Bola sat in her room, sounds of sirens filled the air. She lived in one of those parts of town where the siren sounds were like the soundtrack to her entire life. They, she and her mother, had moved to the States 2 years ago but it was all still strange to her. She missed home ; the sound of women attempting to sell their merchandise with over-reaching claims of quality, men gathered at joints enjoying drinks while they watched the English Premier League, children playing in the streets with carefree laughter, the honk of cars and buses and trailers each one trying to make its way to whatever destination. All these and more were home to her. She’d been one of those kids at some point and her mother had been one of those traders screaming “Fresh fish. Them just catch am” as if any thinking human being was to believe the tilapia fish had just been caught.
Somehow their fate changed and they won the visa lottery, they now resided in the ‘dodgy’ streets of New York; the greatest city on earth. She didn’t see the thrill. It was noisy and not in the way that you could relish the diversity in different people speaking, it was noisy noise. You couldn’t make out a distinct sound in the cacophony that enveloped the entire city. It all just annoyed her.
She hated school. Not like lazy teenagers do. She actually hated every waking minute of having to walk through those halls to a locker that had her fussing every time to be met by varying notes and scribbling telling her how unwanted she was. “Go back to your jungle”, “Lose the accent, you sound slow”, “Want a banana?” were but a few of the things sprawled within the walls and door of her locker; they couldn’t deface the outside, they’d get in trouble. She wasn’t the only black girl in the school, wasn’t the only immigrant with an accent either but somehow her ‘Nigerian’ accent singled her out as the one who needed to go, urgently. She’d watched too many movies than she would care to admit and each of them typically has a protagonist who is an outsider at first but meets someone similar to them and slowly they conquer the world. She thought this would be her story as well, that maybe somehow one of the many kids in her school would want to sit with her at lunch, be her partner in chemistry or even say ‘Hi’ to her without following it with a stifled laugh that was in fact always quite loud and unnecessary.
The insults did not end with her race or accent. They extended to her chubby thighs and kinky natural hair. She figured this was why the other black kids didn’t get so much grief; most of them were mixed and easy on the eye. She was always at the back of the class and tried as much as possible to be invisible to the whole world. She never got asked to any of the dances and when the Sadie Hawkins dance finally came around and it was mandatory for a girl to ask a guy to the dance, she made sure she asked him the first day that it was announced so he wouldn’t say he’d already been asked. She asked him. He’d already been asked, by whom he wouldn’t say but he was definitely taken. He walked away from her saying sorry and flicking his sand colored locks to the side all the while smiling a sinister smile that seemed to say “Are you for real?” She was in fact for real.
The things she had been writing on her notepad were now smudged by the tears that had somehow refused to stop coming down. She tore the page off, determined to start again and this time not cry. She would eventually do this three more times. She needed someone to talk to. Literally anyone would do at this point. Her mother was not home right now, she was never home. She didn’t blame her; she too was chasing the American dream; working three jobs to pay for a house she hardly slept in and care for a daughter she hardly saw anymore. Her eyes welled up again.
She had been so stupid, she could not go to school the next day. They would all call her a freak and a pauper and any other words in their big arsenal they used in cutting peoples’ hearts. She could not face all that. She used to have someone to talk to, a pen pal. She’d met Patrice on Facebook a few days after starting at her new school. Those days when she would be crying alone in her bed because the kids at school were mean Patrice was the only person she could talk to. She’d only ‘known’ Patrice about two weeks but they had such great conversations and she thought there would be no harm in confiding in her – being as she really was the only one to confide in at the time. She’d told Patrice everything; about her insecurities, fears, past. Her eyes were welling up again; she couldn’t believe that it had all been a lie. Patrice, whom she thought was a girl who lived somewhere in Newark, NJ, did not exist. She was what these white kids called a catfish: a person pretending to be someone else on social media. ‘Patrice’ was a student of her school, whom she had apparently told everything about her and then some. She was still staring at her phone, Patrice’s last message came with a picture, it was one of the jocks at her school. He was smiling, a smile so sinister it could be considered demonic. The message beneath the photo read “Hey weirdo, Patrice is not real, wait till I tell everyone about all your nasty secrets. You retarded turd. LMAO!!!” Pain tugged at her heart as she read her previous texts and messages with Patrice. She was amazed at how much she had let out and how easily too. She looked up at the posters on her wall, most of them of Spiderman and the X-Men; she was not your typical girl. She stared at them as if hoping they would come alive and tell her she would be fine, she wished Storm would give her a hug and while she was at it, smite Patrice.
