We Pick Up Broken Things…
And so we keep pulling and pulling, drawing and stretching this cord called life until it snaps. And in that moment when it snaps, there is no going back. You cannot call 911. You cannot call the police. You cannot call anybody because what is done is done and who is dead is dead. It will be pointless to do anything. How can we rescue broken eggs?
This peace, this rare fragile peace that you have, that you’ve had for some time. This peace has always felt strange and impossible, almost unbelievable. It’s like you don’t deserve it, like you have no right to be happy, to have peace. It’s the same thing that happens when you’re used to failing, to failure. You are always “carrying last” right from primary school to secondary school. Thank God for university and the secretive way of releasing results. No one has to see your shit. But it did not really matter. It was not as if your shit became better. It was still the terrible, disgusting thing that it had always been.
And so, even though no one knew, you knew you were a failure. And to make matters worse, you stop checking your results. You just read aggressively and write exams. You keep on doing this, writing exams and failing in your head. Until you get to your 300 level and you decide to check your results to be sure you have no “carry over.” And then you see that you’re on a 4.1 CGPA. You cannot believe it. It is as though you are dreaming. And so you check through the grades and see that you’ve had more distinctions in three years than in your entire existence. That night, you sleep with fear in your heart. You keep waking up to check your results, to be sure it has not changed. You cannot believe the distinctions are yours. You’ve worked so hard for them but still you cannot believe they are yours.
You have become so used to failure and to failing that when that small light appeared at the end of the tunnel, you did not believe it. You wanted to turn right back and run back into that shithole of darkness that you have always lived and dined with your devils and demons.
And so it is that when you finally have that peace, you can’t believe it. You keep waiting for the day someone will wake you up and tell you it’s all a lie, the time when everything will come crashing down. Because you know you don’t deserve peace. How dare you have peace? How dare you have joy? Who are you to live in a world without sadness and pain and depression and anxiety?
And you, where are you in all these? I can see your acts and all your words and it breaks me that you believe all those stories and rumors and you gathered a collection of sorry maids in your inbox and they are singing the story of my life. It is not a difficult thing to accept that there are people who will always run their mouth about you, it is a difficult thing to see that the driver of this run is someone you loved. It is like seeing the sun turn black in the day of evil. Really? You too? You did this? You sun, the embodiment of knowledge, the source of all light? You disappointed me. You failed in that moment, and I do not know how I can ever look at you again without darkness in my eyes.
There are those who waltz thought life without having an idea of what it means to be broke, to be broken. They were born into a wealthy family. And their parents were present in their life. So they went to the best schools and were good at their subjects. Whenever they had any problem, they had their parents to call, to talk to. Their parents were their first friends, first therapists, first everything. Their parents were present in their life. And so when life began to throw its stones at them, they had a strong and solid rock to fall back on. These people exist. They are rare but they are present.
There are the rest of us, little broken things flapping fragile wings in the storm. We were born like the desert. First, we are happy and our parents are happy. And then, because nature has other things to attend to, we are abandoned and we have to deal with our life on our own. So we discovered what sex is from small black and white drawings on the wall. But they still expect us to be chaste and be pure and be fine. Tell me what will happen with a boy who grows up in the heart of Sambisa or Afghanistan? Is he going to wait till he sees what a gun looks like on TV or is he going to pick up one on the streets and try it out? And just like that, we begin to experiment with our sexualities, a touch here, a kiss there, a thrust here, a little more there. And then we have a baby to deal with. And just like that, we have added to the millions of children who will grow up with broken wings and inadequate beings for parents. Congratulations. We gave just cloned our very self.
