The Mirror Lifestyle Content

Behind the mask

Behind the mask

I must have said "I'm fine" at least a thousand times and I didn't mean it once.

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 Each utterance was a shield, a barrier protecting the truth I couldn't bear to share. Perhaps growing up in the biggest part of the country where order, discipline and routine are woven into the fabric of everyday life didn’t leave room for weakness or meekness, shaping the character and mindset of those who call it home.

The environment is one of regimentation and precision. Rows of identical houses line the streets, each meticulously maintained. The barracks themselves are austere yet functional, designed to serve the needs of the personnel and their families.

The sense of order extends to every aspect of life, from the serene environment to the spotless uniforms worn by the officers. Perhaps, now you understand why the generic response to a question such as “How are you?” is and will always be “I’m fine or I’m okay”.

We need just two words and we bid each farewell and good tidings. Kpe is the name. Intriguing huh? The Voltarians would tell you Kpe means stone. A stone that allows itself to be carried away with all sorts of emotions.

To the outside world, Kpe was the epitome of success—arguably the best comedian, perpetually composed, loved by many and hated by a few. He had an aura around him. His colleagues in the industry admired his endearing nature, his friends envied his carefree and lavish lifestyle with top footballers all over the world and his family basked in the glow of his achievements.

But behind the polished exterior and confident smiles, Kpe was a man on the brink of collapse. A year ago, Kpe's life had taken a drastic turn. His marriage, once filled with love and laughter, had crumbled under the weight of betrayal and deceit.

The scandalous divorce battle that followed was the talk of the town. Accusations flew, dirty laundry was aired, and the media had a field day. In the end, Kpe lost not just his marriage, but also custody of his two children, Edwin and Edwina.

Every morning, he stared at his reflection, the mask of composure slipping ever so slightly. He wondered if the world saw what he saw when he looked at his reflection. He wondered why a room once filled with laughter was dead silent. Home no longer felt like home.

As he stared in the mirror, he rehearsed his lines, bracing himself for the onslaught of concerned enquiries. "How are you, Kpe?" they'd ask. "I'm fine," he'd reply, a practised response that rolled off his tongue effortlessly. The truth, however, was a different story.

Kpe’s days were a whirlwind of meetings, social engagements, interviews and social visits, each activity chipping away at his dwindling reserves of energy. The nights were no better. Alone in his five-storey at Kasoa, he would sit by the window, gazing at the city that never slept, feeling more isolated than ever.

And interestingly, the nights were longer. He longed for the day but when it came, he longed for the night because even the simplest task felt like a heavy burden. The weight of expectations was suffocating.

His parents, who had sacrificed everything for his education, expected nothing less than perfection. His friends, caught up in their own lives, rarely saw past his facade. And his colleagues, wrapped up in their struggles never questioned his cheerful demeanour.

The loss of his children was the heaviest burden. Weekends that used to be filled with trips to the park and bedtime stories were now empty voids of silence. Kpe kept their rooms untouched, as if preserving them would somehow bring them back.

He avoided the family photo albums, each picture a painful reminder of what he had lost. Just as he was beginning to grapple with the emptiness left by the absence of his children, another blow struck.

His father, his rock and source of strength, passed away unexpectedly. Kpe's father had been his guiding light, the one person who always believed in him, no matter what. Losing him felt like losing a part of himself.

He couldn’t smell the rain again. Neither could he see the beauty in the world. Darkness set in, along with coldness and blank stares. But one evening after a particularly gruelling day, Kpe found himself in a small eatery close to the 37 Total Filling Station vegetable stand and a grand hotel.

It was a quaint, cosy place with warm lighting and a comforting aroma of freshly baked cheese croissants. He sank into a corner room, hoping to find a moment of peace. As he sipped his pineapple juice, a young woman entered the eatery.

She had an air of quiet confidence, a charming smile, a nice set of teeth, her eyes sparkling with a wisdom beyond her years. She noticed Kpe’s tired expression and without hesitation approached him.

"Mind if I join you?" she asked, her voice gentle yet firm. Kpe nodded, surprised by her boldness. She introduced herself as Emefa, a writer who frequented the eatery for inspiration.

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They talked about mundane things at first— weather, politics, current economic challenges, people’s woes and misfortunes. But there was something about Emefa that made Kpe feel at ease as if he could let his guard down for the first time in years.

As the conversation flowed, Emefa's perceptive gaze seemed to pierce through Kpe's defences. "You don't have to pretend with me, you know," she said softly. "Sometimes, it's okay not to be fine."

The words hit Kpe like a tidal wave and before he knew it, the dam broke. He poured out his heart sharing the fears, anxieties and loneliness that had plagued him for so long. Emefa listened without judgement, offering a quiet understanding that was more comforting than any words of reassurance.

At that moment, Kpe realised that he had been running from his vulnerability, hiding behind a mask of "I'm fine." But with Emefa's compassionate presence, he felt a glimmer of hope—a possibility of healing.

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Days turned into weeks, and Kpe and Emefa's friendship blossomed. They met regularly at the cinema, their conversations growing deeper and more intimate with each meeting.

Kpe found himself opening up about his childhood dreams, his fears of failure and his longing for a connection that felt genuine and unforced. With her support, Kpe began to confront the underlying issues that had been gnawing at his soul. He sought therapy, reconnected with his true passions and learned to set boundaries that protected his well-being.

Emefa in turn shared her own stories of heartache and resilience. She had faced her share of struggles, including a tumultuous relationship and the challenge of making a name for herself. Through their shared vulnerability, they discovered a profound sense of kinship.

One sunny afternoon, as they strolled through the park, Emefa took Kpe's hand in hers. "You know," she said, her voice soft and steady, "it's okay to let yourself be happy again. You deserve it."

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Kpe looked into her eyes, seeing the sincerity and warmth that had become his anchor. He realised that despite the pain and loss, there was still room for love and joy in his life.

Slowly but surely, he began to rebuild. As their bond deepened Kpe and Emefa's friendship blossomed into something more. They spent weekends exploring the recreational centres, movie theatres, and beaches and sharing quiet moments that felt like stolen treasures.

Their love was a gradual, healing force that brought light into the darkest corners of Kpe's life. He started fighting for shared custody, driven by the hope of rekindling his relationship with Edwin and Edwina.

After two years of a beautiful friendship, Kpe knew Emefa was the one, his home, his peace and his happy place. One evening, as they sat together at the back of Kpe’s Toyota pickup watching movies on a giant screen, Kpe turned to Emefa, his heart brimming with gratitude. “Thank you”, he said, his voice thick with emotion. “You’ve helped me see that it's okay not to be okay.”

Emefa smiled, her eyes shimmering with tears. "And you've shown me that love can be patient and kind even in the face of pain." They both smiled. Deep stares and gentle touches till they collapsed in each other’s embrace.

As he stood before the mirror one morning, Kpe felt a sense of calm he hadn't experienced in years. The mask was gone, replaced by a genuine smile. He knew that the road ahead would have its challenges, but he was no longer alone. And for the first time in a long time, when someone asked, "How are you?" Kpe could answer with a heartfelt, "I'm getting better.”

He still gets to see his children on weekends and sometimes holidays. But he’s looking forward to filling his home with a couple more Edwins and Edwinas.

Writer’s email address: [email protected]

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