She had finally written everything she wanted to write in her little note and she carefully placed it beside her. She reached for her bedside table, feeling for the blade she kept there earlier while secretly hoping that it had somehow disappeared. She stared at the razor and shivered at the thought of what she was about to do. Thoughts swirling in her head said she would go to hell if she did and, as if in response, she closed her eyes and said the most sincere prayer she had ever said:
“Lord, I don’t have anything else to do. I don’t belong here and I need to leave all these troubles behind… Amen.”
She stood up from her bed and walked over to the door and unlocked it. She did not want anybody to have to break down the door; it would cost her mother a fortune. She returned to her bed and sat in the same place she had been earlier, in the same position; with one leg folded beneath her and the other dangling on the side of the bed. She went over what she had read earlier that day, about how cutting her wrist was the best way to go about it. She sat up, raised the blade to her right wrist and cut. She made sure she cut deep. Pain. She repeated this with her left hand. More pain. “First pain, then peace” the article had read. She was waiting for the peace, the pain was still very present. Her hands were at her side and blood was oozing out. She felt light-headed, the room was spinning. Thud!She hit the carpeted floor with her side and as she closed her eyes she was stunned by the absence of darkness.
The detective had just handed her a blood-stained note they had found on her daughter’s bed. The carpet and the bed sheets had been covered in blood; her daughter’s blood. She sat in the waiting room, crying and the tears flowed with careless abandon. She had gotten home later than she usually did and rushed to the kitchen to prepare something for her and Bola, whom she imagined would be extremely hungry. She’d screamed her name and asked her to come down for supper. After 15 minutes of silence, she decided to go up the stairs; the poor girl probably went to bed hungry. The door to her room was open and her room was as untidy as ever, this girl is asking for a spanking. She could never narrate to anybody what seeing her daughter lying in a pool of blood did to her. She would never get over it. She had run over to her and held her, her jeans soaking in the blood. She screamed but didn’t hear herself. Her mouth opened and closed but no sounds came out. Her vision blurred, she stared at the only thing that had ever given her happiness. She had called 911 after a few minutes and watched as her daughter was put in the ambulance. She did not pay attention to any of the cops; she left them at the house and followed the ambulance till it got to the hospital. She had walked in like a zombie and followed them as they carried her daughter until some of the nurses held her back and told her she could not go beyond that point.
She was now sitting and staring at her daughter’s handwriting on a piece of lined paper from her jotter and at the bottom of the page the blood had formed a map of some sort. She didn’t want to read it; she did not want to get to the part where her daughter blamed her working late shifts for this. She wished, at this point, that she had never made the move to the States; damn the benefits, damn the fact that she had been a graduate forced to sell fish after her late husband’s relatives had left her with a child and not a naira to her name. She didn’t want to read it and see that it had been all her fault for moving here in the first place but alas she had to.
I know this doesn’t meet you well. I can imagine the grief you feel and I am sorry. I know I haven’t always been the best child but you have always looked out for me. 16 years I have been on this earth and you have sacrificed some happiness one way or the other so that I can have the best and for this I salute you.
Despite all your love and care, there were some things you could never protect me from; the harsh taunts at school, the racist comments, the constant bullying and it is not your fault. –“
She could not see clearly anymore, tears had gotten in the way. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hands and looking down, she continued.
“Kids can be cruel. I learnt that the hard way.
Don’t cry mum; be rest assured I am with God now
And at least there’s one less lonely girl in the world.
I love you.”
She ran her fingers along the words “I love you”, desperately hoping and wishing that these would not be the last she hears from her precious daughter. Bola, don’t do this. Don’t leave me like this. I will run mad; I will die.
“Mrs. Some Fun” the doctor called out, mispronouncing her surname Somefun, pronounced ‘sho-me-fun’, as the combination of the two English words ‘Some’ and ‘Fun’.
“Here!” She said, signaling and standing up so he knew it was her. She didn’t bother clarifying or correcting him concerning the name; she knew it was her.
He walked towards her, notepad in one hand and the other in the pocket of his lab coat. He had a determined look on his face, a look that said he had news. She knew that look; she did not like that look.