My therapist says I pick things up, says I pick people up. I did not understand what he meant until recently. Picking up things is what we have been taught to do by our broken childhood. We picked up broken bottles, dead sticks, grasshoppers. And then we pick up sex, blue film, bad music, terrible role models who wear chains like slaves and sag their trousers. And we want to be like them. We want to become them. We want to have muscles and big chest. We want to have tattoes. We want our names to be plastered on the lips of unknown people all over the world. I once went to a village to preach the gospel of our Lord. They told me they had never heard of any Jesus Christ. I looked at them and I wanted to cry. On my way back home, I saw their small boys playing ball on the field and shouting, “ Pass ball yen Ronaldo!” “Drogba! Drogba! Pass ball.””Rooney! Allow! Allow!” “Free man! Messi, free man!” These people have never heard of Jesus but they know who Drogba is.
“so we were playing all this game then and thinking that to be a soldier was to be the best thing in the world because gun is looking so powerful and the men in movies are looking so powerful and strong when they are killing people, but I am knowing now that to be a soldier is only to be weak and not strong, and to have no food to eat and not to eat whatever you want, and also to have people making you do things that you are not wanting to do and not to be doing whatever you are wanting which is what they are doing in movies. But I am only knowing this now because I am a soldier now.” – Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts of No Nation
I am sorry if you do not understand any of this. I do not understand myself. I am shaking as I type this. I want to be able to wake up with worries and sleep without worries. But life has been broken already so we can’t have that. But can I at least have some peace and hope like the next man? Sorry, that is also not possible. Because we pick up things.
And from picking up things, you begin to pick up people. You begin to pick up broken people and empty souls. And what do you do when you pick up a broken thing at childhood, you want to fix it. And in the process, you end up having a million broken things in the corner of your room. Some fixable. Some totally unfixable. But you cannot let go. Because that is what you do, you pick up broken things.
So my therapist tells me I pick up broken things because I like fixing things. So I want to fix you and you and you and you and you and so I have in the back of my heart a million broken people struggling to break in.
And you try your best to make sure they don’t get in. You try your best to help from a distance, to be good, to help. Because you cannot send people out. You cannot not help those who need it. What kind of monster would you be then? So you try and try and try until they become white walkers and wights with no mind and soul and all they want to do is to break into the soul of your being. And you try to stay strong, God knows you tried. You don’t give in to them. And then they begin to scratch. Big empty claws drawing deep lines into the skin of your soul until you are about to bleed out. And then, like zombies so devoid of any strength and so consumed by their rage, rot and decay, they rush in. And they consume you.
Look at you now.
Look at you
You have become a thing that used to make sense.
You have become a thing of the past
You have become Greece
The once mighty empire
With gods and mortals
An empire so broken
It does not even know its own capital
You need to help the boy. He has become so used to darkness that when light came, he could not embrace it. And what did the Bible say, how that men loved darkness rather than light? And so when the light came and they felt it, they could not believe it.
They could not accept it. They ran instead. They ran back into the darkness of their lair and stayed there amidst the cobwebs and spiders and demons that sing dirges into their souls. They want to come out and step into the light but it is almost impossible.
There’s this particular friend that keeps asking, how are you now? And you keep telling her that you are fine and that is she expecting you to not be fine? And after a while, you do not hear from her. You want to ask her why but you do not.
And then the light fades and the real darkness comes. Darkness so bad you wake up shaking. People call you on phone and ask if you are crying. This one calls and asks, “But how are you holding up?” And you smile and fake it and say you’re doing fine. But the darkness returns and in that moment, you see the light at the end of the tunnel and there are people out there in the light calling you, asking you to join them, to see the beauty. They are calling you to come to heaven.
But behind you is your reality, what you are used to. Your sorrows. Your demons. Your pain. Your struggles. All the little broken things that you’ve picked up in the past eight years. And they also call you.
You see light, an unusual strange phenomenon. But here is darkness, your love, your sweetheart, the only thing you’ve ever known. And so you turn back and in one swift sprint, you run back into the hands of your shadowy demons.
It is starting now.
“I’m walking walking walking to where the sun is setting. I’m looking at it and wanting to catch it in my hand and to be squeezing until colors are dripping out from it forever. That way everywhere it is always dark and nobody is ever having to see any of the terrible things that is happening in this world.” – Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts of No Nation
See you in October fam.