You are going to have bad days. Days when not even a date-with yourself-to go see Black Panther will make you happy. You are trying this self-love thing. So when you were in town the other day and right in the middle of Mama Ngina Street you felt emotion clogging your chest; ducking into IMAX and purchasing a ticket was the only way you could think of to assuage them.
Your alarm will ring and you will drag yourself out of bed. You’ll try to pray but you’ll be preoccupied with the hypocrisy of approaching some deity because you woke up with tears in your eyes, when just days before you had texted a friend,
“I believe in a higher power, I haven’t decided which one”
You’ll try to meditate but the way your brain is set up, that won’t happen. People say you speak fast. You wonder if the constant churning in your head isn’t audible. How they can’t tell that speaking fast is merely a coping mechanism; trying to catch up with a mind that never stops going.
And so you’ll summon the greatest motivator of all: guilt. You’re are a black woman who has never seen Girls Trip. You are a woman that watched Wonder Woman a year after it had been released and only because you were on free Wi-Fi and bored out of your mind. A decision you regret after learning of Gal Gadot’s position in the Israeli-Pakistani warfare. Now every time you hear Gal Gadot’s name, you gag a little. Guilt will go a long way but won’t the job quite done. You’ll still consider forfeiting the movie. And then you’ll remember how broke you are and anxiety will kick in. Knowing you can never handle approaching a random stranger and offering them your ticket without your knees buckling and your voice deserting you, you’ll leave the bed.
Usually, you would lay out your clothes on the bed before you get in the shower. Or at the very least, have an idea. Today however, you’ll wing it because you don’t feel African or empowered enough. And on days like this, anything will trigger self-pity.
Like the hole that’s left on your upper palette three surgeries and five years later.
You’ll avoid examining it, as you should, when brushing your teeth because it will remind you of relationships that didn’t outlive it. Like your best-friend.
It’ll remind you of how after the first surgery, when you had to wear an obturator that impaired your speech, he could still understand what you were saying. How he answered phone calls for you. How when you met, he made you sneak out of the house at night just so he could give you this blue friendship ring. How you had cradled it in the dark until you got home, praying it wasn’t the conventional romantic kind of ring. How when you finally got home and saw the word friend inscribed on it, you cried because he was your only friend in the world. How after you sent that “I’m done” text you crawled into yourself in bed, trying to mentally place when exactly you lost that ring. How you only ever let yourself grieve for that ring because everything else was marred in disappointments, fights and a heart so frayed, it surprises you that it keeps on beating.
You’ll look in the mirror and know you should change. You’ll be wearing too many different patterns. You should at least remove the striped doll shoes or the lipstick. The shoes have to stay though because out of everything you are wearing, they are the only thing that can pass as African upon close examination. You’ll know you don’t have to look like a Maasai moran to go see Black Panther but you’ll feel so less than; not woman enough, not smart enough, not beautiful enough… you’ll simply refuse to go to this epic celebration of blackness not looking/feeling African enough. The dark lipstick not matching nor complementing your chipped dark nail polish however, will make you want to bawl.
What would be the point of changing anyway? If dressing is a form of expression, then you would have nailed how you feel: chipped and mismatched.
A psychoanalyst would say you are conflicted. You will have been doing that for a while and it would have left a bad taste in your mouth and a hole in your heart it would seem because as hard as you try, you can’t find the guilt that you are sure should underlie the resignation about your best and you being over. Your ability to function despite this will suffocate you.
So in the spirit of not psychoanalysing yourself, you’ll go the trite way. You’ll think the lipstick is a representation of your soul. But more than simplistic symbolism, you will be a stereotype. You are a writer so you’re broken. You are in your twenties so you are a mess. You’re human, so you are layered. You will not be as hyped as everyone for Black Panther but this much you’ll know, you will cry when you first see Lupita because you’ve been stanning her beauty since Shuga. Moreover, if she can be that dark and smart and opinionated and still beautiful, then maybe it wouldn’t be your fault that you can’t get a movie date.
You will see and enjoy Black Panther tremendously despite the empty seat beside you or the girl in front of you laying her head on her date’s chest. You will laugh at the jokes despite the dull aching in your abdomen. For the most part, you will enjoy your own company.
On your way to the stage, you will stop by the Prestige bookshop just to update your reading list and you will look so lost, one of the attendants will ask you what book you are looking for. You will feel a crack in your chest. You’ll will want to ask him,
“How is a girl supposed to love herself is she can’t even afford books?”
Instead, you will dash out of the bookshop and keep your head down until you are in a bus cruising home. Then and only then will you let a teardrop fall on your lap.