Brat Memories

There’s something about wounds that do not leave scars, something about pain that refuses to be made evident, about glass that chips and cracks but does not fall apart. The seemingly almost perfect story that belongs to so many it’s no longer just one story, the story that spans across cultures, individuals, noticeable in phrases like “I’m fine” (muttered on the way from visiting a sick mother). The single story of being okay, a story that truly does not belong to anyone but lives on all our lips. Cracked, refusing us the tremors of an absolute breakdown.

There isn’t much about you that you like to share, you could have had a good story, we all know there’s no such thing as a perfect story. You had comfort, not the kind you ran mad from and poured out of the space between your fingers, but you had enough, you had enough to feel it rip through you when it went all away.

It happened the way most things in life do, the new and shiny turning into the ordinary, flames waning, rain quieting, there are no accurate metaphors for describing how chaos slips in, in every case it’s different. The thing about everyday human stories is that they do not quite reach the extraordinary yet they can never be perfectly duplicated, your story is something like that. Born of a man and woman that were reaching for something else, nights when your father pressed into your mother and all he could think about was a woman he had met years ago and could still recall. He tried to find her between the legs of others and when he finally gave up, settled for closing his eyes right before an orgasm. Your mother who settled for duty like her mother and your great grandmother, the receiver of her duty always shifting, from siblings to mother, settling on daughter for many years. She was reaching for safety, “I do this for you” steadily on her lips.

The cracks started as far back as you can remember, at least you think so now, but you know how it is with the past, we obsess over it and give every meaningless turn significance. Now your memory is populated with suspicious looking evidence. The time you stood at the top of the stairs and heard screaming downstairs, the times that duty and closing of eyes didn’t seem sufficient to hold the pieces together, the times you were away with your grandmother for weekends and could hear her praying in hushed tones, you established a pattern, that the women in your family were always quietly reaching for something, living on so much hope and compromise that they swelled from the insides. The only child, so you spent nights awake imagining what would spill out if their skins were pierced. The age of curiosity where you tried to find what was on all our insides, where you ripped teddy bears and pierced plastic dolls. Evidence you were always searching for something, perhaps the answer to why we always felt so empty.

As a teenager you learned the value of hate and malice and used it generously, screaming matches against your mother where you admitted to hating her and she corrected you that you hated yourself. Teenage years where you shaved your eyebrows in front of the mirrors you had always avoided, where you loved the boys who barely took notice. When you started to hate your father who had resumed his search like a day never passed, simply woke up one morning with the determination to find the woman that had eluded him, he must have seen her in a dream, maybe one where he had questions and she was the answer, and he woke up with only the questions, you can only speculate. He searched hard, in the rooms of strange women, in bars filled with liquor, through the darkness, till he could only make it home in the morning. He never took notice of all your hate, he didn’t consider it a reckonable enough force, there was obedience left and that was what was important.

Another thing about wounds that refuse to make themselves known is that you can never tell exactly where you’re hurting or how much. There was food, water and an education, even enough left over for the things that were not necessary for survival. To the goal of duty, much had been accomplished.

Through the university there was much to learn, there was a flight away from home, an hour of anxiety brewing in your belly to the unfamiliar rowdiness of Lagos, to crammed roads littered with yellow and black, hawkers with wares that stretched the imagination under an angry sun. Lagos felt like bearing witness to all the stories in traffic, it would all become familiar, the long rides, the cussing, the blistering heat.

You learned a lot from the university, like how to fill and empty your insides in an attempt to find the thing that had eluded you, that had eluded those before you. You learned to fill your insides with so much smoke it came pouring out through every hole, how to fill yourself with another body till sounds escaped your lips, with liquor till you were dancing on tables. There was also the emptying that was improved with each act, demanded a degree of precision, how much water to get in before a meal, the perfect time when it could get back out. The years were spent doing almost everything except what you were really meant to do, you got on well enough, met your dodgy first-year roommate, Ibukun who remained a constant for years after, fell in love with Segun in your first year, David, Wale and Dapo in your final year.

There’s a story you’re trying to tell through all this remembering, it’s something about how you ended in this present place, in a room in Wuse that feels like a million miles from home though it’s only a few kilometers. Far away because you can’t return even if you wanted to, far away because you’re still trying to find yourself and making a million mistakes, the story probably leans a lot on your father and his evidence you still have no access to. There’s always a backstory. Yours is about how hate grew and nothing ever completely healed, through meaningless “I love yous” uttered and prayers that never left your lips with sincerity. There always remained bile between father and daughter, punctuated by a clueless mother who had maintained peace for most of her life it was an instinct. You remember the small acts of rebellion that started with simple tasks.
A party your father insisted you attend, you disappearing in the morning and texting back

“you no longer tell me what to do” because it was the truth

Your father livid. Because it was the truth.

