i had being up late washing the dishes. my mother was not home. she had taken my little sister to the youth meeting at church. so the wifely duties fell to me. the tv in the living room was broken, so i went into my parents’ room to catch the 21h00 news. i curled up in my parent’s bed and sleep came quickly and deeply. i smelled cedar-wood perfume. soon, i felt a hand between my legs touching and stroking. i froze in pleasure and fear. my mouth was dry and bitter.

i didn’t want the hand to stop but i knew it was wrong for it to continue. i imagined if i closed my eyes it will all just turn out to be a weird nightmare. the imagination wouldn’t come. the hand wouldn’t go away. it was roaming and roving over my secret place. gently at first then insistently then furiously until suddenly a brutal finger jammed all the way inside me. soon, my skirt went up, and he came in. it was painful. it was my first time. thank god, it it was quick. he rolled off and zipped up. in the dimly lit room i could make out a stranger – a familiar stranger.

       “kgosi! didi and mummy are home!” i heard my mother’s voice announcing her and my sister’s arrival. kgosi is my loving father – dear god, the owner of the finger.

i knew i had to act as if nothing had just happened. they chased ludo out when she reported her uncle. she went to another uncle. she learnt to be quiet. i knew it was wrong, but i have learnt from ludo it’s better to be quiet. i didn’t want to upset a happy home. my mother’s roses were in bloom and our yard was a burst of color. our house, made beautiful by the roses, and our service to god, was the pride of maun. after all, it was the home of the go’d doctor who saved lives and counseled people.

i had also been taught to keep quiet. i knew by the time i was ten that my mother, boineelo, had problems, but she had chosen to keep silent for the sake of being a true housewife who cannot speak about her brutalizing marriage, and what goes on in the sanctuary of her hellish home.

        “baby, your father and i are having problems little girls cannot understand.” boineelo told me one afternoon after church – blood streaming down both nostrils. but god knew i was not a little girl anymore. kgosi had made sure of that. he was never home. but he was home that night.

once boineelo picked up the phone extension in the living room and heard kgosi speaking to another woman. she made me listen to kgosi saying:

        “… i said i will do it. akere, we will be travelling to geneva together? you’re still going with me, akere? … yes, you can buy whatever you want, baby …” maybe she wanted a silent witness. it is not good to listen if you cannot speak. boineelo cried for hours. but she remained in the marriage. they discussed how kgosi enjoyed geneva. he was in pictures with others who went for the medical conference in geneva. he was in pictures alone. who took the pictures. there were many passersby boineelo never spoke about.

days have melted into weeks and months. my family is melting. boineelo was dying. she had attempted suicide and got unlucky a third time. now she really cannot break her silence. coma is a peaceful silent world. probably she can hear god hover over her, and she would rather not speak back to him. i remember last sunday’s service – “out of the ground the lord god formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. ” i cannot remember kgosi being present except when he visited me in the silence at night as boineelo lay vegetating – the smell from body functions that couldn’t hold back stinking up the go’d doctor’s home.

didmalang was not as strong. after boineelo’s death she slipped into a state of lucid coma, a very lonely heart she had. she must have listened on extensions so many times. she was closer to boineelo, you see. she spoke little then, she spoke nothing now. grief is consuming when he resides with the silent.

the words, “help me find a way back,” from lucid coma’s “shell” drifts in. i am a counsellor now. i am recalling kgosi’s first visit as i sit listening to one of my clients who had survived multiple beatings in the hell that was her marriage. one broken nose, one fractured collar-bone, and one fractured rib later, she was asking me to bring him in on our sessions. he needed help, she said. i have come to terms with my choices. i have one beautiful child, and two more from two different marriages. i could not stay silent three times.

Copyright © Fani-Kayode Omoregie 2014

Author’s note: let’s use our creative talents to fight abuse.