Today is a warm spring day, 14 degrees with teasing promises of a balmy summer. The sun is shining brightly into my room and I can feel its heat through the glass panes. I want to pop out to the kebab shop down the road and get my daily fix of cholesterol and artery clogging junk food. The music of the ice cream van down the road is all I need to step into my flip flops and head for the door.
But as I step out the cool breeze blows on my bare legs and I realise am wearing shorts. I look down at my bare legs and frown at my scars; they were no bigger than last summer when I wore shorts out so why was I hesitant? I only had myself to blame, they were the memoirs of a precocious childhood. Behind each was a story of abuse I had suffered at the hands of my parents, older siblings and cousins, aunties, uncles, teachers and to be fair the ones I had inflicted on myself were more than all the others combined. I shrug and keep walking at least I had tanned brown skin all year round, a lot of people wouldn't show their pale legs colour of the underbelly of an agama lizard without first going to a tanning salon. But as I walked the memories came flooding. I remember Rashidat, one housemaid, I feared her more than my father. I remember her refusing to give us the treats my mum left for us, force feeding us with food we detested. I remember attacking her blindly one day she was beating my brother because as usual she was force feeding us and he threw up. I was locked up in the toilet where I cried myself to sleep. That became a regular punishment as she soon discovered she was in danger of beating me to death for it had no impact! It is the reason am claustrophobic today. I remember Muniru, my dad's driver. He always had a plucked stick ready in the car if we were 1sec late when he came to pick us from school. Our mates would be playing on the merry go round we would stand by the school gate, hearing their joyful screams while we awaited the sight of a cream coloured Peugeot 505. I hate Peugeot cars what ever the model. I remember Ayo, one of my mum's employees, randy dude he was. Not content with sleeping with his female colleagues he started on the housemaids the length and breadth of our street. A 1naira coin now and then ensured my silence and cooperation as a messenger of love. But soon it stopped as various girlfriends demands increased. Of cos my cooperation decreased, after all it was a business agreement. The mantle of power shifted when one day I walked in on him and the girl next door, moaning and groaning. I was too young to understand exactly what was happening but old enough to know that it was very wrong and not even a mountain of 1naira coins could erase that from my mind. But I was still bound to silence on the threat of torture. So it was no surprise when one day I led my mother to ‘accidentally’ witness what went on when she was out. He eventually stole some money and ran away and so glad I was that day. Mom if you are reading this I am really sorry but Ayo was a terror to my young soul.
I remember my sister's anger and frustration when my mom made us wear the same dresses to parties and I would inevitably beat up the celebrant or cause some trouble or the other and of cos she would be the most recognisable family member. With slaps I would be led to a corner and ordered to seat down while I watched the others play.
I remember the time when I couldn't have been more than 5 or 6; my mother tied me to the bedpost and literally beat the daylights out of me. I had only repeated a four letter word I heard on TV; surely that was not a criminal offence. I was there for the whole day and the only thing that passed through my mouth was my tears. I remember her favourite phrase, "Tin ba gba e mu, wa lo wa iya mi nita!" (When I get hold of you, you will go and look for another mother) she doesn't remember the incident today her only reply was, "You were a troublesome child, you must have gotten it from your father's side!" I remember the frequency and swiftness with which my father's belt flew away from his trousers. One day he said, "Don't ever tell me your children are troublesome, because you sow what you reap" to which I replied, "so maybe I should ask my grandparents, they would have interesting stories to tell!" Of course I got what I deserved for having the cheek to reply him in such manner. I remember the various hiding places my parents had for their "pankere" or "koboko" (switch, cane) one was always within reach when needed. I remember how we were supposed to refuse treats when we were offered with my mother looking on giving us the evil eye which I would ignore and collect whatever was offered. I would savour every mouthful for I knew what was to come. Her palms would itch till we got to the car or got home where I would receive a resounding paddling. Oh How I suffered! Maybe if I had spent my early years in England I would have grown up differently, protected by the state. My parents’ hands literally tied for fear of social services taking away their recalcitrant child. Yes I would have grown up differently…in a foster home. For I know my mother. No way would she have had the patience for my unruly ways. And if my dad’s predictions are true and I should have a mini-me then as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west no child of mine would grow up to be a liability to society because I was afraid to give them a little paddling. My whole being revolts at the concept of taking moral guidance from lawmakers that see nothing wrong with charging taxpayers for pornographic tapes or gold plated birdcages or a 55p postage stamp but would like to ‘criminalise’ me when I smack a wayward child. I may have been spanked a lot as a child but am certainly non the worse for it. Maybe it’s a good thing I was afraid of my teachers rather than the other way round as is the case in this country today. If you are voting during this coming election, do your research.
As I reach my door I encounter my mom trying to get in "So instead of you to cook you went to buy burger? You and your husband will be fighting!" “Ahn! Ahn! Momi ekpe niyen abi adura? (Is that a prayer or a curse?) "Neither of the two, when your husband comes home from work tired and hungry to find you eating burger will you not fight?" "Yes we will if he cannot find his way to the kitchen" but dear ladies and gentlemen, this drama is content for another note. Have a fab day! x