For many nights, I couldn’t sleep, I tossed and turned weakly. One night, I picked Tobi’s pen, tore a sheet of paper from his English notebook and began to write:
what good would their sticks and stones have done
against a single burst of fire from your sophisticated gun?
Wouldn’t they have scampered away like ducks?
If your rifle had sounded one “kpow” in the air?
Whose duty I heard is to protect; why did you run
I let the pen fall out of my hand, I no longer had inspiration. My head was blank, I couldn’t think again. I kept seeing images of the man … the boy – he was only a boy – burning. I still didn’t know his name.
“Do you remember Dad’s favourite quote?” Tobi said suddenly, breaking into my thoughts. There wasn’t enough room on the single mattress we all shared for me to turn my whole body, so I tilted my head to look at his face. No one said anything. We waited for Tobi to speak. For a few seconds he was silent as though he was himself waiting for someone to respond to his question. When he finally spoke, his voice though pained, was clear and commanding: ‘There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.’
“I remember now,” Jide said excitedly, “a quote by Elie Wiesel, a writer and Nobel laureate.” I tried to picture our father saying it. He must have said it during one of the long, boring speeches he made when we ate at the dining table. I knew he must have said it more than once for Tobi to have mastered it verbatim. It wasn’t so much of a surprise that I didn’t remember because each time he started those boring speeches at the table, I’d switch off completely and travel far into Wonderland to amuse myself with my own imagination. Maami always complained about my short attention span, and she would scold me each time she noticed my mind was drifting.
“That’s what keeps me going out there each day,” Tobi continued, almost in a whisper, “the urge to protest against the injustice that has enslaved us all even though I feel too powerless to fight it.”
There was a prolonged silence before I finally said: “We should sleep now.” No one spoke after that, but no one slept either.
I watched as my father fell. I tried to struggle free. I kicked and kicked but his arms were too strong. He held me down and tied me to the leg of the huge settee beside which I had hitherto laid prostrate and stuffed my mouth with a dirty piece of clothe he pulled out from his pocket. He stood for a while and watched me struggle till I was weak. Then he ripped off Maami’s treasured purple gown and all that were underneath from my body. Right before the very eyes of my four brothers – in the most cruel and inhuman way – the uncouth bastard thrust hard into me.
I tried to scream but my voice was held back by the cloth stuck in my mouth. Hot pain travelled from my loins all through every nerve in my body, as though invisible hot blades were ripping my insides apart. He went on and on, stroking hard and not caring that I was gasping for air, just barely hanging onto life. Then I felt a blithing wetness between me as cold blood trickled down my naked legs. I watched in horror and fresh fear as Bad Breath zipped up his trousers after violating me and satisfying his lust. This was a dream, surely. I would wake up and realize that this was just one bloody nightmare. But my father laid in his own pool of blood, motionless, his eyes open in a bizzare way that sent shivers down my spine. And I, drained of life and numb emotionally, lay there still, naked, covered in my own blood and sweat and the murky sweat of that beast. It was my brothers’ eyes, contorted with pain, fear, and the anger that raged though my skin that jolted me to the consciousness of reality. The boys had picked themselves up and they sat there, helpless and forlorn. I could hear voices in my head, as though millions of people were talking all at once. My head throbbed. My ears ached so badly. I tried to think but my mind was clogged.
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