“Bia Andrew, mek you try behave well tomorrow o. I don tell you now. Behave well well o. We dey expect visitors. You hia me so?” Mama said that Tuesday morning.
I wondered who we were expecting and how important they were to make mama promise to give me a gift if they found me interesting. I thought about it for a while and then drifted off to sleep on the tiny mattress I shared with mama. I was lost to the world as the day had been a long one; I needed sleep.
I was brought out from the land of sleep by a sweaty palm roving around my chest. I was still sleepy so I paid it no attention. The next thing I felt was a hand on my most very private part. The hand was trying to get into my shorts.
I woke immediately with a start. Opening up my mouth to scream, a hand clamped down on my mouth with force. It was then i began to feel the first trickle of fear. I wondered who had come into our room. I wondered where mama was. I wondered if she was safe.
Mama wasn’t nice, she always made me know particularly after a round of beating which left my helpless eight year old body sore for days that she was doing me a favor by keeping me. I wondered if she did this to assuage any guilt she felt. Most times, as she beat me, she would yell and curse, calling me names and telling me how I had ruined her life.
Mama always avoided beating me on parts of my body that could arouse suspicion. She usually aimed for my bare back and the back of my legs. I always wondered how exactly I made mama’s life miserable. I never knew it was because i was born. Of course, mama never thought to ask herself if I had asked to be born. She just blamed me and hated me.
“No try any nonsense for dia. Lie down, make you no waste our time” One of the voices growled close to my ear. I couldn’t understand. “How was I to cooperate?” I kept asking myself. I soon found out.
Very soon, hands were tearing at my shorts. I reared up with all the strength in my young body and started fighting, pushing, shoving- anything to make me free of the torment.
The first punch hit me squarely in the chin and I thought my chin had shattered. The punches kept coming. I wondered how much of my young face was left. I could taste blood, I knew death was nearby.
“Leave am. E don learn now. E go cooperate.” The other guy told his partner as he restrained him from giving me the next punch.
If I had thought the other guy was a saint, i was to know better.
The man who had been beating me stood up and allowed the other man space to climb me. I heard the sound of my shorts as it was ripped off my body and before I had the opportunity to react, I felt myself being turned around and what I felt next was mind blowing pain.
I knew immediately that death was near and I couldn’t survive it but I prayed for it to come quickly.
The man kept slamming into me from behind. I lost count of how many times he tore into me with the force of a giant. It went on for ever and then when he was satisfied, he grunted loudly, stood up and the next man took his turn.
I had no fight left within me. Even though I did not fight, the guy apparently derived pleasure from hitting me. He gave me a few slaps and punches as he ejaculated and withdraw.
I did not see their faces. How could I? Mama never paid the light bill and candles were a luxury we couldn’t always afford.
I struggled to sit up. I wondered if something bad had happened to mama. I loved her, yes I did even if she couldn’t love me. I told myself that maybe some people were not capable of loving others. I often wondered if mama tried at all to love me. Or maybe it was because I wasn’t lovable.
I tried to sit. Oh! but the pain. “Mama! Mama!” I called weakly even as I slipped into unconsciousness.
I woke up but I couldn’t open my eyes immediately. I started crying, trying to pry my lids open little by little. I wanted to see mama, to be sure she was safe.
“Oh! You don wake.” “Take this 200 naira say you cooperate well with them. You go use am buy somthin for yaself.” Mama said flinging two filthy notes at me.
It was then it dawned on me that mama knew. She knew. Maybe she had even been in the room as the men battered me. “Mama knew! Mama knew!” I kept whispering to myself.
Immediately I could stand, I took the notes, picked up a half filled match box, went to the back of our room and burned the notes. I relished it.
I fought the second time, yes, I fought and I got a worse beating both from mama and the visitor. I learned that I gained nothing by fighting.
This time when she threw money at me, I picked it up and kept it. I wasn’t burning any notes again. I was stupid to do so before.