I should not even begin to defile this story with an intro. Folks, this is a fictional story by Nyaboke Makori. First year law student with a knack for pen and paper. Relief at last! Somebody of my own kind. Misery loves company. Read on and enjoy.
I am neither here by luck or chance. I dreamt of being a lawyer way before I got a hang of the ABCs and 123s. My passion is driven by a 13 year old dream that has kept me alive – not by the burning embers of the candles lit in hallways of posh hotels, but by the dying urge to salvage my likes.
At the age of 7, my papa and mama separated. Unlike the other women in my village, mama was educated and employed by the government. This was unlike the village women who were condemned to the kitchen eternally to take care of families at whatever cost. Married at early ages, denied education, they resorted to nothing but stay at home and keep watch. Mama wanted out of the traditions of our ancient culture. But no. Forget it. Papa believes in women submission and all that jazz.
They eventually separated and since the kids were fruits of a once so called union, we were left to the father’s care as culture dictates. This was a big hit for me but I learnt to let go.
Then came one evening, a week after mother had left. There seemed to be an organization of a ceremony knew nothing about. Women flocked into my grandmother’s large estate where we were since living- my father being the only son had consequently inherited everything. Years later, I learnt this was why mama had to leave. She couldn’t stand watch her children go through what she had gone through, and bear the guilt of being powerless. She couldn’t stand and watch the society slice her daughter into womanhood and do nothing to protect her.
The frenzy of activities was the least of my concerns, as I watched from the fields and presumed that it was probably one of those chama meetings. As the daylight faded and darkness engulfed, I headed for my granny’s hut; only to be met by curious stares passing coded looks amongst themselves.
“What’s happening granny?” I inquired
“Today is your big day. Today you make a step into womanhood.”
There was no need for further explanation. It was rather obvious what her statement meant, and so with the timidity of a little girl, I started to cry. Scratch that, I started screaming. Wailing my lungs dry. I didn’t wanna go through the female cut. The harrowing stories that I had heard being whispered clandestinely amongst my friends who had been through the same, had reached my ears. I couldn’t fathom the pain. But at the same time, I couldn’t run or hide. All I could do is cry- let out screams of a little girl trying to plead with my granny not to let them take me away.
Papa approved of it. I wished mama was there to protect me, but she wasn’t. She wasn’t there when I needed her most. I do not blame her though- I only wish she had been there to stand for me.
I looked around. None of the old women seemed particularly concentrated on me. There was my chance. My chance to escape. My chance to elude the pending pain, cut and defilement. There was my chance to run to my mama. The door was open and nobody was looking. So my cumulative wisdom of seven years convinced me to make a run for it. I was convinced, so I bolted for the door. I did not know where I would run to, but at the time, the darkness outside seemed like a good place to start. So I put my plan into action, but just as I was stepping into the beginning of my freedom, an old woman with reflexes that a seventy year old shouldn’t have, beat me to it. She grabbed me, kicking and screaming and made me sit at the centre of the hut. The mud floor was cold, and so were the looks that were fixed upon me. Cold stony glares that did not mind having pity on a scared little girl like me.
I sat there helplessly as the childhood innocence I bore hang by a loose thread, waiting to be ripped off my being in just a few minutes. And believe me, those few moments are the longest that I have had. That moment when you feel your life is at the edge, almost being tipped over….at that moment when you feel your hour glass is running thin; at the end of life….that is the time we fully live.
I have never felt more alive in my life than at that moment when everything was crumbling right before my very eyes. With nobody to hold my hand and at least lie to me that everything will be alright, I sat there. Feeling dejected and torn.
As the clock struck 7pm, I desperately watched as they readied their crude tools of trade. More like weapons, actually. I watched as they prepared their wares, and tears flowed freely onto my T-shirt.
The hour finally came. I was ushered outside within the tight grip of the old women lest I pulled another escape stunt again. Their grip was so tight that I wondered whether it is part of the ritual to break my bones first.
