I’ve always wondered about anniversaries.
Birthdays, weddings, death anniversaries. But birthdays, most especially. Maybe that’s because I never celebrated one, or because it took a very, very long time before I even knew what a birthday was. Either way, I wasn’t terribly awed with the idea of commemorating something that had happened years back every year for the rest of my life. Nothing could be that special.
I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
Now, I have my own special day. Just that instead of the blaring music and the jollof rice and drinks that accompanied celebrating these anniversaries, I’ll probably acknowledge mine by locking myself in a very dark room, crying my eyes out. Wishing I’d never been born, or wishing I had the decency to die or bury myself or … or that sort of thing.
October eight. It was the day I officially graduated from the prestigious Seals Tailoring Institute at Victoria Island, and earned my freedom. It was also the day I lost my virginity. Make no mistake, both events are totally unrelated. Some people might think because I earned the certificate to cut and sew clothes, I got ecstatic and decided to celebrate by ripping my clothes off and doing ‘the deed’ with my boyfriend. I actually have friends who had planned to do that, (we’ll get to them later) and considering my present situation I probably wouldn’t have minded if that was what happened.
You know, leave the venue of our reception and head on to a pre-arranged hotel with my unbelievably good-looking muscular boyfriend. The room, dolled up in red drapes and scented candles and beautiful congratulatory cards would have a wide, wide bed laid with velvet bedspread, a bunch of those exotic flowers sprinkled over it. Soft music in the background, and… then he’ll hold up both arms, reaching out for me. I’ll be shy of course, I’ll smile coyly and look at the floor. This tells him what he already knows, I’m a virgin, and –
And I’m getting carried away. I’m bound to do that a lot. Kindly pull me back any time you feel I’m veering out of point in future.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, wishing I’d lost my virginity to my boyfriend.
But as I have no boyfriend, at least not in Lagos State, so that didn’t happen to me. At the risk of sounding like ‘Miss goody shoes’, I’ll like to mention that I was actually a good girl. A very good girl. An exceedingly good-mannered girl – the type that never bats her eyes invitingly at men, the type that did all her chores without complaining, the type that never wore tight or revealing clothes, the type that held on to her virginity like it was a life line. I was never impressed with the huge cars or the expensive looking men that always offered to ‘take me out’. And considering the fact that I had a face that was quite pleasing to the eyes, I got eons of this offers. But I never took them, I knew where taking me out would lead to. At least ninety-five percent of the time. So I avoided all of them like the plague. I had someone waiting for me back home. Attahiru, my betrothed.
My virginity was taken forcefully, and by someone I’d least expected. Mr Bamidele Cole, my boss’s husband.
Up until three weeks ago, The Coles were the best things that had ever happened to me. The silver lining in my stormy cloud, the diamonds in the rubbish heap of my life… that sort of thing. They were amazing. They transformed me from an ordinary village girl with no basis for existence to someone who had a purpose. Though they started as my bosses, less than a month after moving in with them, they became my teachers, my guardians. They were by all standards the most important people in my life. My parents didn’t count. And I repeat, up until a few weeks ago they were the best people on earth. Both in their forties, unbelievably wealthy, influential and humble – their humility humbles me myself. They have no children, and I don’t know if that was intentional or circumstantial, but I can say they didn’t seem affected by it. They were happy, easy going and seemed contented with their lives.
How and why this people decided to destroy a life they had so painstakingly built now eludes me. Because, I tell you, my entire life is meaningless now. And I am not exaggerating. The tutoring, the exposures, the mingling with people of the city and the fat amount of money spent on making me skilled in tailoring. was I going to do with them?
Get married to my awesome well-spoken English? Build a family with my amazing knowledge of how to wield a fork and knife? Or wait, have a life filled with happiness because I know the reply to ‘how do you do?’ is ‘how do you do too?’
