A popular saying goes “a problem shared is half solved.” Yes!
But a heart bottled in the pain of humiliation can never know
peace. The issue of rape is that which is discussed and shared
amongst us, but yet without the simplest solution.
This is very perturbing, and thus has sounded the alarm within
us to keep on speaking till we can reduce or inhibit this violence
and ungodly act.
Let us not fold our arms and watch our ‘PRIDE’ being trampled
upon and tormented without giving it a fight.
Rape is fiercer than a civil war, yet if we must win this battle,
we must fight with our heart and not watch on.
“The pain of a withered rose, a
trumpet for war.”
#SayNoToRape Day V
My fame has become shame hidden
Bottled up in my heart with the chain of pain
I’m bruised like a torn vein
Beautiful outside, but bleeding within
I long to say, but the wash of humiliation won’t let me
I fear that I will perish in this, my lost pride
I’m filled with hate for myself
If this is fate, I curse mine
If this is love, then I’m confused
I’m nothing more than a broken vessel
One that can never be patched
Like spilled water that can never be gathered
I carry a mark of unworthiness tattooed upon my forehead
With dark reflections from my own mirror
My rose thus becoming withered
My soul wearing away by the day
My first love now a total stranger
A stranger that exploited my meekness
A stranger that ripped into me and stole my dignity.
Breaking me! Is this love?
Breaking our bond? Is this fate?
Ours is a cursed bond.
Yours is a cursed life.
Mine is a cursed existence, a progression of ultimate misfortune.
Sweet memories suddenly become sour.
I lay and watch my rose dry up
A garment drenched in ashes.
A withered rose, a trumpet of war!
A war I have not the strength to begin.
My name is Amaka, and you are reading my journal. And just in case you don’t understand my poem, this is my story.
I was born on the 9th day of April, into the family of Mr and Mrs Oluchukwu. Mrs. Oluchukwu died while granting me entrance into this world; thus in exchange for my life, fate robbed me of the chance to know my mother.
Growing up without my mother wasn’t easy as I was the only child, but my father did all he could to make up for her aching absence. As a baby, he sang to me, bathed me, soothed me when I was fractious, fed me and rocked me to sleep. Just in case you are wondering how I know these, my aunt Ezinne never stopped telling me of what a wonderful father I have. My aunt is my mother’s immediate younger sister. She takes care of me like her own child, just another adult making an effort to fill in the gap of my motherless childhood.
I grew older. I became a teenager. I was loved. Among my peers, I was one of the brightest, and I did not fool around with my academics. I won academic laurels, and was rewarded with different scholarships. My father, a palm wine tapper, didn’t have to fret over my education. I was quite popular; within and beyond the borders of the local town, and I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about me. My childhood friend, Peter Clarke always told me that when he hit it big in the music industry, he’d dedicate a song to me. He got a record deal, and kept his word. His hot single ‘Amaka’ was composed some years back while we washed at the stream. He was actually gazing at my waist while he composed that song. I am not sure of many things, but I know my greatest asset is the undulating symmetry of my hips.
Naughty Peter would sing, “Amaka O, Amaka, you dey burst my oblongata, I’m liking your ways, I’m liking your waist, I’m loving the way you dey waka.” You know me now, don’t you?
When I clocked 15, my father threw a small party to celebrate me at the town hall. I had made him proud; I’d gained admission into the university to study performing arts. My love for writing poems and painting will outlive me. Did I mention that I got the American embassy award for the best painting by an African in 2007? I was just 18 then. I was quick to get a job with an art gallery after my graduation. Life couldn’t have been better.
But before I graduated, I met someone, a Yoruba guy named Adetoye. I was in my final year, and he was a corper. Toye – I loved that man. Even in death, I’ll cherish the memories of the good times we had. He painted my life with love like a rainbow. He was a good man, loving and sincere. Forthcoming with his feelings for me, and quiet, reluctant to draw attention to himself. However, his reticence made him unpredictable, and that unsettled me sometimes.
