I want to hate my mum. I really do.
But I can’t. She is my mum and dad said it’s not good to hate people. He said hating people is not healthy, that I should like everybody, even those boys that use to beat me. He told me all that, yet he hates mom. I saw it in his eyes when mom left him and took us with her.
I hate how she behaves though. She is too bossy and shouts a lot. What pains me the most is her proud assumption that I’m incapable of knowing what I want for myself. She always claims she’s in a better position to know what I should want for myself. How is that even possible? I’m seven years old for Christ’s sake and shouldn’t be treated like a kid anymore. I say that to her always but she won’t listen. I’m old enough to know what I want for myself. Adults are really crazy, especially my mom. The irony of the whole thing is that she doesn’t even know what she wants for herself.
She divorced dad a year ago but not a single day went by without her regretting it. “If your father were to be around, this and that,” she would always say. Who divorced him? She didn’t even tell us the reason for their split. “It’s for our own good,” was all she said. I definitely don’t think so.
I miss my dad. He isn’t a tyrant like her and he understands me a lot better. He allowed us to go to the stadium, museums and cinemas. That freedom ceased when mum showed up one day after the divorce and bundled us to Knoxville.
I hate Knoxville. Everything here is too fast for me; the days are faster, the birds fly faster, people walk faster, even the dogs are always on the run. I’m tired of Knoxville. I’m tired of my school. I’m tired of this fucking house. I wish I’m in PH with my dad. Things are simpler there. The neighbors are friendlier. I’m really tired of my mum and I have to do something about it.
Her boyfriend- Joe, a Nigerian immigrant too- is worst. We usually don’t get along. He sits all day colonizing the TV remote. Always saying you shouldn’t be watching this, you should be watching that. And he never listens. He always wants to be the one to speak. I’m tired of listening.
I stand up from my bed and pull aside the curtains. It’s Saturday morning. The sky is as blue as the one in the painting in the sitting room, but it isn’t dotted with white birds. We live in an open neighborhood. Outside, those annoying kids are already roller-skating. As I watch the kids, an idea pops into my head. I can go back to Nigeria alone! Yes I can. What’s the big deal?
Mum said Nigeria is very far from here but I know she is lying. All that is required is to get to the airport and enter the airplane. But what about money for transport? I think the money I saved from my monthly allowance will do.
I must leave this place at all cost!
I enter the bathroom I share with my sister and hurriedly take my bath. On stepping out, I run into her; she is about going in. She looks surprised and amused at seeing me with a big white towel wrapped around my waist, my hair wet.
“Where are you going to?”
“When did lazy bone start bathing very early,” she stresses the words ‘lazy bone’ for effect. She is ten years older than me and can be very annoying a lot of times. The fact that she likes it here makes her the more annoying.
“Stop calling me lazy bone!”
She laughs. “Anyway, mum is taking us shopping,” she whispers as if it’s a big deal.
“I’m not going,” I say and trot into my room.
I close my door and exhale deeply. I have to leave now? By the time they’re ready for the shopping I’ll be long gone. Thankfully, Joe left for God knows where yesterday and hasn’t returned. Amaka is in the bathroom. Mum will be in her room reading those big books; she’s a lecturer in one college like that.
I quickly retrieve my knapsack from under the bed and pack a few clothes including my toothbrush. I put on a pair of blue jeans and a yellow T-shirt, slip my feet in my sneakers and then zoom off.
The first thing I notice the moment I step outside is the cold weather. I’d forgotten my jacket and I can’t go back to get it? Undeterred, I march forward, noticing the curious glances thrown at me. I know it’s awkward for a kid to be walking on the street, carrying a knapsack on a Saturday morning. But I don’t care. All I care is to get as far away from the house as possible. Cold is gradually seeping into my bones but I keep moving. Determined more than ever.
A few more walks and runs, I arrive at the main road. I climb the curb and start to wave at taxies.
A taxi stops and the driver cranks his body toward me. He is black with dreadlocks. I like dreadlocks.
“You alone, kid?”
“No,” I lie. I know he won’t carry me if I’m alone.
He looks at me as if I said something stupid.
“Where’s your mama?”
“I’m to meet her there.”
“Go back home kid,” he says and drives off. I sigh and continue waving.
Three taxies stop, say the same thing and drive off. Frustration is becoming too friendly by now, so I begin to wave at private cars.
Thankfully, a red pickup truck stops in front of me. The driver is white and fat, with blotches on his neck. He looks old, maybe sixty.
He opens the door and says, “get in.”
I gladly enter the car and he drives off.
“Where to?” he asks me, without taking his eyes off the road.
He looks at me and smiles.
“You want to run away huh?”
I’m stunned. “How did you know that?”
“It’s obvious. Your knapsack. No jacket. The airport.”
I become silent. I don’t like it when someone read me that easily.
“So where’re you running to?”
His face swells as if it’s going to burst. I can see he’s trying to suppress laughter.
“You don’t like it here huh?”
“I tell you what. I’ll help you but it has to be tomorrow.” I’m about to protest when he said, “the airport is very far from here and you’re freezing already. You might die of cold on the way.”
He seems to be making some sense? I think.
“I’ll take you to my place so you can warm up, how about that?”
I hesitate in giving him an answer. I already feel bad for entering a stranger’s car. Mum warned me never to talk to strangers and here I’m, in a stranger’s car.
Well, mum isn’t here? I decide to follow him to his house.
“Are you married?” I ask.
“You have kids?”
“Yes. You’ll like them.”
