The naysayer in me shouted out once more.
“You will never amount to anything!”
Her voice was so very loud that it echoed through my chest and rattled every bone of my ribcage, making even my blood seize up in terror and stop throbbing for a moment.
That was her name and yet she resembled me in every other way. She had my big eyes, my molten chocolate skin and the same big crop of black curls as I did on my head; she looked like me, laughed like me and when I looked into the mirror mounted on the inner door of my wardrobe, it was she I saw smirking back at me.
She had everything that I had and one more thing. She had my confidence.
It wasn’t so much that she’d stolen it from me, but that I had given it to her, holding it out like a little child holds out a palmful of soil and grit to a stranger; blissfully unaware that dirt is not a gift. But to the naysayer I did not give dirt. I gave her the most precious and prized thing that I possessed. I gave to her the beautiful pearl that was my confidence and let her wear it on a garish chain around her neck and make an ugly thing of it.
Whenever I looked at her in the mirror, I always caught a glimpse of that pearl’s splendour and wondered how I could ever get it back; how I could ever wear it around a beautiful chain of silver and adorn my own being with its beauty.
“You will never amount to anything! You are worthless!”
The voice was getting stronger and louder, causing my ears to sting and tears to form within my eyes.
“Naysayer, you are a liar! I will make something of myself. I am nothing that you tell me I am!”
Her mocking laughter sounded like a pack of shrill bats shrieking across the night sky.
“You belong to me and always will! You are nothing!”
“No!” I cried, wrapping my hands tight against my ears, my tears now soaking my face with salty pain. “No!”
In fearful desperation for the noise to stop, I went before the mirror once more and stood across from my nemesis, watching her laugh back at me, shuttling my pearl between her fingers like a pebble.
Amid my tears, I found voice to speak.
“Naysayer, for many years I have feared you and revered you at the same time. I have allowed you to speak into me and bark at me. I have taken it all like helpless prey takes a vulture’s attack. I have stood and watched you make a toy of my most precious gem and all I have ever done in response is to stare wistfully at what I could have; what I could have been. But today, I say I am done. Today, I tell you that I will no longer listen, no longer tremble, no longer cry. Today, I will shout louder than your words and listen for their magic. Today, I will listen to the voice within.”
The naysayer smirked and chortled, dragging up a slug of sputum from her chest, all the way up her throat and finally, she catapulted it out of the back of her mouth to land stickily across my face.
“You are nothing!” she laughed.
But for the first time ever, I did something more than cry in response. I didn’t rattle or tremble or cower or crawl away. I did not shut my eyes and ears tight and hope that in so-doing, she would disappear, for she never did. No.
Instead, I stood boldly before her and laughed along with her; laughed so hard that all the stale air from the pit of my belly escaped from inside of me and made way for heaving breaths of new life. I laughed until I cried, letting the tears soak my face through again, washing away the sticky mess of her spit and spite, allowing cleansing like a baby ‘s first bathe after birth.
I laughed and laughed until the naysayer stood cold and stern like a pillar of stone. From the blur of my half-shut eyes, I could see her rage building.
“You only do as I say for you to do!” she hissed, groping at the pearl around her neck.
“And you only do as I say for YOU to do,” I echoed.
The naysayer stood still, transfixed by my audacity.
“You are only a reflection of me. You are not real. You have no authority over me for if I reach out to touch you, I realise you are only glass; cold glass that can shatter into a million pieces of nothing. I am the living one, the one who tastes the air and feels the blood coursing through my being. I am the one who has made you and therefore, I have dominion over you. Naysayer, you will always live within me but today I have decided that rather than allow you to laugh at me, I will laugh with you. I will laugh because you are stupid and worthy of no other response. But mostly, I will laugh because of my joy at knowing that my confidence is something that you do not possess."
With this, the naysayer looked back at me quizzically.
“Yes, my confidence is not your possession. That pearl around your neck does not even begin to measure how much I can be for I am limitless and richer than can ever be quantified with one gem. All of me is precious stone, so why should I chase after one piece that you do not even own?! Away with you!”
And with that, I closed my wardrobe and walked across my room to the vase of new spring flowers sprouting on the window sill. Their leaves looked greener and sturdier than they had ever done before. Within the folds of older leaves, I noticed a new bud pushing its way quietly through the soil.
“New life,” I whispered softly, addressing no one and nothing in particular.
And then I drew the baby-blue curtains of my room and in the soft dusk light, I began to write.