I graduated, and my relationship with Adetoye became intense. He introduced me to his family, and I did the same. But my father didn’t approve of a Yoruba man as the right partner for his only child. His reaction was a hostile one. With just me as his audience, I remember him smashing his palm wine calabash with the cutlass he held in his hand, before he thundered, “I’ll rather die than bless your marriage with a Yoruba man!” He removed his cap and dusted it with his hands. I had never seen him like that, so agitated as he paced from one end of the small corridor to the other, cursing under his breath and grinding his teeth together.
“Let me just tell you this, the doctor that was meant to be on duty the day your mother died was a Yoruba man.” The look he threw me was black with hate. “But he wasn’t there on time. It was God that spared your life. Now you want me to let you marry a Yoruba man. Amaka! It is a not done. Never, ever!” He grabbed his cutlass from the floor, and pointed it at me. “Tell that man never to come near you again, or else, as sure as I breathe, I will kill him!”
He stormed out of the compound. We didn’t talk for weeks after that clash. It took the intervention of Aunt Ezinne for us to reconcile. She is the only one that knows how to calm him; they are so close I remember the rumours that arose once that they were having an affair. Rumours I always denied. I love my father, and I know he loves me too. Everything he has ever done for me has been out of the fierce need to protect me. I’ll never forget the day he beat my principal for slapping me. I am actually like him; very stubborn and strong-willed. I didn’t yield to his will. Toye and I kept seeing each other, hoping that we would be able to convince him to bless our union with time.
Aunt Ezinne has a strong loud voice, one she never failed to utilize to its strongest timbre when imparting pearls of wisdom to me as I grew up. Back in those days, she would pull her ear, gaze into my eyes and said solemnly, “Amaka, hear me now very clearly. Don’t allow any man to touch you there” – and she’d point to my groin – “until he has paid your bride price. Is that clear?”
The message was crystal clear.
So, whenever Toye and I tumbled into feverish moments of passion, complete with all the necking and kissing, I would come back to earth the moment I felt his hands trespassing. He once slid his fingers through the hem of my underwear, and I shoved away from him, feeling the cold sweat of anxiety break out on my skin. I wasn’t ready to give it in. The fear of my aunt wouldn’t let me dare.
Toye understood my hesitation. I explained and he took it in stride. But then, he couldn’t stand my frequent withdrawals during our intimate moments. He began pressuring me for sex, starting by cajoling me, making promises about how sex with me did not mean he would leave me after getting it. He would still marry me. But he had to have me. Our relationship was three years old, and he’d been with no other woman in that time. He wanted me to give him a break. I wouldn’t yield. I almost did one day when he reasoned, “Is pre-marital sex not better than me cheating on you?” But it didn’t happen.
Then the issue of the sex – or lack of it – began to affect our intimacy. The moments we kissed and necked became less and less. His attitude toward me became stiff and oftentimes cold. Distant even. Then that one afternoon, he tried again to cajole me into parting my legs for him. I resisted, and he flared: “Why are you torturing me like this? After being with you for three years, do you still believe I could dump you just because I’ve had sex with you? Tell me! Or do you want me to go and find other girls to sleep with? Is that what you want? Because I’m a man, and men have needs – needs you are not fulfilling, Amaka!”
He was so angry as he hurled those words furiously at me. They stung me, every one of them. They made me feel as though I was half a woman for not satisfying the man I loved. I blinked back tears of anger and frustration as I just then realized that my father’s obstinacy may well get him what he wanted – the end of my relationship to a Yoruba man.
I had to speak to him. It was time for him to come around, and let me marry the man I loved. I packed a small overnight bag, and was soon out and on my way to the town of my birth.
I got home to the news of the flood that overtook my father’s house. My heart pounded with disquietude. “Is papa alive?” I asked my aunt.
“He is alive and healthy. He now stays on his palm plantation,” Aunty Ezinne replied.
I was relieved by her report. I set off the vegetation where he now inhabited. We hugged when I met him, after which we went into the hut and had a very long talk. I said nothing about Toye in the beginning, and so it was a smooth conversation. I sat beside him as we picked through bush meat with our fingers and drank palm wine for dinner. I promised to renovate his house before leaving. My job pays well, and I hardly spend much; Toye takes good care of me.
