It started when I was 10, that was when she gave her life to Christ. She made me carry her megaphones while she preached about sinners going to hell, she preached about doom and fornicators. In the wee hours of the day, I will grumble and struggled to keep up with her while trying to ward off sleep. Anytime I didn’t keep up, she will give me a knock and call me daughter of Jezebel because I was hindering the gospel. I had tried to please her so much and even swore to become an evangelist. It was the kind of thing she wanted me to say but to be honest, I hated going to the church she went, hated the morning evangelism, hated the fact that the only time she cried with me was when she was begging for forgiveness from God about her past during our morning devotion.
When I turned 11, a neighbour- female divorced neighbour- introduced her to a ‘church’. This church was different from the first one we went; they specialised in performing miracles, baptism, fasting and exorcism through whipping. Her provision shop suffered a great deal because of the number of offerings she had to give in the new church. She borrowed money all the time to feed and gradually, I saw her fade before my eyes-a skinny looking bitter mother. She looked sick and worn out all the time because of the fasting period she took regularly.
After dinner one day, I heard our divorced neighbour tell her about finding my father.
“All you have to do is tell the priest and then he will give you water to take to him. When he drinks it, he will come back to you.”
“Ore mi that woman has jazzed him. She is a typical Edo woman and that is why she cooked his heart. “
“Look, the mistake you made was bearing him a child when he had told you from the start that he doesn’t want one.”
“I know but I can’t do anything about that now. I thought the baby could keep him with me.”
Dear diary, I could not believe my ears. I wished so many times that I was in a dream but I knew I had heard it from her. The words rolled out of my own mother’s tongue. I hated my mother and the feeling was mutual. When I turned 15, we fought all the time and most times, neighbours had to intervene. I was tired of living with her and always wished Aunty Alero was my mother. Another thing that made me hate her churchism so much was because I wondered to myself how God would not give Aunty Alero children but give a woman like my mother a child. Most times, she would go to the mountain for prayers. I heard all she asked was that God should bring back my father. I wanted my father back as much as she did. I knew that if he came back, maybe she would love me more, maybe things wouldn’t be this hard, we wouldn’t fight anymore and I wouldn’t wonder what it will be like having him in my life.
On a particular Christmas day, she took me to the mountain because I told her I wanted to go in search of my father. It was after one of our terrible fights. The mountain was a praying place in the hinterlands of Bonny Island and we had to travel by ferry boats. I hated going there all the time because I was terrified of water and my mother always casted the evil spirits into water or fire while praying. Hence, it was an abomination for me to swim because she told me evil spirits lived in water. Anyway, that was what I believed until I knew better. When we got to Bonny, the priest was waiting outside his house. The priest was a bearded man with tribal marks and tobacco stained teeth. I would never forget his face.
“You will leave her here Mama Abigail.”
My mother nodded in approval and the look in her eyes told me she meant it. I pleaded, I cried, I begged her to take me home with her and swore that I would never ever exchange words with her and that I didn’t want to miss the end of year party in my compound but she refused.
“ You would stay here with the priest until he can remove the stubbornness and witchcraft your father planted in you. You have to know that this is for your own good so that you will finally be free”
I stood there speechless as I watched her leave me with the bearded man. He took me into his sparse house. He told me we had to pray and he had to remove the evil in me throughout the night. I had no choice but kneel before the priest as he sprinkled salty water on me and pushed my head left to right until I felt an impending migraine. After long hours of kneeling and saying ‘amin’, I felt his dry palms on me. I felt him touch my breasts and try pushing me to the cold cement floor. I wrestled, bit, screamed and cried but the priest was a strong man. Dear Diary, he raped me. He took my virginity away from me and told me afterwards that I was cleansed. I stayed up all night crying, begging death to come but it didn’t. The bitterness in my heart rose like bile in my throat and I knew that day that the God people talked about was not real because if He was, He would crash the windows for my sake so that people will hear me scream or he will fly in like Superman, swoop me in His arms and take me to heaven.
I didn’t tell my mother about the incident because I knew she held her priest in high esteem but pregnancy doesn’t hide, does it?
“Mummy I swear! I am not lying! The priest did it!” I said amidst heart wrenching tears and I felt another hot slap across my face from her. The slap didn’t hurt as much as her disbelief.
“All liars go to hell!” she spat out. “Look here, you will give birth to this baby so that you would not have blood in your hands through abortion. You will have that demon in this house just like I had you in spite of what your father put me through! You hear me?”
I was lucky I had finished my WAEC exams before all the madness came upon me like raging storm. Pregnancy was hard and still terrifies me. Sometimes it feels like that never happened to me because I do not know how I survived it. When I gave birth to my baby, I didn’t look at him neither did I breast feed him. My mother and the neighbour begged, cajoled and even thought gifts will change my mind but I still refused to. One day, my mother left to the mountain for one of her numerous fasting and prayer sessions and I knew she would be there for 3 days; that was when a thought flashed across my mind. A thought that was a way of escape from the misery of hearing the baby cry and whine. I had a tinker box where I kept my valuable clothes and so I opened it, stuffed the baby amidst my clothes and shut the box.
I had run away afterwards but someone found me in an uncompleted building four days later. When I got home, my baby was dead.
I know I wasn’t thinking. I know what I did was wrong. I know I should not live to tell this but I still wish my mother did same to me instead of letting me live to experience what the priest did to me on that Christmas day.
In spite of the fact that the week was crazy, I made out time to go see Aunty Alero. I had gotten her some things from Paris and even though she her eyes were dancing, she feigned anger by threatening not to speak to me again if I ever tried such nonsense.
“Aunty I am sorry nau. Please?” I hugged her and after a few seconds I felt her arms around me. I missed her. We settled into the couch in her office and I told her about my trip and about Jake.
“So have you called him after the argument?” she asked.
“No Aunty. I sent a text but he hasn’t replied.”
“How long is his leave?”
“He said a month. Aunty I don’t want to lose this guy.”
She sighed. “I think you should wait until he replies. A man that loves you would not let you pine for him” she said in Yoruba.
The gist switched to Jumoke.
“I don’t know where she manufactured that man from”
Aunty Alero and all these her plenty grammar ehn. Which one is manufactured? “Aunty but you know how Jummy is. She is a smart girl and she knows how to take care-“
“Gbe nu e dake jare!” Aunty Alero said. “Shebi you will not be surprised if she brings a cripple to Nigeria ni? Money should not kill her sha. I am tired of talking.”
She got up to get the aso ebi; it was a blue lace and silver head gear.
“Which one is ‘ehn’ there? Is it not your cousin that said I should sell it like that?”
I dropped the material on the couch and carried my bag. “Aunty abeg, I will come for it later.”
“Ok o. if you say so.Greet Agama for me”
On my way home in a cab, I thought over what Aunty Alero said concerning Jake. I knew she was right about waiting for him but…what if he meets someone else and moves on?
“Oga driver I wan go another place. You go fit turn back?”
It was time to pay Jake a surprise visit. After all, if Olu does not go to the rock the rock will go to Olu.
*Gbe nu e dake jare!- keep shut*