I woke one morning and it was the dawn of my change. I realised I had reached a dangerous level of brokenness, rigidity and freedom. Not wanting to do or obey but to just listen to whoever had anything to say.
“Tolani, come here and get me that ringing phone.” Mother called from the backyard. I staggered back into reality though something was revealing about my state of reverie. “What does Niniola want? Does he not know the difference between peace and silence?” I sought to know with angst.
“Can’t you learn to raise your legs swiftly? What has come upon you lately? Do not forget that death is no joy even if life has become tiring for you. Lead me not into an unending journey of sorrowful night of my life.” In another nick of time, mother’s voice anchored aggressively.
The words disappeared as swiftly as they seared my ears. Mother knows how to talk. I decided to take a walk to the third compound close to ours. “Folarin should be back from her mother’s stall.” I had said it loudly with the intention to pass it across to her that I was going there.
“Ehn, Ehn, you are going there to continue your paradise tale of how your boyfriend duped your body, soul and purse abi?” mother snapped suddenly with an elfish look cultivated on my stomach as if to tell the unwanted foetus that life was no place to come.
My eyes fought hard to keep the mist back. Mother has started again. This was no sermon I had prayed for this morning. Why can’t she spare me eerie moments or a gift of silence wrapped in a quite act of ignorance of the obvious?
I was brought into the web of stagnancy. Another knife has been driven through my chest among the cutleries that belonged to me. My own mother had reminded me of my woes. Woes I fought endlessly to walk past.
*** *** ***
I had given up on relationships when Niniola walked into my life. I did my best to ignore him even though all around him spelt a difference. But I found no superficiality a reason to date him. Everyone struggles to make a difference, to prove their worth but after; they fumble.
A part of me wanted him but another wanted no part with him. But we made friends. I allow him to visit me and I met him in public places. That was all I could grant his frustrating pleas.
Even when I began to feel so attached, I felt I had no more energy to entertain any comedy staged on my heart. I simply wanted to live like nothing matters more.
Six months rolled with us like River Jordan. Niniola as resilient as ever still wanted a relationship with me. He had told anyone who asked him whom I was that I was his girlfriend. They were seeing too much of us that my rebuttal was just a lie and coward on their parts. Eventually, I kept quiet to their ignorantly hatched assumptions.
I knew where Niniola stayed. So I had no problem going there when I did not see or hear from him following a disagreement we had on Sunday. His birthday was in a week’s time and all he wanted was me spending the whole day at this place. For which I had nothing but a strong no to.
The sight of him was so shocking. Niniola has been sick and unable to go to work for two days. In a jobless state, all he could afford was self-medication.
It became my responsibility to take care of him. I called a nurse to treat him at my own expense. Brought drugs and food item to his house and I suddenly became a regular visitor.
I visited Niniola one evening and he pleaded that I get him some vegetable from the market. Meeting Folarin at the market was an engagement of tiring talks and I returned to Niniola’s place very late. I did not finish the cooking until 8pm and he failed at urging me to stay till the morning. His area was risky to tread at night but I just had to return home because of Mama.
I calmed him down and assured him that nothing would happen. He was too sick to see me off, so I had to go through it all alone.
I had found a bike man the moment I stepped into the darkness. I thought I was lucky not knowing that the bike man was my unfortunate trap. He had his colleagues waiting at the end of the road. I was raped by three men that fateful night. There was no one to call on at such goring silent hour. It was indeed a silent night.
After having a cut of my spice, I was driven to my destination. One of the men sat behind me with a threatening gesture that if I dared shout or tried to be smart, I would be dropped off dead.
I got home and walked in majestically like a man who had just conquered a beast. I do not want mother to have any inkling. Whatever I had brought upon myself, I just want to deal with it alone.
I was naïve not to think the single event could lead to pregnancy. It took my mother to draw my attention to the fact that I was three weeks pregnant.
I had told neither Niniola nor Folarin about it. I gradually withdrew from their connection and spent most of the time under the excuse that I was preparing for my University Matriculation Examination (UME).
My mother would lend me no time to explain before she started threatening Niniola for putting me in the family way. Everyone believed. After all, he was the only one they knew me with and he had further implicated himself by parading as my boyfriend. He had simply purchased a ticket to a show he did not gain entrance into its venue.
Folarin was shocked for she knew I was not dating him. Not wanting to leave my childhood friend in the dark after a series of deafening questions. “I was raped.” I told her and left amidst tears.
I do not want to remember anything about that night. I do not want to feed myself and anyone the pains of it. But I decided to write Niniola a letter.
I am sorry about the mess I have dragged you into. My mother has gone around telling people it was you. I didn’t tell her this, she is only trying to cover the shame I have brought upon her home.
I was raped by three men the night I left your place late. I’m sorry.
I expected Niniola to feel justified and go about telling people the shame of my pregnancy. I had expected him to come straight to mother and show her my letter. None happened; I eagerly hoped his response would come soon so that I could boldly face the situation once he is out of it.
My eyes suddenly perched on the wall clock and I realised I have spent two hours on my feet. I triggered to Folarin’s place and felt at peace after a perilous time in my own abode. God knows what it would be like if father were alive.
“Tolani, why can’t you tell your mother? Niniola is keeping silent. Will he claim the threat has not reached him? His silence is a stamp of his irresponsibility and denial of you” she said bitterly.
“He raped you, got you pregnant and he has not showed up with his family to claim you.” She snorted and left me shocked.
I had only told her I was raped. I never said it was Niniola. Her assumption about the issue was an invitation to a secret my heart does not want to reveal to her.
“I will do something about it.” I said with assurance and our talks drifted into something else.
I left Folarin’s place and headed home with the footsteps of someone trying to avoid this creditors who could have been waiting for him at home.
Not wanting to get in contact with mother, I decided to take the road that led to the back door. As I gently walked in, noises from the balcony overrode my state of melancholy. The women I saw, gracely dressed looked like the woman I have seen in a picture somewhere.
I peeped further to see other voices but mother’s eyes caught me before I could withdraw my shadow.
“Come, my daughter” she said beautifully for the first time in the last two months. “Your mother-in-law has come for you. They brought those items.” She said as my eyes followed the direction of her fingers.
I was about to protest when Niniola came in. “Do not say anything” the look on his face casted as I stood transfixed.