I loved my mother. She was my father’s typical script, playing roles that were directed only by patriarchy. My mother fitted perfectly into his constrained perception of what a woman should be; the type that says ‘you can only be seen but can’t be heard’. She was such character that had ‘because you’re a woman’ written all over her. You see, my mother was not only my father’s typical script; she was also society’s kind of ‘womanly’. Such kind that had society’s structured institutions directing her every step and determining her every breath. She was the sole character for my father’s entertainment, a subservient martyr for his never ending primal barbarism. My mother would kneel before my father, hold onto his legs, feed his pettiness, massage his ego and beg not to be sent back to her father’s house each time they had a brawl. My father on his own part, will drag her by the hair, spit on her, draw blood from her mouth by smacking her so hard on the face, it disfigured her beauty and thunder above her with so much angst that made her tremble.
I think my father enjoyed being a barbarian god. I mean why shouldn’t he? When you have so much requited power at your disposal? So much power as to sniff life out of anyone who may as much want to raise a rebellious head? My father understood the power of power and so, he wasted no time in wielding its strength. He wielded its strength so hard, he gave less care to whoever gets hurt along the way. Seeing the way he hovered over my mother’s battered frame with such fiendish grin each time they had a fight, and enjoying the very euphoria of owning her very existence, of making her invalid with no form of resistance, no questions asked nor headstrong rebellion, you could tell he had less care to absolute power corrupting him absolutely.
I still loved my mother despite the hatred for her subservient ‘womanly’ nature. “I don’t understand why you give him so much power mother. You pay the bills around here. You feed the house. You do all the work. He….he lives off you; he drains you, silences your voice and beats you. Still you give him all the credit. You requite him all your power!” I said watching her groan in pain as I applied the soothing balm she bought from the market on the swell right below her left eye which bulged like over blown eye bags. This swell right below her left eye was one out of many swells that bloated out of her once-upon-a-time beautiful body. You could see scars of pain and stitches of hurt all over her frame. My mother was cracked and my heart wrecked a thousand times over each time her groan rang through my ears. It was like listening to the piercing scream of a child suffering from burns and not knowing how well to soothe the pain. “My dear, you think I enjoy being under your father’s mercy? You actually think I like being domestically abused? And why would you even think I would literally want to rot and die?” She asked mumbling those words with difficulty as she tried stretching her pained body and at the same time, breathe rapidly. “Mother, you allow him beat you. You let him wield so much power over you. You enable his excesses. If only you would rebel you would see that father’s ego is just society’s accepted patriarchy kind of norm. His barbaric resolve is firm because of how much power you allow him. Mother if only you would fight back and stop begging. If only you would.” I replied as I applied more of the soothing balm on her, this time not on the swell right below her left eye but on every other swell that decorated her body in a repeatedly pain inflicting manner. She stared right into my eyes, holding my face with a hurting consistent look and said “when you grow, get married and become a woman like me, you would understand.”
I could not fathom what my mother meant by ‘when you grow’ because in many ways I had grown. Sixteen looked ‘grown enough’ on me. I mean, I was sixteen and was already shouldering most responsibilities my mother’s strength could not carry. I would be the adult always around to soothe her pains each time my father’s barbarism left her battered. I would be the one to dab her blood, warm the face towel in hot water and press against each swell on her body in an attempt to reduce their bloated forms. I would watch her cry and cuss and cry again and at such times, I would be the one to fend for the house, facing the harsh realities of life and making good a bad situation just so I convince myself all is well. So, you see why sixteen looked ‘grown enough’ on me? Because just like my mother, I was made to walk in shoes that provided shackles to freedom – freedom to be, freedom to choose and wings to fly.
