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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Drama Stories / Human Interest Stories
- Subject: Alternative Lifestyles
- Published: 10/11/2019
The sky was purple; the colour of her lips. The air was white; the colour of her soul. I was melting into joy like solid shea butter sinking in the heat of a double pan; too far from flames to burn yet close enough to boil.
So, while dancing to the tunes the band played at our wedding reception, my heart bled for the truth I never told Memshima and the sacrifices we would make for her.
It has been a year since I got married to Mem. She wanted a child, I prayed for none. Yet, I went with her to every fetish and real prophets that asked for everything from my money to her soul.
Still, I prayed that God would lock her womb with a giant padlock till I was able to conquer the evil in me or till the day I die, and whenever I feel lost, I would hope and hope that she would meet a man who wasn’t as damaged as I am. I was selfish, but then, love is selfish.
My wife is beautiful; she is my precious thing, but so is he. She is fair and plump like ripe fruit; her black-blue braid falling down her head to her shoulders.
He is dark and bald and ripe enough to leave a sour-sweet taste in my mouth and I taste him over and over again.
She has round large eyes; dark and accepting with a fat nose that sits on her face like it Is as an afterthought. He has slit eyes, bright and questioning; thin nose and mocking lips.
My wife is loving, but so is he. Her soul is beautiful as his once was.
* * * *
I am shocked, too shocked to cry. My body trembles at the picture that I can never get out of my head. My day started like every normal day; I got ready for work, kissed my husband goodbye and drove to my office at Ikoyi, a metropolitan part of Lagos.
One of our colleagues whispered to me that our heavily pregnant colleague had just been delivered of Twins.
Twins! And I have been begging God for a baby like finger to prove to my in-laws that I wasn’t barren and could produce an heir for their only child.
I trembled, trying to hold back from screaming and exploding in tears. My husband Tomi and I had gone to several Doctors. I had even accepted the herbs Tomi said were mixed by famous herbalists in his village. I had refused initially but then, I couldn’t afford to risk my marriage.
We were from different tribes and his mother had already begun suggesting that he marry another wife and this time from his tribe.
I needed my husband on my side so I accepted the herbal concoction that smells of rotten tree barks and tasted like death.
Yet, each Doctor we visited told us that there was nothing wrong with my husband or I. Why then was my womb rejecting babies? I wondered. I was seriously beginning to suspect that someone was casting a spell of barrenness on me.
There were no miscarriages to prove that I wasn’t a barren woman; nothing to show that I could be a mother.
I would stand in front of the mirror in the morning to look at my hips and wonder if they weren't big enough for a baby to pass through.
Then my husband would put his arms around me and undress me. We would make passionate love so that we could increase the possibility of me getting pregnant; it soon became our morning ritual before I head to work.
Although our marriage was a year old, our families kept calling and asking if I had started spitting and vomiting. I assured them that I was perfectly fine till I was told that they were asking if I had gotten pregnant.
As if I am God to put babies in my womb. Adoption was not an option, neither was IVF. Tomi has said that he couldn’t love any child that wasn’t his, neither could he love any child that did not come naturally.
He loved me, child or not, but that was the common lie African men told their wives my mother had said.
At the office, I moped about, head hung downwards with vacant eyes. My Boss couldn’t bear it anymore and told me to go home and get myself together.
I dropped all the products designs I was working on, took my car keys and drove to the house. I needed to cry; I needed to be held by Tomi. I needed to hear him tell me that nothing was wrong with me.
I dropped my handbags and car keys on the chair. The front door was unlocked; I guessed he was expecting Funsho, his best friend.
Tomi is a computer engineer who worked at home with our bedroom as his office. He only left the front door of our semi detached duplex open whenever Funsho was visiting.
They were very close and I was enamoured with his total devotion to my husband. I hurried up the stairs to our bedroom and flung the door open, ready to unleash the tears brimming in my eyes.
There he was, as naked as Biblical Adam. There he was too, another Adam: Funsho! Tomi was bent over Funsho, thrusting into him from behind. I felt suddenly dizzy. I gripped the door handle as they slowly turned to face me.
Tomi’s mouth was agape in surprise then guilt that took over his facial expression. He didn’t expect to see me home that early from work. Funsho stared at me, his expression defiant.
My lips trembled; I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. I wanted to run out but then my legs gave way and I fell to a heap on the cream tiled floor. I have heard of homosexuals, laughed at cross dressers, and could bet on my life that Tomi was as straight as a ruler.
