Series, The Other Side of Nothing

The Other Side of Nothing (Week Four)

By Aderomola Adeola, Nigeria:

Rafts swung across the gentle waters as fishermen prepared their fishhooks. Fishing had not produced much lately due to the increase in oil spillage that was causing the water to stink badly. In the distance, a perfect skyline formed at the point where it appeared the clouds touched the blue sea like humans canoodling in the dark. In the evening, young boys would dive into the water: bath, excrete and carelessly drink the same water, chattering loudly with mouths open. At other times, they'd paddle a canoe from the shore to the middle of the river and later get into serious trouble at home. The girls never joined them. A girl must never play like the boys, when I was much younger my mother would scream in my ears that it was an abomination to act like a boy. I grew up with the belief that women were supposed to be slaves as did the rest of the girls in my village. We were to act like we were told, why – because society said so. We were not to talk while men were talking. Why? It was not a woman's place to be heard.

When I was young, I'd watch my father beat my mother and wonder if society also said so. She never complained, she could not raise her voice at him, she was always timid and never had a say. A part of me wondered if she enjoyed the beating or maybe it was love that kept her blinded to the danger on her own life. Later, I realized she wasn't the only one and overheard her friend telling her she wasn't doing enough to please my father.

Give him more, her friend said. When eventually I knew what she meant, I gasped in shock. My mother started using more make-up, tying her wrappers tightly so that her buttocks would be prominent. But the beating didn't stop. In fact, at a time, it turned worse. No one questioned him. No one. After all, because society said so, women rightly had no say.

“Do you remember Tamara?” Ebiere asked.

“How can I forget the girl who got pregnant from her twin brother? What's his name again?”

“Timipre; I heard she delivered the child.”

I shrugged my shoulders, “Abomination!”

Ebiere laughed awkwardly, her hair flying in the wind. She pulled back a tendril that bothered her left eye.

“Why are you laughing?”

“You remind me of the old women in this community with the look on your face, what is happening to you here?” She asked.

“Do you approve of what she did?” I frowned.

“No. But at least she only committed incest not abortion.”

“So? That does not make her righteous, it doesn't make it any better,” my voice railed with condemnation.

“The baby died of cholera.”

Holding my breath for a moment, I suddenly felt sorry. I wondered if it was karma or chance but then sins had repercussions or so the catechist, Reverend Matthew said every Sunday during Mass.

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