There are days like this when you are caught in a dreary swamp of memories. They come flooding in and swelling all around you till you can think of nothing else.
You used to be a happy child. Happy, chatty, delightful. You were the kid whose hand went up as soon as your children class teacher at church asked if anyone had a contribution or question. You always thought of your question or contribution in the space of seconds between the time your hand flies up and when the teacher calls you; sometimes your mind came up with nothing but you always found something to say. You were known in your class as that naughty boy who tips the end of other pupils’ bottles while they were drinking, causing water to spill on their uniforms or in their nostrils. You loved running for no reason, it caused you many falls and a few injuries but those were small prices. When you had an errand to run, you had to run; when you had to go from school home, it was an avenue to run and most exciting of all, when you had someone to contest with you relished the adrenal burst and blast of breeze in your face as you tried to outrun them. You didn’t have the wild gazelle feet you desired, there were only a few boys you were faster than, yet you ran anyway, because for you it wasn’t about competition, it was always about the happiness. But life came with calloused hands and it stripped you of your enthusiasm. You became the man who could not be thrilled or tickled by anything.
It’s a difficult trail to trace, the journey that landed you in this place of numbness; this place where hope was a forbidden fallacy. How did it start? You ask yourself. A number of events immediately pop up on your mind’s search engine.
The rainy afternoon when Oroja walked up to you in the company of his fellow bully friends and asks you what it’s like to be a motherless baby. His friends laughed and casually walked past you, paying no mind to the confused look on your face. You were six and in primary three at the time, Oroja and friends were in primary four. It was break time and if not for the rain that fell in thin drafts, you would have been on the field playing ice and water. You remained on that spot, wondering what Oroja meant.
The previous day your grandma put you out of the house and sent you off to play with Adigun. It was odd but pleasantly so. They never let you out of their sight, they never allowed you to play with the neighbors talk more of Adigun who lived few streets away. You quickly took off for Adigun’s house before grandma snapped out of whatever mood of niceness she was in. You were in too much of a haste to have taken note of her red-rimmed eyes, but now standing in the light of Oroja’s unsettling question, the image of Grandma’s red eyes came to the fore of your mind. Something else jarred at your mind. The many guests grandma welcomed in your house the previous day. You remember the many footwears you met at the entrance of the house when you returned from Adigun’s place. Grandma didn’t let you into the parlour. She told you to get a shower, she brought dinner to the room for you and when you asked for your mother, she said she travelled. But mum didn’t say she was travelling, when she left the house earlier that day, she said she was going to the grocer’s shop.
You immediately dashed into your class, picked up your school bag and food basket and ran into the rain. You ran all the way till you got home. There were plenty footwears at the entrance again. You called for your grandma. She answered from her room. You went in without knocking. Grandma was on the floor flanked on both sides by Iya Awero and Adigun’s grandma who was rocking her in her arms. Grandma was crying. Your food basket fell from your hand spilling a half-full water bottle and a warmer containing your untouched lunch. You knew in that moment that Oroja was right. You were a motherless baby. But you didn’t have the answer to his question, you didn’t know what to feel.
Perhaps the journey started before the death of your mother and the cold way you got to know. You remember the last quarrel between your dad and your mum, the one before your dad’s unannounced departure. You remember standing on the corridor, hearing your dad complain about the finances of the home. He said something about the surgery sinking all his money.
“AB, you should be grateful he’s alive. You know how narrow his chances were.”
“We are still buried in the debts that surgery brought on us…”
“We will make it through… Aren’t you happy that his heart is healthy now?”
“We should have given up…”
And then things became ugly, their voices rose, names were hurled; you retreated to your room. You didn’t understand immediately, not until later when grandma shared the testimony of how you had an atrial septal defect as a child that required a surgery in India. So, it was you. You were the reason your dad left. The reason your mum was crashing under the weight of debts and responsibilities. You dad thought you were better off dead. We should have given up. And several times you thought that things would have been better for everyone if they had just left you to die from the hole in your heart.
The start of this tailspin might have been when you were in JSS 2, the period when Grandma’s sickness became intense and you started frequenting the hospital, managing her soft drinks business and striving to cope with school work. Somewhere in the middle of second term, Grandma’s hospital bills grew stronger than what the proceeds of her business could sort. You had to find a way to raise funds. You visited uncles and aunts, but the pittance they contributed did little to alleviate the burden. You knew you couldn’t buckle, you had to find a spine for your grandmother who had been your backbone all those years. You had to find a way.
