Coming to Light

Coming to Light

I am seated on my living room floor, right next to HH, each of us buried in their own world, staring at the mountain of books atop my bookshelf, right where the TV used to be, until a few weeks ago when, suddenly, I didn’t have it.

“What do you want to do with these books? Do you feel lost now that you have lost something you used to have?” They ask, gently, perhaps too cautious not to trigger any sadness within me.

I attempt to smile, but fail, so I sigh, look them in the eye, and say I just want more books. More and more that could fill the entire space that the TV used to occupy. Because maybe, that way, when the entire space is filled up, the emptiness within me will pave way for contentment. That maybe, when that is done, I will stop getting anxious every time I enter my house, because that space is the first thing I see every time I open my front door.

I see it in the way HH moves away from me; slowly, at first as if too afraid that they will make me begin to stutter again. I see it in the way, soon afterwards, they quickly pick a notebook and pen from my study desk, return to me, and ask whether I would like to write down the list of new books I would like, or whether I would like them to do it for me. 

A little warmth starts to form at the base of my stomach, rising to my chest, then my face, before, finally, a smile breaks at the corners of my eyes and lips; it’s the first time I have smiled, genuinely, in weeks.

I see it in the way they let the notebook fall from their hands. In the way they move closer to me. In the way they begin to rub my back, the same way they have been doing for the past couple of weeks. I see it in the way they say, “Breathe. just breathe.”

I see it in the way the tension starts to melt on their face when they see my smile still there.

I see it in the way they fight the tears in their eyes. In the way they steady their voice and say, “I am so proud of you. I am so glad you can breathe, now, on your own.” 

I see it in the way they wrap their arms around me, stays there for what seems like eternity, before whispering in my ear: I am so glad your heart is not racing anymore.

I begin listing the books I want, but I keep stuttering, because somehow, the anxiety that had gripped me for weeks took all my want with it. It washed me off the want for consuming books. The need to write. The need to feel safe in my writing.

So that I stutter, thinking about books that have always been on my fingertips. So that HH takes my left hand in their right hand, saying, “You do not have to do it right now. Take your time. You do not have to give me the whole list right now. You do not have to try and be perfect with the list; just write anything.”

Then, tears return to my face.

This has been my life for the past couple of weeks. This crying uncontrollably. This getting triggered by almost everything and everyone around me. This needing to soak myself in silence, but the echoes of my own voice being too loud for me to bear. This fighting myself from within, trying to get out of these shackles of need and want. This slumping into bed way past midnight, too afraid of the dreams in my head.

This has been my life for the past couple of weeks. This calling HH every time my heart threatens to rip out of my chest. This dragging my feet to their place, as if I have lost everything within me. This lying on their sofa, in silence, begging my heart to calm down. This having to shake my head every time they ask, “What can I do to help?”, before, again, bursting into tears. 

This has been my life for the past couple of weeks; cruising through life, breathing only because of HH.

So that when we sit in my living room’s floor and realise that the anxiety has finally gone, my heart has stopped racing, and my happiness has started to radiate in my eyes, we wish that time could stop, or we could freeze this moment, and live in it forever.

Later, when they are making orders for my books, and I am alone in my house for the first time in a couple of weeks, HH casually asks whether I am still afraid. Whether I still feel the heaviness of this storm still lurking at the edges of my skin.

Why? Because, I tell him, that the other side of my anxiety, the remedy, has almost always been me being turned into the villain. Shrinking myself, my existence, and limiting my voice, so normalcy can return. 

Why? Because emotional normalcy is too familiar for my heart and soul, that I have always been afraid of finding out what lies on the other side of the anxiety, if I did not carry the victim card. 

Which explains why I was afraid of it, the anxiety this time. BeCause even though it was wearing me down, I was tired of giving up my everything. Of losing bits and pieces of myself, just so normalcy could return. I was afraid I wouldn’t know how to live witHout familiarity. I wouldn’t know how to sit with myself, alone, in solitude, and wait for nothing to happen. 

I tell HH that this fear that was holding me back has finally left my bones, and because I feel lighter, I know I will be just fine. That I will thrive even without the familiarity. That I will find newer ways of finding solace. That this dependence I was so afraid of losing, will not be the very thing that kills me.

So even though I do not see HH’s face as I say this, I hear it, the happiness, in the way they call my name, saying, “You are such a beautiful soul. Everything good will come.”

My heart melts. A smile forms across my ace. Calmness settles in my bones. The phone call disconnects. A knock comes to my front door. I drag a box full of new books into my house.

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Meet Eunniah Mbabazi
Eunniah Mbabazi is an Electrical and Electronic Engineer with a deep passion for books and literature. She has authored Breaking Down (a collection of short stories), If My Bones Could Speak (a poetry collection), The Unbirthed Souls (a collection of short stories), and My Heart Sings, Sometimes (a poetry collection). She has also co-authored Kas Kazi (a novel) and When a Stranger Called (an anthology of short stories).

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