After I have cried it all out, my mother’s mouth tears apart. There is no word from her. And her voice still lies silently under her pillow. She always forgets to use them; except for late nights and early mornings when she fills the house with prayers, asking God to take control. It makes me wonder if God taking control meant my authoritative father losing it. She gazes at a point in the distance as if I am not there by her side. I want her to look into my eyes, to give me what I have not yet lost, a name.
“How,” she whimpered. How?
I want to blame her for sending me far into the night to buy kerosene. I want to tell her how they circled and poked me about; how they ripped off my skirt and threw me into the darkness of the street; how their smell reminded me of the hoodlums who damaged roads and collected reconstruction money from drivers; how I looked them in their eyes as my pleas bounced off their faces. But I don’t.
“Armed robbers,” I say. “Armed robbers, they attacked me on the way.”
There is no sense of tragedy in my voice. I do not speak further. She asks how, consulting my response with her eyes, but my voice has become immortal after my invasion; dying on my tongue and resurrecting in my mind.
She asks me if I have told anyone else. My lips quiver when I say no one. She doesn’t move or speak. I glare into an empty space now, avoiding her stare. She reaches out for my hand and squeezes tightly. Her cry begins like a hymn but it stops before she finishes. I look at her, wondering if she realises that I am the one who needs consoling. I want her to ask me how I feel, not how my body felt or if I bled; perhaps she knew I did not bleed.
She speaks to me now like I am a criminal, spitting out scriptures in whispers and soaking me in the wisdom of a woman. She tells me to speak a little lower when men speak; something about still being worthy of marriage. I imagine becoming her, becoming the woman who serves her husband a meal after he hits her in public. She says I should be strong, like being invaded by three men was a test of true strength.
“No one else should know of this” she says, placing her hand on my shoulder, as though I am the rapist.
Diana Modeme (@emedom_diana) is an inquisitive writer and reader who applies a sense of honesty in her works. She loves to create a balance between societal and gender equality. She is also a recent graduate of the Chimamanda Adiche’s Purple Hibiscus Trust Creative Writing workshop. Here is one of the many creatures created on the 8th day, when God realized the need to create writers. She hails from Anambra state and is currently studying communication in the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.
Related country: Nigeria