After much hesitation, you decided that seeking help from senior Oyelami was the only option you had. He was said to come from rich home and you’ve heard students say that he spent a lot on any girl he fancied. So, you went to him and poured out your woes, expecting a charitable token, but Lami said you had to earn the money he’d give you. The job was simple, you were told to help him talk to the girls he liked. You were handsome and aware of it, you wielded your charm to win girls for Lami. He stuck with his end of the deal; he gave you the money you needed for your Grandma’s bills. All along you thought Lami just wanted more girlfriends in order to earn more ‘reps’, you thought that maybe he shared furtive kisses with them on the corridor behind SS 2 block at most. But the day Shalom confronted you, something in you wilted.
“I trusted you, Adakole.” She had tears in her eyes. “you told me senior Lami liked me.”
“Yes now, didn’t he take you to tuck shop?”
“I thought he liked me… He used me.”
“I don’t understand you, Shalom.”
“The letter you gave me, did you read it?”
It was then your heart started thumping, because it dawned on you that you took your job as Lami’s toaster/go-between with the unquestioning zest of one doing an honest job. You thought of the letters you had delivered, why had it never occurred to you to read through them? What if they contained something that could put you in trouble?
Shalom got her answer from the look on your face. She shook her head and a drop of tear spilled. “Never mind.” She muttered and took off.
You stood there by the road for some seconds before you quickly shrugged off your school bag and searched through your notes for the most recent letter senior Lami gave you to deliver. It was written to Adegbayi Feyisola. You tore it open.
‘Feyi, I’m inviting you to a beautiful party that will hold at Chiefplace lounge. Wednesday 10pm. You are going to have a great time. You can’t tell anyone. They’d get jealous or give you boring advice. Wear something steamy. Let me see your best shot at impressing me.’
You read slack-jawed. Nothing in the letter pointed to Lami. If any teacher saw this letter, Lami could easily deny and all the blame would be on you. Lami was being sneaky. But beyond that, there was something flapping within you, the restless wings of curiosity.
Wednesday night met you at Chiefplace, lurking in a corner because you were not willing to pay the gate fee. You just wanted to see what Lami did in this place. You watched every person that went in, scanned every corner you could from the window, yet you didn’t see Lami. Eventually, you felt a hand grab the nape of your neck and you instinctively turned around. There he was, boring into you with his eyes.
“You want to be like the cat?”
“What killed the cat?” Lami asked.
Not getting it, you stared blankly.
“Curiosity.” He let go of you, as though disappointed. “I thought you were smart.”
“I am. Not catching a riddle doesn’t change the fact. I came second last term. I am smart.”
Lami smiled. “Maybe not smart, but you have spunk. I like that.”
You didn’t want to ask him for the meaning of spunk, you didn’t want to strengthen his argument for your dumbness.
“I haven’t seen the girl.”
Did he even know the name of the girl? He just pointed to them and asked you to talk to them and deliver his silly letters.
“What are you doing to them?”
“You want to know?” A small vicious smile.
He led you through a backend door, down a corridor that had doors on either side, doors from which eerie sounds and a fog of pervasive smells came. He stopped at a door that was shut. You could hear muffled cries, grunts, rhythmic creaks. Lami motioned to the peephole.
“Satisfy your curiosity, boy.”
You looked. A girl not more than fourteen was on a metal table. There was a man holding her down as he waited for his turn, there was another ravaging her body. Her mouth was gagged with a strip torn from her gown. It was all so violent, yet you didn’t flinch or pull back. You stayed bent over and you watched as those men took their pleasure at the girl’s expense. You even tried to read their lips to know what ribald joke they were throwing and cackling at. You felt awful about what they were doing, you even cried but those were belated emotions that only came to fore after you left the scene. While you watched them, you felt aroused.
Lami pulled you away and watched you with a sneer. He looked down on you and you tried to cover your tumescence. He laughed.
“Now you know. You see those men, they like them fresh and young and trust me, they pay well.”
You shook your head. “This is wrong… I can’t be a part of this.”
“But you know too much already. You are already part of us.”
You backtracked. “I’m not doing.”
But there was someone behind you, holding you by your belt. “Behave,” The person said. You were whisked into a room.