He had spoken distastefully of homosexuality and his friends had wondered at his extreme hate for gay guys.
I hugged my knees and cried. My life was over. I didn’t notice them dress up till they both came and sat on the floor beside me.
I couldn’t lift my head. I couldn’t bear to look at the man I had loved and married. Neither could I bear to look at Funsho who had become a close friend to me too.
“I am sorry Mem, you do not deserve to find out about us like this. We...”, Funsho began.
My head jerked up at the mention of ‘we’. How dare he! I sniffed, my tears giving away to anger. I turned to my left where he sat and reached for his eyes with my newly fixed fingernails.
He was quick. He held my hands in a fierce grip and away from his face. Then he pulled me close and hugged me while whispering, 'I am so sorry Mem,’ and sobbing till he choked on his tears.
I struggled to get away from his embrace, revulsion for both of them racing up my throat like bile. I could taste the disgust I felt at what I saw and it tasted sour; so sour that it made me breathless and I went limp in Funsho’s arms.
Slowly, the hate and disgusts faded away. I did not feel a thing anymore. I had questions and all I wanted were answers.
“Please let me go", I whispered to Funsho and he released me.
His eyes were red from crying and his face was wet with his tears. I glared at Tomi who avoided my eyes. He did not move from where he sat.
Instead his eyes scanned the white washed walls, the abstract paintings that hung on either side of the wall and the Queen sized bed that seemed to fade into a corner in our large bedroom.
“Don’t. Apparently you use the baby word for Funsho and I so, don’t you dare call me that again. I want to know, when did this start? How long has it been going on Tomilade?” I asked turning to look at him.
I could see tears snaking down Tomi’s cheeks to the corner of his lips. I wanted to reach out and brush them off because I couldn’t bear to see Tomi cry.
I have never seen Tomi cry; he was my rock; the strong one, but then, things were not the same anymore. He didn’t speak and I let my hands fall into my lap.
Tomi just bent his head and sobbed, his shoulders quivering as he sobbed bitterly. Funsho looked pained as he watched him cry. I could feel jealousy tug at my heart but I ignored it. I sighed and waited for Tomi but Funsho cleared his throat and began.
* * * *
I was a child before Aboki Musa made me a man. I was a newborn with a father who took one look at my ‘woman part’ and abandoned my mother and five years old sister.
I was a child who wondered why our neighbours forbade their children from playing with me.
So, after coming back from my school with battered clothes and torn sandals, I would take a tray of newly washed watermelon and pineapples and walk the streets looking for buyers among the stony-faced men and women that walked past me or the women that sat in front of cracked bungalow barracks that looked like my house.
I would tour the streets till my feet were caked with sand and sweat; till my tray was empty save for a lone pineapple that was rejected, just like me.
Aboki Musa was good to me, I thought. He would give me a sweet after buying half of my fruits. He was the first person I took my tray of fruits to while my Mother and sister sold the rest in front of our house.
He sold his biscuits and sweets on a table and in front of his tiny wooden one room house with a single window too tiny to air his room.
It was built in front of the gate of the big house where he worked as a gate man while subsidising his meagre salary with the sales from his business and cobbling jobs.
The day he made me a man, the sun had come out strongly. My slippers had cut along the way so I took them off and held them in one hand while walking barefoot on the scorching earth.
I hurried to Aboki Musa to sell my fruits, hoping that he would also mend my slippers without charging me a dime. He was glad to see me.
“Take am inside, sun dey hot”, he said.
I was happy to take a break from the sun so I took my tray and entered the room. It was dark but not too dark for me to see where I sat.
He laughed nervously and told me that he wanted to help me. I watched as he told me how sad he was to discover that people avoided me because of my woman part.
I wondered how he knew but he said I needn't bother about how he came to know. He told me that he was going to do something to me that would close it up and I would be normal again.
Tears rushed to my eyes. It was the first time someone apart from my mother and sister would see beyond the curse I carried.
I had longed to play with other children. I wanted to dance in the rain with boys of my age.
I wanted to race disposed car tyres and pretend that I was driving a bunch of boys in a bus and they would sit on my wooden log, call me driver and ask for imaginary changes from their bus fares.
Or I would sit on the veranda at night with other children while our parents gossiped and enjoyed the breeze that had been denied them in their stuffy rooms.
I lived in a bungalow with several rooms where different adults lived with their broods of children. Each family had a single room that served as bedroom and sitting room.
Everyone cooked in the general kitchen which was a shack at the back of the house. We took turns to use the bathroom and sometimes the kids had their baths in front of the bungalow that faced the main road.
