I remember that day. I had a worn out satchel strapped across my shoulder. It was filled with weak cotton outfits as good as rags. I was flip-flopping along with Aunty Eweto who was moving wap wap wap ahead of me. I hum-drummed in my breath trying to catch up with her fast paced movement. Occasionally, she turned to give me the you-had-better-be-fast scary and reprimanding stare. I wouldn’t say I was walking. I think I was running to catch up with her. I never did, but I managed to tag along. I bumped into stones and a pebble, scarred my toes, but was unable to wipe off the dripping blood. Once, I tried to bend over for a clean but I received a swift lash of Aunty Eweto’s palm on my butt. I jumped up wiggling my butt and gripping them with both hands, mumbling ayayooo ayayooo. Aunty Eweto nasalized the sound mock-mimicking me.
“oya move fiam! Now move quickly.” She pointed at the road ahead. I moved, scratching my butt and whimpering.
We entered a danfo heading to Agip. She said earlier that her car was bad. So, we used public transportation.
“Sapele Road. Agip. Sapele Road. Agip.”
All the conductors seemed to say the same thing, though not in unison, calling out to passengers heading in that direction. The place was rowdy. I clutched my satchel against my ‘big chest’. Aunty Eweto had told me before we left the village at Irrua that the motor parks in Benin were full of pickpockets and bag snatchers.
“o girl, you dey hide ya natural endowment abi?” One of the conductors said to me as we passed him to hop into the rickety and –I would call it– thorny vehicle. I pressed my satchel tighter against my ‘big chest’ as if to bury whatever was on it inside my body. This big chest had been causing me so much trouble. It was one of the reasons Aunty Eweto didn’t like me; I suspected so because she had told my mother, her eldest sister, while we were in the village that my big chest would cause traffic on the road and even in her house. She had said so with a bothered look on her face while her eyes sized me up and down.
We arrived at the house at Fanalou Estate late. I was told that Uncle Osa was home when we knocked. The door was shielded by a corrugated iron gate. It made a whizz as Uncle Osa pushed it open. Aunty Eweto flung her arms wide for an embrace but Uncle Osa was not looking at her. He was looking at me; at my big chest. She noticed it and lifted a suspicious brow. I quickly threw my satchel against my chest as I fidgeted, still looking at her face which was now frowning. As I fixed my gaze on her, I imagined a paper crumpling up in the fist of a man. That really scared me. I knew I was in trouble.
That night, she came into my room pointing a finger at me, giving me what she called the warning of my life to steer clear off her man and her son, Erhagbe.
“If not, I will slice off this big chest of yours.”
I was nursing the injuries on my toes when she came in. She looked down at me as I held the tip of my soaked towel touching the toes lightly but staring up at her in fright. Unexpectedly, she stepped on my bruised toes in anger, biting the gums in her mouth hard.
“ayayooo ayayooo!” I screamed watching my toes bleed profusely. Aunty Eweto seemed pleased at my screams and tears. She walked out of my room and slammed the door hard. I almost went deaf. I managed to nurse the hurting toes after crying silently for minutes.
I was almost falling asleep when I heard a creek. It was my door. I watched as it opened slowly and saw two feet tip-toeing into the room. It was my uncle-in-law. He shut the door and switched off the light. I usually sleep with the lights on. I wanted to ask what he wanted me to do for him thinking that my house help duties had already begun but he rushed to me, placing one of his hands on my mouth and using the other to lie me down on the bed. I didn’t scream. I opened my legs quietly and let him do what he wanted because my mother had told me make sure you do whatever your Aunty and Uncle want you to do. I wished I could scream because what he did was very painful. While he pounded on me, I stared at the clock on my wall as it struck, rang a nocturnal alarm and counted twelve. It was 12 midnight. I turned 16 at that hour. I lost my virginity. Thanks to my big chest.
The next day. I was nursing both my toes and my breasts. Uncle Osa had pressed my breasts with so much energy and bit the nipples with his teeth. It hurt. It really hurt. Then, Aunty Eweto stormed in bellowing at me to head to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. When she called me a lazy small girl, I wanted to tell her that her husband had just made me a woman. As I got up slowly from the bed, she sighted blood stains on the sheet.
