‘Every Night‘ tells a story of two teenage girls, living in a timid village, and in love with each other. When one night, they were caught in a sexual act, along the village path, hell is let loose.
Every night, we meet at the path that leads to the stream – just before the children return from Pa. Timothy’s house, where they go for moonlight tales. Pa. Timothy is the village headmaster. They say he is the wisest man in the village. They say that because he has Standard Six certificate, in a village where most people never went to school.
This night, the children are still at Pa. Timothy’s. We are standing close to a tree by the path. I do not know this tree because it is dark. I have always made a mental note to come here in the daytime and check this tree out. But I always forget. Does it matter?
Sopuluchi is wearing her black singlet, the one she wears every night, so that people cannot easily identify her. A wrapper is tied round her waist and the singlet tucked inside it. I am wearing a loose gown. This is how we dress every night. Like this, it is easier to get on with it.
We do not wait to get close, but dive into each other’s arms. The way she kiss my neck up to my ears and bite my shoulders, always make me to come back here every night. When we see in the daytime, we avoid each other, making eye contacts and saying thousands of words with our lustful eyes.
My parents and Sopuluchi’s parents have been at war for ages. The cause of the quarrel transcends down to time immemorial, even before we were born. Since we were kids, we were thought not to talk to each other. We became friends when we were enrolled into St. Mary’s Girls College, a missionary school in Enugu. When we return home for vacations, we avoid each other and talk only when we bump into one another while going to the farm or to the church for choir practice or while going to the stream.
It all started one evening, as we returned from choir practice – Sopuluchi suggested that we meet at the path leading to the stream, under the huge tree, as soon as the children leave for moonlight tales. I did not ask her why, but I found myself under the tree just as the children left for Pa. Timothy’s compound.
When Sopuluchi saw me waiting for her, she walked up to me, the moonlight illuminated her face, as pale as ash. Her eyes were as sparkling as that of a cat. She held me close to her and before I said a word, her mouth covered my lips and took my breath away. She pushed me, till my back was resting on the huge tree. She lifted my gown. She took my nipples into her mouth. When she was done, finally making me moan and cry uncontrollably, she released her hold on me. I stepped back.
‘Did you enjoy it, Chinelo?’
I was calm for a while, ‘Good night.’
The next day, we did not see each other, till evening. It was a long day as I could not wait for night to fall. As soon as the children left for Pa. Timothy’s, I walked down the routes leading to the stream. Sopuluchi was waiting.
‘I thought you would not come.’
‘I am here now.’ I wore the same gown. She wore her black singlet and a wrapper. That day, I was the one that grabbed her and removed the wrapper. She wore nothing else inside. My hands went underneath and felt warmth. When we heard the shouts of the children, we untangled ourselves and bade each other goodnight.
Today, the children have not made their noise and Sopuluchi is still kissing my neck, sending shivers down my spine, my hands holding her nipples tight. Someone’s voice makes us stop, like a truck that has just hit a pole.
‘This is an abomination! Aru!’ We don’t know this person. I pull down my gown. Sopuluchi is struggling to tie her wrapper. The moon throws enough light on her to show her well curved hips and her chalice. She has brought down her singlet, covering her voluptuous breasts.
We stand close to each other now. Trying as hard as possible to stay close. Sopuluchi is holding my hand now, in protection.
‘So your parents sent you to school to learn how to sleep with yourselves? In big cities, girls sleep with girls, abi?’ It is Pa. Timothy. His voice has not changed since we were kids and used to visit his compound, to hear his numerous, tantalizing tales. Some of his tales were so frightening that after listening to them, we would run home, afraid of the ghosts that characterized them, lurking around the bushes and whispering our names. True. But fear never stopped us from going back to his compound every night. He never stopped telling stories. Even when he was busy or sick, he would spare just one story. Sometimes, our questions would prod him to tell more.
Pa. Timothy is clicking his fingers and they are making loud sounds. He is shaking his head at the same time. He reaches us and grabs our hands. We say nothing, because we are afraid of not just the abomination we have committed, but the boundary of enmity we have crossed. A boundary that had existed for long. The fact that papa is a catechist has not bridged the gap between the two families.
