I was young and blossoming. I owned the same sort of life as other girls in the neighbourhood, but nothing came out of it. I was young, and I knew that what I didn’t know transcended what I did know, to such a degree that left me thinking I knew nothing at all. I knew I was a child, a daughter and the firstborn of my family. I knew I had a Dad who was literarily supported by a Mum. I knew I had two naughty and agile lovely sisters, and not even a brother. I knew we had a duplex and a car. I knew certainly all that, and there were no reasons tangible for me not to know them.
I grew up in an estate- Oluyole Estate in Ibadan, among people who were sprightly people of memory. It was only a drowning dummy who would stay over for two or three days in the heart of Ibadan, and then strive to forget Ibadan and its people with a wave of the hand. Apart from that, I owned, to my credit the ability to hold and recall memories as vivid as walking up to a cinema and seeing my past life in motion pictures. People around me knew this, and they haven’t failed for once in their lifetime to erroneously attribute that trait to a grandpa or great grandpa who was even more abstract and obscure than my imagination. As I grew, I discovered that sometimes, when situations sternly demand you to be pensive, memories which could either be squalid or gorgeous tend to be the aspirin of the present headaches. We have been exhorted by forgotten faces but echoing voices several times that we should get the past behind us, as though the past was just something we could detach from ourselves and thrust into a trash bin, only to look right in front of us, hoping to see the future but seeing the past in bright lights again. Whenever I decided to consume my privacy, I ultimately consumed it upon my memories. I remember those faces that made me smile, that made me laugh, and then that made me cry bitterly. I could recall those places I had seen, and I had seen with my mouth opened wide in sheer amazement. The memories like flies gathering around a heap of shit or like vultures hovering over a corpse converge in my head in varied forms, beating the north pole of emotions against the south pole, and afterwards, I would feel something, yet I could not point a finger at what exactly I felt.
When I’m in a company of people who happened to be my mates or were even younger folks, I had nothing to say. I had nothing to tell, not because I was as bashful as a schoolgirl, but because I knew nothing at all. I suspected that as time went on, I would need to say something, I felt I needed to tell something so that someday, they would not tell me they couldn’t recognize my voice and darken their doors against me. So I decided to tell stories. Whose story could I tell? Whose story did I know? I knew nothing even to the extent that I knew no one of whose story I could tell. I started telling lies. I told stories of aliens in outer space, on planets unknown, which lived their lives upside down. I spoke of the horrid aliens whose food was flesh, and whose wine was blood. They were not vampires, neither cannibals nor savages, but ate flesh and drank blood with the first-class appetite, picking their teeth with bones after meals. I told them their teeth were like forks but were as sharp as the knives in Mom’s kitchen. They survived on wars and battles, and peace to them meant starvation- the deadliest drought in existence. I told them of these adventures, and their impulses and moods swung in and out from excitement to dread like seasons. They listened and paid intent attention to every single detail I gave. They asked me where I got the stories from, and instead of telling them I was merely a liar, I told them of my sleep and how I did spend the whole night in the cinema. However, I began to shrink, I began to turn pale when my listeners told me they have started seeing movies in their dreams too, which were more interesting than mine, and I lost all my listeners.
Though I knew nothing sufficient to be regarded as brilliant or intelligent, I knew I was living a good life, but I wasn’t sure if I was living right. To me, there was nothing in life which deserved to be called evil or bad. I never saw hostility neither have I seen savage cruelty at close quarters. Though, if I claim to have never heard of news which carried horrendous themes, whether of murder or of arm robbery, or abduction, or even the so-called blood money, it was a lie, just like my life. Or if I say I have never felt pain and anguish, or cried and was never angry, it was an attempt to paint my world utopian senselessly on a grungy wall. Yet I felt the word ‘bad’ existed the same as the word ‘impossible’, words which existed, but their meanings were as extinct as things which never existed. The horrible news I heard and saw on T.V, the ones I heard on radios and the pictures I have seen in newspapers were treated just as my stories were treated. I gave them a tag which made it infeasible for me to see them as real, but that people with the same mind like mine, and who had developed their skills in lying by going to school, were the ones who created those lies which they called news. I laughed silently whenever I saw Mom, in her feminine manner express shock and distress at the news I considered lies, praying for God’s protection on her husband, on herself and her children.
My pastor- whose religious fanaticism I had taken for dramatic witticism- had narrated the biography of Lucifer, aka Satan to us a trillion times from the pulpit. Though I wasn’t intelligent, I needed no one to tell me my fictional aliens bore the same resemblance with the actual Lucifer. I did not cease to wonder who he really was, who gave birth to him, and if he had a moustache. I had tried to investigate his existence from my tutors at school, but they seemed to dread him more than fire. They had asked why I took more interest in him than God, and I thought I was committing a sin. I never saw him until one day.
Dad came home early one evening with hot blood. He ignored my greeting and brushed my little sisters aside when, in an effort to embrace him, cleaved to his legs. We watched Dad sprint upstairs with vim, and we doubted our eyes for the first time in our lives even when we were not aged or infirm. We have never seen Dad like that before. The next minute, we could hear audibly Dad raving at Mum, asking her who the man in the boutique was in such a tedious and threatening tone, and Mum was pleading innocent. Mum had come home earlier that day with some nice clothes for every one of us, including herself, and we had spent the afternoon trying those clothes on as if we were in a fashion parade. Mum said something unintelligible out of downright fright, and Dad screamed at Mum, and I looked into my sisters’ faces as they were already staring at mine, and though we didn’t speak, we confirmed that something was really wrong and that Mum was in trouble. In a flash, Dad had hit Mum several times, and we could hear every single thud, as loud as though there were amplifiers amplifying the thudding. It appeared to me immediately as something offensive. How could a person enjoy inflicting pain on another person, somebody with flesh and blood? I couldn’t figure out how I climbed the stairs and walked up to the room, whether I walked fast or slowly I couldn’t tell, I couldn’t even explain how words fell out of my mouth boldly and easily, nor could I tell if I had used the right words. But I could tell that I had told Dad with tears lacing my face and without wasting words that Satan was actually his Big Uncle. He was taken aback, like someone who had just seen a burning bush which was not burning. He reddened immediately, and his face became fattened like a crumb of bread in water. His lips tightened, his eyes magnified and his teeth must have been grating against each other like grinding stones behind his lips.
He didn’t repent, he unbuckled his flinty and heavy leather belt, and flayed me with it. I wasn’t in the position to number the lashes, but if I had survived it, I could have asked Mum the number of strokes I had triumphantly survived. In a few minutes, I was down; my eyes were blurred with tears. I looked at Dad standing and panting over me, holding his belt like God of War holding his flaming sword. I told him bluntly again, amidst tears, that I was sorry to have Satan himself as a Dad. He made to whip me again but Mum intercepted him. I saw Mum’s combatant challenge but I had no strength to watch Mum give Dad- in her feminine way- a taste of the soup he cooked for her, because I fainted, or perhaps, I died.