This is a story about a bra—one legendary black brassiere that once lived on the boobs of a friend I recently met.
Anytime I think of a bra, I think of suffering. It’s like a soldier standing on his feet from morning till nightfall, It’s like a child carrying more than he could, and yet doesn’t complain of tiredness. It’s like Sisyphus rolling his rock to the mountain top knowing very well that when he gets to the peak of the mountain, the rock will roll back to the bottom of the mountain. His work never ends.
The work of a bra ends at night, only for it to begin again in the morning. No wonder some women complain about their bra trying to stab them in the heart. When your back is against the wall, you can only think of stabbing the one holding you to the wall. This is for all the suffering bras—carrying big and small loads for all day without pay.
After one of my social media training in Accra, one of the attendants walked up to me and said; “Nice presentation you did up there. Can we talk about business one of these days?”
She gave me her card. I called her number on the card so she could have my number too.
A week later, after a heavy night of rainfall, I saw a call on my phone; “Jill Social Media Class calling.”
“Good evening Nesta. This is Jill. The lady from the social media class.”
“Hello, Jill, nice hearing from you. I thought you were never going to call.”
“Oh really? So why didn’t you call?”
“Anyway, it’s about what I discussed with you the last time we met. Can we meet tomorrow so we discussed the details?”
“Tomorrow is fine with me.”
I was there very early to create the impression of someone who doesn’t joke with time and business. She joined later and sat in front of me. We were barely inches away from each other. She looked at me and smiled. I smiled back—shyly.
I looked at her—I looked at her the way you would like to look at someone you are interested in. Beautiful set of eyes hidden in a deep socket. Rounded lips with ringed neck, and a chest so flat like she’s yet to grow some breast.
“There’s this Foundation I want to start and grow on social media, and I would need your help,” she said. “My aim is to start a movement around my own life’s story.” “Your own life’s story? What’s your story?” I queried.
“Look at my chest,” she said. “It wasn’t always like that. You men don’t look at me twice these days because I lack everything that would make a man turn and look back at a woman once or twice on the street—flat ass. Flat chest. Flat traffic from the eyes of men. I’m not worried”
I was a little bit embarrassed but I mustered a fake smile and took a sip of air from the empty glass in front of me. “Do you care for more juice,” She asked. “No no no, I’m good.” I lied.
She continued, “I found myself a pretty boyfriend when I was at the twilight of my youth. He was twenty-five and I was twenty-one. He wasn’t my first boyfriend but he had me with all my innocence intact. Jude, he was one stupid boy. I loved him nonetheless. Those were the periods when my breast had the bragging right; Firm, rounded and usually melted in the palms of those I loved to caress with.
I owned a lot of brassieres but there was this one I wore six days a week. It was a black bra and it had this magic of plumping my asset up so the Stevie Wonders of this world could see. It had a history and that history made me love it the more. My first ever boyfriend got it for me on my birthday. The very first day I put it on in front of my mirror, I heard a voice say, “This is where your boobs belong” and I never wanted to take it off.
When I met Jude (that stupid boy), the bra was almost giving up but I kept wearing it every day and he took notice of it. He said, “Don’t you have anything else to put your boobs in apart from this one?” The younger me would have been embarrassed but not what I had become then. I told him; “What do you even know about bras? I have about ten different bras and they are all black because black is my favorite color.”
At this moment, my world was black and my mind was thinking of bras because that was all I was hearing. I took another sip of air from that empty glass. Again! This time, she didn’t ask. She signaled the waiter to bring another glass of juice. I was grateful and ready to hear more about that black bra.
“So Jude kept making fun of my bra anytime he saw it but I wasn’t going to stop wearing it just because a stupid boy like him didn’t want me to. At one point I asked him, “Is it the bra you want or what’s in the bra?” He didn’t have to answer that. His stupid face said it all.
Every story has its one day. This is where the “one day” in my story comes. So one day, I had a call from my mom in the UK and that call changed everything that I am. She said; “Jill, you need to come over. All is not well.” A week later, I was with her.
The short of it all was that mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. A month prior, her junior sister was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Upon her doctor’s request, I was called in to have a check-up too. After a series of scans and biopsies, my gravest fear was confirmed; I had cancer too. Two little lumps in my left breast. Everything around me started fading out. I thought of death and how soon it was gonna come.
I didn’t know who to cry for; mom? aunt? or myself? “Are we all going to die?” I thought. But all was not lost though we lost aunt some few months later. The scans I did indicated that the tumors were benign but looking at my genetic history, the doctors advised that I do a preventive surgery to prevent the tumors from ravaging what’s left of me.
The doctors mentioned prophylactic mastectomy as the sure way to survive it. Prophylactic Mastectomy sounds like two beautiful words you’ll like to say when you want to sound overly learned but it means something mean. It means the removal of one’s breast as a way of reducing the risk of breast cancer. I was going to lose my two breast because the kind of genes I inherited made it easier for cancer to grow.
Days before my surgery I cried. I was scared of who I was going to become without my breast but survival was more important. And the black bra also needed some rest from it all.
Jude was sympathetic when he heard the news. He always checked up on me. I sent him photos after the surgery and he replied with a sobbing emoji. I came to Ghana a different woman—one without breasts and without confidence. When Jude saw my bare chest the first time he was shaken up. He was putting up the face of a stronger guy but I saw the discomfort in his eyes. That was when I realized he wouldn’t survive the rest of the relationship. I told him; “This is me now. No boobs, no black bra. Just me.”
He stood there nodding his head and the next few days he was gone. He left without a trace. You see why I called him stupid?”
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I looked down at my glass of juice and it was…empty. Nothing to fill my mouth with, I looked at her face thinking of what to say. “You said in your story that you wore that black bra six days a week. What did you do on that one day that you didn’t wear it?” “I washed it!” She said. We both burst out laughing!
We sat there quietly for a while. She looked tired from talking so she took a long sip of juice and sighed. I sat there processing the story I just heard and asked myself what to do with it.
“So, you want to give all this part of your life away on social media?” I broke the silence. “Yes! She answered, “Who knows, I may help save one or two.”