I was not going to give in easily, nonetheless. I tried to wrestle my way out, but my feeble bones were no match against the three plumb women who held me and pinned me down, legs open, upon an animal skin. Women are their own worst enemies. It didn’t matter to them the pain they were inflicting upon me under the watch of the full moon above. They spread my legs wide asunder. And with no sedative or anaesthesia an old woman with rattling bones, creased sagging breasts, moved in to try out her artistic skills on my crotch. A skill that had been perfected by years of experience, and constant supply of guinea pigs like me. When she was done, I saw her look at her work and smile. A toothless smile. It must have been her greatest masterpiece yet. And like God, she looked down at her creation and saw it was good.
The pain was sharp. It hit me like a pang. I bet a snake’s bite feels better. It felt like the vintage witch had tied together nerve endings together, drenched them in kerosene and then set them on fire. I screamed again. This time, I think blood oozed out of my eyes. The women shut my mouth and cut my air supply. Then I passed out.
When I came to, pain was still registered all over my body. Not surprisingly, tears were still rolling out from my eyes. I must have cried even when I was out. Ironically, celebrations, feasting and jubilation went on outside as I laid in the hut, unable to move a muscle. I remember cursing them to descend to their graves- and be doomed to the eternal fury of hell fire. I was violated. But that is how my people induct girls into womanhood- by cutting off a piece of their womanhood.
A month later, I turned eight. I would undergo rigorous training to be a woman. I was trained on how to be a wife to be sold off to a man of papa’s choice in exchange for a few livestock.
As days went by, I recuperated slowly with the herbs I was treated with. I couldn’t walk, sit or pee. Day by day, I would contemplate the idea of being married off at a tender age of 9. I had been ripped off my happy childhood days, and in turn, burdened with the yoke of womanhood.
As I got better, I hated my father with the exact same passion that I had once loved him. One day as I walked towards him, I had all my words scripted in my head…
“Papa, for the last few weeks I have been nursing my scars and grief and perhaps this is how I was fated to end up.” I held my silence as if recapping what I had just said. Then I went on… “I accept this scars, just as I accept the hate I harbour for you to enter my heart. But I am not going to be married off. I will pursue my education to the end, with or without your approval. Yesterday, I dreamed of being a lawyer, and a lawyer I shall be. That way I will be able to liberate women from these oppressive traditions. I will do what you failed to do with your civilization and your university degree. I will do right what my mother was unable to.”
I was barely 8 then, but even now I remember finishing that speech with a tone of finality and resignation and walked away. He tried to beckon me to wait and listen to something he had to say, but the seething contempt that I had for him wouldn’t let me. I did not know the weight that my words bore then. I was merely a Standard 4 pupil. Whether they were rude or honestly true, I did not know.
As schools reopened, I didn’t want to share my story with my mates. Papa was reluctant to let me back to school, but I was an 8 year old with a point to prove and a dream to live for.
Time passed by and healed the wounds, so infinite. It was no longer a dark secret hidden at the back of my psyche because I wanted to help many more. I realized that scars are what make us human. Whether wounded flesh, or damaged ego. Our scars tell a story that is infinitely richer, more complex and intimate that a million close-up shots of flawless skin-deep beauty. There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature. A scar means that the hurt is over, the wound is closed…done with.
I now stand up for the girl child. That drum has not yet been beaten enough. The woman has not yet been liberated and she needs to be pulled out from the four corners that have confined her and condemned her to misery, with silence as her only companion. A lawyer is what I dreamt to be. I did not dream of driving the dopest car, or living in the most luxurious mansions, or vacations in the Caribbean. I dreamt of the law and the statutes and the cases.
I dreamt of the girl of the girl out there who seems to have lost the meaning of hope. The girl at the centre of the hut with cold stares bludgeoning her conscience. The girl who dares to dream and live up to her dream.
I dream of a cause worth dying for. Because, just like sand through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives.