30th March 2020
Today is Monday. I have masturbated twice within the first half hour of this new day.
The only thing that vaguely makes sense is an orgasm.
I don't want to get into the habit of masturbating to pass time but you see, time has lost its meaning for me.
March, for example, feels like it has lasted longer than a man who takes a long period of time to finish. March has, pressed its full weight on top of me for what can only be described as an insufferable period of time, spat out a series of misfortunate events and excreted slowly all over me.
Before all of this, I used to meticulously plan every hour of everyday. The thrill of waking up knowing that I had a bank of to-do's to get through was empowering to some extent.
My sense of time is now warped and lost in a vacuum I am unable to navigate.
I can, navigate, in darkness (and light) my vagina, that my fingers have not yet lost its touch with.
My vagina, I wholly understand.
This is my solace.
31st March 2020 (18:24)
I blew my 2 o'clock zoom session with my #therapist because I was feeling angry. Now, I think, I need her more than ever.
My boss curtly informed me that I will most likely be laid off by the end of April. The only thing I could think of in that moment was the opening to The Waste Land:
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
After that phone call, I force fed myself a late roasted lunch and hopped into bed, intensely searching job opportunities and vacancies nationally.
Then I had a nap.
I sent an email shortly after, querying clarification on an assignment.
I think I will now shut this machine and make myself a cup of tea. The only thing British about me is that I religiously turn to a brew in moments of crises.
17th April 2020 (10:48)
I think that Walt Whitman was a liar and that there is nothing promising or even, remotely liberating about the Open Road.
Still, I'd rather be there, than in here.
22nd April 2020 (01:23)
Those who know me, know that I enjoy the work of T.S. Eliot. In particular, they know, I routinely turn to ‘The Waste Land’, shoehorning the oft quoted opening section in ‘The Fire Sermon’ in often, awkward, places. I also quoted Eliot in one of my first diary entries for this journal on Tuesday, 31st March.
I recently read a book by Matthew Hart where he forges a connection between the work of Eliot and Caribbean poet historian, Kamau Brathwaite. Hart links Eliot’s emphasis on sound configurations with Braithwaite’s, claiming the auditory emphasis, the focus on voice in European modernism intersects, unusually with Caribbean poetry. I am no Hart, nor a theorist, or even a scholar pertaining to the world literature by any regard, but it is this emphasis of voice, of voices overlapping and intersecting – even in the most unusual of places – that has always drawn me to experimental poetry.
Today, I find myself researching the legality surrounding declaring my mother incompetent to make sound medical decisions. I cannot help but turn to Eliot, as I am confronted by my mother’s deteriorating mental and physical health. I find a strange, albeit comforting solace in the voices that emerge in ‘The Waste Land’, prompting me to dwell on a series of what-ifs and how-tos.
In a dark way, I see much of Eliot’s first wife, Vivienne Haigh-Wood, in my mother. A quick Google search will tell you that Vivienne and Eliot met in not so unusual ways, a spring-time event in #London. Most Eliot-critics tend to carry a discourse where Haigh-Wood is portrayed as some crazed stalker, infatuated and obsessed with successful Eliot following their divorce which was as a result of sheer incompatibility. In short, Haigh-Wood’s mental health deteriorated quite rapidly after her divorce, though the onset to this was her marriage. Committed to an asylum by her brother around 1938, Haigh-Wood, like many women in her predicament whom had found themselves in asylums that had the opposite effect of its intent, further deteriorated in her sentence. 9 years later, Haigh-Wood, dead. Overdose.
I often think about how my parents met; two first-generation immigrants fleeing war-torn Africa, constructing an unstable path of success. Like Haigh-Wood and Eliot, their paths crossed in London. In 1994, my mum was at least 8 years into living with her disease which was diagnosed by medical professionals in Kenya, a country she sought refuge during her migration. By the time she met my father in a shabby London hotel, where they both worked as cleaners, she had separated from a mysterious figure whom she was married to for less than a year. My parents, upon meeting, formed a network, an alliance with migrants from her home country whom were all in their twenties, optimistic about life in this great city. My parents and their group of friends, whom I bump into occasionally in the community, loved and appreciated London in ineffable ways, journeying its streets with pride and gratitude, thankful for this opportunity to have a –real—chance at life, a chance many of their families and friends back home would never experience. London was their Hail Mary.
