After it happened, I think my spirit vacated my body. I could not move, I could not scream, I couldn’t even cry. I remained rooted to the spot, not believing that this had just happened to me. ME. I was good, kind and decent. I did not deserve this. More so, it happened in broad daylight. Things like this don’t happen in the day. Or do they?
‘Move!’ My brain finally kicked into gear. I had to get out of there before it happened again. My rendezvous with the girls was quickly forgotten. All I wanted was to get home without further mishap. The 8 minute walk was the longest of my life. The pedestrians I had previously ignored were now shifting shadows and potential attackers- ready to pounce at any minute. I shivered under the noonday sun.
The shivers escalated to rigors the moment I walked through home doors. The familiar faces; mom, dad, my sister, her boyfriend… It was too much. I crumbled to the carpet.
‘What happened? Oh my God! What happened? Were you attacked? Who died? Talk to us now…you’re scaring us!’
I felt my mother’s hands all over me as she searched for blood, cuts or sores. Poor woman, she was working herself up to a frenzy.
‘Tell me what happened baby…’
I must have been 13 the last time she called me baby. I remember telling her that as a teenager I did not appreciate being regarded as a baby and to buttress my point, she was to answer to mom, as ‘mommy’ was so pre-teen. I looked up and saw my dad with his arms crossed, preparing for the worst. He had aged 10 years in less than 10 minutes. My daddy. I couldn’t. Not in front of him. It would kill him. Mom caught my look and signaled to the boys to leave. The door shut behind them.
‘Mommy’ I whimpered.
‘They’re gone. It doesn’t matter what it is- you can tell me.’
Deep breath. ‘I can do this’. I told myself.
‘I was just walking down Ajakaiye avenue and out of nowhere, this boy just ran up to me and… and… Mommy he hit my bum!!
I didn’t even know I was holding it all in until I burst into tempestuous tears. How I sobbed! What was that other sound though? It didn’t sound like my sister wailing or my mother raising her voice in a dirge…wait a minute… The heifers were laughing! The boys burst into the room unannounced- obviously believing that we had gone berserk with grief. Imagine their confusion when my sister fell to the floor in spasms, while mom forced herself to take a huge gulp of air before gagging out to dad:
‘Someone hit your daughter on her bum-bum!’
And so the merry making continued.
‘My friend snap out of it! So a stranger hit you on your butt… So what? It must have been shaking very well. You should take it as a compliment. We thought something serious had happened! You’re too sensitive jare!’
How is a random guy sexually harassing me on the street a compliment? Whose butt doesn’t shake when they walk? Should we all pad our behinds with notebooks? What if he had grabbed me elsewhere? Should I have blushed prettily if he went for my breast instead? It jiggles too doesn’t it? Or is it all about location?
My sister meant well, but at that moment, I would have given her up for slave trade.
It’s been two hours since I locked myself in my room and I still haven’t stopped crying tears of hurt and fury. Mad at myself for being the victim. I should have chased him, thrown something, cussed him out- anything! I just stood there! Furious at my family for laughing at me. Hurt that they aren’t even trying to understand.
‘Thank God at least it wasn’t rape’
Wasn’t it? He stole from me. He took without asking, and left me frightened, violated and confused. Was I really asking for it? After all I was wearing my killer jeans. What if it happened again? What if they were several of them at different junctions just waiting for me to wriggle past? Should I change my wardrobe? Was this all my fault?
Down came the proverbial ton of bricks. Precious. Bubbly, nauseatingly gorgeous, with a body made for sin, Precious. Everything she wore hugged, stretched, plunged and revealed. She was respectful enough, but didn’t get respect back in return. She was altogether too blatantly sexy to be given the benefit of the doubt. The cars that graced her parking space were proof enough that she was peddling her assets. And so the verdict was final- she was the neighborhood slut.
Precious was raped 2 weeks ago. They broke into her house to take nothing but her. And they did. Over and over again. Empty platitudes were offered, but behind her back, men and women cackled like witches. ‘She brought it on herself,’ they said. ‘Maybe now she will invest in native’.
Wiping my tears, I got up, went to the kitchen, found a basket and packed a meal of rice, chicken, fruits and juice.
Even the doorbell sounded sad. The door cracked open after I identified myself and I came face to face with a pathetic, hollow creature clad in a baggy sweatshirt and boyfriend jeans. Is this what she had to become to get some sympathy? I’m filled anew with loathing for man’s inhumanity to man. A peek into the house revealed bare walls and the chaos that accompanied moving. Made sense- she had no choice but to run from her nightmare. Her gaze shifted between me and the basket and then her eyes filled with a longing so deep my heart shattered once again.
‘I’m sorry Precious’, was all I said before we burst into tears.