“Have you ever contemplated suicide?”
That question threw me off balance. I was driving. The steering practically slid from me and ventured to the left swiftly, causing the car to heave and skip a pothole angrily. I grabbed it and held on tight, cursing under my breath.
A Range Rover drove past us, the driver raised his fist through the open window and said something in a pissed off manner that sounded like Fulani or Swahili. I didn’t care anyway. I waved back to him nicely.
“We love you too!” I shouted after him.
As soon as I got the car under control, I wiped my sweaty palms, taking quick glances through the corner of my eyes.
How could she even ask me that?
She didn’t seem like she was bothered about the almost fatal accident that was a few seconds away from dumping us in a General hospital. I was still gripping the wheel tight. No more mistakes.
“What the hell was that?” I asked her outrightly.
She didn’t respond immediately. It would seem that she was lost in her own thoughts. Her slim fingers were fidgeting with the buttons on her shirt. She would alternate between biting them for a bit and then back to struggling with those damn buttons.
“What is it?” I asked again, turning the steering as we approached a bend.
I mean… Who talks about suicide?
There was an introductory awkward silence that ushered her words.
“I tried to kill myself… Twice” she started.
I was shocked. Nothing was okay at all. I decided I was going to bring the car to a halt. Screw wherever we were going.
“Do you ever feel like no one understands you? Or that they don’t even see you? Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong here, in this world?”
I turned off the ignition and faced her. She was looking straight ahead. Expressionless. Pale. Deathly and numb.
“Don’t say that… Why would such thoughts come to you?” I chipped in with genuine concern.
She chuckled coldly. I had never seen a cold chuckle till that day. It was scary.
“I tried to drown myself in the bathtub last week. My sister found me… They called in the doctor after my mother had worked herself up to a high blood pressure, enough to kill her”
I looked on like someone had placed a horror movie right before me. This was not the Aisha I knew. What happened to the cheerful, ever-smiling, no-dull-moment Aisha?
This Aisha was sad to Hell’s gate and back. She wore it like a cloak of honor. Her eyes had sunken and she had lost so much weight.
Why was I just noticing her pale lips and frizzled skin? I tried to hold her hands but she gently pushed me away.
“No one ever asks a strong person how they’re doing? No one!”
I could feel it coming. The break in her voice – It was the way the tears didn’t even announce their arrival that broke me. Her shoulders started to shake before her lips. She was trying to hold it in but these were bottled up tears from months and who knows, even years.
She broke down like a baby, crying without shame or guilt. I felt helpless, confused, and dumbstruck. I had no idea she was going through anything, talk more of contemplating suicide. I mean, she had everything and more.
Being the daughter to one of Nigeria’s top cement exporters, there was nothing lacking. I envied her most times. No lies. She drove the latest SUV model, had her own fashion house/blog, bagged a model boyfriend, and recently bought a house of her own in the high rise section of the state. It was bliss. What else could a person ask for?
“Everyone assumes you don’t need a shoulder to lean on. They don’t even ask you if you had a good night’s rest because they believe you should be fine. You always are, right? Why bother?” She continued.
It broke my heart to see her like this, makeup ruined, messy face, hair pinned up in a tangled bun, tear marks across her smooth cheeks. But why would anyone even think of suicide? It wasn’t logical. No matter what!
“I was depressed for three months straight. Nobody knew. Nobody cared. That was when I tried to jump off a moving bus. Sadly, I didn’t die…”
Then she was silent again, looking blankly into the distance. I took her hands in mine, not caring that she would brush it away.
“You know, a friend told me that the best suicide note would be; Shebi una go rest?… but I disagree. The best suicide note would be leaving the paper blank…”
I unclasped myself from the seat belt digging into my side and leaned onto her, grabbing her into my arms. She didn’t push me away this time. I could feel the vibrations her sad body was emitting. It could feel everything. The pain. The heaviness. The heartbreak. I could connect to her and it was no easy emotion.
“I’ve been strong for too long. I’m tired Beka. Everything hurts so bad. I’m always the happy one. I ask everyone how they’re doing. I make everyone happy but when I need someone too, no one cares!”
I had no words, at least not for now. I wanted her to vent fully. We sat there for what seemed like hours. She had stopped talking but her sobbing hadn’t stopped. The tremors still shook her body at intervals. It felt weird holding her like this. She was never down.
Now I understood why. She was so good at keeping others happy that everyone thought she had it in quantum. Didn’t they say you couldn’t give what you didn’t have?
She was happy to the people who knew her but in actuality; she was the most unhappy person. Who knew that loud drums could be sold at the local market? As she leaned into me, I sensed her breathing slowing down. She was calmer now. Apart from the occasional after-cry hiccups, she was quiet.
I thought of saying something motivational but it wouldn’t make any difference. She was depressed and suicidal. No amount of talks can get a depressed person out of that darkness, except they decide to. Aisha wasn’t leaving anytime soon.
“Bekamma” she whispered
“Thank you” was all she said.
Later that night, I sent her a text, asking how she was doing. She didn’t reply. I decided to call her but it went to her voicemail. I didn’t question it further; she probably didn’t want to talk to anyone. I simply hoped she was okay.
My phone rang as early as 4 am, jolting me awake full time. I was still groggy. I fumbled around in the darkness of my room, trying to find the damn thing. The caller made me blink twice. It was Aisha. She never called this early. Never. I quickly answered it.
It didn’t sound like Aisha.
“Beka, is that you? This is Aisha’s mother,” came the voice. Something wasn’t right.
“Good morning Ma”
“Can you come to the house please? Something terrible has happened”
My heart skipped. Oh God! Aisha!
Written by Pinklady Ohakah