I watched Simi look over her left shoulder as she sized up a dress we bought from the clothes stand. The dress was a straight cut gown with a color shade of navy blue. It had a star shaped flowery design perfectly embroiled round its waist line and decorated with stones the color of pepper red. This gown stretched from Simi’s upper frame to the star shaped flowery design embroiled on her waist line and down to the black round circles that dotted her knee cap. The hem of the gown sat tightly on Simi’s knee, revealing those slender straight legs of hers. The gown also had a v-cut collar with stripes of red and a red brooch pinned on the left breast side of it. One could tell that the perfectly fitted gown was sewn to emphasize Simi’s body shape which seemed to have added some flesh at the right places and also seemed to have obviously developed appropriate curves at the upper and lower regions. Simi looked over her left shoulder again. This time, gritting hard and loud with a forlorn look that have long masked her face from the age of nine. She hissed concurrently looking over her left shoulder once more at the man whose legs were splayed atop what seemed to have been a cozy cushion in the early years of its market value. His legs were spread out in a manner that showed drunkenness. His right leg hung jocosely downward on the right arm of the chair. His left leg on the other hand, was suspended midway the edge of the cushion with his foot facing the ceiling. He had his back supported by the center table; the center table which apparently was the only furniture with monetary value that laid amidst the worn out furniture’s which decorated what seems to have been a sitting room in an haphazard manner. Simi hissed again, waving her head sideways in a disgusting manner and throwing a look full of raging loathe at the man who was in many ways a reeker. He reeked of anything and everything. One day it would be of the poignant smell of alcohol and another day, a combination of alcohol and of any pungent smell of some dirt he drunkenly keeps falling into.
Simi made to unzip the gown which in every ramification had caught my fancy. She carefully unzipped, taking such care in undressing so as not to get it rumpled and constantly looking over her left shoulder through the slightly open curtain of her bedroom door which proffered a little view of the man snoring in the sitting room. She rolled her eyes, sighed and cursed under her breath. “Aren’t they all the same?” I asked empathically; knowing how it feels to live in a home where even the air you breathe is determined by patriarchy; one social construct which to a large extent, determines our life’s fate. Whilst keeping my eyes on her, I watched her fold the gown. She looked at me, folded the gown in halves, placed it carefully into her box of clothes and said, “I don’t know Ebi….I don’t know. But what I do know is that you’ve had your eyes on this gown since we bought it from the clothes stand in the market. This is the second time you’re looking at my personal belonging with an intensity of eyes that tells possessiveness. The first was when we turned twelve. Your eyes practically snatched those sun glasses from me. You have a lovable kind of chutzpah you know, the type that has arrogant courage and palpable pragmatism laced together.” “I know right? And it works on you every time.” I replied smiling. “You would have to wait shaa….” She said. “You would have to wait until this gown serves the purpose for which it was purchased for in my life.” She smiled back eerily trying to hide her forlorn look under a mask of happiness.
I looked at her, at the one who’ve been my fidus achates right from the age of twelve and found my insides surging with clouds of emotion. Simi was the sister from some long lost parents I had come to know. Our friendship which flamed from similar interests at the age of nine saw us grow with a bond so tight that could only be explained as soul connection. She was three inches taller than me, six months older and had looks that spoke of elegance and sophistication; one appearance that was constantly hidden by her inherent timidity. I on the other hand, was the pragmatic one though with occasional show of empathy. We would walk down alleys and navigate our paths through the busy lanes as we made our way to and fro school. Most times Simi made us ride to school and back home in commercial buses. She said her drunk of a father, often left her with some change which she usually saves for the rainy day. At such times, such times when we would ride in commercial buses to and fro school, I would find Simi pen down poems whose tone told of sadness. One of such which read:
“How do you spell freedom?
Is it with the political anarchy that plagues our everyday life?
Or the corruption that blinds our every sight?
How do I spell freedom?
Is it with the boxed social construct of institutions that serves as shackles to my being?
Or society’s patriarchal norms that clip my wings?
My wings are broken.
Please show me freedom.
Help me fly!”
I loved Simi just like I loved my mother. Both lives were filled with oodles of strife, though Simi’s was occasionally flamboyant. This was made effective due to her family’s financial status which seemed to be well off as compared to mine. Simi once told me that she was adopted, adopted by a man whom she grew up developing gruesome spite for because of how frequently drunk he always was which often led to incessant assault on her. “You suffer such things as my mother Simi.” I had told her. “Ooh my God! No wonder you are always forlorn. You are broken and it hurts because we are just too young to be caught up in this web. We are just too young Simi….” I cried holding her tight, soaking her blouse with my tears. “We would be fine Ebi. We would be fine.” She said as she held me too and cried. It was her thirteenth birthday.
