The situation at home kept deteriorating, my mother’s face was always a different color every night. All the colors of the rainbow would mark attendance at the end of the week. I pitied her. I had begun to cry a lot now. Crying was my succor. If I fell I cried, if I was hungry I cried, if I was home I cried. I did all this crying in private, no one could have guessed. I began to think crying was normal. It just always made me feel better. Getting all that pent up anger and emotions out there. I was just angry inside. Angry at the military for turning my perfect life upside down, angry at my father for doing that to my mother, angry at my mother for enduring it, angry at my brothers for not noticing. The only place I found true happiness was with Tanimola, whom I hardly got to see anymore.
One day, we went to school as usual. I wasn’t feeling too good so they sent me back home. I was almost home when I heard the voice. So are you now the man in the house? Are you trying to say that I’m a useless man? Tell me, iya yinka, what is it that you are trying to say? I stood still, I realized that my mother must be answering all the question so I moved closer to the house, I climbed the mango tree to get a good view of what was happening inside. How had it come to this I wondered as I looked on the scene the played out right before my very eyes. My mother was kneeling down very close to the wall opposite from the mango tree; as if praying the wall should magically open. My father was backing me so I couldn’t exactly see the look on his face. He sounded scary. He asked her again, this time punctuating the questions with slaps to her face each slap cut through me like a sharp blade, could love really change to this? How could my father live with himself? Tears were streaming down my mother’s face, her face was contorted in real agony. It was as though she was right in front of me. The pains in my stomach kept on increasing, I’d never felt such pains before. The assault was still going on inside. I simply slid into my room through the back of the house and remained there. When Nathan got back from school, he must have told my parents that I had been sent home from school. My mother came into the room, she looked at me; she must have thought I was asleep. She sighed and stepped towards my bed, sat on it and rubbed my shoulders. I opened my eyes. She rubbed my head; I loved it when she did that. I got up to eat dinner, that’s when we noticed the stain on the bed. It was red and large, had I cut myself somewhere? I couldn’t remember. All I know is that for some reason my mother began to cry and she hugged me so tight. The blood was everywhere and she said I had to go take a shower. When I was done, she kept something on my panties, she said it was a pad. She explained that the blood had come from me and that meant that I was now a woman. Now a woman? I thought. Does this mean I’m to get married soon? By this time I was only 9 years old and I didn’t think I was ready to get married.
My mother’s friend had a baby that night. Moments like this was when the town actually experienced joy as a family. It gave everyone a cause to momentarily forget the reality that was Taribo. My mother was always at her place whenever she was off duty. This was her first child, she thus needed my mother’s help. One night, the baby was running a fever, my mother had to sleep over in her house. We all went to bed that night after eating the food she had left on the kitchen before she left that evening. I’m not a deep sleeper. That’s why when the door to my room started creaking in the middle of the night, I noticed. As though someone was trying to creep in. I swallowed hard. Was it a stranger or were my brother’s trying to play a fast one on me? A hand crept out of the shadows a touched my ankles, I shivered. The face emerged out the shadows about 3 seconds after. It was only my father. Whew, that was scary. He got on my bed, I wondered what he was here for. He told me about how he was so unhappy, how life hadn’t turned out the way he planned it, how he didn’t mean to be so mean to my mother all the time but couldn’t help himself, how life wasn’t worth living? After he had said all this, he left. I was left perplexed. Why would he just come to my room to tell me all those things? The answer I would find out the following night.