“Such a dirty thing you are. You can’t even handle your menstrual flow.”
I had cleaned up at night after Uncle Osaze was done with me but I didn’t notice that I was still flowing. My joy was that she had no idea what actually caused the flow. It was safe that she thought it to be my menstrual flow.
That morning, I was to cook coconut rice. Aunty Eweto said it was too early to wait for me to take the coconuts to the grinder in the nearby market. So, she dashed a can of coconut milk paste from the fridge at me. I looked at it strangely with my eyes in an o-shape like one who was staring at her own excreta. After standing for minutes trying to figure out what to do with it, Aunty Eweto reached for my ears and squeezed them hard saying, “ozuo. Fool. It’s coconut milk inside a can. Open it.” I rubbed my ears as I shouted and whimpered. Erhagbe walked in on hearing my voice.
“Is that the new maid?” He asked in an accent my mother and I call Americana. He sounded like he was singing which made me to remember my favorite marching song in my primary school days in the village: kokodi, my cock, is dead.
“Yes son,” Aunty Eweto replied him. “Anyway, she’s actually your cousin but she’ll be serving as our maid.”
He stared at me for quite a while replying his mother from my chest. He was tall and comely in appearance. His hair was wavy. I thought he must have applied the cream that the boys in Irrua called sporting wave cream. It was a common style among the village big boys who hung around corners of the street whistling at every young girl passing by. Erhagbe’s was nice, though. I had not seen a wavy hairdo as cute as that. He looked twenty-two; I was not sure. I never got to know his age up till now. I would have been glad to have a company of my age to have regular chit-chats with, but for the stare which made me know I would have another bedmate in the house.
“You’re fucking hot,” he told me after his mother left the kitchen.
That night, my bed went thump-thumping as Erhagbe pounded on me. I slept off feeling exhausted. The next morning, Aunty Eweto slapped me up from my sleep with the back of her palm. She was screaming at me, saying things I could not figure out because I was still dizzy. Then, I noticed she kept pointing at the space between my legs which was wet. I wiped my eyes and took a closer look. That part was stained with discharge. Immediately, I realized I was still naked. I was too tired to put on my clothes after Erhagbe left my room. I jumped out of bed and was about running to the bathroom to wash up when Aunty Eweto caught my hand.
“I said was my husband here?” Her eyes were red with fury.
I shook my head hard.
“Don’t lie to me.”
I shook my head again.
“Are you sure?”
“I hope so.” She said this after scrutinizing me for a while.
Night after night, my bed vibrated. If it was not Uncle Osa thrusting, it was Erhagbe thrusting. I spent my day scrubbing, washing, mopping, dusting, wiping faithfully. At night I would listen at my door for the next footstep wondering which of the men it would be that time around. I surrendered to them like a fowl ready for slaughter. How Aunty Eweto never knew what was going on, I could not tell.
Two months had gone by. My nightly routine became boring. I needed to talk to somebody, to tell someone what I was going through. My mother did call time and again, asking about my welfare. Uncle Osa would always reply with “She’s doing a sweet, great job.” Of course, I was doing a sweet great job for him and his son. A job I did not know I would do.
My breasts began to develop blisters from the bites that Uncle Osa and Erhagbe gave them. And they hurt badly too. I thought of telling Aunty Eweto about my hurting breasts but I was afraid that she would trace it to me having an affair with her husband. So, I kept it to myself. Until the day it was announced that Eseosa, Erhagbe’s sister was coming from the United States for the harmattan holiday. I was glad that there would be a young female presence in the house. I scrubbed and cleaned heartily expectant of her arrival. As I bent over dusting the throw pillows, Erhagbe passed behind me and slapped my butt lightly.
“Ouch…see that bounce,” he said. I jerked up quickly looking sideways to ensure no one else saw that. My breasts wobbled as I lifted myself up. Erhagbe stuck out his tongue lustfully at me.
“When last did I give you some honey, baby? I’ma fuck you tonight.”
