A non-fictional article about the unseen struggles of people around us. Faces mask different trials, an article that illustrates how important kindness and fellow feelings are, enabling us to be non judgemental. Enjoy.

That evening unfolded at a well-known hangout, a bar actually, a small location bringing different souls, personalities, and spirits together; actually, it was an a-whole-world-in-a-teacup kinda situation. I sat in a corner, sipping my icy cocktail, dripping cool vapors from my plastic cup, darting glances here and there, taking mental notes of everything happening around me. Behold A man, richly bearded, with his hair streaked with gray lines displaying a false sense of maturity, for his face bore no marks of old age, but he is a newly married man, for I saw his left hand lifting his cigar to his half-smiling lips, enabling his gold wedding band to gleam in the dimly lit bar. His companion, a man of equal status, taps his shoulder to bring him back to their previous subject of interest which is a hooker who sat carelessly on the other side of the bar, gyrating slightly to the music blasting from the stereo on the DJ's podium.

I wondered what this man's wife might have done to this man pushing him to find solace in alcohol, cigarettes, and strange feminine company away from home; his face laid bare a lot of emotions ranging from confusion, anger, regret, and pain as his brows drew together in a scowl, his forehead crumpled with worry. His well-wishing feel-good-jolly-fellow of a friend walked up to the young petite young lass who was sipping her Martini slowly and gyrating slightly, whispered into her ears, and elicited giggles from the girl who also laughed coquettishly as she stood up, straightened her low cut skirt and followed the man who led her to his grumpy newly married friend. I watched the trio discuss amidst the din of the crowdy bar; due to youthful, vigorous energy bubbling around, my focus did shift once in a while as I sat still, sipping my drink slowly, watching people troop in to get drinks, get chicken meals and edible fixer-uppers. Young boys who fancy older chicks can be seen with saggy trousers and fake gold chains, and pierced ears who strive to appear cool, standing with their red cups and puffing cigarette smokes in the air.

My eyes went back to the trio again; this time, the girl with a satisfied smile on her heavily made-up face, lept to her previous sitting position and said a few words to another girl who I did not notice before because she sat in the farthest and darkest side of the bar. As her friend left her to disappear into the night with her male companions, her steps springy, the other lass looked around forlornly, sipping her drink as if it was 'agbo' herbal medicine. I peered a little closer at the girl, adjusted my focal lens due to the darkness and I caught sight of a fair-skinned lass, tall framed, bony, and beautiful at the same time. Her skin shone in the dark like neon lights, her nose aquiline, she could almost pass as oyibo girl as her light Hazel eyes glittered and enhanced with extensions she fixed on her eyelids.

Drumming her hawk-like, perfectly manicured fingers on her table, she fights an inner battle, her eyelids batting rapidly, beady perspirations on her forehead, and glazed eyes, yes, right there! Those eyes were beautiful, and they mirrored the war within. Something was amiss. She turned down male advances towards her, stood up, and walked outside in jumpy spastic steps; her cool arms brushed past me because I sat near the door. The bony lass found a seat outside under the street lights, an extension of the bar sipping her unending unpleasant drink, cross-legged, intentionally displaying her long shapely legs. Her eyes can be seen clearer now, and that was when reality hit me like a lightning bolt. The angelic beauty in the dark became a wreck in the light.

I stared long and hard at this lass, and then her gaze caught mine; I saw through her, examined her facial outline, down to her seeming aquiline nose, and I saw it was broken with a little plaster on top to keep it together, her lips were swollen, not from physical abuse I daresay, but they had an unearthly color, dark beet red, slightly blackish. Her soulful eyes were suspended inside huge bags underneath with unhealthy dark circles under both of them like someone who barely sleeps at night. 

She dropped her drink on a stool in front of her and dug her fingers into her purse, frantically searching for something she really needed to take. Her eyes lit up as she found the desired item, a cigarette; she borrowed a lighter from a bar attendant and lit up her cigar and dragged on it deeply, then threw her head back and exhaled huge balls of smoke upwards; almost immediately, she became calm, thus enslaved to substance abuse as clearly written in her dull eyes. I became really sad. I knew this young woman was going through a lot at this period in time. I understood one thing at once about that hangout location; it was a place of temporal Nirvana for lost souls who needed to be freed, caged by their own insecurities, hardships, emotional crisis, abuse, and many tragedies.

Actually, we are all in different struggles; that sad newly wedded man who sought solace in a strange woman's arms away from home did wrong, but his emotional struggles are there. That torn young woman who is actually a hooker, though wrong as her profession was, fights battles daily. Many will make it their daily business to judge suchlike ones, I've had such tendencies too, but I learned one thing for sure, as a friend of mine once said, "Struggle your own struggle, don't struggle another person's struggle, because if you do, you will end up struggling another person's struggle on top your own struggle and it means you ain't struggling your struggle."

Written by Uchendu Ifeyinwa Jemimah

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