A malice because of this, more silence from the time you called him a lousy man whore and he slapped you hard across both cheeks and took out his belt and you slept over at Ibukun’s for 2 weeks. You always came back, to longer periods of malice for many other reasons, your father with the uneasy temperament of one who was never refused, you with all the foolishness and stubbornness of a young adult. You survived on your mother for long periods of time, your father attempting to snuff you out with hunger. Teach you to come back. Father and daughter soon learned to cultivate a relationship similar to a war zone with a promise of mines, each needing something, an offspring, some money, for society, for security.

The story you’re trying to tell does not end well, at least not yet, you’re still trying to figure out if you should have inherited more compromise, been more quiet, less aggressive, more forgiving. What you’ve learned being here is that a lot of people have survived more horrible bizarre stories, desperation got them here and among these women, Ekem who had desire cut out from between her legs at an early age, Lisa who never revealed her real name but made her way alone from Calabar at 15, battering sex for transport, Reena who sent back money to her mother and 3 sons, women escaping situations that stretched your imagination, among these women who earned less than you, because education is still levied in a sex transaction, among these women, you will always remain the privileged ungrateful brat who threw it all away.

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Ronke (Part 2 of 2)

I took a bus to the island and tseexted Mr. Falade from a small supermarket off Idejo

“Please I need your help sir”

His texts had become erratic and less frequent, from meeting every night to just weekends.

Perhaps another clue for me, maybe he had found someone more satisfying.

There was no reply after an hour.

I debated returning to mother, I imagined her going through the compound screaming “Ronke!”

Maybe she wouldn’t notice today. I wondered if her eyes would swell with tears when she found my empty wardrobe or if she’d say a prayer and move on.

The sun was setting accompanied by panic. I started walking home, walking slowly, what was I thinking going this far. I thought of mother gloating loudly in my ears, screaming her testimony about how God arrested me found a cheap hotel halfway home.

The receptionist eyed me and my belongings suspiciously but decided to slip me his number whispering “In case your body cold for night”

The next day Mr. Falade texted where to meet him as usual, my prior text unacknowledged.

He didn’t acknowledge the text in person either, demanding I turn my face away this time. He barely ever looked at me. As he thumped into me from behind I kept my eyes fixed on the red curtain, it didn’t hurt anymore. I felt myself in the room, then far away. I wanted a way out, all my life I just wanted to escape. When he finished, I began speaking still looking at the curtain.

“Sir please I don’t have anywhere to go from here. Please help me”

Silence

Tears filled my eyes, how did I get here? To this red curtained room and then he spoke, not hiding the irritation in his voice

“How old are you?”

“16”

“What do you think I can do for you? Don’t I already pay you?”

He was right

“I just thought…” I trailed off… I didn’t think

“I can give you somewhere to stay. In Ikorodu, one of my businesses, you’d work for your rent and we won’t have this arrangement anymore. You’d deal with my manager”

I agreed with silence the way we always had.

That was how I met my first family, Oga Salim who was like a father, making sure we got paid in full. Chioma in the opposite room who taught me to count my money before sex. Lade gave me a pocket knife. Cynthia borrowed me her shoes on my first night out.

I didn’t see Mr. Falade anymore but once in a while Mr. Salim would give me envelopes with cash from him. No notes attached, the silence that assured me he hadn’t changed.

Akin was my real promotion, randy as they come. Years later he picked me from the roadside, slipping his hands into my skirt as soon as I got in his car. He was a real bastard

He liked to talk about power and how he owned it, snorting drugs off my stomach after I undressed. The world was divided into hunters and meat for him and I was just another bush rat, some days brought ropes and whips, binding me before fulfilling his appetite. He was an insatiable man.

I tried to stop him, begged, begged Oga Salim who screamed that I was ungrateful.

Lade dabbed my bruises and handed me a gun one night, shouting in pidgin

“Ronke! Off that bastard!”

The last night Akin hunted meat was in his own bedroom, he was demonstrating how he was going to choke me with his belt, the white powdery drug around his nostrils. I sat in the middle of his bed, clutching my bag, my hand on a gun I had never fired. I was shivering.

