Ce n’est pas rien

Every time: I begin again.

What can I offer you but a collection of open wounds? A hundred scars have drawn themselves on the skin of my bones and I have hidden them under a burqa of laughter and flippancy. I can offer you nothing but the words I have brewed together to describe pain; the ones I have strung together, made a noose and hang my past selves.

I can offer you nothing but the reality of my nothingness, the top layer of my humiliations. If I cannot write about my inner torments then I can write about nothing because they have acquired their own hue and it is this colour I see whenever I turn around, it has formed patterns crocheted on the inner skin of my eye lids and I am held hostage by my suffering. I have crossed rivers to frustrate it, moved borders, changed prison cells, but all is futile: we cannot escape ourselves.

For this story I will pay in blood. There is no healing in writing, it is a prodding of sleeping demons and it will cost us. But I can give you nothing but the salt of my tears, and I will give you this as the gift I cannot afford. Maybe it is the only thing we have to give. I am stepping away from the safety of abstractions that my truth may come between the frailty of your neck and the multiplicity of your guillotines.

Art by Gisela Hammer

I started this year as something, I have ended it as nothing.


I began as the illusion of something I have ended it as a reality of nothing. Sketched on my wrist are darkening lines: an epitaph on the height of the consciousness of futility. Down in the cavernous belly of hell I have battled with the minions of devils for my scrap of peace. Tortured, burning, I have felt the fire of anger, despair, anguish pass through me singing each individual hair and making my entire being a land deserted, barren, destroyed.

I can offer you only a collection of open wounds because joy is a thing I manufacture for your benefit. It is a flower that comes up from these soils already dead and blackened; I pluck it and paint it with stolen rainbows for you. You do not know the difference. I am a torment incarnate and even my hope is a respite I buried in a grave fortified with stone. May it never escape. Even hope is a torture. It is the torment of things that shatter. It is the torment of things capable of breaking. I have purged my cathedrals of glass, I am cushioning my dreams on air. Not even in writing is there salvation; even phrases break apart.

I have lain this wasteland of bone and flesh on thin edges of rooftops and contemplated the single turn it would take to spin me into my question of whether we have wings lying dormant beneath the skin of our backs waiting to come alive. I have contemplated how many pills would allow me to exchange this futility for the next. I have nourished a fascination for blades, an awe at how thin the skin of wrists is and how lovely is the melody drawn out by the veins beneath. My romanticism has discarded ropes and (literature forbid it) poison; thrashing around, struggling for breath, perhaps tormented by a change of mind, certainly in pain, seemed to defeat the entire point of escaping suffering. Vanity would not allow poison: to be remembered for all eternity as having used the same path out of this life as a rodent is certainly antithetical to any brand of romanticism worth its name.

If I have written so aggressively on suicide it is because I have struggled to discover the elixir that will turn us deaf to the call of that Angel tasked to collect souls. At the height of it, it has not been something external that has pulled me back from ledges and kept me away from blades, it has been the seed of a thought buried in my psyche. And whatever power has dissipated the darkness has been something within that negated the drowning futility. All the intellectualism has failed and emotion has superseded logic in all instances. It has been something beyond reason. If I have decried rooftops and bottled death it has been through negation and affirmation has only heightened the asphyxiation of closed doors.

Art by Godswill Chima

I have shed off all presuppositions of being anything, of being something and have conceded to be nothing. The Hindu believe in the void that preceded creation, an idea rooted in the paradox that emptiness can be heavy. The height of salvation is deemed to be the loss of the ego, the realisation that one is simply what is. You can only be something in the past or the future, what is now cannot be grasped or imprisoned and is essentially nothing, the weight of emptiness. To be nothing is to lose all expectations, idealisations and convictions that mark the futility of life as a burden to be escaped. There is freedom in having nothing to cling to; to be nothing also denotes the power to be anything, to be everything, to never be simply one thing. Is it the answer? It is an answer.

I have lost the sharpness of edges built on the defensiveness of protecting an identity. I have blurred your ideals of good and bad, I have remoulded expectation to fuzzy caricatures and discovered the infinities of freedom. I am an amorphous form amused at how seriously you still take yourself and these mirages you live in. Perhaps you will also discover that behind the illusions you have built up there’s nothing. Even these words and the beauty I am curating, it is all nothingness until someone comes along and transforms it into yet another illusion. I am free of these too. I will write them now, I will leave them here to lull you deeper into your sleep but if a tomorrow comes and you ask about them, I will remind you that they were nothing until you made them into something. It is dangerous, this creating. It is what has made us abdicate living for memory and fantasy.

I am no longer driven to lust after flights from ninth floor window sills, blades are for chopping onions and shaping eyebrows, pills are convenient tools in tragic fiction. I am nothing. There is nothing. So what is there to escape from? What is there to escape to? And, pray do tell, who is to do the escaping?

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