I am guilty of looking at their dusty photo albums from the 90s, with a feeling in many ways, akin to jealously. Though I think jealous may be too strong of a word, I envy their courage—their naïve optimism. I am advantaged to have been born here, to not have to endure crossing borders and travelling across continents for my immediate safety. I think, I wish I had a Hail Mary, one that would enable me to construct a new home, a new sense of identity and permit forging life-long bonds in my early 20’s.
My parents married at the beginning of 1996. Though tribally dissimilar, they were admired by their friends and their marriage was celebrated within their entire ethnic community. These newlyweds lived in small flat and whilst raising nieces. An unusual start to a new chapter, my parents embarked on their responsibilities as parents to children whom weren’t their own. In December 1996, my mother prematurely went into labour with a son at only 24 weeks and fought for her life in hospital whilst her son remained in intensive care. Her son, fought for 4 months, tubed and sedated until the hospital deemed him healthy. With no complications, her son was a survivor and my mother survived the complications of childbirth alongside her disease. Another Hail Mary.
Across the span of 9 years, my mother bore 4 children, though had lost a few owed to miscarriages. I do not recall much of my mother for the first decade of my life. It all seems a blur. I tried psychotherapy for many years, alongside other forms of counselling to help me unpack these foggy years. I did not have a traumatic childhood by no means. Photo-albums, testimonies from family members and my cousins, who claim an envy of my childhood, have enabled me to determine this fact. It was only when my parents’ marriage disintegrated, aged 11, that I began to capture and recall vividly, every interaction with my mother.
A short while ago, following my mother’s relapse that almost saw her dead, my father hinted at the burden he carried for over a decade with her condition. The speed which I am typically able to process trauma is often delayed, yet in that moment, I felt an instant rush of resentment flow through me towards my father. I deemed him a co-conspirer in my mother’s current incompetency.
I write this with the memory of me and my siblings huddled in our living room, the two silver chandeliers witnessing our rushed attempts to pump her body with drugs to counteract her body’s desire to fall into an unconscious state. My mother is a high-risk for catching and frankly, dying from Coronavirus. She has been indoors for the last 6 weeks. In these 6 weeks, I have observed a series of relapses, notwithstanding a clear image that captures the decline of a woman whom her inner circle of migrant friends describe as the light of the group
But, said 6 weeks of social distancing and quarantining in our home are mere minutes in comparison to the torture I have witnessed my mother inflict upon herself owed to the departure of her husband. Heartbreak, shame, fear: three not-so-invisible forces that have cast her life in an eerie darkness, a darkness that has blinded her to the extent she regularly ditches life dependent medication which she has been taking for 30 years, in favour of holistic medicine prescribed by questionable internet sources.
Whilst the world battles the invisible, I too, battle the invisible wrath of my mother’s disease and herself. I refuse, in part, to be like my father –a co-conspirator to her incompetency. Perhaps my mother is ‘“the hyacinth girl”’ Eliot writes of in ‘A Game of Chess’, ‘neither living nor dead’, zigzagging along the now withered path she forged in her early 20’s, unable to comprehend the loss of her husband and the life they naively built – then wrecked – together.
As my many internal voices intersect and bellow in unusual ways at the boxed-up memories I have supressed from these years and my current predicament, I end this piece with two voices that are at friction with one another in ‘The Waste Land’. These voices, hauntingly having the ability to capture the tense conversations with my mother during her periods of deterioration, highly likely to be the voices of Eliot and Haigh-Wood as they navigate their chafing marriage:
“My nerves are bad tonight. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
“Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.
“What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
“I never know what you are thinking. Think.”
I think we are in rats’ alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.
“What is that noise?”
The wind under the door.
“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”
Nothing again nothing.
“You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
“Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?”
I end this piece with just that. An extract, vague as it is self-explanatory. I too, am unable to find anything in my head.
23rd May 2020
It happened in the blink of an eye. Me and R were engrossed in conversation, enjoying the fresh sunset on some road in the De Beauvoir area, then it happened.
And it was all very strange.
This man came whizzing down the road, at an extraordinary speed, on his electric scooter. But this wasn’t it. Parallel to him was a dog. Not an ordinary, doe-eyed fluffy dog; a very big, dark brown dog with a red ball firmly grounded in his teeth.