I probably sound flippant. But in truth, I’m not. I’m devastated. I’ve been for the past three days. My well overdue for a bath body has been folded in a tight little ball on my equally dirty bed for the past three days, with exclusive visits only to the toilet. The first day was worse. The door to my room was bolted tight – to avoid a recurrence of course, my bruised emotions careening madly around the room. I probably cried a river, and was working on crying an ocean but I ran out of tears and I was left feeling hollow, devastated and grief stricken. Amidst my shock, somehow, I was granted respite and fell asleep, when I woke the next morning I held on tightly to my sleep hoping if I didn’t open my eyes everything would be a lie. I eventually opened my eyes and I faced the hard reality again.
Oh, how I wanted to die. I was at a loss. I felt alone and afraid and betrayed. I had a dizzying urge to pull the blankets over my head and die. But then, I’m a coward; I couldn’t bring myself to commit suicide. So instead I prayed for lightning to strike, for the massive house to collapse, for a hired assassin to just visit and help me out of my mystery. My prayers weren’t answered, none of such happened. And for the millionth time I wondered how Uncle could have done this to me.
Don’t get me wrong, Attahiru loves me (did I mention his name is Attahiru?), and I’m very sure my change in ‘status’ wouldn’t mean a thing to him. But what do I tell my parents? Or his? The priceless red stain that was tradition to show to our parents after the first night of our wedding had been washed off in yesterday’s laundry. I would be an object of ridicule and shame. Mothers would call their daughters and point at me, ‘behold the shameless girl that opened her legs for some one that wasn’t her husband.’ Everything I’d become would be used against me, and other young girls preparing to go out would be damned and discouraged. How did this happen to me?
I stepped out of my room the second day, feeling soiled and bruised and terribly angry. Luckily, Uncle (that’s what I call the heartless cow) was nowhere to be found. He’d obviously thought it best to get lost which was very thoughtful because I just wasn’t sure i could bear to see him without attempting to inflict seriois bodily harm on him. Sink my teeth through his jugular or scratch out his owlish eyes with my nails The shock had worn off, replacing it with grief and intense rage, but I had no one but myself to vent the anger on. So I went back to my room and lay very still on my bed, staring at the ceiling, tears tears trickling down the sides of my face and again wishing i had the strength to kill myself.
But today, which is the third day after the incident, the shock, the grief, the anger, the devastation, all of them has taken a back seat to fear. Throat-closing, bone- numbing fear. I’m so scared my heart beat has skyrocketed. And the dreams didn’t help. I don’t know where they all came from, but they made an appearance the previous night and swooped me completely, making me sweaty and panicky. The former camaraderie of wanting to injure Uncle fled, to be replaced by the fear of seeing him.
Amidst my angst and feeling of woe, Aunty (that’s what I call his wife, who as I said, happens to be my boss) called me, expressing her regret for not being at my graduation. As if it mattered. I could have told her right there and then what had happened, but I didn’t, because I just couldn’t see myself hurting her that way.
You see, Aunty was a bit of a rarity. The sort of person that appeared only once in a century. Even though she was rich, good looking and sophisticated, she was kind. Unbelievably so. Apart from having firsthand knowledge about what an ‘unkind’ person was (details on this also, later), of my friends at The Institute had recounted numerous stories of their evil cousins, sisters or bosses whom they were living with. All of them sounded horrible. But aunty – She was different. She didn’t serve my meals in a plastic plate, or tell me to eat in the store or shout my name from the top of the stairs, expecting me to scurry over, shivering and panting heavily. She was just – just amazing.
But kindness and amazingness, aside, Aunty was also sick. I think. She hasn’t told me in certain terms that she was feeling unwell, but for months now, she’d lost weight, her appetite, her natural luster and vivaciousness. She got tired at the merest exertion, always held her chest when she coughed – and she did that a lot, couldn’t stop sweating… the list is endless. Before this … this ‘Incident’ (shall we stick to calling it that?) I spent all my waking moment worrying, dreading the day she’ll fall and suffer a heart attack. Or hypertension. Or worse, a stroke. The fear had been dulled a bit, now that I had to deal with my own grief but still, what would telling her that sort of news make of me?
Another heartless cow.
So I kept it to myself, what’s the big deal? I’ve only lost my virginity and the possibility of ever getting married.