It’s been three years since we held onto each other crying. Three years and the tears haven’t stopped flowing. She locked her box of clothes and we made to arrange her scattered room. I couldn’t help but pause and look at her, at the one whom with façade of happiness tries to mask her forlonity, at the second person I’ve come to love aside my mother, I cried again. This time around, it wasn’t because she has been scared just like my mother, it wasn’t because her wings and that of my mother’s were too broken to fly, nor was it because the scars on their bodies ran so deep it inflicted me with pain, it was however because I was forced to live in the reality of some social construct I have always questioned; a social construct I also needed to be saved from.
I turned seventeen when Simi told me she was tired of living. She said she was shamed, wounded and would not want my life to turn out like hers. She told me I needed to walk in my own freedom. To shine my own light. “I don’t understand.” I replied. “He does other things to me too Ebi. Things I am too victimized to tell.” She said. Large balls of tears forming a swell in her eyes. “It was the day I turned thirteen. When you left, he called out to me. He said he heard what I told you, what I told you of his ever drunken state which leads to regular assaults on me. He said he was too ashamed of his deeds, that he too was a victim of circumstances and that he was sorry. Ebi, he begged for forgiveness. I watched him soak his alcoholic sweat with tears. Then he asked that I hugged him. To show that I have forgiven him he said. That was the day I was molested Ebi. That was the day I was raped.” “Oh my God Simi.“ I cried holding her close, trying to offer consolation and developing a strong aversion for the pedophile in the next room, the man whose alcoholic stench I abhorred a lot. “He still does it to me every night. He breaks into my room and sticks his phallus into me. Every night Ebi….every single night.” She cried shaking in hysteria. “This is heart wrenching. Oh my God…your scars run so deep it leaves me broken. What should I do Simi? I want to save you.” “Walk in your own freedom Ebi. I am way too broken…too broken to walk. I would never heal.” She replied sobbing, holding on to me, soaking my gown with tears as she continued, “Fly Ebi. Fly while you still can. Because you see, people do not like women they can’t shame, control, scare and stop. You are that type of woman. You are not too numb to fight. You my friend are the kind of woman the world loves to hate – pure, authentic, tested and brave. Turn their hate upside its head Ebi. Embrace it in a delicious manner. Because you see, their hate will bring you the freedom you seek. Their hate is avarice that is upset you have what they want. Their hate will be your guilty pleasure my dear. Because they know….they know your kind will save this world.” I held onto her tightly suddenly realizing I could not fly without her or my mother. Not because I was living the social norms I choose to question, not because I was often held back by shackles when carving my own path but because to a large extent, they were my wings, my wings to fly and despite their fragility, they were my voice of rebel.
So, three days later when my mother came back telling of how evil the world is, of how Simi has been left again with no parent, of how her drunken father was brutally murdered and how the poor girl was going to fully face the harshness of life, I smiled knowing this freedom Simi spoke of was not going to be mine alone. This freedom was going to be a trio – I, she and my mother walking our way into light, free from the shackles of social construct, free from the constrained perception of society’s institutions, spreading our wings….flying.
You see, I had broken the chains that fettered Simi. I had ensured her freedom. Freed her by hacking his throat with the blade I buried in my mother’s vegetable garden. Oh what joy it was to watch him beg for his own life, crawl and wail. What joy it was to have watched those sleeping eyes open with alertness, move from hate to fear and back to hate again. What bliss it was to have turned this hate into a guilty pleasure, slitting him, slashing him, and watching his blood spew in volumes of red down my blade. How beautiful it was to have tasted power, feel it and wield it. And as my mother went on to tell how steps are being taken to recover the murder weapon, apprehend the murderer and allow the law take its course, I played scenes in my head on how to free my mother too. The kind of scenes I played in my head on my seventeenth birthday when Simi told of the molestations done on her by her deceased father. Such kind of scenes that told me even the law will take a stand with me if it gets to know the motive behind the murder. That kind of scene that would also leave my father sprawled on the ground in the pool of his own blood. That kind I was now determined to keep my mother, Simi and the society from knowing I ever played. Because you see, these scenes I now play gives me power. Such kind of power my father enjoys; the power I am now bent on taking away from him. Such that would just like Simi, make I and my mother free – free to walk, free to breathe, and free to fly.
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Well written and articulated
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