The sickening stench of alcohol oozing from his breath makes me fall back with nausea. His bloodshot eyes are burning into mine like venom. I would’ve screamed in pain if every strand of my hair wasn’t used to the monstrous grip of this fiend. It was like the devil whispering vile incantations of my ruin into my ears. No man has ever seemed this ugly and dangerous as the one staring at me at this exact moment. I can see it. Beyond all the abysmal aversion this man possessed, I can see his mind working in twisted ways, trying to figure out what retribution I deserved best today. It was as amusing as it was despicable. “You are NOT going to be let go so easily this time. A lesson has to be in order you insolent leech! You expect to stay under MY roof and disrespect ME? A GIRL has the audacity to talk back to ME? You are in for a treat today, you witch. I will teach you what your ignorant imp of a mother has failed to get inside your head.”
Here it comes; the moment that I am so used to. Yet it is the moment that still never fails to weaken the dread that boils through my veins as his hand swings in thin air and strikes to break whatever bone that remains unbroken in my body. The vicious blow forces the wind out of my chest and I fall on the floor. The ground is stained with the red of blood as I lie on it and pray silently. No more. Let me go please. Let me go. Throw me inside my room and lock me up. Please just stay away from me. Let me go.... I grasp for that little bit of mercy that might be left in him. He tries to break free as I grasp onto his feet, begging him for compassion.
“You should consider yourself lucky that you got an understanding husband like me. If you were under the roof of some unfortunate man, he’d have you killed and six feet under by now. Stop crying. Get out. Scram. Put some ice on that. We have to attend Akanda’s wedding tomorrow. I cannot be seen with you if you look like some trash. Now get out of my face.”
I listen for the thud of his feet to drown out into the night as he shuts his door. It is quiet now. I can listen to myself breathe. There is a faint husk to it, perhaps from the parade of hits and slaps I received tonight. The chilling feel of ice doesn’t help anymore. The marks of his fingers do not fade away. The terror of him coming back for another round of it all keeps me up every night. Sometimes it forces me to break down, because the pain is too excruciating to hold back. Sometimes the thought of losing myself in the midst of all this makes me dare to think of unspeakable things; makes my fists clench in fury and rap them till they bleed, so that all the poison in my blood washes away with it.
The silent croons of the birds outside take me to a different time completely. Their familiar caws of freedom make me think of the time when I used to be a person of my own. There was a time when I used to bleat like a schoolgirl when my father used to pull me off my warm, silk-sheeted bed every morning for school. I used to come home to heartwarming platters of my favourite dishes. I used to complain about boys to my mother as she laughed at my naïveté. Her soft slender fingers brushing through my hair made me feel like I was in paradise. I miss those long walks with Baba by the serene lake as the sun peeped in through the clouds and wished me ‘good morning’. I miss my father scolding me when I did wrong and melting that frown into a smile that never missed to comfort me. I never imagined I’d miss those ferocious cat fights with my sister, with those long crimson nails digging at my arms, but I do. Who will be there for her when those haughty children try harsh her spirit? Who is going to comfort her with silent words of hope?
The memories seem to take on a different face now, one that causes my heart wrench in agony everyday.
As the night peeks to its darkest plight, dismal thoughts seep into my mind. I try to shut it out; to push away that rumination that reminds me to bellow in sorrow. But the evil of the night is too forceful in its vigor. I have to give in...
What happened to the life that I left behind when those beasts plunged me into this one? What is left of my parents when I failed to come back? Do they spend sleepless nights shedding tears for my return? Do they pray that I am alive? Is this being ‘alive’? Is being beat up and raped every night being ‘alive’?
I wonder if they know what happened; if they know how those creatures of filth took me away and brought me to my ruin. Do they know I have lost the urge to stay alive? Are they conscious of the pain and torture being inflicted on me? Do they know? Do they hear my silent sobs of rescue every night? Does anyone see the stains my tears make on my pillows; the marks of blood on the sheets?
Do they know how those demons sold me off like a little piece of toy?
So what do I do? Do I acquiesce to their monstrous commands? Do I cry my heart out in the lonely nights and toil away in the day? Do I let my life fade away right in front of me, this beautiful life that my family worked tirelessly to make perfect? Do I let it all go because escaping this hell is more grueling; because letting these devils win is easier to accomplish? Would I be able to push those arduous thoughts of being pestered and forced to live a lie away every time? Can I manage to be strong enough to live with the fact that someone sold me off like a piece of candy to a man who is twice my age? Would I be able to calm the resentment I feel towards those who snatched me from my precious life? Would I be able to live with the remorse of not being able to experience that first twinge of heartbreak, or those honeyed babbles of gossip with the people who stay by your side every step of the way? Will I miss those unfathomable words of wisdom from my father that never failed to leave me wide-eyed in an amazed confusion? Am I strong enough to leave it all behind, and be taken prisoner?
Will I be able to live without my life?
Today is different. I can feel it. The beautiful smell of freedom is creeping its way through the cracks of my door. The warmth of the sun falling at my back is comforting this time; it doesn’t burn or sting; it doesn’t force me to hide in the shade. The rattles of the dirty dishes don’t send chills down my spine. The stains on his bed do not need painful wrings to be washed off today. No one is tugging at my hair or screaming insults into my ears. I do not fear to look at myself in the mirror only to find traces of bruises here and there, screaming out the death of my dignity this time. I know my eyes will not be red with the shame of losing myself.
Rain trickles down my drained features like a thousand diamond waterfalls, as I step out. The warmth of the fire behind me is perversely comforting. The loud tortured screams coming from him through the black of the smoke is vaguely compelling. I cannot look back now. I cannot turn around and perceive what I have done. The fire sweeping everything to destruction will not take me with it this time. I have to go on.
This is my moment. This is my chance to take back my life, the one I have lost.
I will go to that place I once dreamt of. The place where the flames don’t burn, the water doesn’t make me shiver. That place where the silence doesn’t cut like glass, it molds into my existence. It welcomes me with the same fire that turned everything else to ashes.
I am alive; I am indestructible.