Happiness. Her name was Happiness. I now get what people mean when they tell a lady she has a beautiful smile.Hers was it. Her soft squeaky chuckle was food to the soul. Hearty, minion like falsetto,the one that makes everyone burst out. Then God gave her a pretty heart to match. She’s one of the girls He took time with for everything about her was just right. Brown skin, long legs with a coastal suave.
I was the tall black friend.We were 12 when we first met in those primary school camps. I was the bald-headed, boyish looking girl who had gone to seek the face of the Lord. She was the girl with the beautiful blue dress.
Happiness,camp and African mothers.
We clicked because our mothers gave us two a pep talk that went something like this:
“There are many faces here, but you only came for one face, the Lord’s. don’t let any boy play with you, you’ll get pregnant.”
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Now, imagine that said in a heavy Luo accent. It instills the fear of the Lord in you. Because most holiday camps were filled with hormonal teenagers longing for typical teenage romantic escapades. Around her, boys hearts pumped like they were paid to. Booking a space for her during Bible study, the likes.
Or if you’re one of the lucky punk ones at the time, sending silly good morning texts using those Nokia’s that make noise,or vodaphones. Those typical teenage nonsense.A friendship birthed out of fear of our African mothers blossomed, and just so you’re thinking,yes I am now the glowed up darling you all love.
We were like two peas in a pod, she and I. Everybody loved her.She was kind and wild at the same time, sunshine mixed with a little hurricane.She lived without a care in the world,a true definition of living life once.
Then life and university happened.She went to Mombasa,I came to Nairobi.People grow apart.Days turn to months, which turn to years and good morning calls and texts turn to those automated messages during public holidays. There was no love lost.We were just two human beings trying to figure out life and when we talked, she still had rainbows in her voice. Her phrase went something like:
“Niko poa, life is smooth, no stress! ”
She would then change the subject and vent about everything else but herself. Her voice registered joy. The usual happy Happiness.That was two months before I received the nerve wrecking news that broke me.
Happiness, beyond the name.
Her once yellow body had been found pale, lifeless and bloated hanging up her room’s window bar.No suicide note, no signs of depression or life threatening texts on her phone.Autopsy results confirmed that she had hung herself.
What shook me beyond the sight of her body was how perfect her room was in the picture, like I thought she was.Two contrasts in one room. I saw her, then, for the first time. In the following days I cried myself to sleep, wondering why I didn’t see her sooner. Why I didn’t make out what she meant when she said tomorrow would sort itself. That line holds more weight than merely not stressing over small stuff. Because I finally saw a girl who lived for nothing.
She never shared her future dreams. She was the strong friend who cared for everyone but herself. And as I thought of why she could have done it, I imagined her hitting rock bottom with nothing to cling on to because it’s so hard to hope when there’s nothing to live for.
The uncomfortable truth.
Her death caused me to brush up against an uncomfortable truth: there’s no living if there’s nothing to live for. The opposite of happiness is hopelessness. Hopelessness is a cold and bleak nihilism,a sense that there is no point, so shoot it. It is the Uncomfortable Truth, a silent realization that in the face of infinity, everything we could possibly care about quickly approaches zero.It finally made sense.
We all know a Happiness or two. Maybe you’re one,consciously or unconsciously, because sometimes life is so crazy we get caught up in the crossfire, until the insanity becomes part of us.It’s scary to be seen behind the mask, acting like its all good when walls are closing in inside.You know, fake till you make it: so there’s no time to be real. I know what that space feels like. When slowing down doesn’t feel like progress.Yes, it’s easier to be an actress, to hide your pain and never admit that you’re sick.
Easy things,shallow waters.
But here’s the thing about easy things: it is shallow waters. I know we can’t control the cards we are dealt with. God knows that and for that reason, He hailed companionship. Stressing that we don’t have to walk alone or try to do it all on our own. There’s love from friends, family and the world. I know it’s scary, but what lies on the other side of fear is real happiness. Wearing out scars on sleeves and allowing ourselves to be seen for who we really are.
And this means war. A constant battle on our knees and wills, fighting the urge to be prisoners of selves. Beyond playing friend or clinging to temporary joys, sharing hope is the greatest gift we can give ourselves and the people we love.Allowing ourselves to see and be seen, while constantly reminding each other that there’s something better in the future.