By Jacquie Mwaura

So yesterday life decided to hand me another one of its harsh reality slaps. I just realized I’d been suffering with functional depression for the past 10 months. 10 months. Yaani a baby was conceived, carried to full term and came into the world while I was struggling to get by. I was updating a very close friend of mine about a recent conversation I had with a mutual friend.

The irony of all this is that in as much as I’m in the mental health field, I still have stigma attached to seeking professional mental health services.

In this state of high functioning depression, your life seems to be going pretty well. After all they’re people suffering from a lot worse. You may have a supportive network but there’s a little voice that tells you they just wouldn’t understand. Your family may not really know what’s…

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Pain and Relief



The soft petals of a red rose under your fingertips
The taste of a thorn inside your palms
The blood that drips from your closed fist
When you try to take it by the stem
The pain and the red relief of a love that eventually dries up

The death of a memory is often a silent affair
It’s a whisper that slides down the strands of your hair
When the winds of change blow over your shoulders
I blinked and you were gone
I woke up from the last dream I had of you
And I felt the smile you wore with your blue dress
Slip past my conscious mind to get lost
Beneath the trap doors that trapped all the things I wanted to say to you
And all I was left with was the smell that I couldn’t connect
Forever trapped in the folds of the silk scarf
That you left laid out on the side of the bed
Where you used to lie

The lifespan of a fiery love
Is as short as the seconds that end it
For it is only but the nature of a fire to burn out
To leave the ashes to fade away

You were like cold water running over my scalded skin
I was the ice and the snow that was white with sin
My hands leave black marks wherever they’ve been
But you were mean with the way that you let me touch you
The cracks on the surface of your illusions of me
Invited me in
But you were mean with the ways that you let me touch you

I was never perfect but neither were you
I was never strong enough for all the pain you put me through
You with your sharp tongue and
You with your kind mind
You were the contrast on my perfect shades of blue
I came to love following the light of your footsteps
But the higher you go the further you fall
And the darkness always claims it’s own.

Time guarantees us experience and experiences are supposed to be lessons to guide us through the time. But now, years later after collecting skills like trophies and experiences like a burden I have learnt nothing. If this should be the end of my time I feel cheated. And foolish and inadequate. The only thing I have learnt to be true is that pain always finds a way to make itself felt. As the trembling begins in my toes and climbs up the veins in my legs, I feel the fluidity of all walls I thought I had put up. I close my eyes and try once again to find where the locks are and fly behind them. I feel it on the tips of my fingers and my nails dig deep into my palms. There are no doors to hide behind. I am as open as a plain as the floods rush into my head and crush my heart. And the pain that comes is like a blow from god. It burns a thousand fires in my chest and I feel my brain slip into madness. But still, from somewhere, I scream. Maybe seeking an outlet, I roar into the night. It is painful and desperate and it calls out to the saints in the worlds beyond. Nothing cuts quiet like the cry of a dying man. I fall to my knees and I sink into the earth. I feel the soft roar of the river in the soil throb in the distance beneath my palms. Lying here at the end of my time, my heartbeats fades.

The shadows that I cannot outrun chase me all the around my life like I am but a goat tethered to a post and they were the death that touches simply to taunt. The shadows that I can never hide from find me tucked in the corner under my bed with my little light and they come just to see me squirm. To hear me scream in terror and to see my heart pounding in my throat. All these years going by and all the miles on my soul but when they come I am a child again. Helpless and thin and scared out of my mind. A mind that learned to heal itself by numbing the pain and forgetting the past but the traces of evil cannot be completely erased. They live inside me, buried under layers and layers of false consciousness and once in a while they slip free and rise to the surface. The surface that is a no stranger to the claws of such evil. The surface that is somewhere inside my skin that burns with the fire of a thousand little matchsticks. And not my nails nor my sharpest of knives can pierce through and let even a drop of that pain seep out. But I suppose that every time my physical body dies my mind becomes stronger. And I suppose that I’d rather be disfigured and ugly than mad and dead. So maybe one day my mind will be strong enough to confront the source of our pain head on and I’ll live to tell that tale. Maybe one day all this reflected suffering will end and when the shadows come, they will pass by me like I was a rock and they were but a soft wind.     


