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Caleb Okereke: For the Women Who Need to Know About Equality

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dreamstime_l_5819687Red
This is the colour of blood on her white linen sewn into a boubou. She wore it that morning for him, because her friend said she read online that most men love white boubou’s. However, he was not most men; he was not even a man. For years, she had ignored the people who said, “Your husband is a beast, leave him and run”.

It was impossible for her to leave a man whose love she had started to accept reluctantly, like a gulp, after much consideration. She squeezed love out of him in trickles like juice out of orange until it became satisfactory and shaped rationalisation when it was not, thus, he was like one obligated to love and as common with obligations, his love was slipshod.

She loved him because sometimes he called her “Honey” and bawled in excitement over the son she carried in her belly. Her love was the kind that made feeble excuses, like an incarcerated thief blaming his acts on the devil. It said, “Your husband is not a wicked man because he beats you, he just drinks too much” or “He hits you because he pays too much attention to you, only that, manage it ojare”

And so, for five years she endured his raining fists. Her Pastor called it “Submissiveness” with a sneer on Sundays and he said its opposite was a sin. She watched her cheekbones sink in and her eyes dim, she watched Mentholated Spirit lying carelessly on the bathroom tile drop in quantity everyday and the telephone in the living room dial the emergency number too often.

Her Mother had come from the village those days, taken the night bus to the city. “Nkem, what is wrong?” she would ask. She knew something was wrong with her daughter, her smiles no longer reached the corners of her lips and when she sang, “It is well with my soul” on Sundays, she did it with hesitation, doubt, like a sinner asked to confess his atrocities.

It was the only thing she had that did not smell of kitchen spices-maggi, curry, thyme-this boubou, and she had worn it that morning for him, wheeled into the ambulance in it, stained with the blood of the son he bawled over and her lips pressed tightly shut, because she would not speak, because she could never speak.

I know life has its technique of snuffing choice out a room, of guarding it, masking it with the countless things you stand to lose and not the many others you stand to gain. For, it is one thing to love a man, and another thing for him to requite this love, like its one thing to know a song and another to master its lyrics.

Sister, when you get home from the hospital, if you do. Take your bag, line your lips with cocoa eye pencil so the neighbours do not ask what is wrong, and run, open the door and run.

Blue
It is Christmas morning and the sky is a light blue. Your Mother asked you to take a plate of food to your neighbour Brother Uche, a Christmas tradition, because Brother Uche was a bachelor and Christmas was about sharing she said.

You do not tell her that you dislike Brother Uche, that your eleven-year-old form was terrified of his brawny presence. You do not tell her you hate those “one kind” taunts he makes when he calls you his wife and when he carries you on his laps saying “Fine girl” with the urgency of one who was not making jokes.

She would snigger at you, your Mother. She was one of those people who believed children had nothing intelligent to say, who shrugged off every perverse and logical report coming from a child with the same demeanour. You knew she would of course tell you that Brother Uche was a nice man who patronised her shop and sometimes bought you candies.

And so, this is why you do not tell her of his advances, of the many times he had peeped through the keyhole when you bathed in the public bathroom and the many other times he told you to massage his thing, “because it was like lollipop” he said “Sweet and slimy”

He had never really thrust into you until Christmas morning when you placed the meal beside his stack of tapes-JAY Z, TREY SONGZ, MEEK MILL-and he said in the gravelly voice that would later become the soundtrack for scenes whenever you thought of dread.

“Okoloma, pull your pant and lie here”

The sky is still a light blue, unchanging, unflinching, when he thrusts into you and the brittle hairs in his pubic region stab at your belly like needles.

You hate the sky in that moment, for remaining so blue, perfect, unchanged, regardless of the fact that in that moment your life had changed. You hate the sky and you hate Brother Uche.

Okoloma, when I look out my window I see you. You are the only one with knowingness in her eyes amongst a group of schoolchildren returning from the community primary school.

This knowingness makes you more conscious about your sexuality; it tells you to line your lips with gloss and splodge your face with Mary Kay. I see you shy away from boys in an unusual way, a method escorted by anger.

Girl, I want you to tell someone, about what Brother Uche did to you, tell someone.

Grey
You would not tell anyone about it, this life. Until its words, turn grey and its essence become stale, until people start to ask, “When it was happening, why did you not talk, take your story and sit one side, prostitute”

Do not blame them. They are like grownups forced to believe that Santa Claus was existent and they, as if to vehemently prove their disbelief respond with a hostile riposte.

In this illustration, your story is Santa Claus and their lucid distantness, vehement proof of their disbelief.

This is why you should tell someone, before the words turn grey, tell someone, and when they turn grey, do tell someone.

