Quicksand by Joy Humphrey


“Do you remember the feeling of walking under water?”


“It’s hard right? But it’s possible.

Deep breaths.

Now have you ever gotten stuck in quicksand?”


“It’s impossible, isn’t it? It feels as though you’re trapped with no way out.”

Eyes closed. Hands trembling.

That’s how I feel most of the time.”

It took a lot to get here. Two months precisely. Two months of staring at each other for an hour. Two months of sudden tears. Two months of quiet patience and angry glares. 

“Would you like to tell me more?”

Eyes open. Hands trembling. Quiet breaths.

Do you know the feeling of getting an expected slap? It hurts, right?”


“Now imagine if you hadn’t expected it. Imagine if it creeps up like a thief and steals the breath from your lungs, hurts as though your face is on fire. Tell me, doctor, which would you prefer?”

“The expected slap.”

“Exactly. I don’t get that though.”

Deep breaths. Steeled resolve.

“The feeling of quicksand creeps up on me. Sometimes when I’m laughing, sometimes as soon as I wake up, sometimes when I’m doing nothing, often times when I’m surrounded by people.”

“An overwhelming sense of sadness just creeps up on me and it steals every joy, every happiness- as though it never existed. It encompasses my being as slowly but surely as quicksand.”

“Tell me, doctor, do you know how to escape from quicksand? How to make sure that you’re not dragged under, drowning in all that sand?

A slight headshake. Anger and sadness rising.

“You grab hold to the nearest sturdy branch; you pray that it’s enough to free you from your imminent doom.”

“Do you know my sturdy branch, doctor?”

A slight nod.


“You’re right, doc. When I’m lost in all that sadness, begging myself to hold on and failing to do so, the pain helps. A pin-prick, a slit thigh, a quick bite of pain to snap me out of it.”

“Do you know, doctor, that sometimes I try to claw my way out? I try to avoid the pain because you see, for me, pain is pain and well, it’s painful, it hurts. I hate pain. But do you know what happens then, doc.?”

A head shake and a quiet…


“Well, I wallow. I get stuck in the sadness and I hurt the people I love with my anger and sadness and every negative emotion.”

“Do you know how that makes me feel, doctor?”


“It feels like I should die. I become this horrible, toxic person that I’d never be otherwise.”

“So do you know what I prefer, doctor?”


“I prefer the pain. The hurt. Because I swear, doctor, I have never been free, especially not from my emotions.” 

Deep breath.

“But the moment I hurt; I feel free. I feel relief, I feel control. At least, until the guilt sets in.”

Deep breath. Eyes of steel.

But you know what, doctor?”


“I would hurt a thousand times, choose a thousand scars, than drown in quicksand.”


Joy Humphrey likes to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of the world. Like a hidden puzzle, she’s far from the limelight and that gives her the chance to simply be, in all her simplicity and complexity so that she can shine brighter than the brightest stars.


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Pencilmarks and Scribbles Magazine was founded in 2017 by Clara Jack to be a home for African writers, asking them to come as they are and giving them room for growth. The publication aims to give back to the Nigerian Literary scene for the things it has given us.