LET’S NOT RUIN IT
Am at ShopRite now, alone, sitting in a table of four, white plastic seats stare at me, the feel uneasy like I am a threat to their peace, that I could get up and fling them off. But I don’t, even though I know I could. I sip my coke, the dark liquid turning cocoa brown as it runs up my straw, exploding in my mouth, exciting my taste buds. My movie starts in 10 minutes time. I go to the counter to get a hot-dog for the movie. I meet a couple –in love. The lady is dark with braids falling on her back. She is on a light blue jean jacket on top a jade sleeveless blouse and a straight cut black denim trouser. While the guy –backing me, is on a black sports polo with the number 8 written at the back in blazed green and a sweat pant with a black snickers. He moved an offending braid away from her face to the back and ran his hands down to her left chin, it seemed to come alive like a bright filter had been applied there.
“I want the Vanilla flavor she said school-girl manner. He smiled, anything for you…
That was what he said to me that night… Jude. Jude of the hairy chest.
It was on a Friday night, it had rained. I got caught up in it and was drenched. He picked me up from Imsu Junction and we drove to his hostel. I had my bath, got warm and changed into his ashy sweater with the word “Jersey” painted red in front. If I think about it. I think I am cursed with an eye for detail. I can’t forget things, well certain things. I came out from the bathroom, with only the sweater on. I saw his eyes, traced it; from my sunken eyes, to my breast that poked out the letters “JE” and the “Y”, to my thighs, he was lost. He walked gingerly towards me. Drew my breath with short kisses. Pulled up the sweater. And I felt his soft hands on my skin and just after he said it; “you know I’ll do anything for you?” it began; the fidgeting, the clogged throat, the need to scream, the veins flooding on my forehead. The need to break free and the tears bursting out like my hymen did when you tore into me… pop!
It was on the cushion with a wooden handle, where you once caught me at sleep, my skirt pulled up to my thighs exposing the green thread of my underwear. You slapped me awake. It stung on my laps –your fingers. You told me to get up, we had guests and I shouldn’t disgrace our family. I smiled, shrugged and shuffled to the room. I was sure you loved me. Always looking out for me, your annoying cousin.
Somehow, I never forgave you for the slap, it left three finger prints on my laps. I sought for my revenge and thankfully I found it later that night. It was “Tom and Jerry” we were watching on Cartoon Network. You frowned, sat with your legs crossed. And well, I smiled. It was a temporal victory, I wouldn’t let you have the remote. The more you scowled, the more I laughed, sniggered; those painful ones. You wanted to watch football –the highlight of the match between Barcelona and Real Madrid was it? I marveled at Jerry, the mouse. It had grown so big, tall and very muscular, and challenged Tom, the cat, to an all for all fist fight. They exchanged blows, took it good and dished back fiercely. I laughed hard, when Tom’s tooth fell back into his throat and the noise that came out from it was that of metal meeting metal. Jerry’s right eye was bloodshot, swollen, an exaggerated purple like my thighs would…
You strolled gingerly, determined. I smiled and braced for a fight. I told you straight up; all the muscle you had can’t and wouldn’t intimidate me –not even your university beards. I shoved the remote at my back and sat on it and dared you to take it. But that didn’t stop you. You pulled my two legs, so I lay flat on the cushion. But you wouldn’t stop. You tried reaching for the remote from the side. I struggled with you. I laughed at how easily I could match your strength. You became fiercer. Getting tired…I muttered “Obi you would rape me o! I will shout rape o!” (Did this encourage you? Did I suggest the idea to you?) You didn’t stop. You came on top me, my gown was pulled up by that movement. Soon the struggle became possessed, your hands became confused; they explored me, ransacked my nipples –my little 11year old nipples. Caved down, grabbed my buttocks. I felt something prick me. I became scared. My voice more sober. Obi! I called, it fell on stone walls. You roved more, held my arm –the left one, pinned it to the wooden chair. The right was tucked behind my back, useless. Obiechina! I screamed. Your hands left my arms. To my mouth, keeping them quite. Your elbow pinned the relieved arm. Your knees dug into my fragile femur, bruising them. You pulled apart my pants and broke in. I tried to shout again, but I stopped. I watched you, silent. How you became an animal. How Obi was no longer here, but something else. I laid there, subdued, stolen, an object whisked away at night. Tell me, when you were done, what did you see in the eyes that stared back at you, vacant and silent? What made you run out and into your room, silent? What made you decide to pack-out and stay in a hostel afterwards? Disgust, hate or anger? Perhaps all the above?
