We sit idly under the mango tree, waiting for our next class
The girls are engaged in a heated debate but I just didn’t care
Or maybe I just pretended not to care, which was strange to them
I was always the life of every debate, arguing till the end
But today, I just didn’t think I had the words with which to express my thoughts.
‘I can’t wait for the day my husband claims my virginity’, one says
‘Ah, boul deyga. Lolu amatut solor jamano ji‘, another argues
They pick it up from there, each one firm in their belief
And then, ‘All these girls that are not virgins on their wedding night must have been promiscuous’
That cut deep into my heart and I wanted to yell
I wanted to say everything that came rushing to my mind
How would they understand?
That I can never look people deep in the eye, for fear that they might see
That I spent years growing up with the pain and the trauma
That I would go on with nightmares for weeks without end
That sometimes, I would be scared to sleep so as not to bring back the memories
That each time I close my eyes, I see his lean shape towering over me
That I feel uncomfortable wearing short clothes, for fear that he might come back for me
That I didn’t choose to live my life wishing I were someone else
That each day, I would spend hours in the shower, trying to cleanse myself.
Can I ever be clean? Can I ever regain that purity and innocence he took away from me?
I cringe when I think of my wedding night and what people expect of me
I try to tell myself that I should care less what people think or say about me
Yet I am reminded of the society I was born and grew up in
That society that looks forward to the red stain on the white cloth
That stain that proves I’ve been a good girl, chaste and full of morals
When they ask me if I’m a virgin, I am always torn between two responses
I can’t remember how deep he went, or whether it hurt
But each time, I end up answering in the positive. Yes!
Because deep inside, my soul whispers ‘Yes’ to me.
Sometimes I curl up in a quiet corner and let my tears take control
Wishing, hoping and praying for that one day of freedom
When I can let it all out, with no chains holding me down
When I can stand out tall and seek justice for my body
When people will listen to my story and for once, not judge me
When I wouldn’t be blamed for what happened to me
When people would stop pointing fingers at me
When others would stop looking at me like I’m dirt
Pasting labels on every part of my defiled body
Stripping me of the little pride I had left
Adding more pain to my already clustered life
Pushing me to the limit, making me want to end it all.
Then; only then shall my soul know peace again
I shall lie down, sleep and have beautiful dreams
I can look, with ease, into the eyes of the people I love
I shall smile, not to cover up my insecurity, but because I have a reason to
I will see past the ‘sorry’s that get thrown my way
I shall take them as genuine empathy and not patronizing sympathy
Then, I shall learn to love again, without fear
I shall learn to love and appreciate my beautiful body
Then I shall hold out my hand, to all other victims
Of rape, of sexual molestation, of domestic violence
And together, we shall stand tall and make a change
We shall let the world know; that
We have been Viol-ated but it makes us no less human!