That day, I remember, I went to the airport with Uncle Osa to pick up Eseosa. We sat quietly as he drove. I wanted to tell him something, to tell him to stop coming to my room or at least, reduce the number of times he came. I also wanted to tell him that he needed to stop because his son took turns on me too. Father and son sharing the same woman. I lost my voice. Maybe he knew what was going on in my head. Maybe he did not. But I think he must have read my mind because he responded in line with what was going on in my head.
“I can’t stop. I just can’t. I see the way my son stares at you. I think he likes you but I just can’t get this thing to behave.” He was referring to his dick. He talked about how his wife was no longer active and how badly his body wanted young blood. I wished he would stop. I was glad when we arrived the airport. We got down from the car and I did not have to listen to his stupidity.
We saw Eseosa. I saw her. She was pretty and simple in appearance. She had dimples when she smiled. Her eyes were frog like but she looked cute with them. She looked at me waiting for an introduction from Uncle Osa. She sounded gobsmacked when he introduced me as her the new maid and her cousin at the same time. But it appeared her reaction was aimed at something else.
“Such a big chest for a maid, dad,” I heard her whisper to him, wide eyed. I also heard her tell him don’t act like you’re a saint jokingly as I wheeled her luggage to the car and locked it in the boot before we headed home.
While in the car, she sat at the back gisting with Uncle Osa and occasionally, stealing glances at me via the rear view mirror. I was also stealing glances at her too.
I remember that evening. When we arrived home, Eseosa commented on the dress I wore. She said I was pretty and attractive but my dress was ugly. She said she had some dresses she could spare me. I was happy. I felt like I had a friend at last.
I was not allowed to sit at the table with the family during breakfast, lunch or dinner but that day Eseosa requested that I eat with them. At first, Aunty Eweto objected but when she saw how defiant Eseosa was, she gave in. I ate with them at the table. My fingers trembled as I picked my spoon to eat. Uncle Osa said that it was more decent to use a fork and a table knife to eat the food. It was Spaghetti and salad with chicken drumsticks. I had never used such utensils to eat before. I splattered the salad on my plate and the table; the spaghetti sticks kept escaping my fork; and I stabbed the roof of my mouth with the edges of the fork mistakenly. Aunty Eweto was infuriated. She pulled me by the hair off the chair and pushed me into the kitchen. She said that I belonged to the backyard and not inside the house. Eseosa was pissed off.
“I’m filled,” she said leaning her fork and knife against her plate. She drank her glass of water, cleaned her mouth with a napkin and headed to her room.
After crying for hours outside the kitchen, I went inside the house and headed for my room because it was dark. Eseosa was there. I wasn’t expecting her. I ran to the window to draw the cotton close. I wanted to shield my underwears which I hung on the rails from her eyes. They were a sore sight to behold- thorn, patched, threaded, and stitched. She chuckled when I did that and said she saw them already. Then, she asked me to come sit beside her.
“I will sleep in your room tonight.”
I wondered why as I stared into her eyes.
“I just don’t want to sleep alone.”
Who was I to affirm or refuse? I fixed the bed for her and spread a mat on the floor for myself. As I lay down, it crossed my mind that Eseosa’s presence would prohibit either men from coming into my room that night and maybe for a while. I was happy within because I was beginning to lose the energy to keep satisfying their lustful desires.
At the beginning of that very night, I slept peacefully with a smile on my face. I dreamt of my home. I saw myself in the village in Irrua. I had a pan on my head and a cutlass in one hand heading to the farm. I sang along as I strolled. The song I sang was a familiar one in my local dialect- Osanobla obilo. As I headed down the road in my flip-flops, I passed a route where there were several naked men and a few naked women. I moved on without paying any attention to them until halfway my journey, some of the naked men accosted me. I tried to ward them off with my cutlass but they wouldn’t steer clear. I tried again and again but they all surrounded me and knocked me down. A lady came from the midst of them and began to undress me. By then, I was too weak to fight her.
