“…Touch You?”

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Anger was birthed so tangibly I could reach out to pet it in me as I struggled to ignore the gnawing pain on my face from my broken jaw, in my mouth from my broken teeth and in my head from trying hard to convince myself it did not just happen. I needed to believe that right now is a dream, I would surely wake up any moment from now to my real life – my beautiful peaceful life.

The pain in my head got worse, it must be its reaction to the sound of different unfamiliar voices talking all at once, from listening to ‘sympathizers.’ They were mostly people who lived in my lodge. I didn’t know almost all of them. I wondered where they had come from, how they had heard and what they were doing when they heard. I strained my head to wonder what their first reactions could have been and the words the news bearer used in describing me, were they able to realize I was the person being described? Young women, in their early twenties, still wearing their night dresses with wrappers tied across their chests, asking me, “hope he didn’t touch you.”
They asked me, staring right into my eyes as if daring me to lie. They asked me with that glare in their eyes  suggesting that I should know of course that by ‘touch‘ they mean ‘rape.’ There was that salient unvoiced apology in their tone suggesting that I should understand why they had chosen to make light of the situation and why they had chosen the bland word ‘touch‘ to replace the more dinkum word ‘rape.’ After all, do I not know that the word ‘rape’ is strong and heavy? Do I not know that they must not desecrate their tongues with such abominable word? They couldn’t bear to really actually directly ask if I, too, have been defiled. That word, it would mean seriousness and rid the situation of its potential to be used as a sad joke as is the ritual and character of Nigerians.

We find a way to laugh about anything and everything, including the fact that just a few hours ago, my privacy was invaded by a stranger with the skin colour a shade lighter than the back of a never washed pot blackened by continued meeting with firewood. They needed to make light of the fact that my house, my safe little place has just been broken into by a stranger in a blue shirt and black trousers, wielding a gun and being unnecessarily violent since I didn’t object to anything he asked me to do but he beat me up anyway, kicking and hitting  as I lay faced down on the floor; the fact that my days of peaceful night rests may be far behind me because in later nights,  I’ll wake up with a gasp, staring at my door, rushing to lock it even though I’ve done so several times not too long ago, switching off my phone and hiding it, running into my bathroom and waiting for my fear to appear before me or to go away, because, I could swear I heard a door open and it could have been mine. Nights of staring hard into darkness while hiding in my bathroom with a knife in my hand, not certain what I would do with it but somebody might loose his manhood.  Even though it’s just me in the room – it has always been just me until he paid me a visit, I strongly feel that there’s someone else and so I stare harder, trying to make out his figure in the darkness, waiting on him to try me this time and I promise him it would be his last.

That word made light of the fact that I may have lost my mind and it is only a matter of time before they tell the story as fast as they had told this one.

 

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