I was having my bath in front of the house one morning when a neighbour saw the vagina I washed before my penis. Soon, everyone knew I was a curse; I was both male and female.
The children around stopped playing with me and my mother never said a word. Not even when her enemies used me to taunt her.
She would go inside our room and cry, then she would call me and tell me that she was not ashamed of me so I mustn’t be ashamed of myself.
My elder sister Sade would smile at me on those days and take my tray of fruits out to hawk while she told me to rest.
I couldn’t understand how they could face our neighbours with a thing like me. I didn’t think of my dad, I never saw him and never wished to see him.
So when Aboki Musa told me that he was going to make me normal again, I brought my hands to my face and wept till he put his hands on my shoulders.
He was my saviour, donning a once white kaftan with long beards that had contrary strays of white. His eyes shone in his coal black face as he asked me to lie back on the mat that took the place of a bed.
“I get power for my body, if I touch you kawai! Your body go change", he said with his thick Hausa accent.
I nodded and laid still.
Even when he asked me to pull off my shorts, I asked no questions. I asked no question when he raised his kaftan and brought out his long manhood.
His hands felt for my vagina and when he found it, he exclaimed. I groaned in pain as he stretched me before lowering himself onto me.
It felt wrong but then this was Aboki Musa and he had always been good to me, he cared, he knew best. I had no one to tell me otherwise, no friends to share tales of girls and how their parents made love while they thought their children were asleep at the foot of the bed.
I was silent as he moved into me, stretching me, expanding me. I squirmed but his hands pinned me down as he moaned and groaned like an old sow.
I prayed even though I never went to church. I prayed to the heavens that he would finish up and my vagina would close.
Then it would be worth the pain. We didn’t hear the low voices outside or the creaks the door made when it opened. I groaned in pain and he moaned in pleasure till a hand pulled Aboki Musa off me.
I looked up to the faces of the owner of the house and the people he had called after stumbling on Aboki Musa and I.
They dragged us to the center of the compound and told us to take off our remaining clothes. We knelt under the sun as they took pictures of us.
I watch them beat Aboki Musa till his eyes were red and swollen. Then they beat me. The crowd... strange faces touching me, hitting me.
“Open am make we see! Yeye boy e dey sleep with man’’.
I opened my legs as they took pictures and videoed me. Some asked me to stretch my vagina while others called me “hermaphrodite’’.
I wanted to tell them that that wasn’t my name, my name was Funsho. Some said they would send me to jail and I cried. I was only 10 years old; I didn’t want to go to jail.
Still they took us to the police station and I cried as I sat in the cell. I knew then that Aboki Musa had lied to me. He had made me do a very bad thing and even though I didn’t know how bad it was, I knew what we did must have been very bad. I cried till my Mother and Sade came and took me home.
Sade cried when we got home, mother did not cry but she was very sad. She showed me another tray to use for hawking when I came back from school. Then she turned to the window and wept silently. I knew from the way her shoulders shook.
The next week, we moved to another one room apartment because mother couldn’t bear the taunting of our neighbours who had joined the crowd while I knelt under the sun that day waiting for the verdict of the crowd.
I didn’t care if our new neighbours avoided us; I knew they must have heard about me as the former house was only a street away.
I had taken what the mob had given; I had watched them rip every shred of childhood dignity off me, I didn’t care what they thought anymore.
All I could think of was the silence of my mother and my sister Sade. They were dead, dead on the inside. I had thought one needed to be in the grave to be dead, I was wrong.
* * * *
I saw him from the balcony of my father’s house that overlooked the house where they gathered and hit him. I saw what they did to him as the sun baked his broken black skin.
At that moment, I knew I loved him even though we had never met. I knew he knew what it felt like to be me; stretched anus and a threat to be killed if anyone was told. I guessed that was the way it worked.
After school, I would change my clothes and leave my house to the streets where puddles of left over rain became various things to children; some of the kids called it mud tea.
It was the slum part of Ajegunle where refuse dumps became playgrounds because they were too many to be cleared.
We lived in the cleaner parts of Ajegunle where my father’s father had first settled after leaving his home town. There also my father had built a duplex and prospered.
My parents forbade me from going to the slum side but when father went to work and mother went to her jewelry shop, I would leave the house searching; searching for a piece of me amongst the throng of children playing and dying in the dirt.
I was also searching for my precious thing; Funsho.
The day I saw him, I had gotten tired and the sky looked like it would rain. Fluffy clouds gathered in the sky like frills on an Elizabethan dress.
