Jocelyn

July 12, 2018 Fiction , POETRY / FICTION

Lauren Powell-Smothers photo

 

By

Marjaan Sadiq

 

 

Today is Jocelyn’s death anniversary. In the last seven years, bile would rise up in my throat whenever the date came around. I’d slip into a mood vaguely resembling depression on the eve of her death date, and would remain so utterly downcast until a few days after. My nights and days are punctuated at intervals with thoughts and nightmares of her, and I have been awash with different shades of guilt. A grief so enormous, it threatens to tear my heart in two uneven halves, would consume me.

 

In her lifetime, Jocelyn was not my friend. The circumstances surrounding her death and the day she died, have however, been imprinted in my memory. I see her in a lot of people, a lot of things. I relive the countless times my friends and I made fun of her in high school.

 

Jocelyn was the weirdest girl in school. Everything about her was totally off. She was skinny, wore goggles that were way too big for her tiny face, and would constantly fall off unto her mouth. Her front teeth jutted out in a way that pushed her upper lip away from her lower lip, making her mouth lopsided. Her uniform looked like they were hand-me-downs from an obese person, and her hair was worn in weird styles. When she smiled -the few times she did- her mouth stretched far at the corners, almost meeting her ears in a wide “u”. As typical of most high schools, Jocelyn became the focus for vilifications and teasing. Everyone picked on her, everyone mocked her. If you couldn’t beat them, you’d have to join them.

 

We didn’t see though, the way we gradually broke her. How she’d come to school with slumped shoulders, and squeeze herself close to the wall on the last seat in class as if she wanted to melt into it. We never gave a thought to how we hurt her and how deep the cut would be. We didn’t think she deserved or wanted empathy.

 

One day, my best friend, Jamima, called her an old-school wench. Everybdoy laughed. Minutes later, when I went into the girls’ toilet, I heard faint sobbing. Jocelyn was on one of the toilet seats. It was the first time I saw her visibly shaken by our vulgarity. I didn’t know she had it in her to cry over anything. I was slightly moved. We didn’t even notice that she left the class.

 

“Leave me alone!” she said, when I inadvertently moved forward to console her, and I left her alone. She died two days later.

 

“It was suicide,” our principal, Mrs. Florence said during morning assembly. “She drank rat poison, after writing this note.” She held up the note with the tips of her thumb and index finger, and slightly swayed it as if we wouldn’t see the paper if she didn’t. “Asiya, come and read it.”

 

I swallowed a million times before I finished reading it. A lump, the size of an infant’s fist, clung stubbornly to my throat. Hard as I tried, it remained there. I felt it swelling as I went on reading the note that carried briefly, her existence. In it, I saw pain, self-loathing, depression, and an inner struggle with peace. Then I saw us; the jeering, mocking, insensitive public. I saw how deeply we’d wounded her, how we’d cut her. I saw how all she ever wanted was to be understood, to be respected and loved. I saw her family’s crisis, her failed parents. But above all, I saw my friendship with Jamima and Margaret sever beyond repair. I saw us making incisions in her heart. I saw our souls without hearts. I tasted the tears in my mouth. The croaky voice still reading, I couldn’t even recognise as my own.

 

Seven years later, today. I am married. I am a graduate, and working. I can’t help but imagine where Jocely would have been today, what she would be doing by now. I can’t help but feel that we collectively contributed to her death. All of us. I don’t even know where my old friends are, and I don’t bother with it. I cut them out of my life after that note. I begged to change school. High school senior year was a nightmare.

 

I still see Jocelyn in my dreams. I still hear us making jest of her. I still see her crying on the toilet seat. I still regret leaving her when she asked me to. Things may have been different if I had stayed. I go to her grave every year to pay my tribute now. Maybe it’s my heart reminding me how guilty I was. Maybe it’s because I still haven’t forgiven my naivety. One thing I know: she became my friend, only after she died. I wish to God that it could have been different.

 

 

 

 

 

Marjaan Sadiq

Marjaan Sadiq considers herself a storyteller. She was born and raised in Kano, where she currently resides and works. She is an Ebedi fellow. She loves to read.

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