You were trapped in a dimly lit room with Lami and another guy Lami’s height. Lami turned to his friend. They did a routine hand shake. You swallowed.
“I thought you were bold, Adakole.”
“I am also human.”
Lami narrowed his eyes but said nothing.
“I won’t tell anyone, just let me go home.”
“How will you take care of your grandma?”
You hadn’t thought of that. How would you?
“I will find a way. But I can’t be part of this evil.”
“Osare, troway this your self-righteousness and let us hear word abeg. No be this same work money you dey use take care of your grandma before? You think say these girls sef no want am? If dey no want am, why dem come here?” Lami’s friend said before he took a drag on his cigarette.
You thought of Shalom. I trusted you.
“Lie that you didn’t imagine yourself in that room.” Lami said.
You looked down, feeling a surge of guilt. You were complicit. You were a part of this. You felt betrayed by the fact that your body responded to and desired something obviously wrong.
Lami and his friend looked at each other and laughed.
“Welcome home, boy. You will get used to it.”
And so, your journey as a pimp and trafficker started at age twelve. Now that you knew what you were doing in partnership with Lami and his ilk, you put in more discretion. You talked to girls from other schools, junior secondary school girls who were enchanted by idea of going out with a rich senior from another school. Girls who believed they were grown enough to make big decisions. You learnt how to make them feel bold, how to keep communications with them untraceable and once they had been to chiefplace or one of the parties the boys organized, you knew how to cut all ties with them. As time went by, you became a senior and you rose in ranks. Lami had graduated, you scouted for and got a few boys in whom you could see that versatile seed of avarice.
At this point, it wasn’t about your Grandma any more. She died while you were in JSS 3. You told yourself it was a matter of survival, that you needed the money for school and upkeep but you had a classmate whose life challenged your argument. Abass was an orphan like you, the first of four children. Abass worked as a mechanic and as an SS 2 student he was funding his life, education and that of his siblings. His fingernails were blackened but his hands were clean. You hated him. You hated how his life swiped your excuse from beneath you.
Something happened shortly before you took GCE exams. A girl from Saint Evelyn Girls’ School confided in a corper at her school about being raped at chiefplace. Apparently, the girl caught an STI and that triggered a whole investigation. The JSS 3 boy you were working with at the time, Joshua, came panicking with the information. His cover was about to blow. He heard that they were taking the matter to the police. You assured Joshua that you will protect him, that nothing could happen to him since there was no evidence. But there was, the letter you wrote in Joshua’s name. You were throwing Joshua under the bus, but yet again you convinced yourself that you had to do this to survive.
That evening when you got home, you cleared out your things from the wardrobe and packed what your duffel bag could contain. You packed frantically, assailed by paranoia. You gathered all the cash you had and took off. You got on a night bus headed to Oye-Ekiti. You don’t know why you chose Oye-Ekiti, but you knew you just wanted to be somewhere far and improbable.
On the bus to Oye, you realized that you had no real plan. Where were you going to stay? What about your education? How would you survive when you exhausted the money on you?
“Sorry, aunty, I need a favour, ma.” You mumbled to the woman beside you.
She looked at you. “What is it?”
“Aunty, I’m new in this place. I don’t have any one, I don’t have anywhere to go.”
She balked. “Where are you from?”
“What are you looking for here?”
You started crying. “My parents died. My aunty’s family started maltreating me. I had to escape. Please help me.”
She looked you over and sighed. “It’s fine.” She touched you, as though to pacify you. But you were worldly wise enough to know that a touch on the thigh meant more than pacification. She smiled at you, a cryptic smile. You looked away, feigning innocence. You will come to know her as mummy Ganiyat. She put you in a room in AJ hostel, a compound mostly occupied by FUOYE students. She told you she was going to pay the rent; she was going to see to your feeding and tuition. You looked upon her kindness with narrow eyes of suspicion initially, holding your breath in anticipation of the hit. But no hit came. You slowly released your breath, realizing that there was no catch after a whole month. She came by the apartment with foodstuff, made your meals sometimes. You figured she just had a proclivity to touch people. When she laughed, she touched you. When she was leaving, when she wanted to get your attention. She was just a toucher. On your cheek, on your shoulder. You believed it was harmless. You believed this was finally your chance at a fresh start. Even though you saw the girls screaming at you in your dreams, you believed you could start over here in Oye-Ekiti.