Something pinched me and I jerked up from sleep. My sight was blurry but I felt a hand tug at my underwear underneath my gown. I rubbed my palms against my eyes and saw Eseosa by my side on the mat. I lifted my gown up only to see that it was her hand. She hushed me softly and slipped her finger into me. She closed her eyes and opened her mouth moaning and panting. Up, down, up, down, her hand swayed. Then, she pulled out one of my breasts and sucked on it. It was not as hard as the men sucked. She fingered me for almost half an hour until she was satisfied. Then, she slipped her finger out and laid her back on the mat. Her breath was audible. She enjoyed whatever she did with me obviously but I did not. I was silent for a long time. I did not know what to think or say because I froze from her presence beside me. I would say I was thoughtless at that moment. I tried to think but I could not. I hated the fact that I had another person to satisfy too.
By dawn, I rose up from the mat. I had slept off in my thoughtless state. I did not notice when Eseosa left the room. Beside me was a note that read I like you. I knew it was Eseosa who scribbled those words. I grabbed the paper angrily and tore it into pieces. I was full of rage, hurt and frustration. I wanted her to like me for who I was, not this way, the way that her father and brother did that pissed me off. Aunty Eweto barged into my room complaining about my attitude of rising up late. She did not know that several times, I opened my eyes in the wee hours of the morning staring into space, crying for my life and by the time I slept off, it would have been late; say three o’clock in the morning. I made up my mind to tell her the truth but not immediately. It was the rescue measure I had come up with after racking my brain for possible solutions.
Aunty Eweto was still standing, watching and waiting for me to rise up from my bed. I did not look into her eyes but I knew she was sneering at me. It was her silent way of saying I disgusted her. As I lifted myself off the bed, I developed a strange feeling that sent me running into the convenience. Blaarghh…! That was the sound that rent the atmosphere until I lost every ounce of energy in me. My tongue tasted of sour food. My mouth was soiled with particles that had come running out of my belly. I fell to the floor feeling as light as paper. My temperature rose in a jiffy. What was happening to me? I began to tremble, not really because of the sudden ailment but basically because I feared the consequences of my nightly routine. I knew Aunty Eweto had joined me in the convenience but I was too weak to look up at her. I knew what was going through her mind already. And yes, she was right. I stayed on the tiled floor until I passed out.
I woke up on the hospital bed. I did not recognize in time where I was. I tried to turn but my head ached and my sight was blurry. I struggled to recollect myself. The last thing I could remember was that I threw up in the toilet. I heard someone say “She’s awake.” That ‘someone’ was sitting at the far corner of the ward; someone who sounded familiar but my state of mind hindered me from catching a clue. I could not navigate my neck because my head felt like preponderance on my body. I heard footsteps move closer. I knew it was not Aunty Eweto neither was it Uncle Osa. Somehow, I smelled trouble.
“So, this your biggy biggy water melon will not allow you behave yourself, abi? Right?”
My mother. I knew she was the one the moment she spoke. She often referred to my breasts as water melon and made me feel as if I was cursed for having large size breasts. Back in the village, when she was upset with me, she made remarks such as “I don’t know what I did to God that he slammed those circles on your chest rather than molding you breasts.” There were times I wished I were a boy than a girl, or at least, a tomboy with needle-like breasts so I would not be found attractive in any way.
Her scolding words brought back to my memory the reason I was on the hospital bed. I did not need to be told the result of the test that had been run on me but that was not even my fear. My fear was the uncertainty of the paternity of the seed that I carried in me. I prepared myself for the trouble that lay ahead of me. Though I could not see my mother’s face, I knew her facial expression whenever she was mad at me.
It was a five-man panel. I was kneeling at the centre with my head bowed and my hands crossing each other behind me. My heart raced and I felt like the ground should open up and swallow me. Aunty Eweto, Uncle Osa, Erhagbe, Eseosa and my mother were seated in the living room with their gaze fixed on me. I longed for the earth to quake and a pandemonium to break out so that I could run as fast as I could away from the shame that had befallen me.
“As far as I’m concerned that monster in your belly is not from this house,” Aunty Eweto thundered. She started ranting about how she had brought me to the city to elevate my life but I had destroyed the opportunity. She claimed to have given me all the love she could. Of course, she did; that was how best she could love me –by enslaving me, calling me names and hitting me at the slightest opportunity.
