A WOMAN’S “MAYBE’S”
“Esim Anambra, anam eche nwannem”, she said stubbornly as she raised one leg after another in determination and what seemed to me like a cover-up for insecurity.
I got interested in her, my concern flowing like a stream in raining season which persists until it reaches it’s destination. I had first noticed her when I came out of my room to watch the crescent moon outside, the window was seemingly not enough for this and desire was so strong – with the beautiful stars on high, who can resist that urge? It was about 9.30 p.m. and I thought it unusual to see a girl of maybe sixteen year old lying on a half torn, grey old wrapper, clutching a little dark polythene bag which she used as a pillow. She was coughing and shivering, for it was one of those cold nights in Nsukka.
The first thing that crossed my mind was – BOKO HARAM! Have they sent this girl on a suicide bombing? Was this a trap? Maybe in a few minutes my hostel and the connecting hostel where NK (my friend) stays will be nothing but a heap of white ash – white because I am sure the population in each hostel outnumbers whatever properties there are in the building, meanwhile our burnt bones will also see to that effect. My stomach tightened in frustration and fear as I saw in a flash, sweet moments spent with my family and a few people dear to me. No! it can’t be. MBA!
So, with mixed feelings, I pulled myself together, muttered a silent prayer and walked courageously to the ineptly dressed girl. Kekwanu? Why are you lying here? I asked. She at first did not respond but opted to stare me out (this left me in trepidation). Judith, “biko bia” – two heads are better than one, I hurried to my room to fetch Judith my roommate. After much effort with the unyielding girl we threatened to report her to the hall porter, it was only then that she agreed to comply, to tell us her mission, who this sister of hers is.
In hidden fear, she disclosed her name. According to her, she came to Nsukka because her cousin schools here, she came because she was tired – “Ike-agwugom”. She threaded this dangerous path because her mother had left them when they were younger and her five older siblings have all found their way out of their home (escaped). So, she was left with a heartless father, she never went to school but pounded and hawked “foo-foo”. When this excuse for a father was upset, he ties her to a chair and hits her mercilessly till she cries for mercy – which will never come. Left with no option, she decided to follow the footsteps of her older siblings and the truth is – when man begins to seek peace outside his home then danger is really lurking amidst the dark shadows. Hmmmm.
I don’t know if her story could be more real, she could be lying. Yet, there was more to it than I thought and this kept me rooted to the ground. I watched her, my eyes lingering on every part of her body, just like a man would watch his “intended”. I secretly admired her stubbornness which unwavered like the lines of masquerade trees standing opposite the vice chancellor’s office, opposing the wind’s enchantment, that spirit which had brought her here – that spirit, created out of tears, childhood bitterness and hope for something better, an undaunted spirit.
Ndi Igbo si n’obu “afu n’anya ekwe”. I noticed that she had scars all over her dark skin – more like mother Africa and her scars of slavery. She didn’t really look stunning to me, but I sensed she could have grown better if given a chance.
By now, crowds of students surrounded her, some called her a witch, others thought of it as I previously did, some people tried their best to stay away from “that evil”.
The question is: WHY? Why does the girl child suffer so? Perhaps, the ludicrous father had treated the mum the same way, caring very little for his kids. All the nights she had to put up for his drunken state from local gin (kai-kai), perhaps he smokes too. May be she could no longer endure – the constant beatings, the very many abortions propelled by his battering, maybe he has sapped her of her strength, maybe she now realizes that the societies “stay with him no matter what, he is your husband and therefore is right – always” will not help her, maybe she found another man who promised her the world and eloped with him.
For the little girl, maybe she will never find the peace she desperately seeks. Maybe she wil become a prostitute and feel dirty on her first night, maybe she will commit suicide, maybe she will find help, maybe she will become like her father. Maybe … maybe… just maybe …..
The life of a woman …… filled with “maybes”.
Tonia Onyinye Okonkwo
English Major, UNN