My name is Faraja, I am currently 39. Of course, I have not always been 39. I was once 12 but between 16 to 36 is the reason I have gathered all of you here.
Unlike many people who say things like, “I don’t know what I did with my 20s,” I say things like I don’t know what I did with 20 years of my existence. Don’t get me wrong, no, I was not caught up in indecisions, partying, goals, almost written off degrees, forget about being caught up in pursuit of orgasms or love, no! While else most people (that I talked about up there) might have been caught up in all that, I was caught by my 20s. Trapped, timeless, uncertain and frankly I had made peace with hopelessness. I had opened up my closet, met my skeletons, exchanged pleasantries and since I was a sucker for tea, I had offered them coffee and walaa! We had made peace. The land of despair and that of a young girl had had a handshake and accepted to live under the same roof, peacefully! Is that a good or a bad thing?
You see, decisions like these are not made in a fortnight, make no mistake. I hear people are born to a mother, so I have had to borrow the narrative despite that I never met her. I lived with my grandmother, you know how these stories are, abject poverty, a child forced to skip childhood to help her grandmother whose skin had become bronzed from the monotonous exposure of the harsh sun. Walking in torn handed down clothes, nights of sleeping on empty stomachs and the disturbance of drip-drop of a grass-thatched, leaking roof, made sure you stay up.
These stories end with a grandmother who curved to life’s blows and a child who is denied by relatives. Well, mine is no different.
At 14, I was on the streets; I survived the crude life for about 1 year. It still fascinates me how I was not changed by my circumstances. Let me let you in, I only needed 20 shillings to make sure I had a meal for the day. I also needed to secure my carton from my colleagues, it was my bed. Small enough for me, a young soul in an even younger frame of a body, but not shaken, not curved. Maybe I survived because, for some reason, I would hear compliments like, “you are so smart, you should go to school,” one too many times. Sometimes, these compliments were the reason I remained grounded, of course by then I had no idea what grounded meant- now I do. Still, the same compliments would get to me sometimes. I would cry to the memories of such comments, I would wet the already cold cement floor of the streets. My favorite floor, which doubled as my bedroom, was outside a chemist. I loved it; it had a large balcony that sheltered me and a very lazy owner, who, unlike others, who would open the business at 7 am, this chemist chap reported at 8.30. So, I had 7- 8 am all to myself, in my ‘room’.
To get the 20 shillings, I worked for a salon, I would fetch for them water and in return earn my wages. That was not all; those girls would bring me clothes and give me keys to the washroom to clean up at least twice a week. They also brought me food. I would hang around in that salon every time a chance presented itself. As they say, you hang around a barbershop long enough, you will get a cut. My cut came through when one day, one of the saloon girls asked me if I would help a young mother bring up a kid. I remember thinking, finally a purpose, a reason to get excited about the yellow harsh sun sipping through my eyelids every morning. I said yes.
Two weeks later, I was living with a young girl on campus. She was the mother to my reason, her baby. Let’s call him Obama, Obama because he had a set of big, yellow, enchanting ears that grabbed your attention effortlessly.
Campus life was a movie. I spent most of my days locked up in a single room talking to some big ears and getting a response in terms of a genuine adorable smile. Obama had a way of pumping me with love and glow. Soon enough, I would stop calling out the sun for its harshness. I started longing for morning sunlight, partly to cover for all the days that I resented it and partly to build up the muscles –vitamin D- for Obama to start walking. So, my relationship and mama Obama was quite peaceful. In exchange for taking care of Obama, I had food, shelter, clothes, and 1000 shillings a month as my salary.
I also enjoyed watching young people maneuver through life, to some extent they inspired me. They also did tickle me. You see, when it rains, I use my hands to streamline the space around me so that I can enhance my speed while running. Running away from rain. But these so-called educated people felt the need to hold hands under the rain, look into each other’s eyes, and sometimes, one of them would strip off in an attempt to shelter the other. Something that running, or should I say marathoning would fix. See, that always touched a laughing gland. So this was my life, I was quite contented and everything was okay, or at least everything was okay for about a year. Except that I never met baba Obama, it did not help that several men had those big, Obama ears on campus. And since I was not privileged enough to attend a probability class, I had accepted that maybe just, maybe, Obama was descendant of Will Smith. Genes as prominent as their names ha!
