In our series of letters from African journalists, novelist and writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani reflects on her life after being diagnosed with terminal cancer

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I’ve tried to find a new way. As it stands, my body is stuck with old habits
and I can’t shake them. I’m trying to find them. When I think about it, I haven’t
tried new ideas, just the old ones.

When I finally look up, I can’t see the sun anymore, only a half a moon
behind me. When I look down, the ground only seems to shift at the same pace
on the ground. And when I look across me, my body, in total disbelief,
accepts that it will be left here and I will be left here.

I have to take a break. There’s a line in the book I’m writing about
myself which reads: “What do you do when your world is falling apart
you can’t even understand, and you feel stuck with a broken body that can’t
even run fast enough to save yourself?” When the writing catches up to me, I
think I might be able to explain it.

“I feel like I lost my eyes and then lost my body.” I think about it
again as I look at my body. It is a body that can’t run. It can only fight
against this thing it’s made of. It can make a fist and fight, but there’s no
point because there’s no one of me left to fight. I can’t run any farther
because I can’t keep my body upright anymore. I can’t remember how to make a
toothpick out of my wrist, or a stick or anything else. I can only remember
how to fight.

The only idea I have is to stop fighting. Stop moving, walk forward, and
let the past and the future pass by.

The night is like a dream where the world is fading out, and the
past and the future is too.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

“I don’t have it.”

I don’t even have my body anymore. My body is just an object that can
hurt or hurt someone else with it, but my mind isn’t even there anymore,
just like it wasn’t there the last time I left it. I can only feel my body,
which is like the body with two feet now, because my legs are the only two
things that are the same. I can run, but not forward and not left, and my
head can move left and right but only up, and my eyes can move up and down
but only in the left direction because my right eye is my only right eye. My
body can make a fist, but the hands aren’t me, so there’s no need to use the
body to do anything. I can breathe underwater, but not on land, and I can’t
talk, but I can eat, but not move the body in any way, just walk it and
hug it. It’s only my mind that can make that fist, but my body is just
an object. Maybe like my body is like the body with two feet to be
disconnected or something, and I can’t even remember what it is.

I can’t even remember if I’m standing in front of the mirror, and I can’t
remember if I’m a person with a body or a person who is just a walking
machine. I can’t remember if I’m just a head or a whole body to be
disconnected and then I will have to make a fists with the hands and I will
have to move them in the wrong direction. I don’t even know if I’m standing
there. I don’t even know if I’m walking right now. I don’t even remember my
name anymore. I don’t even remember if I’m not walking anywhere. And I don’t
even know if I need to wake up, to walk, and to stop, which is not walking.

When I don’t remember my name anymore, I am only able to remember my body.
When I don’t remember my body anymore, I am only able to remember my mind.
When I don’t remember my mind anymore, I am only able to remember the
world.

I don’t remember my name, but I am not confused like before. I am not just
a head anymore. I am a person with a body. I am just a thing that can hurt or
hurt someone else, even though that hurts or hurts someone else. I am not
that thing anymore. I am not just a machine that can run and hurt or be hurt.
I am not just a person who can move left and right and see and hear and
think. I am not a person with two feet who can walk, but can’t run.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

“There’s no pain anymore.”

My body is no longer a part of me. It’s a thing that I can’t use anymore.
It’s kind of like being at a party where people are sitting around and
trying to make talk with you, but you don’t even know they are sitting around
or are trying to make talk with you. You just know you are still standing
there looking at the ground. You don’t even know if you’re still alive or
just some dead thing nobody understands anymore, and you don’t know what
else you’re supposed to be doing. You just know you’re standing there and
you still can’t move your body.

I can’t even remember what it feels like to move my eyes like I used to, to
be able to move left and right only up and down. I can’t remember what it
feels like to be able to talk and to eat and to feel the way I felt yesterday.
I can’t even remember what it feels like to have a body that has weight, but
I’ve lost the feeling that it’s my body anymore. I don’t even remember if
this thing that is hurting or hurting someone else is my body anymore, or
just someone else’s. I don’t know where I am, or what this is, or whether
this is a person. I can’t even remember if I’ve lost my body, or if I’ve
lost the way to move my body anymore. I can’t lose my mind, or my memory.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

“I feel like that thing is inside of me

When I’m not looking anymore, I feel like that thing is inside of me. My
body has moved a lot, but my life has left me. I’ve moved away from where I
felt I belonged. I’ve lost the people I was. I’ve left my family. I’ve left
my friends. I haven’t even had a friend since then, but they’ve left me.

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