Pain is not just the twinge you feel when you prick your finger with the needle as you stitch up the holes in your shirts. It is not the “Ah!” you shout after ramming your big toe into the rock carelessly left by the gutter in your hurried, distracted steps to school. It is certainly not just the ache that throbs incessantly on the right side of your eye when the sun has darkened the skin on your forehead and the brown cotton material under your armpits is soaked. It is not just the fiery burn that heats your cheek after Mama Risi slaps you very hard for refusing to kneel properly as you serve Baba Ajoke his ila and iyan, nor the wistful eye with which you secretly look at Mama Risi as she shows Ajoke the shiny adire she bought on her way back from the market. It is also not the feeling reserved absolutely for the periodic contraction that ruthlessly squeezes your abdomen as you feel the discomforting weight of the bundle of rags, torn haphazardly from Baba Ajoke’s old sokoto hanging heavily on your underwear.
Haba! Risi, no. Not, precisely, those.
Pain is an ocean. It is wide, deep, encompassing. It settles on the entirety of your being, soaking up the rare areas of tranquility until the roaring winds of torture blows over it and it rises up in ferocious waves, consuming you till you flail and thrash and beat relentlessly about; till it fills your mouth and your eyes and your nose; till it suffocates you and you choke, coughing and coughing while slowly you drown. Pain is what has callously suffused me and robbed me of my choice to do naught but write you this letter as I do the needful. Soon, it will choke me till I drown.
Risi, last night was the worst of them all. I tried to compartmentalize as you had taught me to, many times — to remove my mind from my body as it went on and on so that I became an audience and not the actor; so that I could luxuriate in our memories and remember the subtle and tentative manner we had linked our fingers the other night at the back of the gigantic iroko tree that stood unwaveringly in Baba Asake’s farm — the night when you unwrapped the veil from your face, in the slow and deliberate fashion one would reveal a cautious item, as if it would harm them, and I looked, seeing the thick keloid scar that ran from your right eye brow, dissecting the black hair forming a sharp wing above your eye, to your lower lip. I softly moved my thumb over it, feeling a familiar sting in my eyes and at the back of my throat. That same starless night that I had called you beautiful and a sort of wily challenge had appeared in your eye while you dragged your long yeri up to mid-thigh, exposing the charred skin that covered your legs, daring me to once more pronounce beauty on you. All of these, I tried to think about. However, I failed, Risi. The recurring ache in my jaw as it continued to connect with the wooden headboard was too real, the deep grunts and growls that sounded above me was deafening, the cool drops of sweat that fell on my neck in that same tip-tap rhythm was startling. The atrocity of the act was too fertile, and the slimy hands of disgust that massaged me were too harmful.
My Risi — shy, withdrawn and beautiful girl that you are. Yes, Risi, you ARE beautiful. I had argued with you so many times on how beautiful you are. But you would scoff cynically while fingering the skin where your right eye ought to be.
“Beautiful ke, jo, do not be giving me sweet talk jare. I am hidous. My marks are hidous”
“Hidous? What is that?” I asked, wondering what new word you had picked up from the ‘new copa’ that taught your class English language.
“That new copa that they bring to our school say it. He also say that it mean ‘ugly'”
“Oh, HIDEOUS.” I corrected.
It is very good that you learn fast. You learnt how to read English in such a short time, thanks to your new ‘copa’, and you are never afraid to apply what you learn. I had looked intently at you, thinking of how “hidous” you would think my own “marks” were when I revealed them to you, as mine are not the ones that mar the skin. No. Mine are the ones that run afoul with your soul, permanently soiling it. Your scars are evidence of strength and health; mine are constant reminders of my substantive shame — the true evidence of an abomination. Ah! But, Risi, the derisive look that I always imagined would crawl into your eyes, reflecting your scorn and repugnance never for once appeared. Instead, you had held my hands and jammed your wet cheek against mine, your delicate form wracked by the force of your sobs.
