PICTURES WE SEE
There was another picture another minute, on another day. There were tonnes of them everywhere, on every social app, those pictures that formed from brief gatherings, and those pictures that come to life in nightmares, those the mind created. There were gory pictures everywhere, people bleeding from the neck with a popped socket, the picture of someone who had moved a second too late, intestines spilt out shamelessly on asphalt floors, people puking out all their insides and purging blood.
These were the kinds of pictures we saw in the days that followed. Pictures that could have been us, pictures that were in fact us.
Because we know that it could be us, standing on the sidelines, watching protesters chanting ENDSARS one second, and our brain served on the streets to greedy cameras the next. Or standing among others, reciting the national anthem as we begged for the right to life, only to be shot on the leg with peace and unity as our last words. Or maybe just staying safe, lamenting the misery of the country, maybe we even placed a call to the girls we loved, and the next second there’s a bullet that defies logic and slides cleanly into our neck, taking us down. Death doing love apart. And it is ironic, we should have been safe in our homes. But we are not.
There were many pictures we walked and woke with, there were many pictures that were half-formed, half stories, half-memories, half-truths. They shared many things in common; the miserable reality of a country that spoke oppression. We saw so many pictures that we soon became pictures, wondering how we will appear. Will we remain unframed; a gory picture that will forever be labelled sensitive content on the internet? A framed black and white picture at a candle night where everyone’s voice shakes with fear that they may be next? Or will we end up in a treasured expensive frame, carefully cleaned, tenderly held at night, as our mothers pour out their grief? What picture will we make?
Or will we not get one at all? Maybe we never had dreams, maybe we had accepted that we had no home, maybe we had begged on the street, silently wishing tomorrow wouldn’t come at all. Maybe we had wished for nothing but had only stood with the others in excitement, because what harm would it bring if they were successful? Maybe we won’t have pictures at all because we were no names, no names that got shot by military men and were hastily packed into vans that stank of boots and booze, to die in transit. No CCTV recorded our faces, nobody knew who we were. And the next morning when the governor comes to deny our death, there will be no pictures to pull up, nobody who thinks to pull up a picture in the first place. We just vanish, not even making it as statistics.
Maybe we are the few who make it home, who tweet and retweet, who cry about the injustice, maybe we are just waiting for the deaths to count for something. Maybe we boil with anger and helplessness, maybe we bow our heads to pray and can only shed tears from the weight that’s pressed into our chest, maybe we are unsure that anything will come of the pain, maybe we even start to blame ourselves for nursing hope. We could be anything, feel anything, but we share a common heartbreak. The weight of an unending fight that seems to make nothing right, the pain of losing people to a struggle that may reap nothing. The anguish -the burning anguish of helplessness in a country that has only grief to give for free. Unsolicited, unwarranted, unsought; grief will always find us.
We start to think for a moment that maybe we should have accepted our lives for what it is, maybe there really was something that we had done to deserve all the misery, maybe we should have kept waiting, or at worst kept running to other countries, unravelling thickly and smearing, like jets of blue ink. From whom did we inherit this fight? Who taught us to hope? When did we get greedy enough to demand to be given the minimum? Maybe slowly dying from a system specially designed to frustrate you, in the dark, where our shame is ours alone, even if in a cold creek with other unknown corpses, might just have been better than being a casualty of death that jars us so bad. A death where the company we can be offered is schnapps poured over bullet holes while the bloodied flag is tied into a reluctant amateur tunic. A death hastily recorded by a voice that had given up hope even before the life leaves us. A death relayed with a poor camera.
There are pictures in our heads and we go through them throughout the day, in our sleep. The hazy ones, the clear ones, those that we won’t forget. But we will bear the pictures that make us wail, we will bare our newfound fear of silence, we will bear the horror of bullets flying through our walls, we will bear the confusion of waiting for an order. We will remember those who gave us these pictures, we will look through the pictures they have handed us and stare, stare at every angle till we can tell the colour of each person’s blood apart, everybody they ensured died with unfulfilled dreams, everybody they stripped deliberately of dignity, and we will burn. We will burn with anger, we will burn so much we are smeared by spite, and we will burn because those who are gone deserve nothing less.
We will remember so that when we have gathered our strengths, the ache from the burn pushes us on. We will fight till we make our voices heard, till they shake from the loudness of it. Our fight won’t end in a paragraph in a Government textbook as the youth riot. We will match again tomorrow. To the battlefield, whatever form that takes.