It's not often I think about the past and I don't think about her in it. She was never a part of my life, not even on the periphery. But she was there, conspicuous, maybe it's just one of those things that happen when you're very light skinned, you're noticed, whether you want to be or not.
But it went beyond her skin. She had the kind of grace that 15 year old girls couldn't fake or even be taught. It was innate. She had a quiet elegance to her. I'd see her walk gracefully along the corridors, faint smile on her lush pink lips, a thousand thoughts in her eyes. She intrigued me.
Comparison is the theif of joy. I'd often wonder how it would feel to be her. To have skin so fair it was nearly transclusent. To have slender arms and beautifully shaped legs, and all the right friends. And of course she came from money too! She looked like it.
But the one time I was the most impressed by her, the most impressed I'd ever been in all my teenage life, was when we were progressing up the ladder of seniorhood and they were choosing Class Supervisors who would in time be made Prefects, a status coveted by many. I remember how some of us who heard we'd be chosen had had to fight for it one way or the other. Either simply by desiring it, or sucking up to the current prefects, what we called chonkorizing in QC back then.
But then this demure lass who was on her own, enviably nonchalant, had her name added to that list and was told that she would be made a prefect and she quietly turned it down. Many of us were gobsmacked, it just didn't make sense! That was the highest honor you could be given, something that many were ready to cry, beg, starve for, but this person was given it on a platter and she said "No thank you" and kept walking. I was in awe.
But just last Sunday, her sister was a speaker at Do It Afraid and she told us how her family lost their wealth. In her words "Many of you here know this, how my family used to be rich. Not even rich, wealthy. Not small wealth o! Like Dangote type wealth, that's the kind of wealth my father's family had. And then one day, all of a sudden, poof. It was gone!"
She then went on to share with us how this disaster, the sudden loss of that kind of monstrous wealth in the blink of an eyes, led to her father being extremely abusive, the trauma was too much to deal with that he began to take in out on his wife in the form of daily beatings. She said "I came from a violent home. It wasn't even ordinary domestic violence because most times my mother would fight back and they will turn our house into wrestling ring". She said these fights and the beatings became so horrific that at some point she just stopped to acknowledge a father whom she once loved so much, this led to daddy issues and it was only normal that the first relationship she went into in the university was a very abusive one.
So I listened and thought about how all these were happening during that period I was looking at the light skinned beauty and envying her and wishing I could be her and have her life.
I didn't know that she was probably so quiet and seemingly gracious because of the pains her witnessed everyday at home. Or that she walked in that trance-like state which I considered classy and graceful, because she was shellshocked from watching everything she had suddenly snatched away from her. Or that that light skin which I so envied was something she didn't even notice because when you cannot feel beautiful inside you simply cannot feel beautiful outside.
And so on Sunday, among the many things I learnt, I was reminded how many of us see the glossy surfaces of people's lives and we begin to wish and long, sometimes we feel insecure or inadequate and sometimes we even depressed, yet beneath that gloss and finesse are horrors that we can only imagine. You might be shocked to learn that the people you're so envious of would gladly trade lives with you in a second.
So basically the lesson behind all this long talk is _________________?