It’s December 7th 2019, exactly 100 days since the launch of My Name Is Why at The Edinburgh Book Festival. I have just arrived at Heathrow Airport from a few days filming and performing in Ethiopia. My phone pings “Welcome home” a text from Lara, my assistant, “Don’t forget the interview tomorrow”. As I walk through the terminal I feel the darkness. I slouch in the taxi as David Bowie and Bing Crosby lament The Little Drummer Boy “Bah rumpa pump pum” . The game’s up. Christmas is coming. I’m due a crash.
Since publication day in Scotland it has been a non-stop speedway and I have loved every single minute of it. My email inbox, twitter DM’s, Facebook and instagram messages are a tidal wave of love and kindness. “Come to our house for Christmas” said one “Stay with our family” said another. I’ve met some incredible people like the young woman in a book-signing queue (blackwells in Oxford) with tubes protruding from her nose. Breathing heavily between words she said “I am….. waiting… for a…. new lung… but I checked…. myself out… to be here”. Bless her.
My Name Is Why reached Number One in The Sunday Times Bestseller list. Number one!? I thought I was doing good, being Lemn Sissay, being my authentic self, but I was moonwalking. It looked like I was going forward when actually I was going backwards.
The taxi driver is talkative. Too talkative. I’m not aware of what he is saying and I am not even sure he is. He is outside of the taxi knocking on the window “are you okay. Are you okay” He’s driving too. We are bouncing down the dual carriageway. West to East. I’m shattered. Where are the family I searched for? Who are the family I searched for? Who am I? Was this all worth it? Any of it? I implode and explode. I’ve shattered into thousands of splinters splaying outwards in a fan of mirrored shards in all directions. Ridiculous. True. Ridiculous. True. Every reflection is laughing back at me.
I still have no next of kin on my passport. ffs. I leaf through the tatooed paper in the cab and throw it into my bag. All the theory of how to institutionally annihilate a human is in my story. Front and centre. But it isn’t a story. Christmas is coming. It’s true. I live with the consequences. This isn’t news to me. This happened. And it’s happening now. I arrive at my London apartment, close the door behind me, and make a deal. I can’t go out. I won’t go out. I must count what I have not got. Like a miser. I can’t talk to anyone. Except on the phone. I can’t see anyone.
And that was my Christmas.