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The conversation is not in my head. It is not a committee brainstorming. These are voices. Each voice carries its own personality. Each personality is different from the rest. Just like humans. Each personality takes part at different times dealing with different people. I wear each personality like a dress. Unblemished. I’m not a person on my own. I don’t have my own attributes. They each have their own and with the right timing, each voice wears me and controls what I say, feel, or think. I am never on my own. So when Elina walked into my life on a rainy July afternoon, it was nothing but chaotic. I had a lot of chores that day I totally forgot my new house help was to arrive and I had to pick her up. I was a world away; doing my chores and having a million discussions with myself about a lot of nothings.

My sister and husband were trying to call me but could not reach me as my phone was always on silent mode. I was late to pick Elina up by 2 hours. When I finally picked her up it was pouring. I was on the phone with an acquaintance of mine talking about kids. Elina was sitting at the back cause of the baby car seat at the passenger front. We just greeted, I apologized for being late and continued the conversation on the phone. We reached home and she seemed accepting and all smiles. And started helping right away. She adjusted so well quite fast.

With Elina being around, my voices could not be loud enough. They don’t want her to know about their existence. When she is around; I can’t have a deep conversation or loud argument. So they stay back and watch me talk half-truths with Elina; laughing and mocking me, wishing they could slap me so hard physically. So I was always downstairs with Elina doing my chores because the minute I go upstairs to my bedroom, it’s a whole afternoon of arguments.

She wasn’t your regular house help. I considered her my assistant manager. She kept me company. We talked about everything. Some conversations were so weird that kept me thinking rather than arguing with my voices. The woman was smart, she arranged my life leave alone my house. She put everything where it belongs, it was a shock that my house was in disarray. How was I even living before all this? The most gratifying thing she ever did for me was looking after my 3rd child. I never wanted to have kids. I know it’s such a taboo or even shame for a woman to say such things because the next statement that will come after that is “Thank the Lord you have kids. Others don’t!” But not her. She was empathetic and carried all my troubles like her own. She was a dear friend like none I ever had before.

And now she’s leaving…

I sit with my thoughts, locked in my room. My youngest daughter is downstairs in her rocking chair watching baby shows. I lay in my bed, my journal on my side. I stare out my bedroom window at the trees surrounding the compound. The murmurous sound the leaves make all in unison. Different trees. Different leaves. Same sound. The peace that comes with it is the opposite of what I am feeling. It is a very quiet neighborhood. All you hear are the crows or my backyard hens. The never-ending tweets of birds. Shrieks. Singing. It’s all nature’s finest. I lay there confused. Cast down. All in dismay. The voices in my head all sit around me, having different conversations, trying to get me out of my agony.

Have a little faith and things will work out for the best. Have faith.

Another voice raises the question.

And where will she get another house help like the one she’s currently enjoying her presence and friendship? She’s settled so well and adjusted with her. She understands her work and deals with her so well. Where do you find such rare individuals? We’re doomed.

Another voice wells up; what if she gets someone better than her? Can we just take a chance and build our confidence rather than the latter?

I sit quietly listening. Thinking what a waste I am. I found this house help just by luck. She became a part of my life and my kids’ life and soon she will leave. I don’t mind a  replacement. I am not one to force. But she became a friend. A good understanding friend. I never opened up to her. She doesn’t know the real me. She took me as I am with what I decided to expose to her. She adjusted so well. It is like she understood the assignment and blended perfectly well like two primary colors resulting in a perfect tertiary.

I was always a loner even amidst friends and family. I always felt alone. So ending up living alone was what I anticipated. How it came to that is a story for another day. For a long time, however, when my kids went to school during the day, I was always alone. That is how a normal person would see it. But to me, being surrounded by my voices I never felt alone. In fact when someone comes into my territory just like a  cheetah; I fight. For my dominance. For my safety. To prevent myself from being hurt, used, and abused. So accepting my house help was a huge thing. I surrendered to her existence because I wouldn’t be able to handle kids, house chores, and being a wife. Even with a helper, I still can’t manage things. To handle life itself. So many responsibilities can cause me a major breakdown, especially on days like these when my depression is at an all high ugly.

Therefore, when Elina became a part of my life, I had to put my insecurities aside for a tad bit. I never had hopes she will stay long. In fact, on each of her off days, I would go to her room and just check if she left her belongings with her or they were in her room; always anticipating her departure for good.

I of course had my differences with her. At times I would go completely silent on her; give her the cold shoulder if she said or did anything to intentionally upset me. To avoid confrontations, the silent treatment served as a lesson not to say harsh things to me or do something just to upset me. Especially when it would upset almost anyone. With time she just learned of the things I don’t like and she kept away from doing them. With that problem out of the way, we started knowing each other well. I tried as much as I could to accept her for who she was. She taught me a lot. She taught me that anyone can be confident. Anyone has a right to be who they want to be. She taught me not to take things too seriously. She taught me the art of letting go and accepting whatever obstacle comes your way and tackling it head-on with grace. She may not have been that educated but she was brave. She taught me that even in awkward times, just smile and move regardless. She took her time but she was quick in completing tasks. She never had any fear in her. She helped me with my kids. Their school work. Their fussy meal planning, their tantrums, and even advised me on how to bring up well-behaved children.

Having guests never made her panic unlike me. We cleaned, we cooked, we arranged, we served and I invited guests over and over and everything ran smoothly. I thanked her in more ways I hope she will appreciate. She helped me through my gloomy days that sometimes stretched to weeks. She allowed me to have ‘me time’; an hour every day during the weekday for my gym sessions. We would go to the thrift market, even sometimes carry my infant and shop. Her choices were of good taste and style. Anyone would rock her choices with sophistication. She showed me around where the good deals happened. I was scared of taking motorbike rides and she showed me that it was a no biggie. She never judged me when we shared one motorbike ride and skimmed through tiny towns around the city, holding the motorist jacket like my whole life was on my hands and if I let go I’m dead. She just casually sat behind me supporting whatever it is I was doing. She never understood it was the rush I am dying for.