He must have noticed my fear, I remember his cackling laughter

“Don’t worry the belt will only make it more enjoyable. You’re a common ashawo, this is the only thing you’re good for”

I aimed straight at his head.

I can still remember the panic in his eyes as I pulled the trigger.

Oga Salim visited my room not long after handing me two hundred thousand naira

“We were paid good money for Akin. Tomorrow you’d meet Charles Ekeh.”

Ronke (Part 1)

People obsess over things like justice or morality. I don’t have that luxury. What is right has always been about survival. So many fools try to sugar coat it, try to make us think there’s more, but in the end it is what it is.
I started this job maybe 5 years ago, it was an accidental employment. Maybe not that accidental; my father used to say a liar is also a thief. My point is that some professions are separated by blurred lines.

Akin liked to grope at my butt even when I wasn’t on duty. I mean it, the bastard would take trips to Ikorodu when he needed his fix. The motherfucker didn’t even pay much for the long sweaty nights he spent on top of me, his hands around my neck as he shook violently. I’d learned to stay put just as he liked. He was a bastard and I’d put a hole in him again if I have to.

Mother says bad things happen to wayward women. After my WAEC examination as if to help me cast my doubts the many E8s assured me I had peaked in education. I never had the head for school. My mother always prayed to God for first positions, I sometimes wonder why she didn’t pray for average. The excesses in her requests, for riches instead of food on the table, for dead enemies instead of apologies. It’s useless thinking about that now.
I have always followed my mother to the market for as long as I can remember, we own a big umbrella, a plastic chair and stool. It was my job to go about beckoning women to come fix their hair, which went full time after WAEC.
“Aunty please come, I fit braid well”
I stared at all the “aunties” passing by, trying their best not to meet my eyes as they ignored me. The haughtiness on their faces reminded me of how insignificant I must be to their worlds, no one remembers the market girl hungry for work.
It was in that same market I met Mr. Falade, it was already time for the market to close and I was going to return the bottle for coke I bought from Iyabeji. He was seating in his benz and honked as I passed by. I knew better than to answer so I kept walking till he stuck his head out and shouted
“You with the bottle please come”
I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t used to hearing please or maybe he looked like he had the type of money I could only dream of, either way I went to meet him. He asked for my name and where I was going, he spoke in a thick Yoruba accent, not pronouncing the H’s and switching between Yoruba and English. I knew what he wanted the way he looked at me, like he could see through my clothes, then straight in the eyes like it didn’t matter what I thought anyway.
I got into his car the same day, lucky mother wasn’t in the market. He took me home and made me wash in his bathroom before shoving his fat penis in my mouth. That was our formal agreement. No words and I left with thirty thousand naira afterwards.
I went home and tied the money in an old under pant. Tucking it in my wardrobe as mother brought down God’s wrath on me for coming home so late.
“USELESS GIRL. YOU WANT TO BECOME AN ASAHWO IN THIS HOUSE!”

I continued to make hair at the market then see Mr. Falade afterwards, each day he did something different, some days he just wanted me to touch myself as he watched, other days he would pound me senseless from my butt.
He didn’t talk much so after a while I started working out by myself what it all meant.
The large family portrait meant, he was happily married with two sons.
The fact that he was fucking me in his house meant that his family was abroad. I know some rich men do that.
After a while he got me a nokia phone and would text me the address of where to meet him; Maybe his wife was back visiting.

I began to stay out later and mother got restless, she began to hit me again, slapping sense into me. I didn’t mind all the beatings until she began looking through my things, then the time she found 50 thousand naira in my wardrobe and gave it to the church.

That was the last straw for me. I couldn’t stand this woman, I didn’t care she was my mother, we didn’t agree much on anything. Without really thinking it through, I packed a small bag and walked out on a Sunday morning.

Maybe Mr. Falade will help me, maybe not.

I had my dreams and I refused be contained…

Discipline

A long black studded belt with a golden buckle.

Tunde’s frail hands shakily made for his golden buckle. Bola couldn’t help the thin feeling of pride swimming through her chest. Tunde craved what she could give. She knew she was good. Good for pleasure, she had traded pleasure for more pleasure since 16. Jewels, shoes, even a car. Bola wasn’t a prostitute, she just never refused gifts. Father always said “you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”. Everything was a gift growing up, the gift of food, of shelter and of water. Father provided each of these gifts in return for obedience. “You must obey. Obey to the punctuation mark”. “Honor thy Father so thou shall live long”.  Everything was a gift, a privilege, obedience was why you remained with food and shelter although were many children who didn’t (even male ones!)

