The Pool

On the count of three.

One, two, thr- I plunge.

Within minutes the water is swallowing me. It’s holding on to me, welcoming me home, like a long lost friend.

Come, you’re safe with us.

As the water washes over me, I am met with memories that I’ve taught myself to bury.

I am somewhere between five and nine. My mother is telling us bedtime stories. She’s letting me play with her long black hair. I am standing under the scorching Nairobi sun, waiting in line, hoping to sneak in some school lunch.

I am ten. The bathrooms at my new school in Kampala smell like paint. The smell makes me sad, and I wonder why we’ve had to leave home all of a sudden. I look at my classmates, I wonder what it would be like to be them. Did they have a normal functioning life? What was a normal functioning life?

I am between 24 and 25. I’m on a train, in the park, in a club. I am crying. I am laughing. I am drunk. I am high. I am coming to terms with all that has happened.

The water is talking to me.

Things are going to happen so fast. People are going to forget so fast. Life is going to carry on as normal. Nothing really matters.

I’m slipping further into the water. But I don’t feel short of breath, nor do I feel the urge to swim back to the surface.

But wait. There is a strange creature here. He’s nearing me. Get me out. Help.

“Where are you from?”

The question that has haunted me at ten and 16 and 18 and 24 and 26.

“I don’t know, I’ve never known.”

He does an underwater backflip.

“Is it Kenya? Is it India? Is it even Dubai? Dare you say London?”

“I’ve never been enough for any, I’ve never been enough for myself.”

Oh God, he’s disappeared.

The memories are floating back.

I am seven. We are playing hopscotch on the pavement opposite our house. And just next door, there is a massive maroon house in a compound where I ride my bike in circles. I tell myself that there is a witch that lives in there who takes small children away and I wonder when my turn would come.

I am nine. We are driving away. My house. The pavement we played hopscotch on. The large maroon house. No, please, make it stop.

I’ve reached the end of the pool now. I am everywhere. Me at five, at nine, at 12, 16, 19, 23, 25. I am trying to reconnect these parts of me. I am trying to make sense of the person they’ve made me become. They’re singing to me in unison.

“Where are you from? Where are you from? Where are you from?

“I don’t know. I’ve never known.”

“What are you doing here?”

All these versions of myself are staring at me, studying me.

They’re inching closer to me, merging into one, merging into the water. It has swallowed me whole.

“Where are you from?”

I’ve lost my breath.

 

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