You made new friends in that compound. You got close to one bro Pius who thoroughly bodied his name. He was the man to wake the compound with songs of worship at 4:30 prompt every morning. You could hardly catch him without his well-worn leather bible and his signature response to greeting was ‘bless you brother’. You coveted the ambience of peace about him, you thought that by being around him some of it could rub off on you. When you were with him, the violent thoughts of retribution that bugged you stayed at bay and the afternoon you slept off on his bed, you slept soundly. It was your first sound sleep since that night at chiefplace. You started following him to church, trying your hardest to convince yourself that you were a different person, that it was another person-Lagos Adakole -who was capable of doing all the terrible things you did.
One evening after you returned from Bro Pius’ fellowship, the Bible he gifted you in hand, you walked into your room to find mummy Ganiyat lying on your bed, stark naked. All the images you had espied from peepholes in chiefplace came flooding your mind, as did passion your body.
“It’s time for you to become a man.” She said with a simper.
It turned out your first instinct about mummy Ganiyat was correct. It was pleasurable at first but she was insatiable and you were indebted. She kept you going through the night. When she left early the next morning, you were drained. Drained of life, strength and hope. You slept off and you woke up at your window. You were confused and disorientated. It continued, the sleep walking and the long nights with the nymphomaniac woman.
Your night mares worsened. You started avoiding Bro Pius. You knew you were beyond redemption. Nemesis had caught up and it had you in chokehold. You snooped around and got to know who mummy Ganiyat truly was. She was married to a stinking rich Alhaji who was always out of time for business. Her visits became more frequent, her demands more sickening. You wanted out. You threatened to rat on her, you said you knew her in-laws and you knew they’d throw her out if they got wind of her affair.
She sat still, staring at you. “You are a foolish ingrate.” She stood up and walked to the window, her movement unhurried. Her calmness unnerved you. “It hasn’t even been two years since you came to this town without a clue of where to turn, how to survive or where your next meal would come from. I took you in, I rescued you. I fed you…”
“The generosity of an owner feeding his chicken. If you don’t pump me full with food, which energy will I use to pound you like yam? Huh?”
Mummy Ganiyat narrowed her eyes. “We’ll see about that.”
She left that evening without saying another word. She was back the next morning with two guys. You thought they were going to beat you up, but all they did was to bind your hands and feet, gag your mouth and tie you securely to a chair. She left with them and locked the door behind her. You struggled, tried to scream but it was all pointless. Adding to your torment, your mind started taking liberties. Another chair emerged in front of you and one after the other all the girls you had sold off to Lami sat in it, calling you names. You cried until you had no strength left for tears. You heard your father’s voice in your mind saying, ‘I was right. You should have been left to die a long time ago.’
A day passed. Your body ached, your stomach growled, your mouth was bleeding at the corners, but mummy Ganiyat was no where to be seen. The next morning, you heard a knock on the door.
“Adakole, Adakole, are you in?” It was bro Pius’ voice. You couldn’t even move. He rapped two more times on the door before you heard his footsteps as he moved away.
That night Mummy Ganiyat came in and loosed you. She stripped off her clothes and stood before you, feet planted apart.
“Get up and get to work.”
She was showing you that even if she didn’t feed you, she could make you do her bidding. She owned you. That night you begged, you cried, you managed a scream but mummy Ganiyat paid no mind. You passed out.
When you awakened, you were on the floor. You thought she was gone until you heard her voice.
“You are such a weakling, Adakole. You are not a man at all. You fainted, and I was just getting started.” She laughed. “Where did we stop?”
“Please, mummy Ganiyat. You are a mother…”
She slapped you. “Don’t bring my family into this. And stop calling me mummy Ganiyat. Call me madam.”
“I agree, I’m foolish, I’m an ingrate. Please I’m dying, I can’t continue.”
She shook her head. “Do you know you sleep walk?”
You said nothing.
“You sleep talk too. In your sleep, you are an interesting person to interview. You could go on all day thinking you’re a closed book or an enigma, but you told me all about senior Oyelami and why you fled Lagos.”
You sprang up, eyes wide. She smiled.
“If you think you can threaten or blackmail me, you’ve got another think coming.”
She picked her clothes from the ground and put them on with forced dignity. She walked out of your room.
You sat there on your bed paralyzed with guilt, fear and an avalanche of shame. Pius walked in. You made no attempt to cover yourself. What was there to cover? What dignity was left?