We walk along the path leading to our house. Pa. Timothy is still holding our hands and we follow him like a goat being led to the slaughterhouse. My mind is wandering to a lot of places. Now it is asking Pa. Timothy questions: why was he not at his compound, telling stories to children? Why did he take the lonely path and not the main path leading to his house, the one the children take? Why is he taking us to our parents? Is he not aware that this is 21st century and you can do what you like with your body?
As soon as we approach the entrance to my father’s compound, Sopuluchi begins to beg. ‘We are sorry, Sir. Please forgive us.’
‘Please, Sir. It is the work of the devil. We are sorry, Sir,’ I join in pleading. Pa. Timothy stops. He has stopped murmuring about the weight of the abomination we have committed. About how we have failed the whole village. About how we have failed God and have committed the same sin that characterized Sodom and Gomorrah and made God to destroy the city.
‘Sir, it is not her fault. It is not Chinelo’s fault. It is my fault. I was the one that lured her into this—’
‘Will you shut your mouth, idiot!’He slaps her on the face. Sopuluchi staggers back.
‘Have you been doing this in school?’
‘No, sir,’ I answer. Sopuluchi is sobbing quietly. Her sobs is sounding like the sounds of the crickets that surrounds the bushes. Some unknown birds on trees are also producing intermittent sounds.
‘My parents will kill me. Please, Sir. Pardon us—’
‘Pardon you? It is not my decision to take. The whole village must hear this.’ He drags us into the compound.
It is morning. Large crowd has gathered at the village square. The chief priest is sitting on the ground, at the center of the square. Our parish priest is running from one side of the square to the other, pleading and begging the elders not to do what they want to do. Mama is wailing somewhere by the side. Other women avoid her because she is the mother of a daughter who has committed an abominable act. Papa is sitting on a huge tree root that has sprouted out of the earth and is serving as seat for the elders. I cannot see Sopuluchi’s mother. I overheard someone saying she preferred to stay at home, than watch the public disgrace. Her father is also running around like our parish priest.
Sopuluchi and I are naked. Tied back to back and our whole body rubbed with a mixture of charcoal and black carbon that they have extracted from batteries. Women are shouting and spitting at us. Children are shouting woooh! wooh! wooh! Clapping their palms against their mouths.
The chief priest has given the verdict of the gods. We are to be flogged till we can no longer breathe. The parish priest is saying that it is murder. Pa. Timothy is sitting proudly like a hero he is. The discoverer of evil. A fowl with her chicks roams past and one of the chicks step proudly on one of my outstretched legs. Sopuluchi and I have been crying since night and all the tears in our eyes have dried up. We are just staring at the crowd. I can recognize all the faces – Mama Ezinne, the old woman who objected to our going to school. ‘How can you send girls to school? It is unheard of,’ she used to say. Mama Joy, the woman whose compound is close to ours. She is clasping her arms around her breasts in bewilderment. John, the village town crier, who has been asking me out since I returned for vacation, I can see smiles on his round face. Sopuluchi’s siblings are standing far away and crying. I am the only child, so no one is crying for me, except mama.
We watch as the parish priest enters his rickety Toyota Carina II and zooms off. One of the village youths approach and grabs one of the canes. He flexes his muscle and flogs. The cane falls on my face and meets Sopuluchi’s shoulder, blood spurts from my nose. We wail. He continues, the more the cane falls on us, the more energized he seems to become.
We are rolled on our side now. The third youth is holding the cane. Our parish priest’s car zooms in. He comes out holding a brown envelope. The elders meet him. The parish priest hands the village head a wad of notes. The village head smiles.
‘Stop!’ he shouts at the youths. The youth drops the cane and walk up to them.
‘Take them to the chief priest’s house. So that they will be exorcised.’
‘No. I have paid. They are mine now. We have a way of treating this in the church. Please.’
‘No!’ one of the elders shouts. Papa’s eyes are downcast.
‘No. we will do it our own way. The abomination was not committed in your church. It was committed on our soil. They are our children. If we don’t exorcise them, our gods will pour their anger on us,’ the chief priest pronounces.
The parish priest is watching with shame and reluctance. They drag us away.