She grew up wishing those mornings father left he wouldn’t return. Praying to God for those cars to run into ditches and explode. Father never did, and Father was a disciplinarian. Discipline was a long black studded belt with a golden buckle after 11 bottles of beer. Father was a drunken disciplinarian.

She was a woman; she existed to please and serve other men. Father never let her forget, he was greatly troubled, he had no heirs or male sons. Even his youngest girlfriend of 24 just had a pregnancy scan. A girl child, He considered begging her to abort. 7 female children, he had wronged the gods.

Tunde struggled with his long black studded belt with a golden buckle; normally she would push him backwards so he could fall on the bed. She would then unbuckle the belt with her teeth while giving him a good look of her dark full breasts at the same time. She would throw her long weave back and lean over and taking him into her mouth, forming o’s with her fingers and wrapping them around his penis. She would trace her tongue down his shaft and look him in the eye.

Not today. Today she felt faint. Faint from the black studded belt father used for discipline.

Graduation and Fornication (Part 1)

It was a month after I graduated, two months maybe, like most events in my “foolish 20’s” I can’t clearly recall, what I remember is how I always reeked of alcohol and married men’s perfumes, I was filthy and empty. I know this because Ayo, my third or fourth lover told me I smelt like an abandoned house. You see, I do not remember a lot clearly. What I choose not to forget is the restlessness I had, my recklessness was stemming from the fact that I was never going to see you again. You were a piece of my childishness, my innocence, I missed my panic attacks, the way I froze whenever you approached, I missed irritating my friends with long thrilling conversations we had in my fantasies. I missed you.

As an act of rebellion from my loneliness or whatever, I became what I became. The bar at the Nicon hotel became my favorite place in the world, I was there by six every Wednesday to drink alone, rejecting offers from my fellows here to seek comfort we will never find. The “darling, let me buy you a drink” line from one too many old men had a way of warming my insides; it convinced me that we were a lot of lonely people in the world.

It was no small surprise that cloudy evening in October when you decided to walk into my bar. You were standing by the staircase when my teenage stupidity found me. I walked straight past, what if you didn’t recognize me? What if you had changed? Millions of thoughts were pouring through me, my panic attacks were back. “I should stop being so stupid” another voice said, I ordered Martini to stop my shaking hands and travelling thoughts, I imagined your naked bare ivory skin “No, I will call Uche for company and you’ll probably meet up your sweetheart/girlfriend/wife, I didn’t care, you never searched for me”. I was on my third or fifth glass now. I tried to concentrate on the effect of my overpriced drink, still fiddling with the buttons on my phone; I didn’t want Uche’s company. I was looking everywhere but at the staircase when you saw me, I looked away too late, I could swear I saw recognition in your eyes, but you didn’t move, you were still on the other side of the bar, smiling at some girl, I hated that smile so much, it was like you knew something the rest of us didn’t. Obviously your charms were working at her, she smiled back enthusiastically, like some jobless wretch who finally got employed. I was bitter. You were heading towards me now, with that half strut, I tried not to look away, “I’m a grown woman” I wasn’t done bracing myself when you smiled, damn, you knew you were fine, I was staring straight at your eyes now, something about them had changed, they were filled with new stories, I hoped life hadn’t given you more than your fair share of troubles. I sucked in my breath, you still used bvlgari, it was draining my senses, I couldn’t speak, why didn’t you speak?

“it’s been what now, two years?” you said after an uncertain pause, you still had that husky accent, where was it from? I could never place it. I didn’t reply, I didn’t need to, I threw my arms around you, you held me much too tight. I hoped your mind was swirling too, with two years of my worries, why after I told you I loved you, we fell apart, I didn’t want to understand you had a girlfriend, I don’t want to know if you had one now. “You know, I have a room upstairs” the martini was speaking through me and I agreed with it. Today I wanted you; I would bother myself with shame tomorrow. You kept pulling me tight. “You’ve had too much to drink, you’re much too drunk” you sounded unsure. “I know” I said through soft martini kisses, I was tiptoeing pressing my lips on yours, you didn’t object, you parted your lips kissing me more violently. The voices in my head became calm, every inch of me was craving you, your hands were feeling through my clothes, all over my ass, “let’s see that room” you managed to say through ragged breaths.

To be continued…….