“Wait here,” she said in a fierce whisper. “Don’t touch anything, and don’t come out!” I nodded, unable to say any words, a little confused at her instructions. She smoothed her skirt, rubbing both palms down the front, then she moved quickly out the door. I stood there for a few seconds wondering why she had suddenly become scared; she was jovial and sure of herself before she had been summoned by our uncle.
I had gone to spend the holidays at my uncle’s at Aguda, I remember, because it was my first school holiday. I had just started primary school and, after waiting so long to get into school, I did not understand why school had to close. Who needed a holiday? Standing there in the room, I looked around me and then I noticed she had left her underwear. I picked it up and held it close to my nose; where children put everything in their mouth, everything had to pass a nose inspection for me. Immediately, I remembered the warm stickiness that I had felt when she had taken my hand to touch herself down there. I felt a stirring as if I wanted to take a piss, but with this hardness came a feeling I had only just felt a moment ago when my shorts had been pulled down around my ankles and I was getting touched too. The feeling was alien to me, yet it did not trouble me. Instead there was a sweetness to it. My mouth dried up and my heart beat faster.
I do not know how long I stood there, and I did not hear her come in. My first awareness of her return was a stinging slap to my face before she snatched the under garment from my shocked hand. I did not cry out, neither did I feel anger. Rather I felt a sadness as if I had disappointed her, a shame like I had betrayed her trust. She scolded me for disobeying her and told me she would never play with me again, and then she sent me out of her room. For the rest of that evening I was subdued as I tried to show this sixteen year old cousin of mine that I could be a good boy.
I had to return home the next day – holiday was over – and I never got the opportunity to have her play with me again. And I never told anybody about it.
What was more, I found out much later that the uncle whose house we were at, was having his way with her too.
Living in a compound with other children around your age bracket has its advantages: You compare school work, you exchange story books, you get into trouble together, and go on adventures together too. And then there are the ‘Mama and Papa‘ plays.
We had these drama sessions where we play at family life. Sometimes the older boys and girls pair up and make the younger ones their children, some other times the girls pair up and the boys pair up too.
We come up with all types of plots for our stories, but I realised that whatever the plot was, the older children always managed to throw in a night scene where we then had to ‘sleep’ to simulate night-time.
It was on one of those ‘nights’ that I was first kissed by a boy. One of the older boys, a neighbour’s son who was around twelve or thirteen, had chosen me for his ‘wife’ and when it was time to sleep, had pulled me close to himself. We lay there facing each other under the warm covers, his breath fanning my face. His breath smelt clean and fresh, a minty freshness that left an almost sickly sweetness in the back of my throat. More than that was what his breath was really doing to me. My breathing quickened, my limbs and insides were doing a dance all their own. I was struggling to understand what was happening to me when he kissed me. At first it was just his hot dry lips against my lips, but then he stuck his tongue into my mouth, and when it touched my tongue, I jerked violently.
I had stuck fingers at different times before now in wall sockets and had been shocked, but the electricity that jolted me now both frightened and excited me. When he turned and shifted his weight against me, his hardness pressed against my matching hardness straining against my light blue y-fronts.
We ground against each other in this dance until my sister burst into the room unannounced. The bedroom door opened inwards and the bed was positioned behind the door, so we had enough time to break apart under the covers and feign sleep before she could gain full access into the room. I lay there my heart pounding so hard I was almost sure she could hear.
After that day, every time we played at ‘parenting’, I always paired up with him and we always got up to our making out – that was until the day he made me put my hand into his short and my fingers came out covered in a clear stickiness. After that day, I avoided him. Thankfully, he went away to boarding school shortly after that and everyone grew apart.
The first time I saw her like that, I was ten and had just woken up from my siesta. It was dusk and the room was dimly lit. I was lying there in bed trying to get my bearings when I thought I saw a shadow move. I almost yelped in fear before I noticed the shadow was actually Bolanle, our house help.
She had just come in from the bathroom and had towelled her body dry. She stretched to hang her towel on the door and in the dim light of the room I could make out the outline of her breasts pulled taut when she stretched. I was aware of the physical differences between a boy and a girl and it fascinated me a lot. She walked toward the bed and I held my breath, shutting my eyes tight. I felt the mattress depress where she sat and I opened my eyes just enough to see without her seeing. She sat with her profile to me and I could see the gentle swell of her breasts. I saw them rise and fall as she breathed, saw them jiggle and bounce when she rubbed her palms together before applying a coat of jelly to her arms. When she bent to dip her fingers into the bottle of Stella pomade, I watched wide eyed as her breasts drooped and swayed. She must have either heard my heartbeats or felt my eyes on her chest because she turned, ever so slowly, toward me and asked if I liked what I saw, and if I wanted to feel them.
I am sure I swallowed my adam’s apple that night because I heard the swallow very loudly in my ear. After that evening, it became our routine. No matter what I was doing, as soon as the rest of the family were in the parlour watching television, I would yawn exaggeratedly and mumble something about wanting to go and sleep. Whether the others thought it odd that she also chose that time for her shower, I may never know.
Thinking back now, I cannot remember under what circumstance she left, or when exactly she left. Whether more happened than my fondling her breasts, I have no recollection. Repressed memories? I honestly do not know. When people ask me about losing my virginity, I say I lost it at twenty-five, and that is the story I am sticking to.
Note from the author: On the morning of the 23rd of May, 2012, I followed a link I saw on Twitter, and after watching the video where it led, I was saddened. It was a video of two minors, the girl no more than 12 and the boy no more than 7, at an act that much reminded me of rabbits. People dwelt on the recording of the video, others dwelt on the circulation of the same. I was concerned that the act even happened. People blamed the person who recorded and uploaded it. Yet some people called for the head and hide of the girl in the video. Others attributed it to poor parenting and the necessary evil of house helps. For a long time, I sat back and observed Nigerians at our best game: finger pointing.
Did anyone even wonder why this happened? How the girl got the way she did? How long that had been going on? How it could easily have been anybody anywhere? How the eleven-year old girl needed as much help as the four-year old boy? Yes we should be outraged, but after the hue and cry, and righteous indignation, then what?
It got me thinking, and I decided to share a few stories, variations of which many are familiar with. A story that many more may not even imagine. Whether you wear a thin veneer of steel over your scars, or you were protected from this reality, the truth is that we are all connected, and what affects one affects all. You see, after all is said and done, I am you, you are me, we are you.
Let us do the best we can for our brothers and sisters, let us pay the duty of care forward.
Photo credit: sodahead.com