Now usually, I wouldn’t be so mind blown by an encounter with a fierce-looking dog. However, as it came closer and closer towards me, I panicked. R panicked too. I recall mumbling under my breath, ‘just keep walking, just keep walking’ as if to convince myself standing half paralysed on the pavement would somehow encourage the dog to leap onto me.
So, I listened to my inner voice. I kept on walking, timidly, might I add. R stood behind me. I don’t know whether he stopped walking or not, but he was no longer next to me. After this very odd, brief encounter, I think what I wanted more than anything in that given moment, was to urinate.
Was it fear that made my bladder suddenly have the urge to release its contents? Or was it that bottle of Lucozade I consumed with the fries R bought me?
Fear is a funny thing. I don’t think I have ever felt fear to the same extent as I had yesterday. And for what it is worth, I am a pretty fearful person. I put my hand to my bare chest at random moments during the night just to make sure that my heart is beating. Even though, I know it is, otherwise I wouldn’t have the ability to bring my hand to my chest. I have dreams sometimes about dead family members so I prompt myself the next morning to contact random family members I have left; those whom I haven’t picked up their calls in a while, just to make sure that they are alive and of course, to subside the occasional guilt I feel for being bad at checking-in on people.
Even after a few moments R and I overcame the initial shock at what just happened, I made sure to clutch his fingers a little tighter, though as sticky with sweat they may have been, I didn’t care. I needed some relief to ease off this state I was in.
I have been hearing non-stop over the last couple of months, this fear we have all developed as collective over the invisible. But yesterday’s events have led me to think that we should fear the very visible, the most. Those things that leap out in front of us when we least expect it: the tangible, physical, actual objects, people, animals, substances, money, the night sky—these, we should fear the most. Not because, we enjoy the physical and mental effects of fear, but rather, the ability fear has to startle, shake and inspire us to pick up the pen and write diary entries about them.
30th May 2020 (Saturday, 4 pm)
I’ve written extensively over the last few years about locked rooms and spaces. I have reflected optimistically on the benefits of a nurturing domestic space for the intellectual mind in Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’. At the same time, I have written on domestic spaces that do the very opposite of nurturing. In Virginia Woolf’s ‘Jacob’s Room’, the novel ends inside the protagonist’s room. The protagonist dead, the room claustrophobically depressing, the discordant sounds of a post-war London encroach the domestic space rather perversely.
I think Woolf’s representation of space in the ending of ‘Jacob’s Room’ aptly fits my relationship to the indoors. During the lockdown, I decided to move into one of the rooms downstairs. I excitedly transformed the room into my own, personal space, glad at the prospect of starting afresh and creating a space that would help me navigate this odd period.
It’s been exactly 2 months since I moved into my new space and I think that this space has failed me. It is hauntingly white. Every single wall in here is white. The doors too are all white. My desk, bookcase, wardrobe – all white. My curtains, a mixture of cream and white. My bedsheets, pillowcases and duvet – yes, all white. I am probably the only thing of colour that is furnished in this room.
The room has failed me, not because it is very much lifeless. Rather, it has failed to offer me the comfort and reassurance, I naively thought it would. Much like Jacob’s room, the outside world very much encroaches this space.
I struggle, on all but a few days to get out of this room. I work my 8-hour workday in my bed. I eat my meals also, on my bed. I read, write, watch, all on my bed. Every single boundary I had formerly set up between the different aspects of my life have collapsed inside this very room.
Attempting to reconstruct these boundaries, I have since learned, is one hundred percent futile. Everything I need to do has to be done here. In this room. I’ve ventured off to the garden a couple of times, but with the blaring heat and blinding sunshine, this venture is counterproductive and leaves me feeling frustrated and defeated.
As I catch up with local and world news daily, those collapsed boundaries further dissolve in my domestic and psychological space. I sink further into an overwhelming state of annoyance and claustrophobia. Who will free me? Boris? A vaccine? Myself? My favourite poem? Glimpses of my lover?
There is no resolve.
31st May 2020 (Sunday, 10 am)
This is my third menstrual cycle since we have been in lockdown. I am trying to pinpoint whether the arrival of an early period is why I am in an intensely emotional state.
Am I crying because it hurts?
Are my hormones sending mixed signals to my brain?