Pius looked around the room. You looked at him, his face went from confusion to stark shock. It was easy to see the sex prints everywhere, starting with the fact that you were naked, then the bed, and not the least of all, the smell.
“I saw mummy Ganiyat on the corridor… You said she was your aunty…”
You were at your most vulnerable point. You wanted to rip your soul out and soak it in bleach. You wanted desperately to escape your reality. If there was anything bro Pius could do to help, you wanted to grab it.
Pius threw your wrapper to you. “Is she molesting you?”
You just stared off at the wall. You couldn’t call it molestation. Molestation would be what Lami’s clients did to the girls. Molestation was what you aided back in Lagos. To present yourself as the molested would be the height of falsehood. What you were getting from mummy Ganiyat was well-deserved. It was the pill you served others now sitting in your throat, a burning capsule that wouldn’t descend. You were oblivious of the fact that one can exist as a villain and a victim in the same story.
You shook your head. “Bro Pius, I’m not what you think. I’m a wrecking ball that leaves ruins behind him. I can’t begin to tell of all I’ve done. I don’t want to scar you.”
Bro Pius flinched. You could tell that he was frightened.
“You should leave me, for good… for your own good.”
Pius turned around and walked out of your little apartment. When the wooden door clicked shut behind him, you felt yourself sink deeper in the mire of despondency. If there was hope for you, Bro Pius wouldn’t have walked away. You stood up, throwing off the wrapper with unnecessary gusto. It was mummy Ganiyat’s. She’d told you stop calling her that, but you swore silently that you would sooner die than agree to calling her ‘madam’. If reminding her of her family made her burn, let her burn. You lurched to the corner of the room that served as the kitchen, hungry and spent. You drank garri that morning, you drank it with your tears and no sugar. It was just like his life, coarse, sour, dry.
Few days later you awakened in the middle of the night to ease yourself. You stood over the toilet bowl and suddenly let out a groan. Your urine felt like liquid fire. You knew at once that you had caught something from mummy Ganiyat.
Just like the girl from St. Evelyn.
This is the end. You will die.
You expected that the prospect of death would relieve you, but it was terrifying. You did believe there was God and life after death. How would you face the angry God? How would you survive the lurid flames of hell?
Early the next morning, you hopped on a bike and headed to the best clinic in town. Even if this disease was going to require all the #7,500 you had, you didn’t mind. It took months of saving from the peanuts you were given for lunch to gather that much. Mummy Ganiyat kept you broke to keep you dependent and loyal, to keep you from getting ideas of running off.
With bated breath, you went through the tests and waited for the doctor’s verdict. Thankfully, they said it was something treatable, chlamydia, a bacterial infection. You were asked to invite your sexual partner over for a screening. Even as you nodded, you knew you couldn’t broach the subject with mummy Ganiyat. You got your prescription from the hospital pharmacy and on your way out, you saw mummy Ganiyat through a glass door hysterically explaining something to a doctor. She was in a hurry, striving to keep up with a stretcher that held a badly injured girl. There was blood on mummy Ganiyat’s dress. Was that Ganiyat on the stretcher?
Your lips curved into a wicked smile. You wished the witch’s daughter dead. On your way back to AJ hostel, an idea burst into your head. Mummy Ganiyat was in distress, you were the least of her concerns now. If there was a good time to escape her, it was now. The hurdle was the fact that you were broke, between tests, hospital bills and medication you had spent #6,700. What you had left couldn’t take you anywhere. You had to find a way to steal and fast. You had to leave Oye-Ekiti that day, waiting till night was risky. Mummy Ganiyat was nocturnal and very unpredictable. Another question came into your mind, where were you headed this time? You could always decide on that at the park. You could go anywhere; you really didn’t have a life. You had finished from secondary school about a year earlier and you hadn’t been able to secure an admission. You could continue trying from anywhere in Nigeria. Anywhere Mummy Ganiyat couldn’t guess. That already ruled out Kogi.
You finally settled for Abeokuta, there was no reason, really. But you will later come to know that there was the divine hand, gently guiding you back to the light. But the journey to light was a long winding one for you and at the time you were travelling to Abeokuta, you still had a long way to go, there were still steep curves ahead, curves that fiercely threatened to fling you off tangents. But God who is rich in mercies… but God.