And this is for you, from a man, who thinks you need to know about equality.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Konstantin Sutyagin

aleb Somtochukwu Okereke is a writer and literary blogger whose works have appeared in Sun and Vanguard Newspapers, Kalahari Review, New Black Magazine, Hamilton Stone review. His first Novel was published by Bahati Books UK in 2016 and you can follow him on Instagram @caleb_okereke

21 Comments

  1. Ubaida

    January 8, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    Woow! Just Woow!!! I shed tears…maybe it’s jst hormones but still,I am moved. Love!!!

    • Onye

      January 8, 2016 at 9:18 pm

      Amazing!!

  2. lovelymj

    January 8, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    Wow! nice piece

  3. @edDREAMZ

    January 8, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    a.k.a EDWIN CHINEDU AZUBUKO said…
    .
    Onpoint no doubt….
    .
    .
    ***CURRENTLY IN JUPITER***

  4. Mz Socially Awkward...

    January 8, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Caleb Okereke, your writing makes for gratifying reading… as in, I properly sank into this piece. 🙂

    And this our unpleasant subject needs to continue being preached, daily and until complete awareness dawns across the land (“like [a] lollipop, sweet and slimy”… we live amongst complete animals).

    Re the subject title, did you intend to headline equality or abuse? I was reading the section titled “Blue” and in my mind, I could easily see a little boy in that room as well, being molested/raped by a trusted neighbour… making me think that maybe gender inequality isn’t the principal motivation for that type of abuse. All the molesting adult needs is the power to evoke fear and silence in their victim, regardless of sex.

    On the whole, you’ve painted some very real pictures.

  5. grace

    January 8, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    i was moved but still in one placed

  6. Nonamespls

    January 8, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    Deep

  7. veekhy

    January 8, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    This is awesome. I just send the blue part of the story to someone i think should speak up.

  8. Sam

    January 8, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    Thank you Caleb.

  9. adaeze

    January 8, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    nice piece….was totally moved!

  10. anonymous

    January 8, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    amazing writeup.. I am a survivor of this kind of ordeal nd this truly touched me…. speak up…

  11. Her Royal Awesomeness

    January 8, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    I could see this happen because it had happened to me, at the time I didn’t know what was happening, I’d sit on his lap, I could feel it but never questioned it, his fingers in my underwear but he said it was because he liked me, Uncle sule liked me d most, I grew up to be smarter, 16 now with the mind of a feminist, strong and on my own, its disgusting really, someone u should be looking up to is the dagger in your back.
    My father’s brother has this glint in his eyes ever time he looks at me, makes me wonder about the things he has done to me that I can’t recall. “Cynthia you are so big now” his eyes staring at my chest, it’s disgust me, I told my mom and she told me never to stay in a room with only him and if by chance I can’t avoid that I should have my phone on recording, I guess good things happen when you speak up.

  12. tamy

    January 8, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    Red…blue…grey…beautifully written and nicely captured,ure a great writter and u passed the message well,welldone

  13. Henry

    January 10, 2016 at 12:44 am

    This one na small…checkout his other write-ups and you’ll see what the mind can do to a pen.. He’s truly an amazing writer!!

  14. Kolawole

    January 10, 2016 at 2:58 am

    The title is out of its tag. I know several girls die in silence not because they won’t want to talk, but because everyone else around them, turned grey in a greasy manner. Abuse is a terrible thing that has eaten deep into the within, mixing the psychological build of victims. We often claim to get stronger from these experiences but sometimes we don’t realize that they have only been repressed into our recesses and they haunt us at free will, because our unconscious coordinates our conscious… I have not recovered my breath yet because this piece stole it away. Perfectly written. Anticipating your novel earnestly.

  15. Moved

    January 10, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Standing O…..as I also feel the urge to curl into a ball and shed tears. The mark of a true writer……to evoke something within their audience. Top notch bother!

  16. Walter

    January 10, 2016 at 8:57 am

    ‘Sister, when you get home from the hospital, if you do. Take your bag, line your lips with cocoa eye pencil so the neighbours do not ask what is wrong, and run, open the door and run.’

    Abeg sister, don’t even wait to apply cocoa eye pencil. Just take your bags and run. The need to preserve your life should be that urgent.
    Caleb, this piece resonates.

  17. Chisom

    January 10, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Red, blue and grey – the colors life dons on some of her meanest days. This is just beautiful, Caleb.

  18. Adeola Naomi

    January 11, 2016 at 2:17 am

    Such a amazing writer!

  19. Adey

    April 7, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    I have been searching for all your write ups, you are amazing.

  20. Somtochuqu

    April 22, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    This piece is everything. Awesomely written.

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