While lying next to him that night, he whispered in my ears, “my God you’re so beautiful, God thought ahead when he was making you”. That night, I would kiss him and let him touch me with his hands and in the way mama says a man touches a woman, he would say I am a woman, his woman and he’d hold me till morning. Mama would get angry because I didn’t sleep at home and while she’d hit me and shout, I’d be too inebriated in this love to feel pain or listen to her, this our love would cover me like a blanket but she’d still scream that men are dogs, that men are fickle and useless, that I am also useless because I have believed in the words of a man. In mid-sentence, she’d see me smiling, she’d shake me and plead, “men will take, take and take and still take from you and when they feel you have nothing else to take, they’d leave as though you were nothing, as if nothing happened”. But I’d still sneak off to the mango tree at the edge of Mr. Edet’s farm to see him, I will tell him that mama is angry and that she doesn’t understand me or understand young love, the way it lights up my insides and turns me into liquid fire, that he is the only one that could hold me and calm the rage inside of me. He would smile and touch my hair and my face and ask if I was hurt, he’d kiss the bruises I got from mama and sing me soothing songs. I would be so in love and my mind would confirm that he cares.
On another day, a day holding the hands of the weekend, I would walk down the dusty part leading to his house, in the new dress the tailor made specially for me because he said I am a beauty, with flowers in my hair and the sun in my face, my lover will be waiting on his doorstep with smiles on his face immediately he sees me. He’d tell me “Ima, your body looks nice in that dress, you are so complete, please let me see what it really looks like my angel”, I’d tell him of my fears and he’d brush them away gently with soft lips, then he’d touch me finally in the way mama says people make babies but he’d reassure me all the way. I’d go home early on this day because I do not want mama to hit me again.
I would hide because I do not want mama to see what we did or hear it in my voice, I would even refuse a supper of my favorite soup with a lie that my stomach is bad from eating too many mangoes, I wouldn’t let mama in my room for fear that she would read in the difference of my body that I was now a woman proper. I would see him tomorrow, I console myself, I left him sleeping so I didn’t see his eyes but I know he hasn’t changed, my lover change? Tueeehhh! He loves me so, this would be the thought that will carry me to my dreams on that night.
I will wait for him at the farm but he won’t show up, I will send the children at the village square but he won’t come, my weekend would be restless and oh so very long. My eyes would be a red hue and restlessness would take a hold of me because I hadn’t slept since that night. I’d resolve to come to his house when mama goes to the market. I will walk again down the dusty part in yet another new dress from the tailor, I don’t expect to see him but I do, he’s seated at his doorstep but he doesn’t smile when he sees me, he doesn’t stand to greet me, he doesn’t tell me I look like Nefertiti or that the earth is singing because I woke up today, he doesn’t tell me anything at all. I ask him why he’s not been coming to our spot, why he hasn’t acknowledged me and he says he’s been busy. The tone is what tells me I don’t know him again, his eyes are what will convince me, he is a foreigner, he who held me till I slept. I try to apologize and maybe make him remember me, when he says, “you are a woman now, act like one! I don’t need you to follow me like a chick tied to its mother! That I touched you doesn’t mean anything, go home to your mother!” his face is stern as he says all this, then he turns away and enters his house, where we did what brings babies. There’s only silence and the echo of his words reverberating over my head, as I sit down to think what now, I hear the footsteps of a girl coming down the path.
Thank you for reading!
Love and warmth