On the bus to Abeokuta, you took a window seat and kept to yourself. You didn’t want another experience like the journey to Oye-Ekiti. No sooner had the ride started than you dozed off.
“Good evening, brethren!” A firm voice boomed, awakening you at the same time the bus bumped out of a pothole. “I want to share God’s word with us.” You hissed and bowed your head, ready to continue with your sleep.
“Your sins will find you out!” The cadence of the man’s voice jolted you out of your sleep again. “You may think you have successfully covered your sins,” He chuckled. “he that covereth his sins shall not prosper! That is what the Bible says… David said there’s no hiding place from God. There is no place his eyes cannot reach. He sees everything and he shall judge. You better amend your ways today. Tomorrow may be too late. Repent today. Repent!”
The words were direct daggers at your heart and your heart thumped a wild rhythm of trepidation. Your eyes were now purged of sleep. The bus preacher wasn’t finished.
“Hell is real. Have you ever gone near fire? Have you ever been burned by fire? Do you know what it means to spend eternity in a lake of fire? Imagine drowning but this time in fire. Not for ten years, not for a hundred, not for a thousand years but forever! The coming of the Lord is at hand, he is coming as a consuming fire. Repent today. Repent before it’s too late.”
It’s too late for me. It’s too late.
Your eyes were fixed on the wiry preacher. Sweat beading your brows and beneath your nose.
Your sins will find you out.
“Adakole.” You spun your neck to see who called you. No one. Your imagination was taking liberties again. You looked through the window and in the trees that whipped past, you saw mummy Ganiyat’s smiling face. The image was so fleeting that it was gone before you gasped.
“Adakole, your sins will find you out.” The voice was coming from all around you, thundering from outside, from inside.
“Oga,” the guy beside you touched your shoulder and you jumped. “you are shivering. Are you okay?”
You couldn’t find your voice, you just stared and as you did, the man beside you morphed into Lami and he was saying, “You know too much already. You are already part of us.”
You shook your head.
“Where are you headed?” The guy beside you asked.
But you were hearing Lami say, “Where are you headed? You have no where else to turn. You belong to us.”
“I don’t want!” You snapped. A second thick with confusion and attention passed. Other passengers looked at you, your imagination quietened and you realized that your reaction was outlandish. You cleared your throat.
“Did you have a bad dream?” The guy asked.
You were grateful for that excuse. You nodded. “A really frightening one.”
Even though he seemed unconvinced, you were glad that he left it be.
At Abeokuta you lived under a bridge and lived off the alms of passersby. Your imagination became wilder till the demarcation between reality and hallucination became wooly and then nonexistent. The words of the bus preacher rang in your ears every waking hour. The internal tumult and torment heightened till it became unbearable. Not even the thought of hell could keep you from wanting to die. What could be worse than the life you were leading? This was hell.
You saw a vehicle coming at top speed from a distance and the thought of having the tire crush your skull was almost titillating. You jumped into the highway. The driver slammed on the brakes and the car came to a swerving halt before you. your eyes were closed, you were expecting the car to ram into your body. At the screech of the car, you opened your eyes.
You saw all the girls approaching you in arrow head formation. At the head of the array was mummy Ganiyat, naked and beckoning. You screamed and grabbed the neckline of your shirt. With one yank, you ripped the shirt. You tore your trousers, your threadbare underwear. You stripped down not because mummy Ganiyat was beckoning but because you wanted to be free. You scanned the area, looking for something you could use to tear your skin. You desired to cut your chest open, perhaps then the real you, the cleaner you could finally emerge.
The women started shooting names, each one well-targeted, each hitting home with a piercing sting.
Weakling. Coward. Brute. Ingrate. Bastard. Liar. Pervert.
Joshua showed up from no where screaming at the top of his lungs. Traitor, traitor. Bloody Judas.
The girls took up the chant. Bloody Judas! Bloody Judas! Bloody Judas!
One of the girls quietened them. He’s worse, She said. He’s a rapist. She held your gaze, challenging you. What? Isn’t it true? You sold us out, you watched as we were violated, don’t think for a moment that you are any different from them. If anything, you are worse. She spat.
Oroja was there in the company of his friends to shout, Motherless baby.
He’s a rapist and at the same time a boytoy. Mummy Ganiyat said.
