole new world; that of words and syntax and plots and subplots. My first attempt at a story of my own was crude, and there was gross sympathy in my mother’s eyes when I showed her what I had written. She shook her head, patted me on the head and plunked a glass of cold lemonade in front of me. I never showed her my work again.

 

But I did show my English teacher in school. His smile and nod of approval was like the sun peeking from behind the darkest clouds. He sat with me, showed me my mistakes and suggested what I needed to rewrite. A month later, he started up a school magazine, and I became published.

 

I was twelve years old.

 

It was like being born anew. I had found my purpose, my passion, my peace. And Mr. Brown became a surrogate father, the one who would sit hours unending with me, not just critiquing my work but also listening to and encouraging my dreams and aspirations.

 

I did graduate from my special school, but the outside world was not ready for me. I am from a third world country, and it doesn’t matter how influential your family is if you have a handicap. So as qualified as I was, there as no workplace brave enough to take me on.

 

I turned to writing with a vengeance. For two years after I graduated, my stories were sad ballads. Heroines hated by all, despite their beauty and grace. Heroines meeting tragic ends. Stories of poor people the world would not give a chance.

 

Then came illumination. That night, I’d gone to bed later than usual, yet couldn’t sleep. I was twenty-two, living off my parents’ wealth and had no clear direction in life. I was unemployable. The only thing I had in my life was my writing and even then, my passion for it had waned. But it was the only thing that could provide for me, the only thing that could earn me money and independence.

 

That night, my passion became my life’s work. That was the end of sad stories and suicidal heroines.

 

It’s been five years now, and I am about to receive the first paycheck from my work. It is for a two part story published in a local magazine, and the money is not much. In six months, it’ll be gone. But it is my money, earned from something born out of my brain.

 

This is my proudest moment.

 

I do not speak English; neither do I speak Spanish or Italian or German or Yoruba. In fact, I do not speak at all. But I can write, and in this I am not at all unusual because the written word is a universal language that I share with writers and readers all over the world.

 

 



18 thoughts on “An Unusual Life” by Folakemi Emem-Akpan (@Folakemi)

  1. Rhoiy (@Roy-journals)

    This is beautiful. I mean completely beautiful. I honestly did not want it to end.

  2. kay (@kaymillion)

    wonderful….
    Great determination.

  3. Your writings always precipitate my mood emotionally. I love this. PS: if you (the character) don’t not speak any of the aforementioned languages; I’ll like to know the language in which you wrote your stories. could it be braille?

    1. @shovey, thanks for your comment, and glad you liked it. If you noticed, the character said that she does not speak any language, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t read or write any language. I have found out that deaf people usually write or read the primary language of the country in which they live. so for the sake of this story, let’s assume she writes in English. cheers

  4. @FOLAKEMI. This is truly wonderful and touching.
    In my own selfish way I have never given much thought to the way people with disabilities like their lives. I know a boy who can ride a bicycle I never believed this was possible until I saw it with my own eyes, ironically even though I can see I still don’t know how to ride a bicycle. I believe with strength, determination and support from others people with disabilities can follow their dreams and be whatever they want to be.

    1. thanks @danjuma for your comment, Yes, with determination and support, everyone can follow their dreams, including our less able-bodied friends. cheers

      1. @FOLAKEMI, you are right, I forgot to mention that the boy that rides a bicycle in my comment is actually blind.

        1. i deduced that from your comment. cheers

  5. @FOLAKEMI. This is truly wonderful and touching.
    In my own selfish way I have never given much thought to the way people with disabilities live their life. I know a boy who can ride a bicycle I never believed this was possible until I saw it with my own eyes. I believe with strength, determination and support from others, people with disabilities can follow their dreams and be whatever they want to be.

  6. @folakemiemem-akpan now i get the logic. what an unusual life of an unusual being!

  7. Nice one @Folakemi! I really like how the beginning is also the ending. Great job!

  8. really nice piece.creative and unselfish.words alone cant describe how much i appreciate this.thanx a lot for sharing it with us. @folakemi

  9. This story can also touch people who feel they figuratively have no voice in society although they can speak. Writing and reading can be so therapeutic. This is awonderful Story. The disabled are often overlooked especially in 3rd world countries as you said. I wondered, the part where she said Mr. Brown “Listened” to her problems. Since she cant speak he can’t listen but for the life of me I cant come up with an alternative word or statement.

    1. thanks @ivie9ja. i guess i never really thought about the word “listened” before using it. And now that you’ve brought it up, I also cannot come up with an alternative word. Cheers

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