I don’t know how we got where we were but we did and you were pressed against me and the wall and I could feel all the curves of your body on mine. I have no idea if you took my shirt off or whether I did it myself but now I can feel a thousand short sparks everytime your fingers brush against my back. I’ll admit I’m feeling tipsy and you probally are too. I don’t know. I know this is the last thing I should be doing but we all know how sweet sin is. When I kiss you, you still taste the same as you did all those years ago. And you taste as different as the years we’ve led to this point. But surprise is not a long advantage so pretty soon all I want is more of you. Your tongue brushes against mine as I lift you up and you wrap your legs around my waist. I take it as an invitation and seek it out with mine. You moan softly in my mouth and its like I’m filled of the raw essence of passion. My right hand travels up your blouse and I reach for your breasts..almost by instinct but you catch it and stop me. 
Maybe it’s how unexpected it was or maybe I still had enough sense in me that made me stop and pull away from your lips. My heart is racing in my chest and I think you can feel it. I look at you and your head is hung infront of me and your hand is still on my arm. It feels hot. I step back a little bit and set your down on the floor slowly, struggling not to think about all the dirty things I want to do to you. Your little frame is now a shadow against the white walls and I stand before you, waiting. Waiting for you to tell me that I was wrong but this was right. Waiting for you to overthink just enough to damn us all to hell. Waiting for you to take all the blame. But instead. All I here from you is a quiet sniff. 

“why do you always do this to me?” 

And I don’t know how to answer questions such as those. For I had long since given up trying to understand the meaning of everything. Paths such as those often lead to nothing but sadness and I wasn’t built a body that could stand such sadness. So I stay quiet. A few seconds pass before you raise your head and stare up into my eyes. Your black mascara is smudged around the edges of your wet eyes and you have lonely strands of hair on your face. I move my hand to your face but you look away. A thousand years ago, I’d have crumbled in the pain of such rejection. A hundred years ago I did crumble. But now, all I feel is the cold air between my fingers. 
“why do you always do this to me?” 

I know I have to say something. But words have become as meaningless as everything else. I know I should tell you a half sun half storm kind of story that sort of undamns us but I simply cannot. The words play in my mind and I know you won’t believe a single one of them. They reaarange to form the conversation we would have and the at the end of that, we are both still just a pile of broken bottles lying on a floor after a long night of partying. You walk away with the kind of heaviness that tears me apart. And you leave me with the kind of emptiness that I deserve. 
So I still say nothing. 

This time you let me touch your face. This time you look up at me and your eyes smile a little. This time the traces of your fingernails on my back do not bleed. I hold your face in both my hands and I notice that I shake a little. I feel your skin beneath my palms and I know what it’s like to be alive again. A short minute passes. You place your hands on my chest and push me away from you. Slowly. Then you start to walk away. You push your dress down to your knees and you turn back to look at me. 

Somewhere inside my head, I hear someone answer. 

“Because you let me. “

Twenty three

It’s thirty-one minutes past midnight and I’m slowly starting to feel like this was a bad idea. There’s a song by some country band playing in the background that wants to carry me away in the wings of its melody and there are a couple of mosquitos that are rejoicing on the skin of my naked arms. Sleep beckons from the next room and I’m almost tempted to go. But I know you won’t let me. I’m already two days late so I will not let me either. I don’t care if it’s three hundred words, I know I have to do this. It is the only thing I want to do right now. To sit here and feed these mosquitos as I bleed out all over these letters. Without shame and without fear of consequence. 
And so we begin. With a new song and the same empty load, I will tell you what it is I think you want to hear.
I don’t feel twenty-three at all. I have no recollections of the previous lives I’ve led so I don’t know how twenty-three is supposed to feel like but I am certain that this ain’t it. I feel a thousand years old and yet still so inadequate and still so foolish. I feel like two decades is a fraction of a second in time but at the same time, I feel like I’ve been running a marathon since day one. So little time and so much weariness. So little done and yet so exhausted. It’s like my whole existence is a paradox that I am never going to solve. However, if there’s something that you and all the others have taught me is acceptance. That together with forgetfulness. At this point, there is nothing that would be so hard to accept and forget. So, thank you, mother of all coping mechanisms. Thanks to you, I might still be able to live a couple more years like a functional member of society.