The names continued… Shameless. Spineless. Heartless. Beast…
Your imagination froze when you saw men zeroing in on you. You could hear them whispering, you could see the way they approached with caution. You blinked, suddenly aware of your nakedness.
“I’m not mad. I’m not mad, I swear.”
But when people have reason to believe a person is mad, everything and anything they do only backs up the speculation.
You were grabbed, hurled in the backseat of a car and taken to the Neuropsychiatric hospital at Aro. You struggled until you were sedated.
You were diagnosed with schizophrenia. You hated the name, you hated the place, you hated the other patients. When you wouldn’t use the tablets given to you, they had to inject it into you. You started noticing uncontrollable jerks in your face, your tongue twisting, your neck muscles working on their own volition. This strange movements in your body persisted. Your paranoia kicked in. What were these people giving you? You could see mummy Ganiyat conferring with your doctor, in the privacy of her car, telling him to force poison into your bloodstream. Something that will burn your organs slowly and take over control of your whole being. You could see the doctor laughing and clinking a glass with her. You could see mummy Ganiyat standing before the doctor, now in your room at AJ hostel, slowly undoing her buttons and wiggling her eyebrows at him. You were panting, you were looking around. You could see Oyelami’s friend laughing you to scorn. Lami was saying you were going to die as a vegetable in a psychiatric hospital. You grabbed the metal edge of your bed, rattling the chains restraining you and you erupted with a roar.
“Take me out of this place. I know you want to kill me. Take me out!”
Your doctor walked in. “Mr. Adakole, what is the matter?”
“Get out of here, you dirty traitor.” You spat at him, but the man was too experienced to be near a psychotic patient even if he was fettered hands and feet. “You think I don’t know? I saw you! She paid you, didn’t she? You slept with the witch. What did you give me? Why do you want to kill me?”
Dr. Anselem shook his head, more from exasperation than pity. He signaled to a nurse and she handed him an injection.
You fought the fetters harder. “No! No! Don’t come near me. I’ll kill you before I let you kill me.”
With the quick skill of a doctor used to deranged patients, he drove the sedative into your deltoid and few seconds later your eye lids were drooping. You woke up to a pool of drool on your gown. You never drooled before. You were sober and clear-headed. Dr. Anselem walked in, his little notepad in hand. He took his seat in a corner of the room close to the door.
“What triggered this episode?”
“What are you giving me?”
“Risperidone for your schizophrenia.”
“Liar! I’m having these twitches in my tongue and all over… I’m drooling. You’re trying to kill me.”
“Why would I want to kill you?”
You looked away.
“Who is she?”
You said nothing.
“Who is after your life, Adakole? If you don’t talk, we can’t help you. Soon enough, you’ll be out of the charity funds allocated to you and if you don’t give us someone to call, we’ll have to let you go.”
“Why is my tongue shaking on its own? Why does my face dance? What is this?”
“It’s called tardive dyskinesia. It’s a common side effect of risperidone. You will balance in as you get used to the drug.”
“Adakole, you have to talk.”
By the time your allocation from charity funds ran out, the twitches had stopped. You had come to accept that you were indeed deranged and you were terrified of being thrown out to the wolves in your mind. They were only started to get tamed by whatever the doctors and nurses put in your IV lines. What would become of you when the leash on the wolves snapped?
The day you were to vacate the clinic premise, you tried to pray but the only words you could grind out of your mouth was, ‘God, fix me.’ You had so much to say, so much to ask him, but you had sins hounding around you. Your sins will find you out. Even as you muttered those three words, you were sure he couldn’t hear you. But he heard, the holy one heard. He heard and he answered. That day, Mrs. Akerele walked into your life. The doctor came to tell you you could stay, a random woman had come to foot your bills and the first thing your broken mind thought of was that this was another ‘Good Samaritan’ like mummy Ganiyat.
You wanted to protest, you wanted to tell the woman to leave you to your misery. But that day was a blue day. The drugs did that to you, they made you enervated and down in the dumps on some days and there were other days when you had spasms of baseless excitement.
