I read something in Intimations by Zadie Smith that I was hesitant to relate to, because I have been afforded the fortune to be in a man’s body, and a tall one at that. So it baffles me that I’d always related the most to strong women on TV shows: Claire Underwood from House of Cards; Princess Margaret on The Crown, as well as the depicted monarch in the same show. I know I’m as far removed from those situations as literally everybody else in the world, but all of them had this resilience. I wanted that.

In Peonies, the first essay in Intimations, she expounded and pondered about her female existence. Then she wrote:

‘At the end of it all, if I was lucky, I would become the most piteous of things, an old lady, who already understood was a figure everybody felt free to patronise, even children.’

Then I’d step out in an Ibanese women garb, which I’d seen before in some civics textbook when I was in secondary school. Always, I’d wake up at that point, and there’d be a rattle in my bones. I got used to it as I grew up. But when I was a kid, ine would be right there if I woke up afraid. It’s always like she knew when I would make that dream. She’d hand me a glass of water. Then she’d stroke my hair, and her soft coos faded into the night only as I returned to sleep.

Then she’d go on to tell me I’ve forgotten about that dream of becoming a shaman again. She’d always talk to me about it as if she was actually inside that dream.

‘Don’t you see? Don’t you understand? You are a vessel of the celestial. You’ve transcended; you can heal!’ ine always says. ‘I’m supposed to tell to heed that dream, that calling. But you already have enough worries weighing on your chest.’

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