I sighed knowing I was far away from home and praying none of my parents got home before me. He walked in front; limping and walking through mud that was not yet dried. He held onto the tray with one hand.
“Excuse me, excuse me,'' I called out.
He turned and I ran to him smiling. I pointed at the slices of pineapples that were tied up in a mini crystal clear nylon. He nodded and brought the tray to his chest.
I watched his tired dull eyes move about as he packed them for me. Then the rain began to fall and we ran. He ran and I followed him till we got to an abandoned mechanic yard.
“I no want make water touch am”, he said in pidgin English. I nodded, still watching him.
He told me that he was going to stay in one of the old cars that littered the mechanic yard. The rain was getting heavier as he handed the packaged fruits to me and searched for change in the money bag around his waist.
I told him that I wouldn’t be able to get home on time; I would wait till the rain stopped. He stared at me in surprise as I climbed into the dusty car with him, closing the door behind us.
The fruits remained untouched in my hands as I gazed at him, he couldn’t be more than eleven years old and I was eleven. I reached out and touched his hands, he flinched and pulled them away.
“I saw it...”
“I saw what they did to you that day”.
He opened the door to run but I stopped him.
“Please don’t go, please. What is your name?”
Then I told him what my mother’s older brother did to me. I told him of the nights I couldn’t sleep and those days when I couldn’t sit up properly because it felt like someone had lit a fire up my anus.
Then I got used to it and it didn’t hurt anymore. Still, I hated my Uncle because he was big and I was small and helpless. He told me he would kill my mother if I ever told anyone. I cried the day he left, he had only come to stay with us a month.
I cried tears of relief and when the days began to go by, I began to want him. I had gotten used to bending over his bed as he used my body. It felt strange to be left alone because my body wanted him though I hated him.
Funsho’s eyes were brimming with tears when I finished. He told me what Aboki Musa did to him. I cried for him; for me. I wanted to love him because he was me and I was him.
I had thought that there was nobody like me but there was; no one could understand how we feel and the way we felt it. He showed me his vagina and I touched him. I touched him in the places he had begun to yearn for love.
He touched me in the place Uncle had touched me. We touched and we loved what we had once hated.
Years later, I went to complete my education in Europe but I never forgot Funsho. I sent him money to start his carwash business.
His sister, Sade, married and relocated to another state so he rented a nice apartment where he lived with his old mother. When I came back to Nigeria, we met again and resumed our affair, but then I met you Mem.
I saw you in that beautiful floral dress and I knew I could love a woman; I fell madly in love with you. I wanted you, but Funsho told me that I couldn’t have you because he and I were damaged, too damaged to love a woman.
Still I went ahead and made you love me.
My heart broke as I watched you dance on our wedding day; I wanted to tell you. I didn’t know how, and when you lay naked in our bed; I worried that you would have a child who would be like Funsho.
Even if our son was a man and not man-woman, what would happen when he was touched on the inside? Would he live like I’ve done, walking down a path he never dreamed because he would be too ashamed to turn back even after he discovers that he could love a woman?
It ate me up and I prayed each day that God would shut your womb, and when Funsho told me of a herb that forbade babies, I took it and gave it to you.
* * * *
My heart hurt as I thought of what my husband and Funsho said. I was broken. I would have cried for their loss of innocence and what they had been through, but then, Tomi had deceived me.
I had cried in his arms when my mother-in-law had asked me if I still had a womb.
“Young girls do a lot of things that affect their wombs later in life,'' she had said mockingly.
He had deceived me, giving me herbs that made it hard to conceive. How dare he claim he loved me? I trembled and watched them scan my face with eager eyes, waiting for my judgement.
“I can’t do this anymore Tomi, I am leaving you,'' I said as I rose.
They scramble up and Tomi walked towards me.
“Mem, I can’t live without you. Please don’t leave me, I promise to go for therapy, anything”.
Funsho nodded. He told me that he would stay away from him but I saw his eyes; I saw their eyes.
They were in love and they were broken; broken by similar experiences that formed their bond; a bond too strong to be easily cast off.
I loved Tomi but I couldn't bear to share him and I couldn't stay knowing In the place where their souls had been, there were only ashes left; ashes of painful memories that couldn't be swept away.
Ashes of pain they've burnt together and made into a heap of love.
I promised not to tell people about their relationship because I didn’t want to see them go to jail.
I didn't want to lead them to the past all over again where men and women would throw stones on lives they do not understand.
So I stepped out of the room, not daring to look back on the lives I once loved as much as mine.