It was a normal morning, normal in the sense that, I was attending to a call of nature outside in the washroom and there were chilly gray clouds, and a foggy space. Mama Obama and Obama were still enjoying the warmth of their bed. To say the least, their bowels were schooled. Sorry, Mama Obama’s was schooled and Obama would pretty much take a dump anywhere and anytime because babies are set up like that.
There was a sudden loud noise, so loud that it almost liquidated my brain. For a second or so, I stood confused, froze, lost touch of my movement and brain. Then the loud noise continued. There were gunshots, in a matter of seconds they were accompanied by screams. Disturbing screams, people called out for their moms, for God, for their babies. Babies! baby Obama, oh baby! I had to do something, I couldn’t just stay there hugging the dirty walls of the washroom.
I moved to the corridor and through a tiny crack, I would see 5 men, whose faces were covered, the source of the gunshots. You know what else I saw, the source of the frantic screams. One person splinted from his room and before I blinked he lay on the soil submerged in a pool of his blood.
These 5 men were moving from room to room, flagging the doors open, chanting then spraying bullets on the occupants of the room. They did this so religiously and accurately almost like they had rehearsed.
A one storey residential building would soon turn silent, thick silence, every creature was sheltering, some under the bed and others on top of the tallest trees watching from a far distance- birds.
With every bullet, a soul was stripped of its existence. With every bullet, a once warm body, warm from a smile or just the sheer circulation of blood, turned cold. Some bodies were privileged to remain warm in the warmth of their pool of blood at least for some seconds, while others landed on the already cold blood of their friends.
Gunshot. Departed Soul. A cold Body. Repeat!
The men were fast approaching Mama Obama’s room. All this time, I couldn’t move, my knees were frail, and my head dizzy from the smell of blood. My heart failed me, I wanted to rush and get hold of my ‘purpose’ but I remained in the same position. Time has never moved so fast. Mama Obama begged I could hear her crying and the next thing I heard was gunshots. My heart crushed, I wanted to throw up, my saliva was so thick. I felt weak. I passed out.
I would wake up later in what seemed like a dungeon, only that this dungeon was on the surface and made of metal. Girls, young girls in frail bodies and dirty hair, surrounded me. Some were overdressed in long worn out dresses and others were dressed skimpily. One thing was common in all of them, they all carried an ambience of pain, despair and horror. There was also an odor and as I turned to trace its fountainhead, I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen. It was followed by blood from the ripping of my genitals, lots and lots of blood. I knew I had been raped.
One of the girls moved closure as if to shelter me from seeing my blood. She muffled some words, to which I responded I don’t understand, she whispers again and I stare blankly at her, she stares right back. We realize we cannot understand each other. Mater-of-factly, I could not understand any of the girls’ language. I quickly learned that they all came from the same country but me. I have never felt such a mixed reaction; fear gripped me, confusion and uncertainty. For the first time in my life, I shed tears. They were hot as if to warn me to buckle up for the extremely hot temperatures of that cell.
So, the girl covered me with her long cloth, I understood that she meant the men should not know that I have bled. I know that is what she meant because by God she would have written it on the surface of the floor, the dust on that floor was enough to hold a paragraph comfortably. But the language barrier stood between us, sturdy as if daring us to decode it.
On the days to come, she would turn out to be my favorite girl of them all. She cared, somehow regardless of the situation that surrounded us. We were sex slaves for a militia group. So every day, one of us would be picked by one of the men and return in the evening. Tired, beaten defeated and smelly. The scent of semen and men’s sweat was served to us daily.
We rarely saw the sun, but we damn sure did f feel it.
The sun! the sun!
The yellow sun!
The sun that had tanned and aged my grandmother with its unlimited brutality! the sun! the sun!
The sun that sipped through my eyes on those cold chilly mornings on the streets!
The sun! the sun! oh the sun
The sun that Obama had reintroduced to me and taught me how to love, the sun!
Now this same sun was back, not to be seen but to be heard. As it rose every day, the metallic cell would produce a series of noise, as it stretched and yawned as if to mock us! Wake up! they expanded. If you were not lucky to be picked for the day, then you would have to endure high temperatures rain on you like a breath from hell. The heat burnt our skull, skin and lungs. It did not help that we rarely took a bath.
Inside that camp, everything was timeless; nobody knew what year, month or date it was. However, nature was kind to us and alarmed us of mornings and night falls. I don’t know how long I was there, but I was there long enough to make peace with this skeleton. One of the militiamen had grown a liking towards me. He was among the commanders, as such, when he could, he made sure he and only he, penetrated me. His liking also came with frequent siting of the sun; sometimes I and other girls would be assigned kitchen duties.