Mrs. Akerele dropped by every day on her way from work and she never spent more than five minutes with you. She sat in the same safe corner as Dr Anselem and she was never alone with you in the ward. Her guards were all the way up, yet after three months, you knew that she was tearing down yours. What did she do in those few minutes? She read a portion of scripture to you. She read Isaiah 1:18 to you every day for about two weeks. It was as though she was working with a prescription like the nurses that were administering your drugs to you. Two weeks of Isaiah 1: 18, two weeks of John 3:16, followed by the reading of some stories from the Bible. She read the story of the woman caught in adultery for a week. Wasn’t she tired of the repetition? And how dumb could she be to be unable to memorize a verse even after a week of reading it to you? Why did she read from her pocket-sized Bible every time? What was she playing at? Was this an experiment?
You decided to question her. After the story of the woman caught in adultery, she dropped by that Sunday by 12pm and you knew by her outfit that she was just returning from church.
“What did you learn in church?” You asked not because you cared but because you wanted to break her routine. If she was working with a regimen of sort, you wanted to ruin it. Even though you were confined to this irksome facility, you wanted control.
She smiled and she told you about the sermon her pastor preached.
“Why are you doing all these things? You should be with your sane family, what are you doing with a crazy stranger?”
“I’m simply acting on instructions.”
Your pulse quickened. “Who sent you?”
You sat there, dumbstruck.
She opened her Bible. “I’m reading from Romans ten verses nine and ten…”
You had to stop her. “I.. er… I have a question.”
She met your gaze. “I’m listening.”
“What did the Lord say to you the first day you came here?”
She shrugged. “He simply said there was a soul crying to him here.”
You fell silent. She didn’t say another word but she waited the next two minutes, observing you after which she left. She was back the next day, ready to resume the reading of Romans ten nine to ten. She read it three times that day and every day for the next two weeks.
She switched pill to Ephesians 2, thereafter. She read the first ten verses, a heavy dose this time. She read it slowly, picking each word deliberately, injecting them into your system and you didn’t mind at all. The words were soothing, reviving and once during your sessions with Dr. Anselem he admitted that your recovery was speeding up. You closed your eyes as you listened to her speak of the state of the sinful man. By nature children of wrath. That was you. Dead in sins and trespasses.
She stayed on Ephesians for a whole month. Thirty-one days of ‘we are his workmanship’. The last day on Ephesians, you recited it along with her, more to test your cognitive function and make a point to Dr. Anselem than for any other reason. But the word was taking root in you. Sinking tap roots powerful enough to oust the foundation of every lie that lived in you. The last day on Ephesians, when Mrs. Akerele finished reading, she moved to your bed and perched on it. You were frightened for her. What if your brain started one of its spirals? What if you hurt her? You were frightened also, by the tenderness in her eyes. You knew she wasn’t like mummy Ganiyat but you were so starved of it that love wasn’t just strange, it was frightening. You shrank back.
“Adakole, I love you like my own son. Every day since I met you, I’ve prayed for you.” She sighed and looked at the wall. “It’s time for me to move out of the way for you to see the one I represent, The Way.”
You didn’t understand what she was saying. She stood up and left and after that day, she never returned. You didn’t know the drug that Mrs. Akerele was had a strong hold on you until the withdrawal. But her withdrawal pointed you to the stash of the word she had left in you. Her words returned and became your daily meditation.
But God who is rich in mercy… For God so loved… Though your sins are like scarlet… though they are red like crimson… wool…snow… Neither do I condemn you… There was a soul crying out to him here.
Soon, you were set to be discharged on the condition that you will come for weekly check-ups. Before you left, you asked Dr. Anselem for two favors: a Bible and the address of Mrs. Akerele.
He smiled. “I thought you’d never ask.”
Mrs. Akerele was a widow in her fifties. She took you in, saw you through rehab and fed you thoroughly with the word of God. When you asked her why she repeated the same scriptures to you back at the clinic, she smiled and told you that consistency in simple obedience brings down walls. She spoke of the wall of Jericho.
You started working at a sachet water factory, you took care of the house you shared with Mrs. Akerele. You worked hard to earn your living and made sure to take care of the woman you had come to accept as a mother. There were days when you became moody and surly; days when you locked yourself in and battled awful memories. Mrs. Akerele taught you to fight with God’s word.
Now, you are Adeyemi College of Education studying to become a teacher. Even though you are now twenty-six years old and have been saved for five years, you still had days like today when you are swamped.
But you have learned to stand on the rock when the torrents of memories swelled around you. You have learned to speak what word of God says about you when memories come to tell you otherwise. You knew how to silence condemnation.
In overwhelming times like this, you held on because you knew that no matter how angry the floods, they could not overwhelm you.