Prison Break

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A short story…

Tari was my best girlfriend. We rolled through the University grounds like two lover birds until after graduation when we had to go our separate ways. We still kept in touch and chatted often especially at close of work. She will tell me everything! Then we heard the wedding bells, Tari was getting married to one of the finest in our set. Everyone wanted to be his lucky girl, but Tari was his favourite. We flocked to the wedding and danced our lives out. It was indeed a reunion!

After the wedding things started to change. Tari used to be a Slay Queen. Every time I went on Instagram, I’ll be sure to like over 50 pictures of Tari. But just after the wedding, her Instagram followers started to drop. That was the reverse, as we all expected to see pics of her honey moon and life with hubby. Then she left the class Whatsapp group we created to keep in touch with everyone. It’s not like she was the first to leave, but it was too obvious. Especially after everyone kept calling her name to contribute to the conversations, I guess we were really poking her too hard.

I tried calling her, I left several messages on Whatsapp, our all night chats slipped into ‘hiiis and helloooss’. I was becoming worried. I did not know what she was going through. I gave a lot of excuses; “perhaps, marriage responsibilities are becoming overwhelming.” But it was unreasonable. She stopped picking my calls, then all of a sudden the call was always forwarded to another number or not reachable.

I wanted to mind my business but Tari was also my business too. The more I tried to reach her, the farther she was. I once called her mum to pretend like I was checking on her, but deep down I wanted to know if her daughter was fine. Just as if she read my mind, she didn’t say much and I didn’t know how to push it either.

Is this a story you have heard before? Is it familiar to you? Does it remind you of a friend you had, and all of a sudden she disappeared into thin air and no one heard much about her again?

One day I hurriedly ran into a mall to get diapers for my baby-niece. I needed to get home in time as my sister kept calling to remind me. Guess who I met at the counter, Tari! I nearly screamed at the shadow I saw. I was too excited and hugged her. She wore a veil that covered most part of her face and dropped down to her hands. She was not a Muslim when we were in school, so I was trying to imagine if she had converted. “How are you Tari, what did I do, you don’t pick my calls anymore?”

“My dear, I have been too busy”

“Too busy? Girl I am your best friend naa or I am not anymore” I tried to play along.

“Don’t mind me, I’ll call you today”

I was not in a hurry anymore to meet my sister. I wanted to really spend time with my long lost friend. But Tari did not give me enough room to talk with her, she kept saying “I will call you”. She gave me her number which was different from the one I previously had. She had become so different in the space of two years. Her voice trembled every time she spoke. This is not the slay queen we all knew. I wanted to go quickly to the WhatsApp group and break the news to everyone, but I felt I would betray my friend. She quickly dismissed me and went out from the mall. I followed her and kept asking for her address, she muttered something and flagged down a cab and went off. I wanted to follow her but it looked stupid and desperate. I kept thinking about her that even when I went home, I had to share the news with my sister.

Now, enough about Tari, let’s get back to you. So I was asking if this sounds familiar to you? Or does it remind you of someone?

I find it difficult to understand why we slip through life bearing so much on our shoulders and even having to put on a veil to hide beneath. Some even build a fence around them and shut everyone out. We are all guilty. Life happens to everyone but life is not a prison yard. Sometimes you find yourself in situations that convicts you and makes you a victim of a crime you never committed. You become frustrated and blank out. Everyone tells you not to tell and so you bear it alone. Or maybe I should say, they threaten you hard not to mention it. You walk as a living corpse and just slip through life awaiting judgement, perhaps a death sentence.

Does it have to be this hard? Okay, you may want to tell me that I don’t understand what people are going through. Well like I said, life happens and it happens to everyone! We don’t have to get to this point. I hear people say it is not necessary to put out your life on social media, it is your private life. You are absolutely right; your life is no one’s business! But, once in a while, let people know you are okay or not.

Sometimes, we have to deliberately become rebels and break out of the prison. Fight until you can live. No one who is guiltless of a crime stays mute without trying to find a way out. There is always a lawyer for every case. You just have to find one.

I didn’t hear much about Tari again and the number she gave me was always switched off. You know the irony of life is, there are desperate people who will come after you when you go into hiding. They’ll find you and begin to spread gossips. I later heard rumours that Tari was in a rehabilitation home because she was going through a terrible marriage that nearly made her mentally ill.

She was not in a mental home because she fought and did not win. But because she had been silent for too long. Maybe the day we met at the mall could have been her prison break, but she crept back to the dark and silence. Her mother told her to endure her marriage and not speak ill of her husband, her husband threatened her not to tell. Then she told herself she can’t tell too. But I am saying to you, you CAN tell! You have the RIGHT and ABILITY to tell!

Written by,

Mmenyene-Abasi Akpakpan