Decades II – very much like the original Decade project – explores the wholesomeness of womanhood as lived in ten-year intervals; Girls; Ladies; Women; Mothers; grand and great-grand mothers all. They live the same life we live, experience the same joys and pains unique to their decades and maybe we can learn a thing or two from them. Find the subtle connections that link their lives together and get lost in stories told. Decades II.
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They call it life.
Freedom, that’s what they say.
And now, their eyes can see,
Their minds now comprehend,
Their hearts are compromised,
Innocence is lost.
“Close your eyes and count to ten.”
I looked at his blank face and wondered if they taught it in medical school. I almost grabbed the collar of his lab coat, to choke a reaction from him. I closed my eyes instead.
July one 1998. There was no pain, and if Labake hadn’t screamed, “Diuto, you’re stained!” I would never have known. Thankfully, we were around the hostels by then. My friends celebrated with me that night. I was thirteen, and the last among them to ‘become a woman’. They made Tasty Time for all six of us, in celebration. Mine was diluted till it tasted like water; they said sugar increased the blood flow. I drank it with pride as my friends repeated the period stories they’d already told me a thousand times. It might seem like fun now, they said, but months from now I would find myself wishing it away. They were right, but I couldn’t have known it then. The next day when I made my morning soak I put in three cubes more of sugar than I’d normally have, but was disappointed to find the flow ebbing by that evening anyway.
Two was the number of times Bella asked me before I said okay. It was the first time a boy would ask to be his ‘friend’; it didn’t matter that he’d done it through Bella. When my friends gisted about the boys that constantly disturbed them, I wondered why boys never came to me. Was it because I still went for food, in SS 2? No. Queen went for food, but they still scoped her. Maybe somebody had told them that I still bed wetted, once in a while. That day when Bella had come to meet me that Peter said he liked me, I’d felt a sense of validation, and it was out of relief that I said okay the second time. Biola said to be careful; she knew boys and it wasn’t friendship Peter wanted. I knew, but I pretended not to.
After a week of awkward meetings and hurried conversations at Tuck Shop, where Peter would do the buying and Bella the arranging, the social prefect announced that Dangerous Twins would be showing that weekend. Peter bought the tickets, of course, for me and my five friends and, by tacit agreement, I was to sit beside him during the film. In the darkened hall, right at the part where Ramsey Nouah’s daughter was shot, I felt the hand slide under my skirt, up my thigh. The girl went down; the audience went up; I went to the hostel. It was Biola that told me how the film ended.
Three seventy-one was the score that got me into Uniport. When I told people I was in education I’d see the horror on their faces. “With 371 they put you in Education? These Uniport people sha!” Me, I was just happy to have gotten admission at my first attempt; I didn’t want to be one of those that got the JAMB frequent writer t-shirt. Besides, I would be choosing English as my teaching course, so it couldn’t be that bad. I was seventeen, the youngest in my class; and anyone could tell just by looking at me. I became the baby; the class pet. But with time I also became recognized as the go-to girl for many of the English courses, especially after I got the only B in Okoh’s course.
Four p.m. was the time when he first came to my room. I remember because I was just settling down to listen to Belema’s Cool Drive on Rhythm FM, and was pissed to see him shining his teeth through my net door. I had first met him at Choba Market, when he came over to greet my friend at our meat customer’s stand. He was wearing a shirt of many colours, and when he asked where I stayed I told him just to be polite, since he was my friend’s friend. I had hoped he was lying when he said he would come check on me sometime. Even as I opened the door to him that day, with a forced smile, I knew what he would ask of me eventually. I knew what my answer would be.
Five months after we started going out, we kissed. It was my first time. Just like with Peter, it was the second time Tari asked me out that I agreed. After that first visit to my room he had put me on his weekly schedule: no less than three visits a week, no less than four hours per visit. After a few months he asked me out. He had, while I had been busy trying to figure out his oddness, started to build a nest in my heart; but the nest must not have been completed then because I gave my answer and wondered, over the weeks that followed, why he still would not leave me alone. By the second time he asked me out his nest was good and ready.
Six weeks passed before I became worried. School was closed for another ASUU strike, so I was at home the day I confirmed it. I don’t remember what lie I told my parents to allow me return to school; they must have been very preoccupied with their other children and the new, bigger house we had just moved into. I rushed back to school and into Tari’s arms with the news, and he told me he would stand by me no matter what I decided.
We went together to the big pharmacy at Rumuokwuta to buy the drugs; he did the talking, I avoided the pharmacist’s eyes. I sweated and cried and bled and died for days, but even that was easier to bear than the thought of being a mother at eighteen. I was not one of those brave people. The bleeding continued longer than the drugs had promised, and we went and did a scan, to find out why you would not die properly. They said that pieces of you were still inside me; I would need a suction procedure.
Seven was when I gave in to the anaesthetic and my eyelids fell.
Two years after, I can finally admit it: my name is Diuto Ibekwe and I am a murderer.
SO THANKS FOR READING. POEM AND STORY. HOW EASILY DID YOU FIT IN? WHAT DID IT TAKE FOR YOU TO BECOME ‘NORMAL’? HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR FIRST ENCOUNTERS WITH LOVE AND INTIMACY? YOUR MISTAKES? YOUR REGRETS?
WOULD YOU HAVE A BABY AT EIGHTEEN?
A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?
FIND THE ART OF @UcheAnne here
N.B. The project still goes on for the following six days. Tomorrow we have The third Decade by @JadenTM.
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