Name and Location: Jill A. in Abuja
Summary: My story is about a Nigeria that polices women’s sexual behaviour.
I was his first. We sat across from each other on the bed and I plucked nervously at the grubby sheets. The lights were off but the yellow light from the street seeped in between the curtains, yellow strips lashed the small chair and chest of drawers in the corner. It was a different mood of yellow from the one pulsing from my wrist. The light was the size of a 50 kobo coin; its size denied its importance. We had been sitting in silence since I arrived and his words came out in a rush startling me.
“You know I won’t marry you if it turns to 3.”
He was callow but sweet. Afterwards, I curled away from him and faced the wall. The power had gone out and he pushed little puffs of air through his slack lips into the darkness. I traced the raised edge of the circle embedded in my wrist. It had changed from a yellow 2 and had been showing a red 3 immediately he’d rolled off me.
I remembered as a teenager how I’d obsessively look at it hours after making out with a boy, scared that the green zero would turn into a yellow 1. I smiled remembering my mother saying that hugging a boy would get me yellowed. If she saw me with any boy she would lie in wait for me. Mama would shout and wave her hands over her head, her wrist free of that circle of light.
She was of an older generation, one where a Body Counter (BoCo for short) wasn’t implanted in her wrist from birth. The Indecency Bill, which made a BoCo compulsory, had been passed in 2052. It was signed in by President Michael Oron a pastor who during his tenure, led services every Sunday in the Ecumenical Church. I had found videos of the bill argument on YouTube. Men leapt to their feet, hanging the flowing cloth of their agbadas on their shoulders as they talked about the menace of child molestation.
“With a simple look at your child’s wrist you will know if she has been defiled” a house of representative member said, turning his wrist outwards and presenting it. And with a flick of the president’s wrist every new born baby girl was to be implanted with a BoCo. It counted each individual a girl/woman had carnal knowledge with. By the time the Israeli company awarded the contract had developed the technology in 2058, the Indecency Bill had gone through some amendments.
“Our girls are not like we were when we were young, they are wayward” a woman intoned. A murmur rose in the chamber as her fellow members agreed with her. Waywardness had to be curbed and so a limit was at 3.
I looked at the red 3 pulsing at my wrist. The circle was so small, so small but it had ruled my life, it had ordered my steps. My mother had shrieked and yanked my wrist to her eyes in a punishing grip.
“No one will want you now,” she had hissed. My BoCo had turned one and I was in love. His name doesn’t matter anymore; he had married a zero two months later. Who knew that a penis going into me could tell the world what sort of morals I have. Who knew that such soft organs could determine my worth and strip me of my humanity?
Sunlight seeped through the curtains and met me sitting patiently on the edge of the bed. I was fully dressed and my bag was at my feet. I flinched when the heavy knock on the door came but I picked up my bag and answered the door. The crisp Harmattan air dried the nervous sweat on my face. There was a BoCo officer there, his visor covered his eyes.
I nodded. He grabbed my wrist roughly and checked it. He then examined my left hand. No ring. I went with him without struggle. I had faced my greatest fear and I was unchanged. The doors of the idling van were thrown open and four women blinked in the sunlight. We pressed up against each other in the darkness; our glowing red wrists uniting us. I knew we were heading past the gates of the city, to the outside lands. I had heard that the women there had built a community. And I allowed myself wonder what true freedom would taste like.