It was a beautiful evening with the perfect atmosphere for an evening walk engendered with my being indoors all through the day and a need for ‘fresh unction’. Got into something that’d provide me with the needed comfort for the walk, headphones on, phones carefully placed on the table- battery on 10% courtesy of epileptic power supply- won’t need it anyways. I set out on my journey.
The road was less busy and I wondered why as I walked on. Random thoughts flowing in and out of my small head as I listen to Asa’s 360, for some reasons, I stopped by ‘mama frank’s’ shop for a little chat.
A child barely 16 years old sitting alone, thinking about what exactly? I asked myself. Why is she not playing with her mates? Well, maybe she’s sick or not in the mood or maybe she’s just an introvert, I concluded.
Continued my chat half-heartedly while a part of me was with this child. I dismissed the thoughts of talking to her and instead, put on my headphones. Mali Music’s No Fun Alone was playing and I finally decided to try having a conversation with this child.
Had the most awkward start of a conversation for the first time in forever but I started still. Somehow along the line, after gaining her trust, I asked if she could walk with me. Few minutes away from our place of contact, she asked if I could get her something to eat like ‘gala’. I reached into the pockets of my joggers and I found a crisp note just sufficient to get something ‘healthy’ to munch. I got into this habit of going out with money no matter how small courtesy of my mum who would always tell us – my siblings and I – to do so just in case we crash into a careless egg seller and we have to pay for the damages caused.
I brought out the money and looked around for a place to get food, not just biscuits but real food. I found a restaurant and we got in together, I ordered for food and two bottles of drink. I watched her devour every morsel of food in a speed of lightening. Smiling at interval when our gazes met. I loved that feeling; she was comfortable with me already, just what I needed.
“I’m an orphan”, she said. Not like I lost both parents but I’m in no way different from an orphan.
“My mum died when she was giving birth to what was meant to be her last child, we lost both mother and child” she said with teary eyes. I prepared myself for the coming wave of emotions. My dad remarried almost immediately as he claimed we needed a mother-figure around the house. She continued with what is commonly portrayed in Nollywood home videos while I listened with rapt attention, breaking the transmission with occasional sips from my bottle of coke (huh! Coke addict). She continued on and on and on till she got to the point where she had to be transferred to her mum’s sister.
Apparently, her uncle (aunty’s husband) did not like her when she arrived at first and I can’t stop asking myself why. “He hated me badly and didn’t want me around. My aunty and her husband have quarrelled severally based on the matter. I’ve heard her pleading with him to let me stay with them for sometime till they are able to get an alternative. I cried myself to sleep on such events. My aunty is the only close relative I know” she said.
“I was happy when one day my uncle came back from work and called every one of us together and gave us gifts. I slept well that night for the first time in a very long while. My uncle’s attitude changed towards me and everyone saw it. Peace was restored to the house and stayed around for quite a long time till… one day, while my aunty was away and my uncle called me in to help him run an errand… and… and…
At this point, I whispered let it not be what I’m thinking please…
“And… he… he… raped me forcefully” this was her exact words. As if raping her wasn’t enough, it was forceful. I could only imagine.
At this point, she couldn’t hold it anymore so I just allowed her cry till she had her fill. With my head bowed, I don’t like the sight of tears.
“He does it every day especially when my aunty is not around, it’s a normal routine”
How long has it been going on now? I asked. “For over a year now” she replied. How come nobody knows about it? “He threatened me not to tell anybody and besides, nobody would believe” so why are you telling me? “Because I trust you and I know you believe me and besides, I just think someone else should know about it.” I literally died on that spot. More questions, more tears, couple of emotions…
Masking my emotions with a sincerely fake smile, I asked her with all the strength I could gather, hoping for a sincere answer to help me provide help from anywhere or somewhere… and all she said was “I want nothing else, I just want to be a child again” I heard my heart break into pieces, and for a couple of minutes, I experienced what it felt like to be deaf and dumb and numb. I had a warm bath with my own tears.
Awkward silence filled the atmosphere and stayed around for close to three minutes. I had to break the silence. She had stopped crying and had a beautiful smile on her face. I noticed her dimple.
It was 6:30pm and I said to her, we need to start going. Remember we have a long way back. She laughed and I noticed her perfect dentition. We walked back and she sang along as she listened to Coat of Many Colours and I was awed by her beautiful voice. I couldn’t hide my expression and I told her out rightly. We got to our ‘place of contact’ and we had to part ways. I walked her down to a safe place and promised to see her again. She gave me back my headphones, I told her she could keep it but due to reasons best known to her, she declined and returned it instead. Hugging her, I told her to run along as it’s getting late. I could see the tears in her eyes and I looked away. You’ll be fine, I reassured her. Hope to see you again, she said.
It took me about an hour before I got to my house. My heart was heavy and I kept wondering. My sleep that night? I sacrificed it to the gods of insomnia. Tossed from one corner of the bed to another. All I could mutter was “help her, save her”.
One month later and I’ve not heard from her and neither have I crossed path with her nor ran into her, I decided to ask around and I got the shocker of my life.
“She don die na” I giggled and replied “that kyn thing, na so person dey take die?” “no be that girl wey una two follow waka that day” I was nodding my head at the mention of every word that the Agama lizard became jealous as I did it better. “that girl wey get dimple like when you dip your finger inside plate of eba?” I wish I could laugh, but it wasn’t funny at all. “Ah, she don die since two weeks now”.
“no vex o, wetin kill her? She sick abi wetin?” I inquired.
The woman, apparently in the mood of gossip, replied “No wahala, I no vex. The story long sha but the end be say she do abortion e come get K leg. E hook am for night and before dem go reach hospital, she don kpoof.”
I was cold and I manifested symptoms immediately. I threw up twice and I was greeted with different forms of sorry. Some in solo form and some came in chorus; some in part and some in unison. I had to go home before I died of overdose of ‘oral sorry’.
The walk home was forever and I took a bike to hasten my 10 minutes walk home. I cried that night and nights after. It was too much for me to handle. We didn’t get to see again (sobs).
And when I found out her name was Chinedu – my name sake…
By Faith Chibuogwu
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