Pink

I awoke to the distant drums of a thousand screams. Screams of those who had gone ahead of me. Mothers, sisters, aunts…a path drenched in blood and vaginal fluid. A path my mother had told me the night before, in hushed whispers would liberate my tinted soul. Why was my soul tinted? Why did I have to be purified? My head was heavy. My sleep had been plagued by tortuous dreams of being chased by familiar faces……my mother, father…. aunts and uncles…people who loved me. And yet, that morning whilst slumber dissipated from my weary eyes…I knew something was going to die within me. I am twelve. I know… this… is not right.

I married young. My husband was a decade older. A successful business man from a neighboring town. Prior to my leaving home with him that cold dusty harmattan morning, I had seen him only a couple of times…spoken to him twice. My marriage was contractual between our families. I was not an active participant. He was never cruel to me. In hindsight, I can say he was a good man. I was lucky. However, I was never really happy. I had four children in quick succession before I knew who I was as a human being. I wished I could have been allowed to mature before being saddled with marriage to anyone, not to talk of a stranger.

I tried to leave him several times. His parents would visit mine with their pastor in tow…speaking in hushed muffled voices..while the voices in my head screamed…almost driving me mad. He was a violent man, just like his father. His mother never left. She was docile. A quiet woman who enjoyed the financial security of being married to a wealthy man. A politician who built an empire brokering deals between the government and the Niger Delta militants. My husband was his crown prince. If I am honest, I had seen in close quarters his propensity for violence while we dated but I was ensnared by the comfort he represented…the security. The pastor always parroted what the father wanted. He had scriptures to defend the indefensible. I knew my father in law bankrolled the church youth development building, the pastoral house and bought him a new vehicle every year. I suspect if they succeed in killing me..the imbecile would officiate at my burial.Three years in, a broken jaw, broken ribs….and several black eyes later…. I have realized the error of my judgement. I am aware he will never change. Can he deny the genetic code that determines his choices? Can he unmake what his orientation has made him? My father had warned me but I didn’t listen. I did a mental calculation of my private stash. Once I was well enough to travel I was leaving him…and the fetus that thrived in my womb would be an unfortunate consequence I intended to do away with. Nothing would tie me to this part of my history.

Misogyny is not always genital mutilation. A cultural practice that denies a woman her right to sexual satisfaction and leaves her ill equipped to cope with child delivery. A practice that is still upheld by many communities…..a dark cloak that disables a girl-child long before she becomes a woman. She grows stunted, bent over…a far result from who she would have been. Misogyny is not always about brutal acts towards the female. Its not always about domestic abuse. Its a culture that strangles what could have been, it kills the butterfly while its still a caterpillar…starving it of nutrition…..creating a hostile environment..and so when the butterfly emerges..its wings are shriveled…unable to fly, its legs are frail. Its a culture that places premium on the male child. It unconsciously or consciously makes the women subservient to the men. A system that encourages the belief that a woman exists for the purpose of a man’s pleasure. A belief that gives a married woman an advantage in status…so much so, that a woman who is single is diminished in worth is so very wrong. And how do we change this belief? By consciously making the right choices. Educate….educate…educate.

A person’s worth should not be determined by what lies between the legs.

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Ode to Nne.

Her slender form was wrapped in a brightly colored Abada wrapper, tied in soft folds around her bosoms…it flowed in rippled layers around her shins. She was bent over the mortar- putting pieces of cassava into the dough made of yam. I watched her slender fingers kneed the dough, then, she lifted the pestle and continued to pound…the thud of the pestle on the mortar making a distinct sound..dum… dum….dum. I watched the bead of sweat drip from her brow..in sync with the pounding…her eyes firmly on the contents of the mortar.

Her hair closely cropped to her scalp, a blue black hue….a sharp contrast to her complexion. Her mouth was slightly agape; her feet shod in a pair of leather male slippers…several sizes too big for her slender feet. Slippers, I guessed belonged to my Beloved. I moved closer to the window lattice and watched the shadows play on the concrete floor of the kitchen. The lantern was dimmed low….if it was bright, it hurt my Beloved’s eyes. I could hear the low murmur from his lips as he slept, I smiled, he always spoke in his sleep. The mattress creaked under his weight as he turned on his side, I shied away careful not to wake him as he unconsciously reached for me-my eyes fixed on his mother.

She had stopped pounding and was sitting on a beautifully crafted wooden stool. A stool she used only in the kitchen. It had been a gift from her paternal uncle shortly before the birth of my Beloved. She pulled the mortar close, straddling it between her thighs….using a wooden spoon she scrapped the inside of the mortar of the last bit of dough into a porcelain plate. She dipped her wooden ladle into water and molded the dough into a glistening sphere. She stood on her tip toes to carry a big pot out of the alcove. She opened the big lid and stirred it’s contents…..it’s familiar spicy aroma hit my nostrils. She poured an assortment of meat and thick broth on the pounded yam. I saw the beginnings of a smile play on her lips. Her face was immersed in a bright glow, light from the lantern was playing tricks on me.

The door creaked open. Efe. She called softly without raising her voice. Nne. I responded.”Bia… come and feed my baby“. I swung my swollen torso off the bed I shared with my husband, grimacing as I felt a sharp nudge at my side. Everyone was asleep. It was almost midnight and my cravings did not follow a time table. While I ate, she cleaned out the mortar….humming a lullaby under her breath.