Do you know I can’t have sex anymore? I mean I can. You can hold me down, tie up my legs, arms and duffle my mouth and then insert your penis –in and out, in and out till you stutter and convulse like a tired athlete. However, you would at a point, want me to moan, bite down on my lower lip, pull your hair or mine and look at you in need, to scream your name. To shout “Fuck me harder! Go faster baby! Or take it slow…” Then moan a little bit more. You see, I can’t express this. Sex to me is a bank robbery; you break in with force, frighten everyone inside, take want you want –sometimes leave a mark here or there. And you don’t look back.
I died before my 11th birthday, two weeks after you had left in a hurry. It was gradual, slow and painful. I was dying, your Mma was leaving: The girl who would prepare bath water for Mother and Dad as early as 5:30 am, who will always carry heavy three year old Junior against his manly protest to bath him. The Mma that would always insist on warming your food before you eat it, even though you don’t mind it hot or cold. The Mma you were so sure of, would make a good wife. That Mma, you nailed her to the soft cushion that had a wooden frame –you crucified her. What you left were clothes that would fade with time. And it did, Mother poured in the bleach.
Mother had bought a lovely pink dress that had rose petals with an orange nub tapered on it –just on top my right breast, for my 11th birthday. The cake read “Happy birthday Mma”, Short for Mmachi. Dad calls me Mma; Beauty. It used to feel exotic –the name, I felt exotic, like a rare gem. Like the huge beads mother wore only on Sundays –her precious pearls, even those Sundays had to be special Sundays. But then, I felt ugly like my cake after its icing had been scraped off and marks of rough scrapping left all over its vanilla skin. Mother caught my eyes when I got close to the knife. The handle was blue like your shorts. I shivered, blue was once my favorite color.
Later that night, Mother called me to her room. She stroked my hair and I saw a shimmer, a feint glint of tears brewing behind her large set eyes. They were like a mirror that didn’t reflect you but washed you clean. She was like mother confessor in the hit TV-series “Legend of the Seeker”.
“Mma” she crooned; “talk to your mother” I remember feeling dizzy, my eyes dribbling loosely round its socket, like every activity pooled on my fore head, made me tilt towards her soft nape, her Baby-Cussons’ scented skin. Then I broke down and I cried and cried. I stopped and then began again. She remained quiet all through and knowing her daughter, she knew it was just a matter of time before I came clean. “Obi raped me” I managed slightly. Getting no response, I screamed “mummy Obiechina raped me! Obi raped me!” I collapsed…
She tore me out of her chest, tears corrugating her neck, staining the nape of her top. She gave me the kind of look Rev. Sister Chijoke –my Principal at Federal Girls College, gives when your hand finds its way at your back, blocking her caning. Mother pulled me apart and for a second looked me over. I understood the conflict in her eyes, the silence of her lips that weaved signs.
“When did this happen?” she asked. I replied two weeks ago and she was silent and then she nodded, the same nod she had given Junior when he did not shed a tear while she applied methylated spirit on the cut on his leg, which he got when he stepped on the broken glass at the dining room –the pieces of a crystal jug that once decorated our dining table.
You know, she didn’t tell Dad. She mentioned about a boy bullying me in school which she would fix while dropping me off in school. But when she got back, she was calm. She requested I narrate exactly how it happened –I think she hoped to find some form of justification for you –I did, vacant, like it never happened to me. Like I would recite a whole page of my Agriculture notebook when preparing for exams.
