Beyond Notes

Beyond Notes

A Story by Mary Helda

Lucky pushed through the crowd. Her petite frame wedged between hundreds of conference participants in the networking hall. Laughter floated through the room, and some people held onto their business cards.

The five-day conference had almost come to an end. She felt exhausted. She wanted to stay in her hotel room and sleep for 12 hours. But, unfortunately, she had to go back to the Luxet Hotel in two hours for a private dinner being organised by one of WanDano’s funders.

As she walked to her Airbnb, she reminded herself of why it was important for her to go to the event. On days like this, she had to constantly remind herself of her vision and why this work mattered so much.

When she was 15 years of age, she had been in class studying Chemistry, when she was called to the headmistress’s office.

“Excuse me, Mr Lujja, I have been sent to call Lucky to the headmistress’ office.”- a student called out from the door.

Lucky walked through the block of classrooms as she made the way to the administration block.

“Naye, bana mwe, all you do is sleep and eat, I come in every day to teach, and you fail? Better get ready for the Friday assembly. You will all be given kibokos in front of the assembly” �" She had a teacher say as she passed near the O’level block.

“Aya”, Lucky muttered to herself. She didn’t want to be in their place. Now that she was in S.5, they were the “adults” and no one subjected them to such corporal punishment. As she entered the headmistress’s office, she noticed her uncle John sitting in the corner.

Uncle John was her mother’s youngest brother and her favourite uncle. She run to him and threw her arms around him. His body seemed stiff, his face grim, and when he opened his mouth to speak, nothing came out. Her heart sunk.

“What happened?” Lucky asked.

Uncle John looked at her and said, “It is your brother.”

Lucky froze. He didn’t need to finish the words because she knew that her brother was gone.

Her brother had just come to visit her with their parents a week ago on visiting day. The brother they all fondly referred to as “boy”. The brother she bickered and fought with but would kill anyone who came laid their hands on him. That brother? He was gone! Impossible, she thought to herself.

A bitter and dry taste swirled around in her mouth and tied every nerve ending. A taste that lasted for ten months. During those months, she was incapable of uttering a word to anyone. Her parents forced her to start seeing a therapist after three months of silence. The therapist recommended writing which helped her communicate and understand her emotions.

Every night, she wrote. Her writings explored her denial, regret, fear, sadness and anguish. She was angry that he chose to kill himself. She wrote about her anger towards him for leaving her.

Lucky sighed. She took a deep breath and pushed those memories away. This was why she started WanDano. She wanted to create safe spaces for people struggling with mental health to find help. Over the past five years, WanDano positively affected over 85,000 people in Uganda. They used music, dance, writing and other artistic ways to provide support to people who needed it.

The event presented an opportunity to meet potential investors. When she walked into her hotel room, she quickly took off her clothes and got into the shower.

An hour later, she was at the Nabagereka Hall. There was chatter around the room, voices bounced through the walls, and wine glasses clicked against each other. Lucky sat at her table with a philanthropist, a researcher from Japan and three social entrepreneurs from Nigeria. They talked about the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the fundraising space.

“I do agree with you, Lucky, the pandemic has definitely affected funders too but in the case of some funders, particularly those with a much bigger fund, they could have done more to support grantees.” �" the philanthropist said.

“I suppose we can take lessons from it and do better next time” �" Lucky replied.

In the background, the band started playing a very familiar song. A song that had been lurking in the corners of her ears, waiting to be summoned out, a song that always managed to infiltrate every part of her soul and left her body feeling light and transient.

“You know the way my blood runs
’Cause darlin’ you’re the only one
Can you and I go somewhere?
Go somewhere we can be alone
Lying like John and Yoko
Or fake our deaths and leave
Am I tripping, are you with me?
’Cause darlin’ you’re the only one” �" The singer belted the first verse of Tom Walker’s “Play Dead”.

His voice reminded her of dark chocolate with shredded coconut. Dark. Rich. Smooth and rough at the same time. It melted and dissolved on the tongue and left tiny pieces that begged you to pay attention and use every part of your mouth to delight in it.

As soon as he started the chorus, her eyes locked with the singers.

“Slow down your heartbeat
Close your eyes and don’t speak
Lay with my body
Play dead, play dead with me”
No need to escape
We can find our own way
You got me hiding in cupboards
Play dead, play dead with me” �" He sang.

His gaze commanded the hairs on her skin to stand. Time stilled. She clasped her hands on her lap, and little droplets of sweat slid down the back of her neck and face. She used the back of her hand to wipe her brow. She closed her eyes.

“We’ll stock up some ration
So we don’t have to leave this room
I’m dead, don’t care what happens
As long as I’m in here with you” �" The singer carried on with the second verse.

“Open your eyes.” �" He whispered through the microphone. Intuitively, her eyes opened. It was an eternity before the song ended. As soon as it did, she excused herself and rushed to the bathroom. She took deep breaths and exhaled.

“That was a moment, right?”, Lucky looked in the mirror and asked herself. “Or am I imagining things? Daydreaming, maybe? Wishful thinking, perhaps? There is no way a connection like that is possible, right? Right! Right! Right! I am only imagining things.” �" She said.

Lucky stepped out of the bathroom, convinced that nothing had happened. She kept the encounter off her mind for the rest of the night as she networked and achieved her goal of coming to dinner. As the event ended, she requested a ride, grabbed her purse and walked out into the cool Kampala air.

“Walk with me.” �" a voice said from behind her. She turned to find herself staring into the Singer’s eyes. A brief silence passed between them. She muttered under her breath, “you are real.”

A smile spread across his face as he asked, “Do you want to pinch me?”

“Uhm, well, I just thought that maybe, I don’t know, it all seemed very, uhmm, huh..” Lucky paused. “You know what? Yes, I would love to go on a walk with you.” �" Lucky continued.

They started down the dimly lit road. They talked about their shared love of music. They ended up at an empty football pitch where they sat and talked about their childhoods and lives. She shared their deepest regrets, fears and hopes for the future. She told him about her brother. He told her that he wanted to make the world a better place through his music. He spoke so profoundly about the healing powers of music. A sentiment they both shared. It felt like they had known each other in another life and the one before that…

The Singer stood up and stretched out his hand to her; “dance with me.” he said.

She stood up and put her little hand in his. He pulled her close to him and wrapped his arm around her. Even when there was no music, their bodies swayed. Their heartbeat strung a sweet melody that kept their feet moving. Their breathing formed notes that wafted through the air….

Suddenly, a streak of lightning passed through the night.

Their bodies started unfolding and the musical notes between their bodies garbled…

“Child. Please take your medicine.” Lucky’s mum called out to her. It broke her heart to see her once cheerful daughter like this. Starring into the abyss. In a constant state of hallucinations.

She hoped that most of her thoughts were good. She wanted to reach her and let her know that she was not alone. Her daughter smiled and whispered, “Dance with me.”

© 2023 Mary Helda

Author's Note

Mary Helda
It has been a while since I posted. I rarely write anymore but I am finding my love for writing again.

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A wonderful story shared dear Mary. and the below lines were my favorite.
"She hoped that most of her thoughts were good. She wanted to reach her and let her know that she was not alone. Her daughter smiled and whispered, “Dance with me.”
I liked the ancient words. If we save one person, you will save your heart. If you save many. You will save your soul. Thank you for sharing the amazing story.

Posted 1 Year Ago

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Added on February 10, 2023
Last Updated on February 10, 2023


Mary Helda
Mary Helda

Kampala, Christian, Uganda

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A Story by Mary Helda