It is in moments like this that I beat myself up, pondering on the possible causes of the inner torment that led him to such an act. Mama’s death, perhaps? Unholy lust? Madness? Wickedness? No. His act shall not be justified. Some people do not have reasons for indulging in pervasive acts, save that they are what they are — perverts. Baba Lekan had no reason for raping his neighbor’s two year old daughter, Subomi, till she bled to death; Ayinde had no reason for ganging up with Sukanmi, and Ayanfe to sexually violate Keji; Sisi Abebi had no reason for calling six year old Olorunsogo, under the pretense of teaching him ‘Mas’, into her apartment to pinch her nipples; my father has no reason to do what he has been doing to me since I was 9. Just perverts — despicable humans who are obsessive in their desire to extinguish the sanity and besmirch the purity of others.
Loving you was very easy. Yes, Risi, it is love that I feel for you. A love that is elemental. The kind of love that breaks boundaries, that digs through the shallow heaps of physicality and superficiality, the type that crosses through tall gates of social pedigree. I had hoped that this love would sear me, cauterizing my open sores and completely healing them. I had believed that this love would restore to me everything that was brutally stolen, would fill in me, till bursting limits, heavy drops of solace, so that I did not have to feel the disintegrated pieces of my psyche ridiculing me. I wish, with a mad frenzy, that when you hear of it, you understand. Please, Risi, understand that I’m too much of a weakling to continue to live with myself, understand the self disgust and hatred that I feel whenever I lay under him, five minutes after hearing the damning footsteps and resolving to stick the knife under my bed into his soft belly. Red eyes would sometimes shine at me with loathing and hate in the mirror hanging on the wall above my dresser, and it would take me a while to realize that they are my eyes.
I wonder who it is that will find the note laid gently on my still chest with the empty bottle of májèlé resting on it to hamper any movement. Whether it is he, Yewande or Iya Muyideen, the village ‘news reporter’ and our cook. Iya Muyideen was the one who learnt of the occasional romping that occurred between Bolaji, Iya Tade’s husband, and Siki, your classmate, in the evenings at Biliki’s shop. It was still Iya Muyideen who caught Baba Oyesile, on that rainy morning when the streets were empty, stuffing a huge loaf of bread from Bolatito’s unguarded kiosk into one of those wooly sacks he carries around while Bolatito’s churning stomach forced her to the bush. He is currently out on a business trip; Yewande is still in school, although she promises that she would return soon — it would break her heart, that, I am most sure of. “Aburo mi, sé jèjè o” She would warmly say to me while smiling one of those her smiles that would drawl over my skin like warm syrup. Therefore, I’m certain that it would be Iya Muyideen. Then I am sure she would first take it to Mister Solo Benson, and he will write an article on it in his newspaper, using those bombastic words that he likes to use in his desperate attempt to prove that he is one of the very few from Igbasaan that were lucky enough to get the 1974 Scholarship to complete their tertiary education in the United States of America. ‘A learned sesquipedalian with an impressive stock of a brobdingnagian vocabulary who has no regard for hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobics’ he would proudly call himself and the villagers would nod impressively, flustered to have someone in the village who could speak such ‘big, big grammar’, an American-based ‘yunifasiti’ graduate!
I remember how everybody had been bewildered to hear that he had come back after spending twenty years in America: “Ó losí Améríkà, o tún padà wá. Àjèjì ni àwon ènìyàn.” The fact that someone would travel to the United States, “the land of milk and honey”, stay for as long as twenty years and come back to a rustic town like Igbasaan was beyond their myopic comprehension, regardless that the person is coming back to his home. His newspaper, The Morning Sun, is rarely bought nor read because very few people can understand what he writes. However, if perchance, Mister Solo gets ahold of the stimulating news, the whole village will buy it, whether they can read it or not, and chant: “Ah! É wò!”
“What a bilious flabbergastation! An unmitigated report of an anamolous propensity which forgets on friable minds a calciferous extumescence of dolor. Oh! Oh!! Oh!!! Pity!” Mister Solo Benson would write, under the headline:
FATHER, ADEJARE AKANBI, 59, RAPED SON, SIJUADE AKANBI, 15, CONTINUOUSLY FOR 6 YEARS, UNTIL SON SUCCUMBED TO SUICIDAL INCLINATIONS.
is a budding writer who is mostly interested in writing feature articles than works with actual literary content. She is a part-time freelance voice-over artist. She is currently a student of English at the University of Lagos. She lives in Lagos, Nigeria.