I live astride the fence. Sometimes I look to the right, other times to the left. And sometimes, I look forward, my eyes tightly shut. Sometimes the noise is deafening, and sometimes it’s just a lull. But it’s always there. Words fly around like feathers in the wind, my ears catch every single one of them and sometimes I wish my hands could catch them too.

Here on the fence, I can see both sides clearly. I can see the good of each side, the bad too. Sometimes I grant all my vision to one side. I enjoy the sound of their pleas, the persuasive looks in their eyes. But then I hear the accusations from the other side, the disappointment, the sadness. And so I look to the other side and try to appease them despite my silence.

Here, I feel free. I’m not chained to any side, not sworn to any group. Sometimes I play the role of Judge. After all, I can see and hear all clearly here. I try to make peace, but every time, I’m accused of favouritism, hypocrisy and labelled a traitor. But that’s ok. It’s just one of the things I have to deal with as long as I’m here.

Neither side has access to the other, but they still accuse each other and throw insults and abuse over the fence. Of course, I have to bear the brunt – I’m the one on the fence after all.

Sure, I enjoy being here, but there are downsides to that too. Sometimes the argument on the right side is so convincing that it takes all my willpower to keep from jumping down the fence immediately. Other times, the left side is so enticing that I have to shut out the voices to keep from jumping down. The fence is uncomfortable. And I have to be careful when I adjust my posture to avoid accidentally falling to any side. When the birds fly past, I’m reminded that the freedom I experience here is limited. I wish I could be as free as they are. But then I’m grateful I’m on the fence – at least I have that much freedom.

It’s not just the words flying around that make me uncomfortable. There’s a voice in my head – one that I know is true, the voice that keeps telling me that I can’t stay on the fence forever. I will have to choose a side one day if I want to be truly free. I know this voice is true and I want to heed, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my existence trapped on the wrong side of the fence. But what if the voice isn’t true? What if there’s no side is right or wrong? What if it is mere Providence that decides who lives on the right side and who lives on the left, and maybe even who lives on the fence?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, so for now, I will enjoy my time here, on the fence. I will hold on as tight as I can, and I will think as hard I need to. When it gets too hard I will imagine that I was a bird, fantasise about possessing freedom as sublime as theirs. And then maybe one day, I will follow my heart. Maybe I will jump down one side of the fence, never to look back. And maybe I never will.

Ai’sha Ibrahim