This liking exposed me to the reality of the place. There were no buildings; only the cell and even that had no floor. Everything else was a tent. There were men, lots of men. Men who never talked, they were constantly staring at a far distance, it didn’t matter that this specific land was void, the horizons stretched, you could only see so far. It was a place of nothingness. These men had their faces exposed, but they came out as strange, they did things with uniformity like someone was controlling them from one of the tents. They were new recruits going through training. They never came close to us and neither did we. It was forbidden.
That was the routine, wake up, get scorched, get picked and be subjected through pain; physical, emotional, psychological and mental.
So one morning, as I was waiting for my turn with this man, the one that liked me. He was raged, yelling at a heavy radiophone but it did not bother me. The trainees had all my attention. These bipedal human forms were engaging in a massive shooting training. Every projectile of the bullets cut through the hot air and landed in some faraway place. I was engrossed. Then something happened.
… there was a deafening sound followed by an enormous blast. Right at the center of the camping site, a pillar of fiery smoke and dust ascended to the atmosphere. The second blast would quickly follow causing rags of fire. Fire that transitioned from red to violet to red again. I wanted to run off, but just then this man, the one who liked me, let us call him Likey, grabbed me, pointed at what seemed like a suitcase and using his body language ordered me to get in it. He then wrote on a paper, do not move until I am back.
The bag was big, big enough but not enough to contain my throbbing heart. There was war, a war of gunfire leaving behind the stale smell of gunpowder so strong that I could smell it from the suitcase. I heard men, yell, yell in rage as they gave orders. I also heard women, the girl’s scream frantically for help, then there was the sound of gunshots and explosions. All these reverberated in my mind like a thunderclap. But this time, this time, I knew better than to move. Therefore, I stayed still.
After what seemed like an eternity, everything calmed down.
The militia camp had been attacked leaving behind minimal movement and a rare siting of the human species. The stray limbs and bodies that had plunged into the earth would later explain it. The once dry area was a bloody, muddy pool. A combination of blood and sand. With everybody that lay lifeless, someone had lost a son, daughter, brother, father, mother, wife or even husband.
So Likey, walked in and blindfolded me and pushed me back to the suitcase. He never talked not even during the many sessions of molestation. The closest he got was moaning and groaning with his tarnished satisfaction. He drugged the suitcase with me in it and a few minutes, I could feel myself in a moving vehicle.
When I was let out of that suitcase, I found myself in a house. Not a grass-thatched hut, not the floor of a chemist, not in a single room, not in cell and most definitely not in a tent. I was in a house with wooden floor surfaces and big white walls. The atmosphere in this house appeared pristine with a few particles of dust gathered at hidden corners like somebody lived here for just enough time to keep its heart-throbbing- the house’s
I think houses have hearts, that is why, when with people, good people and love, they are warm and calm, they are called homes. Nevertheless, when left alone, departed or when hosting a bunch of ungrateful humans, they are called houses. This one had a dose of home and a house. A hybrid.
This hybrid would be my home for the rest of my life, or so I thought, Me and Likey. Which reminds me, can we change his name to ghost? Yes? No? Okay here me out.
You see, I lived with this man since that day until the day I finally got in touch with time and learned that 20 of my years had just elapsed like that. And never did this guy ever talk to me. When I think about it today, the only day I heard him talk was when he was yelling at the radio phone many moons ago. And yet, I was engrossed watching men playing with dangerous machines. I regret that day, I have tried to reverse it, to recall how his voice roared, but my memory, my memory and my bowel share a DNA. You remember the bowel right? Do you now understand why we will call him ghost?
So I lived in the company of Ghost. Ghost was always wrapped with a cloth on his face. I never saw him, ever. He was dressed in long sleeves, I never saw his hair, but I suspected he did have hair, I mean every man does have hair, even just a single strand. It is written in the book of standards.
When we had sex, I was not allowed to look at him. So I would lay on my stomach and he would get down to the business. To be fair, I had gone through a roller coaster of events so that, if I knew movies exited, I would call my life a movie. But I did not. So I never resisted, if anything I started enjoying his company, I had a sitting with the devil and made peace with the fact that one way or the other, this was the best offer I would get.
The house was stocked with food, Ghost would leave every day and I would be left locked in the house. Not that I had any interest in leaving the house. If anything I had learnt that if indeed my life was a movie, it was unscripted. So I was not about to land myself in another scandal. I would have to stick with the devil I knew. Besides, the sun was out there and I had a distaste for it.
