There are things that happen that define your entire life. You start to think of yourself in terms of before and after that event. You try to pick yourself up and move on because shit happens and it is part of life and dwelling would do you no good. You know all those skirts or dresses that refuse to stay down when it gets windy. You take a step forward and the wind hits you and your skirt is up in your face. Then you have to stop whatever you are doing and hold the skirt down to cover your nakedness. This is probably not the best analogy but it is what comes to mind. What has happened has happened, and you try to move on but the wind blows. There are things that remind you, take you back without your permission. Then you find yourself stopping to put yourself together when all you really want is to forge ahead and get on with your life.
I will be old and grey and still have that scene playing in my head. I want to know what changed, when it changed and why it changed. Was it something I did or said? How do you go from laughing and talking about how you had such a nice time to fighting for your life? If as I lay in my bed one night, my family had been woken up by the workers of violence and in the process of robbing us an armed robber had taken me aside I would have chalked it down to a senseless act of violence by people who live by violence. I still have not been able to put this in a box, to understand it and put it in one corner of my brain forever because I have finally figured it out. I was nineteen and I had known him for fifteen of my nineteen years. My earliest memory was of him carrying me on his neck to see what was happening in front of church. I remember the pink dungarees I wore; it had this big white rose in front. My mom said I had owned it since I was about four years. Fifteen out of nineteen is basically all my life right? So you can understand why I did not think twice when he called and told me he was in town. I called a cab and paid the cab my own money with my own hands to take me to my nightmare for life.
He is the last born and he always told me I was the little sister he never had. We met in church and he became inseparable. Our parents became friends because of us. Whenever I was home on holidays from the boarding house he was the first to come visiting. Never, in all our years of friendship did he even hint that he wanted more. Not even when I had a crush on him and I used all the versions of my name and his name to do flames till I finally got lovers. Be careful what you wish for right?
It was a Wednesday and I wore a black skirt and a black blouse with green flowers on it. The blouse was a new one. I remember how giddy I felt. I had not seen him in two years. He was waiting for me outside his house. I alighted from the car and jumped on him with abandon. The first thing I told him was that he was fat and he said my head was still big. Thinking back now, I tell myself maybe I hugged him too tightly. I have questioned every detail of that visit because I want to know why. When I entered the first thing I asked was where his mum was. He said she went to see her sister. Even the house girl was not home, she just left to the market. Now I ask myself why the bells in my head did not go off. I mean we were home alone. Was I just determined to not see all the signs?
You are lying down on the long chair laughing and watching something being described to you then the next minute you are struggling to lift what feels like dead weight off you. No warning, no time to prepare or even negotiate. Oh I screamed and shouted and cried and begged. I reminded him over and over again who I was. I said my name in case he had forgotten. We fell off the chair, rolled on the floor. I got away once and raced to the door. But my legs felt like lead, I couldn’t get there fast enough. He got there first, locked the door, slid open the window and threw the keys down stairs. That moment when you realize you are doomed. I looked into his eyes, hoping to see something of the person I knew, a flicker of conscience. There was nothing. I did not know those eyes. Lying on the floor, my legs trapped beneath me by Daniel’s, hands tied together above my head with his belt. I still cannot recall how the belt got there. Time that day seemed to leap like an antelope. I phased in and out. I remember even begging him to let me come back prepared the next day, that it did not have to be this way. I could almost see the wheels in his head turning as he contemplated whether or not to let me go, and I prayed in my head and begged God. The he said “No, I don’t believe you”.
I asked him why. I was tired of fighting and I could barely see through one eye and I just wanted to know why. He said “You have been asking for this for as long as I can remember. Do not act like you do not want it.” I want it, I like it; those lines echoed in my head over and over again. I do not know if it was the fatigue or what he said but I gave up. I stopped crying, I stopped struggling, and I stopped trying to free my hands from his belt. I just gave up, accepted my fate.
I had withdrawn into my head, wishing I had not worn my new shirt. Scolding myself for not eating, if I had maybe I would have had the strength to fight. I was thinking about basically everything else but what was happening at that moment. I thought I had hidden away safely in my thoughts when I felt pain. It felt like my brain was split into two and I actually saw red. Then everything went black.
I woke up to someone crying. It was that slow kind of waking up when you become aware of things one at a time. You feel your feet then wiggle your toes, then you flex and extend your fingers to make sure they are still there. Then just before you open your eyes you try to remember who you are and where you are. I opened my eyes and asked Daniel why he was crying. I was lying on the long chair; where it all started. He was kneeling on the floor and I can remember feeling sorry for him. He looked broken. He cried and said he was sorry; he had a little to drink before I came and he could not believe he did this. I comforted him. I told him I was alright and it was okay. He called a cab for me, gave me a white t-shirt and blue shorts to wear. I insisted on taking my torn clothes with me. He said he was sorry over a million times before the cab man came and for each “I am sorry” I responded with an ‘it is okay’. I do not know how to describe how I felt; in fact I think it would be safe for me to say I felt nothing. It was like my system had a sensory overload and then shut down.
