Did you see me yesterday? Did you at least hear about me? I was the girl dancing in the village square. Yes; the naked girl dancing in the village square. I don’t know how it started, but one moment, I was so sad that I thought that I’d take my own life. Just when the sadness became too much to bear, I suddenly felt happy. Too happy. I tore my clothes, ran to the square, and began to dance. I danced so well, even though there were no beating drums; even though no tune from the harmonica played. The children, they laughed at me as they passed by. The adults shook their heads, some in pity; others with disgust. But I didn’t care. Some young men, they were so mean, they threw earth at me and laughed as they did so. But I paid them no mind. I danced and sweated. I danced and danced and danced. Oh, how I danced.
My parents, they found me in the village square. They’d been looking for me, they said. But I don’t think they looked that well because if they did, they would have found me…right there in the center of the village. I was tired from all my dancing and I sat on a rock. Mama cried when she saw me. Papa, he had no words. His lips thinned and I knew he was angry. Ashamed, perhaps. I don’t know why he was angry. I don’t know why he was ashamed. I didn’t care either. All that mattered was that I’d danced in the village square.
They took me back to our house and washed me with soap and water. My parents clothed me and mama said, “You are not to leave the house again.”
“But why, Mama?” I asked.
Mama shook her head and said, “You’re sick, child. It’s best you stay inside the house and get better.”
I touched my forehead. It wasn’t hot. I shook my arms and my legs. They could move.
“I don’t’ feel sick Mama,” I said.
Mama shook her head. “Your sickness is a strange one, my daughter. It’s best you stay in the house from now on so you can get better. Are you thirsty?”
Mama walked away and I sat down on my mat, wondering about what she’d said. That was when I saw him: the yellow man with the yellow hat, holding a yellow stick.
I should have been afraid, for I’d never seen him before. But he smiled at me and I smiled back, and I knew there was nothing to be frightened of.
“You are the girl that danced in the village square.”
It wasn’t a question, but still, I nodded. “They say I have a strange sickness. My father won’t talk to me, and my mother doesn’t want me going outside to play again.”
The man in the yellow hat, he looked sad, just like my mother had been. “It’s not a sickness,” he said.
“It’s not?” I said.
“To ordinary people, it’s a sickness, but to people like me, it’s not.”
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“The gods have your mind, my daughter,” he replied. “And from now on, you will see things that ordinary eyes cannot see, and hear things ordinary ears cannot hear. In ancient times, the forefathers would have made you a priestess, serving only the gods of our land.”
Mama walked in with a cup of water. She walked past the man with the yellow hat.
“What?” Mama said, as she gave me the water to drink.
“Don’t you see him?” I asked, downing the water.
I pointed to the man. “This man. This man standing here.”
I pointed again, but Mama, she just shook her head and looked at me, her eyes full of questions.
“There’s nobody there,” she finally said. Her voice was very quiet.
The yellow man winked at me. “I told you. You can now see things that nobody can see and hear things that nobody can hear.”
“Are you a ghost?” I asked.
“I’m not a ghost,” Mama answered. “I’m here. I’m your mother.”
“I wasn’t talking to you mama,” I said. “I’m talking to the yellow man in the yellow hat.”
The yellow man gave me a sympathetic smile. I don’t know who he pitied…me or mama. He walked out the door.
“Mama,” I looked up to my mother’s face. “I’m not sick.”
Mama raised an eyebrow. “You are not?”
“The yellow man says I have a mind that belongs to the gods. I see things you cannot see and I hear things you cannot hear. “
Mama stared at me for a moment, collected the cup from my hand, and walked to the door. “It’s called madness, my daughter; a very strange kind of sickness.”
Then, she left me to myself and bolted the door after her.
Note to the Reader: I’m on a much needed vacation until Monday, the 30th (sob, sob) and I just finished watching one of my favorite movies – A Beautiful Mind -starring Russell Crowe. If you haven’t watched this movie, you should. For everyone who has watched the movie, it is a known fact that our perspective on health, more so mental health, is influenced by our cultural beliefs. In many cultures, say mine, for example, people with mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar, are generally grouped under one heading – madness. Some people, if not most, may even say these conditions are caused by demon possession. Well, demonization or not, I found myself writing the short story you’ve just read above. Titled A Beautiful Mind, just like that other poignant movie, I hope you enjoyed reading.
Image culled from flikr.com