I took her to meet my family and everyone liked her. Her attitude was captivating. We talked a lot. General stuff. Religious stuff. Food-related. Clothes related. Gossip. We always kept each other company. She was a good person to converse with. My children adored her. They felt free with her. They could ask anything from her and she would oblige or try her best. I would leave her with the kids with no worry. She would feed them and put them to bed as if they were her own. I know to her it’s a sense of duty; she gets paid. It’s the humanity that made me look at her as a friend rather than an employee. How did she come to me when I was at my lowest? She picked me up and helped me on a daily. Why is she leaving when I need her the most? She was the only person who has so far helped me on an hourly basis. She was so dependable and reliable. She was exactly the kind of person I needed in my life. I never knew I needed a right-hand guide until I met her.

And now she is pregnant. She has to leave.

I have zero anticipation of her ever coming back after delivery. I wish she knew how hard it was for me to let her in. Perhaps she would have never walked out. But not everyone is like me. I am different. Elina agrees that I am different. I can never be as half strong as she is. Departure is here. She’s leaving. Heartache has arrived and settled in. She is not your regular maid.

I have so much in me that I want to put in writing but again, I have so much in me that holds me back. Holds me back from my desires, my accomplishments, and my dreams; to fully explore myself and understand and know my limits. I have so much in me that I have not discovered or risked, not because of fear or shame or blame; it is the voices in my head. The voices that stop me from doing anything and everything; prisoning me in my own body. I know one day a person would read this and wonder how can voices control someone? But I am a living testament that voices that speak to you in your head can break you into more than a million pieces. I have lived with these voices in my head for years, for as long as I can remember.

Since I was a young girl, the voices kept me company through the worst years of my life. I was an utterly sad child. I never knew or understood myself until I was an adult undergoing years of psychiatric therapy. I was miserable. Sad. Brokenhearted. I was naive and felt so lonely in this world. I felt so unloved. So unwanted. So worthless. And for years, inflicting myself with pain was a way to ease the burden. I never had friends. Nobody could ever understand my mood swings, my irrational behaviour, my sudden manic episodes, being overexcited, or always agitated yet my voices; these persistent, irritating voices always gave me the best company. We would talk for hours. They would assure me with so much that they became my affirmations. These voices are still part of my life, and play a huge role even as a fully grown adult.

All along, I never had a sense of direction in my life. I still don’t. I am always stuck. I am still stuck; unable to move back or face the future; I am not present either. When I was a child, my grandma was the bridge between the constant darkness I was in and that unflickering ray of light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t say I had memorable moments with my grandma, I call them stolen treasurable moments. Every minute you would spend with her always felt like a win, yet they always kept me yearning for more. I can only describe her as a pearl deep in the ocean, right next to me, in my rock bottom. Always.

During my early years of life, grandma would at times gives me coins for my pocket money and I felt like the richest kid on the planet. I get it. Most children feel that excitement. But for me, it wasn’t just the money. It was always about her; the joy she gave me just by her mere presence. Her softness. It was she who showered me with unconditional love that still lingers around me like good perfume. She was my comfort, my safety net from all the physical and emotional trauma I went through. It was her reassurance and strength that always made me look forward to the holidays when she came from abroad to visit us. I would always sit next to her, feel her warmth, and just smile. I knew I could never physically hold her forever, but I did in my heart.

I lost my grandma early on when Corona hit. To say I miss my grandmother is an understatement. Nobody was allowed to travel or go visit her due to the imposed restrictions. To know she died all alone in a foreign hospital broke me cause she always feared being alone. I thought I had forever with my grandma and I always thought there will come a time that I would truly express how I felt towards her; what difference she made in my life. But Alzheimer’s struck her before I could ever profess my love for her. Before I had the courage to. All I could ever do when I visited my grandma was hug her tight, close my eyes, and try so hard not to cry for all the love I could never give her back. I loved my grandmother so much that it pained me, ached me deeply for I guess within me, I knew I’d never have something or someone that would see me as she did.

The last time I visited her, I hugged her hard, one last time, before saying goodbye. Deep down my confused self, I somehow felt this was my last time to ever see her. I looked at her and she was so sad. Her sorrowful face still lingers on my mind. She just sat quietly at the edge of her bed having no idea what was going on and even then, I could not utter those words. To date, I still close my eyes at night and silent tears run down my face for the sadness she left in me. I could never thank her for all the amazing things she ever did for us. She never made us feel left out or lacked anything. She had so many grandchildren but treated me and my sisters like we were her only children. I’m grateful for all that she showed me; taught me. All that she was to me.

I could write a million stories about her, but the truth is it will never fill the void she left in me. My biggest regret is I never was honest with her. She left with so much unsaid. A lot was unvoiced.

Hababa, I truly believe you’re in heaven for there was no purer soul than yours. This remains the only undisputed matter even with my voices. I hope you can somehow see or at least hear me, I can never seem to speak when it comes to you. I can only write. That’s the only way I knew how to keep your memories in me alive.

I miss you. I truly miss you. I thank God for your saved voice on my phone. I have a picture of your soft hands. Your striking smile. I want to thank you for giving me all those happy moments that nobody has so far given me. If there was a World Appreciation Day, you would bear the crown. You were exemplary. You are my hero. I love you so much because I have run out of words to describe how thankful and how lucky I am to have had you in my life.

Wherever you are…it is me again…writing..yet another story about you…for the immense love I carry for you for years.

Can you hear me?

I miss you.