I relax on the seat, imagining the surprise on dad’s face when he sees me at his door step. The escape feels good. They’ll probably be searching for me by now. I pity mum. She may be harsh and all but she has a soft heart. I can’t stay here! I just can’t! Even though the glasses are up, I still feel cold. I pray to get to his house soon.
We arrive at his place. It’s a small apartment, similar to ours but surrounded by thick green lawns. There are similar-looking houses on both sides of the road.
I follow him into the house. There’s no sign of a wife or kids. I mean to ask him about his family but something on the floor of the sitting room catches my attention.
“Feel at home. Tomorrow I’ll take you to the airport,” he says. I don’t hear him, my mind is somewhere else.
“Is that Xbox 360,” I ask, amazed.
“Can I play?”
“Cool.” I drop my knapsack on the floor and run to it. I’ve been telling mum to get me one but she refused. I power it on, then select Syphon Filter 3 from a stack of disks and slot it in. The fat man disappears inside the house. I play till my fingers hurt, till night comes and I fall asleep on the wooden floor.
I wake up to see the fat man standing before me with a grin on his face. The room is bare of furniture and without windows. Pasted on the wall are pictures of naked small girls and boys.
“Your room. You’ll be sleeping here.” There’s something about way he speaks that frightens me.
The fright turns to panic when he begins to undress himself. He stands naked in front of me and smiles. He’s really fat. He picks up a bottle I hadn’t noticed was there, smears his hand with its content and starts to massage his penis. It’s revolting. I look away.
“What are you doing!”
“I want to go home.”
“No you don’t.”
I start up and dash for the door, but he’s too quick. He grabs hold of me. I shout and struggle and kick at him but he’s too strong. He throws me on the floor and lands a heavy blow on my face and I see stars.
“Lay on your stomach,” he barks. I obey.
He kneels on the floor, removes my pants, raises my hip and draws me closer to him. I’m weakened by the blow. I think of my parents. I think of how stupid I acted today. He thrusts something hard into my anus, yanking my thoughts away and filling me with searing pain. I cry and he smacks my head, telling me to shut up. But I can’t. The pain is unbearable. He keeps thrusting in and out, the thrusts gathering momentum with each passing moment. The pain begins to wane. Some other feeling begins to replace it, something painfully sweet. The fat man is breathing hard as if he is doing some manual job. My mind blanks and remains so until something wets my anus.
He stands up and put on his cloths. I’m paralyzed from my waist down.
“Come tomorrow morning. I have something for you,” I hear him say on the phone before locking the door behind him. I just stare at the wall. I’m tired of crying. Sleep comforts me.
He comes into the room and asks me to dress up.
I put on my pants. He takes me out of the room to a hollow with a rising staircase. He threatens to kill me if I attempts to shout or run. We climb out of a hole in his backyard. He carried me into the hole while I was asleep last night? I curse myself for sleeping like a log.
We walk into the house. On getting to the sitting room, I’m so relieved to see Joe sitting on the sofa. Shock registers on his face but I’m too elated to know why. I limp to him and hug him.
“Please take me home, Joe.”
The fat man is silent. He stares at both of us, completely lost.
“You know him Joe?”
“Yeah! He’s my woman’s son.”
“He raped me Joe,” I say to Joe. Instantly, his eyes lights up with anger. I expect him to beat the crap out of the man. But instead, he stands up and merely asks, “Why?”
“I didn’t know you know him.”
Joe rubs his hair with his hands and looks intently at me. He turns to the fat man and says in a loud whisper, “I can’t take him to Don.”
“No, no no!” The fat man is shaking his head and wagging his index finger. “Not only am I going to lose some money, our operation will be blown the moment that boy”-he points at me- “goes back home. You hear me! Blooownnn!”
I try to understand what they are saying but I can’t. Why is Joe not beating him up? By the way why is Joe here? I remember the phone call and it hits me.
They are working together!
“I can refund you the money. But we’re not taking the boy to him.”
“No. I won’t allow it.”
The scuffle gets heated; to the extent I’m forgotten. I seize the opportunity and begin to back away slowly and unnoticed. The moment I step outside, I limp away as fast I can to the road, shouting for help.
“They raped me!” I keep shouting and pointing at the fat man’s house.
Within seconds I’m surrounded by passers-by. That’s one thing about this place; they don’t want to hear the word rape. Some of the men surrounding me run into the house. They come out with only the fat man. Someone calls 911.
Two policemen arrive in their patrol car. They handcuff the fat man and assure us that his accomplice will be caught. I describe how where I live look like and they check me into a hospital nearby. The nurse injects me with some drug and I fall asleep, peacefully.
When I wake up, mum is seating by my side, her eyes red and swollen.
“Nnaaa,” she calls.
Amaka is there too. She squeezes my left hand gently.
“I’m sorry mum.”
“It’s alright.” She starts to cry. I want to cry too but tears won’t come out.
“Are you hungry?” she asks, wiping her eyes with her hand.
“Let me go get something for you, ok!” She pats my head and leave.
Amaka comes closer and asks if I’m ok. She’s a pain in the ass but she’s acting nicely now. I decide to play along. I ask her about Joe and she tells me everything.
Joe had been caught and when mum learnt what he did for a living she was distraught and cried all day. “Joe and the fat man collect children and sell them to a man named Don, who in turn auctions them off to a group of pedophiles. They also use the children in porn sites.” She only ends up confusing me as she normally does. I ask her what she means by that, she refuses talking and says she isn’t supposed to say anything at the first place. I sigh. Adults are crazy sometimes?
Mum comes back with pizza and an ice cream- my favorite here. I munch it greedily, eyeing my sister. She laughs at me. Mum keeps looking at me as if expecting me to drop dead or something.
I look at her and swear never to run away from home again… and to return to PH.