No radio, no televisions no nothing. I had tried to request books, I could read a thing or two. Don’t be surprised, when you get comfortable with your captor you start making demands. Stockholm syndrome. And my demands were books to which Ghost would just nod and leave.
You see when you engage in sex, there is a probability of bearing mini yous. I never understand why people are so shocked anyway. Like you did have sex right? Yes, you asked your eggs and sperms to onja asali and some things are just naturally greedy. Things like sperms and Ovum, they decide to take down the whole godamn honeycomb!. Boom! A cute thing that does not pay bills tops up the world’s population.
Taking down my honeycomb resulted in twins. Ghost was elated. He never talked but the mood around changed without trying. He even brought me books and so many of my demands.
The babies arrived, a doctor was brought into the house. I look back on that day, and I am beginning to put together the puzzle.
When my twins were born, I started keeping tabs with time. Soon enough, they were little humans moving around the house. It is funny how they never, even for a second got interested in leaving the house. When they were toddlers, their father would take them out every morning for the vitamin D. He had made it part of his routine and had even started leaving the house late.
Ghost loved his children -they are now grown up teenagers- he loved them, it showed, and they did love him. They would play together and soon the house was filled with roars of laughter and uncontained joy. It moved from hybrid to a home real quick.
One day, when my kids were 3, Ghost never returned home. This was the first time since I got to this house that he did not come back home. I could feel fear pitch a tent in my inside. I knew something was not right. But I could not afford to show, not when you have two angels pestering to know when their dad would return. I had no phone, no contacts and no house key. Nothing. I was helpless. Yet, I never thought of escaping since he left. How could I, where would I go, I had no idea if I was still in my country. Let’s not get started with leaving behind what came close to love and life. Ghost!
That I had never heard him speak was least of my concern. Neither was how he looked. Hell! I had at some point tried to remove all the facial features that resemble me on my babies. What remained I built it up in my mind, to have a vague idea of how Ghost looked. But as I said that was least of my concern. How he made me feel was enough. Helsinki syndrome or not. I had a real-life experience, people will never forget how you made them feel.
Ghost did not return for 3 more days, he did not return forever. On the fourth day, I heard movements from what sounded like a gate. Flashes of light everywhere, dogs barking, police sirens and chaos of people and things that appeared frightened by the house, our home. When they gained courage, they knocked down the gate and then the main entrance. It was the police, they ransacked the house, took the kids and me to the station. I looked around, and one long paper hang on the wall read 2016. It was a 2016 calendar. The last calendar I had seen had read 1996, it was mama Obama’s calendar that she had gotten after purchasing diapers for little Obama. I came to, when one officer said, “we have blown his brains off.” It came out Just like that, cold and emotionless.
Bitterness, anger, confusion, despair, relive and pain flooded in me. Relief? relief? Yes, I was relieved, I did know why I was relieved, but I was, nonetheless. However, relief was not the only thing I felt. I felt sadness, pain, unfathomable pain, confusion. How could I be sorry for someone who had captured me for 17 years? But how could I not be sorry for the father of my kids? For the person who had come close to showing me, love! I want to question life but I know little about it. At least not as much as I do now. I thought maybe I should request for his body, but those cold words – blew –his- brains- off echoed.
I let out a horrifying scream from my tummy. One scream that carried the pain of losing my granny, Obama, and now Ghost. All the experiences of my life were summoned with that scream, there was a fire in my belly. Somewhere in the midst of the shrill, I swore this would be my last misery and I mentally kissed Ghost goodbye.
Later, all the procedures were followed and I was deported to my country. Tales about me were told, some true, some false. NGOs flew left right center, each wanting a bite of my story. I later settled for one good opportunity. A chance to re-write my narrative. I am in a better place, with my two children. As I narrate this, 3 years since I was deported, I am enjoying the sunlight of summer somewhere in Africa. Yes despite the rains in my motherland, somewhere in Africa its summer. The sun is hot, but I don’t mind. I have made peace with it; I had to, not if it is the one thing that extremely elated my kids. I wouldn’t blame, them they had no clue, Mr. Yellow, up there, existed. One more thing, the one thing that kept me sane with all these happening, is the belief in a mightier being, God. My journey with God comes close to my journey with the sun.
This is the journey of loving the sun.
(This is a fictional bases story and names or events that appear similar to real-life events are by coincidence)