Her demons have awoken yet again, with fieriness that leaves me sore. My right cheek bleeds of pain, regret and anger, alongside hot blood from fingernail scratches. Several consolatory eyes watch me as I rise in slow motion from the ground, and stagger out of the place I’ve know as my room for the past two terms. It’s ironic that none of the owners offer to help me; no one speaks, for no one wants trouble. Everyone turns the other way before I make any attempt at throwing a pleading glance their way. Not even Tanya or Bilikis, or the oversabi House Captain that heads this hostel. I drag my feet, wince as I limp, and head for the only place I can get my vindication. The place I should have gone for so long.
Visiting day was last week Saturday. A night before visiting day, a series of thoughts made camp in my head. If I ever told mama of the things I go through in the hostel, we would be sitting pretty in the air-conditioned office of the principal in a matter of seconds, generating heat.
My mother is not a rich woman. We are the typical average Nigerian family, with just enough to sleep at night with both eyes shut. She is a single mum; she lost her husband two years after Kelechi, my kid sister was born. I was only four at the time, so I barely remember him. Mum never remarried, choosing instead to stay strong for her three daughters. And boy has she been strong!
I know Mama Chinelo. Anybody who dares mistreat her own has invited fireballs into his bosom. She would fight with the last drop of her blood if she ever caught wind of my Sinemile ordeal, to ensure that the girl paid the police a visit or something. No, she wouldn’t listen if they told her that the girl was on Aripiprazole medications.
Yes, about that…
I discovered the drugs in the pockets of an abandoned bum short of hers flung carelessly into the laundry basket. It was a small transparent drug bag labelled, with tiny round tablets inside it. I didn’t know what the drug was, and I didn’t bother to ask. For all I knew, it probably was for menstrual pain.
It was our loud-mouthed house mistress who revealed secret things to light one fateful Inspection Saturday.
‘Emilyyyy!!!’ She screamed atop her voice that morning in her thick Yoruba accent. ‘Emily onikaba, you will not use your drugs eh? You want to run mad again abi?’
The level of calm that descended upon everyone that heard the outburst that day was in itself embarrassing. As expected, Sinemile took it all out on me that night, and trust me, it was grave.
I had since learnt to sympathize with her condition even when I had no reason to.
If I tell my folks tomorrow, all these won’t matter, and I’d be free. But will that make me happy?, I thought.
I shared my concerns with Tanya; she was the only friend I seemed to have left in the hostel. The others had learnt from what happened to Bilikis, and had decided that anyone who hung about with me always managed to share in my bad luck.
Though Tanya didn’t know so much detail about the things I had been through with my bunkmate –no one really knew, her rebuttal was vehement and unflinching.
‘Report the she-goat!’ she said, goggling at me through nerdy glasses.
‘I know I should, but…but I don’t know…’
‘What don’t you know? The fact that you’ve slept on the courtyard more than you’ve slept on your bed? Or the fact that you hardly do anything for yourself these days? Or is it the fact that you have developed the habit of sleeping in class like a pregnant woman in her first trimester?’
I gawked at her in silence, knowing that there wasn’t the slightest lie in what she was saying.
‘Look, I don’t know what’s going on with you. I don’t know why you have put up with that Senior for this long, and I don’t really care. But if tomorrow, you don’t tell your folks about Wednesday’s incident, then I can only say I’m sorry for you.’
It’s been five days since visiting day, and I’m starting to wish I had not been such a coward. The excuses I made, all the niceness Sinemile showed me days before visiting day, vanished the day after. She hit me at the slightest aggravation, sent me on useless errands, rained insults on my head like hailstorms in India, and deprived me continually of my beauty sleep.
Today’s episode started with a tirade of curses, then slaps without rhythm, then the shoving, and then the dragging. The kicking came shortly afterwards, the scratching, the biting, the blowing too. All for what? I misplaced her cupboard single key while washing her monostrap school bag.
I’m standing at the entrance of the Senior Boarding House Mistress’ home, waiting to be invited in. Today, I have decided to stop being a coward, oversensitive or just plain dumb. I’ve been trapped in between the devil and the deep blue sea, and I’ve realized I’d rather fall in than face the beast, for who knows if the sea holds for me a better lot than a monstrous death.