I once knew a woman who was so desperate to live that she
almost killed herself.
She came to realise that she did not belong to herself
Her body was what others would make of it.
Her mind was theirs. Her soul as well.
She found comfort in being able to move her limbs around
even though it was in an effort to follow a path
that some invisible hands had drawn for her.
They put clothes on her back, and food in her mouth,
a roof over her head, and decided her fate.
One day, they concluded her case and told her to go.
Where to? Anywhere!
She did not run. She was there, in front of us all.
You could have seen her if you had tried.
Or perhaps, you remember her
with soiled locks on top of what seemed to be an empty skull.
Yes, you may have noticed her on buses and trains,
Sleeping rough at night and pretending to be clean during the day.
She was there. Before our eyes.
Her peers in Africa would have blamed this on juju
as only the work of the devil can lead a soul to such a decline.
A few years later, when they came for her once again,
She thought she would be freed.
No Sir, she had more to suffer.
They decided to put her on a plane that would land her back
to the pain she had left.
She refused food.
This woman who came close to death once more in her life
was eventually released back to her streets.
If you open your eyes, you will notice her.
She is the one with soiled locks
on top of what seems to be an empty skull, on buses and trains,
dreaming and praying for freedom.
Read more stories from people who have worked with English PEN over the last year.