I remember asking your predecessor to stay a little longer last year. I remember pleading with him to be kinder and to be gentler. To be softer and to be longer. Some of that he was and some he wasn’t. So I’m not going to ask you of the same things. I don’t know if I still want those same things anyway and I’m not sure what I would do with you if you took your sweet time dragging by. That is just another subtle way of the universe reminding me of how cruel change can be. It disregards all you experiences, all your expectations and all your hopes and it happens almost overnight. So that you wake up in a strange place with only the slightest clue of how to survive. I have come to accept it too and to wash it off my system with a little bit of the consistent but sometimes, at night, I lose the fight and then my nails become weapons and my body becomes the target. This is where I am now. 

So, let’s see. What do I want from you? I hope it is not impolite to say nothing. I just don’t want to overburden you like last time and have to take sips of disillusionment next year at a time like now. On second thought however, maybe there are a few things you could come with; a big bag of patience for my locks and for my heart, a little bit of stupid luck for my grades and travel plans and finally, an old classic 504 Peugeot or a hippie Voxy van because my dear, this year is going to be a trip. 


…. She stood in a pink shirt that hugged her to her knees and she asked me why I smoke. She rolled around my bed and she played with my matches. She said she couldn’t want anyone who had black lips and a black heart. But she grabbed onto my neck and she pushed her mouth further into mine. We were upside down in a trance at 4.20 in the morning when she told me she loved me. She didn’t even look at me when she said it. We’ve never talked about it since then. But every time she falls into my chest and every time she drags me back to life, I wonder what it is I feel about her. I can tell by the way my body reacts that I need her. From the electrolytes in my hair strands to the ever hungry pit in my stomach. And I can tell by the way she makes my heartbeat stop when she does certain things that I am still just a man. But she leaves for days and I don’t think about her once. She screams about her pain and I cannot feel an ounce of it. She cries her heart out and I just sit still, lost somewhere in my mind. A place where there’s nothing wrong or right. All the walls were painted plain white. We are like the contrasts that inevitably destroy each other. She feels everything at once and I feel nothing at all. I’m not sure which is worse.

Oh desperado…


On some days though, we find perfect rhythm. On some rare occasions, we get to that elusive point of completion and on such days, the thrill is exhilarating. We spend the days digging into each other and slowly killing each other. But when the night comes and everything else dies, we are left standing underneath the spotlight of life. Just the two of us, naked to the bones and bare to our toes. And she starts to dance to an invisible tune, swaying left then right. She starts to hum in the lights, a sad slow song and my hands move after hers. She strays close to my heart without fear of consequence. She looks straight at me and she sings about how we found heaven in this hopeless place. She steps into me and then I feel the lights on my back. I feel the warmth of her dying soul and I feel the hopes of her relentless heart. And slowly, mine begins to beat. Steady at first then it breaks into a trot before finally running away with her. To the place where we make our own and at the point where time stays irrelevant.

Oh, desperado these things that are pleasing you will hurt you someday


A long time ago, before she told me that she loved me, I told her that I loved her. The memory of that time is like half the dreams you aren’t sure you had at night. The only evidence of it is an uncanny feeling when certain things trigger it. She was probably just eighteen then and I was a little older. Old enough to not know the first thing about love. I remember it was a weird kind of night because I was lost at eight p.m in the city and she was leaving the next day. I remember because I had run away from home and I had come after her. Sometimes I miss that naïve heart. So I was lost, somewhere 25kms away from her and her phone was off. I left my heart in her voicemail. And then she was gone. But I swore I would wait for her. Oh, desperado ain’t it funny how the feeling goes away.
That seems like another life I lived in another time. Just another reminder of how cruel time can be. And how I’m slowly fading away. My original intention was to burn out but intentions are only roads to hell. I feel conflicted about letting her go or dragging her down with me. So I hide behind the illusion of choice. But I know somewhere inside that she’d follow me to the ends of the earth. She cannot leave and I can’t let her go.

Oh, desperado it might be raining but there’s a rainbow above you

You better let somebody love you

Before it’s too late