Somehow, I feel ruined. The stench from my indecisions wrapped in complacency now choke every glimmer of hope in me. I thought I was being a good girl; ‘the yes, ma’ kind of good girl. I never knew I was pilling the debris of my own lynch-party. No one cautioned me. No one asked what I wanted. I practically joined in the chanting of my own dirge. I sang the cheerful dirge at my own “funeral”. How unfortunate!
I have been tagged privileged because I was born with a silver spoon forced down my throat. I was tenaciously moulded into the lady I am today. I was compelled to learn how to blend pride with poise, arrogance with charms, and beauty with emptiness. At least, that was my interpretation and “prescription” of royalty. My tutor who beamed with unnecessary and endless smiles was confident that I would make an amazing princess at that pace. My life was programmed and rolled out before me. I swallowed everything I was taught with pride. It made a lot of sense at that time. I enjoyed the attention I received. I was called beautiful but, somehow, I never felt beautiful. That was the life I knew and had to live.
My 18th birthday came with a rude surprise. The birthday package included a journey to study Medicine abroad. His Royal Highness, my father, made the revelation amidst jubilation by excited servants and guests. I was surprised and also confused as to why I was surprised in the first place. ‘it’s in the plan’, I told my self. That gave me the courage to conceal my empty and overwhelmed heart with a broad smile. Later that night, I realised I was excited about the idea of leaving the palace even though I was not excited about the choice of course. I occasionally caught myself smiling about the thought of freedom as congratulatory messages flooded my ears.
When it was time to leave home, I was lectured on how to represent my home town, how to make them proud, and so on. I got the details. They were familiar, after all. And It was indeed well received. “Make your father proud” his Royal Highness said. “Yes, your majesty”, I replied. Those were the only words I could reel out of my mind.
My new found freedom was thrilling. I had an apartment to myself, the air wasn’t choking with the presence of servants chanting “Do you need anything, my lady?” The first few months were pure bliss in ecstasy. No stiff routines to follow. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t accountable to anyone but myself. It felt so good.
This freedom was, however, short lived. It opened my eyes to realize that I couldn’t live with myself. I couldn’t find a balance between peace and passion. I couldn’t find the balance between happiness and the nagging expectations of others (even when no one expected anything of me). It was difficult to walk around without (unconsciously) raising my shoulders high like ‘an exalted unicorn’. I just couldn’t fit in. I was twice removed from normalcy and reality. Loneliness started creeping in like a thief in the early hours of the day. I was mostly conscious yet unconscious occasioned by absentmindedness and nostalgia.
I was gradually slipping into depression when my Knight in shiny armour showed up. I was walking down the dry patched lane lost in thought about my near empty room and how I had become extra lazy, no , how I just realised that I had been a lazy spoilt child. So lazy that I would occasionally utter the words “ get me my towel” into the empty space. On those occasions, I end up beating myself for building my life around core dependence on others to do everything for me. “Hello, I noticed you in Prof’s class. You must be Nigerian…,”he said. Without blinking my eyes, the words vomit found its way out of my mouth- “ address me as my lady or My princess” . He couldn’t help his laughter, the echo of which gave my senses an urgent CPR which brought shame to my face. “I’m sorry”, I said. I was hoping the earth would open up and swallow me that moment.
His face registered a shade of disgust, yet he offered to walk with me to the bus station. He didn’t say a word after that heart wretching laugh. I wish he did. He was strangely different. He was simple yet elegant. I couldn’t get the mysterious aura around him off my mind throughout that night.
Then we met again. This time he didn’t forget to add “my princess” to his salutation to my utter embarrassment. I was forced to apologize again. He felt I was too serious about life. “How?”, I asked. Your shoulders, for instance, are raised like that of “ an exalted unicorn. You need to relax”, he said. No one had ever spoken to me in that manner. It felt like an insult but sounded like some deep truth. He went further to tell me his name – a strange sounding name: “Nandom”. “ Which part of Nigeria are you from?”, I asked. Jos, Plateau”, he replied. I later gathered he was on government scholarship and so he had to work at two jobs to support himself and send some money home to his parents. He reminded me of all the things I have and all the things I lacked. He is confident, self assured, and above all HAPPY.
I was surrounded by folks who laughed at my jokes dutifully not that they found them funny. I got compliments not that I deserved them but it was part of the package. I was cloned into a demi- god. I was feared not loved. Praises from maidservants took humanity from me till I became cold at heart. I was served right from birth and was never taught how to serve others. If I had learnt how to give from a genuine heart of love maybe, I would have found fulfilment. If I was given the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them, maybe, finding my path through life won’t be an issue. If I was given the opportunity to mix and share my heart with my maids. I would have learnt to how to smile genuinely.
I am now a stranger on earth trying to find my roots from miles away. I am learning how to be human through love, sacrifice, and service. With this heart full of love, I shall navigate life till I find fulfilment and happiness. I have tasted the unshed tears of yesterday and I dislike the blank taste it left in my mouth. In Nandom’s light I see my light and I hope to follow diligently.
Peace Habila wrote in via email@example.com