I still remember the song that was playing when I entered the cab. ‘Shout out’ by Whitney Houston. I had not heard the song before but I recognized her voice. I asked the driver to put the song on repeat. I listened to Whitney give shout outs to the people who made her who she was all the way to school. On getting to my hostel, I met a classmate of mine in front. He saw me and asked if I had been in a fight, and I told him I had just got raped. He laughed so hard and told me I was such a clown. I found myself laughing. That was the day I realized human beings do not like the truth or recognize it.
I honestly had no intention of hurting myself. Or maybe I did. I just wanted to take a hot bath. The water was smoking hot but I did not care, I needed to stop the things that crawled on my skin, I needed to wash away the imprints his fingers left on my skin. I mean what else to wash me clean if not hot water? My sponge became a weapon; I scrubbed and scrubbed till I saw blood and even then I did not stop. I had to wash it away. After scrubbing with the strength I had left, I rinsed with hot water. I wonder if my mother or anybody else believed the “I changed my soap and the new one burnt my skin” story I peddled.
Describing in detail the months that followed would turn this into a book. In summary, I was in darkness. I am not saying that because I think it sounds fancy; the pit of depression I felt, I wouldn’t even wish it for my enemies. Every single thing about me changed, up to the way I dressed and the music I listened to. Don’t get it twisted, I did not start covering up more after, I started covering up less. I was too shy to wear tank-tops without a jacket before but after, I could trek the length and breadth of my school in bumshorts, and I still cannot explain it. My attitude was in direct opposite to how people raped are supposed to act. I went clubbing for the first time, drank alcohol for the first time and made a habit out of it. I became promiscuous too. I was supposed to be scared of boys and freak out whenever a boy touched me but I went down the other road. I meet a guy and I am thinking “don’t try to act like you are interested, let us just fuck and say bye-bye.” I got so angry when they called after sex; I could not understand it because in my head it went ‘you got what you came for so respect yourself and shift.’ The trail of broken hearts I left behind me was unbelievable. Every guy I met then wanted more but I did not have more to give. Never in my life have I attracted so many men, they came from all corners, with all sorts of promises and it nigh drove me crazy.
I stopped going to school, I just stayed in my room and watched series after series. Read novel after novel. My friends were worried about me but as far as I was concerned I was more alright than they were. My explanation for locking myself indoors was that I did not ‘feel like’ going anywhere. I did not attend a single lecture in four months. I had no problem going out at night; going during the day was another ball game. I remember waking up to my wet pillow and telling myself it was sweat because the night was so hot. I was so much in denial that the tears only came out in my sleep and even at that I still denied they were tears.
Then my period refused to come. Two months of no menstruation. I knew I should do something, a pregnancy test at least. But that would be admitting that something happened so I just sat on my ass and watched more Criminal Minds. I told myself I was ‘almost’ raped. Google became my friend, I googled and read everything I could find about rape. Then one day I came across some statistics, one stood out. It said victims of rape have an 85% chance of being raped again. There was an explanation after but I cannot remember it, I just read that one line over and over again. 85%? Was it cancer? Does it mean after being raped the first time you emit ‘please come and rape’ me rays? Is there not a God? I was scared and angry at the same time. It was like a sentence, a reassurance that it would happen again. I was barely surviving the first one then I was supposed to go out the next day knowing there’s an 85% chance of my world falling to pieces again? My world was already in pieces.
That was the first time I cut myself. It was the same blade I had just loosened my hair with. It was there on the head side of my bed and I was crying and I couldn’t stop and I just wanted to stop. It was like I was two persons, the person that picked the blade and slashed her thigh and the person that was shocked and asking “why did you do that?’. I stopped crying and I looked at my blood. I thought about my whole life as my blood seeped out, I realized then that I was a ticking bomb. I did not want to self-destruct. I picked up my phone and called Daniel, I asked him if he had ejaculated inside me. He said “I started but I realized you had fainted so I did not finish.” I do not know why I found and still find this funny. I mean you started and you did not finish? Na sack race? I went to the pharmacy and bought a pregnancy strip. I begged God and made all sort of deals, I even involved blackmail.
The test was negative, that time.
I would be a liar if I say things took a turn for the better and my life went back to normal. Some days were good and some bad and on some days I seriously contemplated standing on the express, but I am still here. That counts for something.
In case you are wondering, I never told.