“Okwa o gi choro ya!” (Is you that looked for trouble) She replied with her arms spread, as if my guilt/fault will creep out of her palms and confront me.
“I ma sina o wu Nwoke!” (Don’t you know he is a man!) She continued. But mummy does that mean he has the right to…and I felt my lips go weak, heavy, I tasted the salt that had then snaked down to my lips, sewing it up. I walked away defeated.
Next morning. Dad walked up to me. His soft unmanly hand caressed my cheeks. It seemed to stoke the tears of yesterday. To pull them out, the whole torrent. But I managed a smile. I managed to restore the twinkle in my eyes I knew he sought.
“Mma m. My beauty. Give daddy a hug!” drawing me close to him. Then I thought about you dear Obiechina. Will you have a daughter? If you do, will you stroke her cheek, follow the trail of her lovely braids to the set jaw she would inherit from you. I’m sure you would want to hug her, hold her. Make her feel secure, that no asshole can nor will hurt her. Will you at the spark of promising her this, remember you were once an asshole?
Mum had decided to hire a help; a skinny looking 13 year old girl whom an aunt from the village forced under my mother’s care. Nkechinyere was a shy 13 year old girl, slow in speech but efficient in the kitchen. I met her when I came back for the long vacation, to resume for my final year as a secondary school student. I was a bold 16year old girl.
She lay on the cushion when I walked in. Her laps smoothened across the top frame of our cushion. She sprang up when I tapped her. “Aunty..unty welcome” she said embarrassed. She was quirky and obedient. You know, I think it is the cushion. It has a way of wafting ideas into one’s brain.
I called her into the room on a Thursday, a week after I got back. We were alone. She sat on the bed, expecting I would give her some of my old cloths –like I had done severally. I caught her eyes staring at my green gown at the wardrobe with a black stone crusted nape. I smiled. “You want it?” I asked, she smiled more, extending her grin so that her cheeks nearly touched her ears. She had a soft brown skin and the skin around her inner thighs were darker. I got close to her, left my hands on her laps, then on her cheeks and kissed her. She was obedient.
I remember leaving for school after two weeks. She was at the door of my room, sulking. I was dressing up; had only my tight and bra on, my light pink pant faintly highlighted. Then I remembered I was yet to give her the green gown I once caught her ogling at. I smiled, “N-K”, I called her and she came in and sat on the bed. I got the gown down from the wardrobe and placed it on the bed. “You can have it” I gestured. “Now wipe that frown off your face”. She gave me a weak smile and her hand slithered from the gown to my thighs. She felt warm. She got up and leaned forward and kissed me. I let her. She broke off, with tears. Streamlining her cheeks. “I love you” she muttered, her face down. I got up from the bed and asked her to leave.
I am done watching the movie. The couple are done too. They look in a hurry to go outside and make out. To continue from where the movie had stopped. They get up. The girl doesn’t wait for the boy to help her get up. She smiles and places a hand on his chest, a promise of a well-earned kiss or a passionate night together.
Outside the atmosphere is hot, bodies press into space. Hate drops on the floor, love waves hello from the counter where colorful things lie at a cost. Loneliness scrolls through a phone. Sadness stares vacant at a movie trailer playing on a large TV screen. Anger folds movie tickets into condensed pockets. There’s a city here. But the couple seem oblivious of this. The walk hand in hand…I want to tell them, I want to shout and let them know –this is the early stage of something that would eventually kill them. But they disappear at the bend.
My stomach purrs, I smile and order my food. Fried rice and chicken with mayonnaise buttered salad at the side, four large slice of plantain forming a foundation at another corner. There’s moimoi (bean cake) in a round disposable shallow cup and a cold bottle of coke with its defrost running parallel forming a racetrack on the bottle. You know, I have always wondered; why people stick to this course; eating their rice first, down to the last grain before they dabble with their meat. Perhaps it worked for the first person who tried it and gave him/her a kind of satisfaction and since then, no one has seen the need to do otherwise. Oh well, I better not ruin it.