Then, I brought up the issue of my relationship with Toye. My father tried to be dismissive of it, but I was persistent. Provoked by my persistence, he burst out in anger, “You will only marry that Yoruba boy! You hear me? Over my dead body! Tufiakwa! Mba! You cannot marry him!”
He stormed out of the room with a jar of palm wine. I sat transfixed for a while, and finally decided to go to bed. I planned to have Aunt Ezinne appeal to him the next day.
“Nne . . . Nne. . .”
It was my father rousing me with the pet name he gave me as a child. It was still dark outside, probably pre-dawn, but he was determined to talk.
“Nne, I’m sorry I shouted at you. I can’t just imagine a stranger stealing you away from me. Yoruba people are evil. They killed your mother, a pain I still bear. I’m not ready to nurse another pain. Mba!”
I turned away from the wall and faced him, and said gravely, “Papa, no man can steal me away from you. I will always be your daughter, but you have to learn to let go of the past.”
“Amaka, I cannot let that boy marry you. . .” He sounded plaintive. As though he was begging me to stop defying him.
“Let’s sleep papa, we will talk better in the morning. I’m still tired from yesterday’s journey.” I rubbed his arm comfortingly and laid back down, already feeling the pull of sleep afresh.
“I love you, Nne,” my father muttered, and followed the words with a kiss to my head. I felt a tug of elation at this gesture. He’d always kissed my head in the past, and whenever he did so, it was always a sign of good things to follow. Perhaps he was ready to grant my singular heart desire – to let me get married to Toye.
“I’d rather eat the fruit of my labour than have that Yoruba boy deprive me of it.”
The rough pawing of my breast was what pulled me awake again. I blinked my eyes open to feel Mr. Oluchukwu’s hot breath on my face as he fondled me. I slapped his hands and faced him in shock, “Papa, what are you doing? What is this? That’s my breast you are touching.”
“I know, Nne. I’m lonely, Nne. It’s been long since I felt the touch of a woman.”
“Haba! Papa, the touch of a woman, not the touch of your own daughter.” I was aghast.
But Mr. Oluchukwu was beyond the redemption of words. He pressed me down on the bed and shoved at my wrapper. I struggled to resist him, kicking and scratching at him. I screamed frantically too. No one heard. No one came. We were on an isolated hut on a palm plantation. My night clothes were rent, and Mr. Oluchukwu, sweaty and panting with the strength of his desire, shoved his way through inside me, a rough entrance that broke through the barrier that I’d maintained for the man I would marry.
Oh, Toye . . . Oh, God . . . I wept as I was mauled by the man I called father.
“Nne, please . . . Nne sorry. . .” Those were the words he moaned repeatedly as he heaved on top of me.
My father – my first love – defiled me. He ran out of the room when he was done, and I couldn’t stop weeping as I shrunk into a corner. I had no idea how much time passed, until I heard the trilling sound of the receipt of a text message in my phone. My tears were gone, and my body was still racked with chills, as I picked up the phone. The message was from Toye and it read: “I just arrived Owerri with the night bus. I will never try to disrespect you again. I’ll be at the park waiting. Please, come and pick me up when the day is brighter. We will survive this.”
I didn’t reply. What could I say? I could not love him anymore, not after what had happened.
And my father – I found him where he hung himself; on one of his trees. My heart sagged under the anguish I felt for losing him, and losing to him my virtue.
And so, I have decided not to see another day with this agony. I don’t think I will ever outlive it. I have prepared a rope for my own execution. Let me die by the side of the man that defiled me. Isn’t suicide better than humiliation after all?
Whoever finds this journal should share this story with the world, and have them answer me these: Should a girl no longer love her father unconditionally? Is it right for a widower to find solace in illicit intimacy with his daughter? Is pre-marital sex not better than the so-called chastity after all? When did rapists start wearing the face of a familiar man, instead of the rogues and strangers we’ve been told they are? How can a rape victim be consoled?
My name is Amaka Oluchukwu. I didn’t wear seductive dresses. I didn’t flirt around. Yet, I got raped. Not by a stranger, but by the man I called father. You cannot heal my pain, no one can.
Written by Olufemi Fragile
Follow on Twitter @fragiletimbzz