My Nights Were Terrific (Chapter 2) By Emmanuel Jessie Kalusian
POSTED 08/17/2018 12:49
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The school’s principal. Madam Bose, a plump woman in her late forties. Who always held a cane in her left hand and white sheets of paper in her right hand as she went from class to class, collecting the names of those who made the most noise in each class, handed in by class heads. Esther’s form mistress, Miss Susan, the previous week intimated the headmistress that her brightest girl had suddenly turned unintelligent. Highly seclusive and taciturn,
“She never asks questions in class the way she used to. She stays away from her friends. And when I asked her what the problem was— she said everything was fine,” her form mistress told Madam Bose.
The school’s psychologist, Mrs. Adebayo who was serving as the school’s interim mathematics teacher. A thin middle-aged widow who always wore a silver-rimmed glass and spoke English that most girls at Surulere Girls’ Secondary School claimed was a combination of Yoruba and English. If she wanted to say to a student, ‘come’. She’d say, ‘Wả’. The woman was invited. Esther noticed her ashen face and her crystal-like eyes safely blinking behind the rims of her glass as she, and the headmistress took turns to ask her questions about her unbecoming attitude in school. Mrs. Adebayo asked her. Why, she was failing her tests, avoiding her friends and rarely participated in class room discussions,
“Tell me, what is happening to you?” Mrs. Adebayo asked in a soft voice.
Esther fidgeted in her seat. She wanted to tell the women the truth but as she looked from Mrs. Adebayo’s limpid eyes to Madam Bose’s mirror-like eyes she knew the women’s eyes would break—like glass if she told them. That it was because of her father’s constant nightly abuses that made classes and lessons meaningless and uninteresting to her. That her classmates were the day-light doubles of her father. They could rape her. She always thought.
So, she told them something she knew was a splendid lie,
“I’m just going through a hard time,” Esther said; and when the school’s psychologist didn’t look convinced.
“I will get over it soon. I promise,” she added.
Esther craved to leave their presence. The office. The furniture. The scent of the room. Madam Bose’s portrait. Which was hung on a corner of the painted wall. In the portrait, the woman wrapped her hair in a brown gear. She was wearing a low-necked blouse that exposed the top of what Esther imagined was the cleavage of her sagged breasts. She looked more like a recently-widowed woman than the headmistress of an all girls’ school in Surulere. There was something in her eyes, in the portrait. A fixed wolfish stare that made Esther shift repeatedly in her chair. She craved again to leave...
“I would love to meet your parents or guardian. When you get home. Please inform them,” Mrs. Adabayo said.
She lied that her parents had gone on a vacation.
“Can I have your mother or father’s phone number,” Mrs. Adebayo demanded.
Esther said it was no use calling. Since they didn’t go with their phones. As Esther left the room. Madam Bose urged her to change. She urged her to get over whatever it was she was going through.
“I will. I promise,” she told Madam Bose.
Esther couldn’t imagine her father, sitting in the lone chair in Madam Bose’s office and being questioned about her pain when he was the pain itself. The pain she felt every night between her legs. The pain that entered through her vagina and ran up to her brain. So she lied he had gone on a vacation with her mother. And she wished he wouldn’t ever return.
After the meeting with Madam Bose and the school’s psychologist she made up her mind to take her studies seriously. She knew it would save her further interrogation at Madam Bose’s office. Esther returned from school that day. Her father was in the living room watching a soccer game on TV. He cheered when a man dressed in a bomber jacket who was the coach, ushered a new player into the park.
“Now, you’re acting like a coach,” her father mumbled in front of the TV.
His favourite man was in. She remembered when she was ten years old, how she would sit with her father in the living room sofa and they would watch a soccer game together. But since her father became a monster she knew better not to go close to him.
She had this deep fear for him. The fear would make her knees wobble and a sudden cold would be all over her. When she saw him in the morning—loping out of his room after he had violated her at night,
“Make sure you don’t tell your mother. Do you understand?” he would say.
“Yes,” Esther would say holding her ears as he always asked her to and nod in fear.
Elizabeth, Esther’s mother, a young Igbo woman who owned a large women’s clothing shop in Surulere. She met her husband, a young engineer. Who was fresh out of the University of Lagos. Femi was the most romantic man she ever met. It was in 1999. She had gone through a lot of heart breaks. She remembered, Ikenna, Michael, Chamberlain, Segun, etc. And how they broke her heart and how she cried bitterly and swore that she wouldn’t ever date a man. She had decided to date girls, to become a lesbian. Her new crush was her best friend Adora but that day when she met Femi at an eatery in Surulere, it was rainy. He paid for her food without knowing who she was. He paid for the taxi that took her home and didn’t even ask for her home address. Something, she’d wager a man would never do. Chamberlain did it. Ikenna did it. Michael too. They all asked her where she stayed in town and whether they could come around on the very first day they met her.
But Femi was different. She liked him. His person. His line of work. And that day in the same eatery in Surelere where he met her, he knelt and with a gold ring held up in his hands. He asked the question. He asked her to marry him. And that’s why Surelere was more than just a part of Lagos to her. It was the town where she met Femi—the love of her life. On her wedding day, she got wind of something shady that had happened. She was determined it wouldn’t deter her from marrying the love of her life.
Femi had slept with Adora, her best friend on the day before her wedding. Elizabeth knew Adora was just jealous. She wanted to have her back. Their romantic lesbian relationship had come to a terrible halt when Femi showed up in her life. Adora simply wanted to ruin the wedding and have her date back.
Elizabeth, now as she remembered it—was grateful that she didn’t let that one silly act by her best friend ruin her marriage to Femi. She was glad she went on with the wedding. Now, she and Femi are the proud parents of one beautiful girl. A future she imagined would have been ruined by her lesbian date.
She had just returned from school. She went off to the kitchen to help her mother with dinner. Her mother was peeling potatoes. Her father was in the living room. Screaming at the coach for changing his favourite man and replacing him with a brainless midfielder. As her father screamed in front of the TV Esther was in the kitchen. And all she heard pouring in from the living room was the voice of a monster.
“Why are you avoiding your father?” her mother asked.
Her mother gave her some potatoes to peel. Esther peeled hers slowly. The jackets fell on the kitchen tiles near her feet. She met her mother’s gaze. Her gaze was fixed, severe and searching. Esther felt for a moment her mother would pluck the truth from where it was hiding in her eyes.
Esther peeled the last potato without saying a word. She knew her father would kill her if she told her mother about the abuses. Her mother pulled her closer. The warmth of her arms across her shoulder. The pleading in her voice and her persistent asking,
“Tell me. Why are you avoiding him?”— made Esther feel she had to tell her mother the reason she was avoiding her father…