My mother sat silently for a long time without saying a word. And when she did, it was to unite with them in accusing me.
“I did not send you here to misbehave o,” she cried wiping her eyes with the edges of her wrapper. “I sent you to serve your aunty in household duties so that she could sponsor your education for me. I’m a poor widow. I have no money to cater for you. I did not say you should serve in the bedroom chambers of the man too.” By then, she had fallen to the floor spreading her hands out and wailing uncontrollably. Erhagbe and Uncle Osa said nothing but stare at me like the only culprit in the situation. They did not tell the women that they were the ones who stole into my room every now and then to trouble me. They did not tell them that I had pleaded with them on several occasions to stop coming to my room. They did not tell them that I once tried to stab them on different occasions because I wanted my nightly peace but was overpowered. They said nothing. Aunty Eweto did not act like she was going to interrogate them either. She just kept saying that monster is not from my house and my mother did not dare challenge her. She did not ask her questions. The only thing she did was blame me and weep.
Eseosa was the only one who spoke up.
“I fucked her too.”
Silence. Stares. Eyes widened. Jaws dropped. Hands folded and leaned against chests. I could hear the bz-bz-bz of the dusk’s wind loud in my ears. The shame I felt grew worse. Eseosa got up and walked inside the house. Erhagbe followed, and then, Uncle Osa. I was left between both women. I could not speak. Even if I could, whatever I would have said would have fallen on deaf ears and warranted the beating of my life. My mother had gotten up from the ground in shock and stood staring me in the eyes like the latest demon in town. Aunty Eweto’s stares told a story already: Once upon a girl. She was my sister’s daughter. I brought her home from the village to serve as a maid but she served as my bedmate, and slept with my son and daughter.
Suddenly, I got up. I lifted my head and looked them in the eye. They frowned wondering what I was about to do. I could see their hands folding up in a fist ready to knock me down. I chuckled. They did not have to go that far because I was going to do nothing but run and laugh and run and laugh. Aunty Eweto was adjusting her wrapper as if getting ready for a big fight. At that moment, I laughed so hard. I laughed so hard that I started to cry. Then, I began to run. They tried to catch me as but I jumped over the stools around and found my way out through the gate, down the street to the road. They ran after me from behind screaming somebody please stop her! They never cared about me, so why scream that I be stopped. And if I did stop, they would drag me home and probably kill me. I just kept running. I did not know why I decided to run. My senses were beginning to drift apart.
That night, I slept under the bridge at the entrance of Sapele Road. I was too used to people stealing their way under my garment to be scared of sex-hungry men and boys who lingered at night, so I did not care that sleeping there would make me vulnerable. I lost my senses temporarily. The psychological trauma was too much for me to handle. I am unaware of whatever I did during those periods of my insanity but by the time I regained my sanity, I was in a psychiatric hospital. My belly was already protruding. One of the doctors took interest in me. She told me she was drawn to me when she found me soliloquizing my story under the bridge in my tattered clothes. By the time I was discharged, she took me to her place of residence and helped me heal completely.
I still remember that day I left Irrua for Benin and I still remember that day I fled the house. I wish I had run the very night Uncle Osa came into my room. I was naive. But I am more glad that I ran out eventually, else, I would never have met with my healing.
Ehiabi is grown now. When I gave birth to him, people around suggested I set him on fire. Some said I should dump him in the bush and some said I should flush him down the toilet. They said he was the result of an abomination, but I felt he deserved a chance to live so I let him live. The kind hearted doctor allowed me to keep him in her home. He’s a grown man now. When I told him how he came about, he decided that he would not get married. For him, getting married was like spreading the abominable blood that flowed through his veins. Whatever he chooses to do with his life is his decision but I have told him never to live his life regretting my past and feeling my hurt. I do not regret my past either, else, I would not have moved on to become the psychologist that I am today, administering therapy to hurting people; and I would not be standing on this Ted Ex podium sharing with you my story.