I don’t know.
I have, for the last couple of days, felt a pressing urge to scream very violently and loud at the world.
What is happening?
Why is murder so normalised?
Why do we celebrate institutional power?
And finally, why am I crying?
Do I sit in the garden today and read?
Will I stay cooped up in this room and lay with a heavy chest?
I cannot stay silent. I have to say something.
How do I help?
“Excuse me, brothers and sisters around the world, what do you need?”
What do you need?
Is that enough?
Why have I chosen to wear an England football t-shirt today?
Why do I feel as if I am betraying nations scarred by the very flag printed on my t-shirt by simply, wearing it?
Should I take it off?
I left my windows wide open last night and now, there is a spider huddled in the corner of my wall. Usually, I would douse it with a couple sprays of Raid but today I am ashamed for considering killing it.
Do insects mourn the loss of their friends and family?
Do they view me as a senseless, selfish murderer eradicating members of their community for my own gain?
And what is that gain?
But at what cost?
My only aim for today is to finish a 2-litre bottle of water and that, I think, is somewhat achievable.
4th June 2020
My best friend and I have developed quite a worrisome habit. Perhaps, it is an addition as my father has expressed.
Over the course of the last two months, we have become rather engrossed with an online game. It is a weird game. Kill your opponents, reach your home, assist your teammate, collect your golden coins. Quite simple isn’t it? Now, would you believe me if I told you that this game has made me cry (because I lost), laugh (because I won), throw my phone on the floor (because I thought I wouldn’t win), scream (because the odds of rolling a dice and landing on a 6 was close to none and I needed it)?
It has become an obsession. Winning. Being paranoid that you will be killed. Winning some more. Collecting golden coins from your opposition. Strategizing with your best friend in ways you had never done before – quite the bonding experience.
Most of all, it is a way to pass time. Though not quite the most productive method of breaking free from the stagnancy the last few months has blessed us with, it has been somewhat a fruitful diversion.
Last week, we were teamed up with two strangers living in two separate continents of the world. Both very far from the hub of London myself and my best friend reside. One thing that is slightly comical about this game is that you can converse with your opposition for only the duration of the match. After the match is over, that’s it. You most likely will never encounter them again.
In the midst of this quite heated game, the two men we were playing began typing a slur of hate towards us. Now what’s odd is that no one has images of their real face on this game. You construct an avatar when you sign up and this is your face; how you are presented to the sea of strangers you play against.
Our avatars were of a brown complexion, corresponding our actual skin colours (I am African, and my best friend is Asian). At first, we thought they were referring to something else, totally oblivious to the fact that they were, in fact, racially abusing us. The game carried on.
We were on a Zoom call at the same time on our laptops so we could strategize and verbally assist one another. I jumped up from my phone when I heard my best friend gasp. They were brutal. Explicitly making blackface remarks, utilising emojis that were hauntingly racist.
As two seemingly brazen women, we charged back, at first informing them that we would report them, but soon after, we made an effort to educate them in the confines of this game. This backfired. The homophobic slurs came hurling faster than the racial ones.
One of them told us, ‘It is just fun’. Was it fun? Far from it.
I even tried to pathetically use religion as a means of highlighting the problematic nature of their remarks. They still failed to comprehend their faults. Part of me felt like a failure. Was it that I was not coherent? Did I fail to express how hurtful their #racism and homophobia was to us? Potentially. I have never been great at expressing myself.
We won that game. Despite this, the usual satisfaction of winning was absent. Gone. Disappeared into some abyss I had no means of reaching into.
Me and my best friend sat in silence when the game ended, awkwardly staring at one another through our webcams.
Shortly after, I went downstairs and had a Magnum.
6th June 2020
I have moved to a different location. Living in someone else’s home comes with a weird discomfort. Not so much a physical discomfort but this feeling that you are an intruder; tiptoeing to the bathroom, gently closing cabinets, making sure that you are not heard because you fear that you will annoy people and they will eventually dislike your presence in their sanctuary.
The last week has given me a boost of confidence, nonetheless. I feel happier, though I am a sceptic and believe that this will soon end. It has been freeing to move away from my family home and the confines of my bedroom that has had its invisible hand firmly pressed around my neck over the last few months.
