Written By: Henry P. Ugochukwu
Henry writes about depression and mental health in such a beautiful way. His poetic expressions are vivid and piercing. They all sit on the gallery of the reader’s thoughts for days. Read this piece slowly. There is no guarantee that any reader who enters into it will come out of it without tears.
I woke up to find myself – still – breathing
It never ends… But, I’m trying (sighs)
If surviving means wearing make-up of everything alive to cover blemishes from the riot that breaks out in my body
And struggling means chewing bitterness till its juice whets my appetite
Then I’m barely living. I’m surviving
In this story, I am the boy who mated with his depression just to prove to his lovers that he’s potent
Another soul will call for me from the darkness that settles in my sojourn just to excavate my body for deeper meanings… “sorry, no tourists allowed.”
Nowadays, I find myself trapped in a bar, drinking sadness from plastic cups—and I don’t call it refuge
I fill myself with it because I’m empty
You know, you don’t really know the shade of a tree until it’s been cut down
This is how I upload fragments of my shady life into days, waiting patiently for my depression to cut me down:
thursday: I’m breathing, knowing fully well that every breath I take is mercy from my depression. My body is like water I can barely hold; so it drip, drip – In molecules – till… how long is forever?
friday: my colleague at work doesn’t realize that I’m no longer alive. I died yesterday when my mother’s dreams melted into tears as they ran down her face… she did try to fight them back anyway. I died yesterday when the woman in grey looked down on me. I died yesterday when my admission into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka died as well—I knew we couldn’t preserve it, so I killed it
This is my sin
I died yesterday when my sister called me mad. I died yesterday when happiness wilted on my mother’s face. I died yesterday while no one was watching. I died yesterday in silence. I died yesterday from everything alive.
saturday: I’m at home. I turn down the volume of everything bustling around me, and claw into the dark, eerie room of my head. It’s much better here. Here, my demons feed on me. Slowly.
sunday: I slip into the fine, expensive native wear that my mother had bought me with her sweat; just to fit into the class of displaying latest fashions – a disease that’s fast eating the church. I do this to know what it feels like not to be invisible. But the heat from the material and the stench of my mother’s toil chokes me. Nobody sees this, not even the priest. So I close my eyes and pray that the mass ends as quickly as I’d slipped into my native wear.
monday: my mother asks for my compliment on her food as I usually did. I want to tell her that life has chosen to poison every sweet thing that goes into my mouth with gloom, or that every spoonful of delicacies that’s chosen to melt on my tongue tastes much like ash. But I don’t say all of these. Instead I say, “it’s beautiful.”
tuesday: this is me struggling to live. Oma’m says I must, and I must. That’s because I’ve chosen to neglect the language of my body just to satisfy the wishes of my well-wishers.
But what if I stumble upon another dead thing, do I pretend that I’m blind and so I don’t see what it is? Surely the stench will haunt my nostrils.
wednesday: it’s 12:15 pm. I drag my shadow out before the sun, and I’m hovering on the edge of consciousness. I want to rip open my chest and disclose to my onlookers the pyre on which I burn everything alive, and how the smoke from the burnt offering goes up in sighs. But discretion gets the better of me.
This is how I upload fragments of my shady life into days, waiting patiently for my depression to cut me down… because I know that forever is just a short time.
Henry P. Ugochukwu is a self-hired scribbler for his depressing thoughts and a believer in sad endings. He writes from Okwe of Delta State, Nigeria, where he resides with his poor mother and siblings. When he’s not writing, he’s out seeking new ways to die.
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Trapped in the poem, "How we Spell Home", are many stories of insurgency and violence that the victims did not get a chance to tell before they were eternally silenced. @OgwijiEhi takes the time to tell them in lines and in verses:
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