It is eerily quiet here. A confusing reality in comparison to my rowdy household. My cousins both work remotely in their rooms and are unseen for the majority of the day. The only noise that is somewhat an annoyance is the music that comes from their housemate’ room. Yesterday, she listened to a rendition of the American National anthem for the entire day. On repeat. When I asked her if she knew the origins of this anthem, she spoke in her native tongue and told me ‘No’. She likes the voice of the woman who sings it. There is an innocence in simply, not knowing.
Most of my belongings are not here. My diffuser is not here. That annoying diffuser, I miss. I could, get it from my family home very easily. But I am lazy. So, I will complain internally since I do not have it here with me. The diffuser isn’t so silent as it was advertised. It makes a strange hissing sound and growls whenever the water levels are low. In spite of this, I love it. It came with various oils and depending on my mood, I could choose a scent to match it. The room I am staying in has a lingering smell of cigarettes. It is quite the scent; warming but harsh. It is a humbling, forceful scent. Even the breeze fails to defeat it.
Just last night, I almost cried with joy because my cousin had the same model toothbrush as me. This meant that I could charge my dead toothbrush and enjoy its awakening vibrations on my teeth. Like the diffuser, I could easily bring it here. But like I said before, I am lazy.
28th June 2020
It is around the time that my menstrual period is due, and I am yet again feeling quite on edge.
My life over the last few weeks has felt like fragments of a Sally Rooney novel burned onto a CD mix of garage rave anthems. There have been many highs: I have met new people, I have gone on adventures I never thought I could have, felt things I have never felt before. During the last few weeks, I also (re)discovered that I hate my job, lost the motivation to write, neglected my embroidery project and lost my glasses.
Seems trivial at glance—but losing my glasses was the cherry on top and threw me off a psychological edge. It was that final straw that made me feel a whole new level of defeat. I contacted the few cab drivers I had the night prior to ‘see’ if they could locate my glasses. No luck. One driver gave me a callback and attempted to reassure me that it would be fine, people have lost more significant items at the back of a cab on a Friday night. I ended up crying after that phone call both angry and humiliated at my ability to lose something so important.
I ended up picking up my new pair of glasses and a batch of contact lenses just yesterday. I was ecstatic. That morning I (re)wrote a love letter and posted it, picked up a can of Red Bull to refuel and felt victorious, as if I had defeated this feeling of being defeated for being, quite simply, a clunk. I hopped on the 68 to Strand and picked them up in this high. The optometrist adjusted the fit for me and we both laughed, reminiscing the many breakdowns I had in that store over spectacles and my deteriorating vision.
I recall leaving the store feeling both elated and relieved. It was going to be a good day. I strolled over to the Pret down the road and mumbled under my mask: “An oat vanilla latte please.” There was a man in army uniform standing next to me waiting for his batched order and I wondered whether members of the Army are as structured and disciplined as people speculate. I remember being transported to a time I half completed my application to join the army. I giggled under my mask wondering how that would have turned out.
With my coffee in my hand, I strolled out like a cat, into the local Tesco’s and stocked up on sanitary towels, Ibuprofen, Paracetamol; preparing myself for my upcoming period. I decided to walk down Waterloo Bridge and take the scenic route; contemplate and enjoy my coffee before boarding the bus.
I think it took all but 3 minutes for this glee to diminish. It started very aggressively raining and gusty winds soon followed. I realised I had no umbrella, flats on and that I was carrying a paper bag stuffed with all my items. There was no turning back: it took 7 minutes for me to walk down the bridge and when I got to the end, my bag was torn to pieces because of the rain and my coffee had turned cold, the paper cup itself turning a greyish hue due to the water. I chugged the coffee as soon as I got to the bus stop shelter and firmly pressed my torn apart bag against my chest. Why did I prematurely think that my day was going to be good? And why don’t positive affirmations ever work for me?
I went home, pissed. I returned feeling even more defeated I had felt the days prior. I sit here still feeling defeated, all the while somehow content. My vagina throbs, out of pain and I am cramping sporadically. Now, I wait for this period to come (then go) and for my state of mind to return to its ‘normal’ pre-hormonal phase. I will try not to drink too much wine and instead soak up my anxiety about the upcoming working week.
30th June 2020
My grandmother knew for 15 years that she was dying.
I only found out on Sunday.
She died in 2012.