She says little, but she was not always like this…in her mid-twenties, urges unfamiliar to her take over her core emotions in a manner so fierce, she often has to stop in her tracks, breathless, uncomprehending. Then she hates herself when she finds her courage to make a new friend, and then starts to distance herself a few days later, scared. That they will never understand her, her artistry, her sheltered upbringing, her ill-fitting tendencies. She understands nothing of her feelings that torture then embrace her simultaneously. She doesn’t belong in this world and now she must leave it…somehow.
Though each time she makes a move to get set on her agenda, her strength comes rushing back, then she hates herself even more for giving in again and again. Once, she sat by the window in her room, shared by her two sisters and brother, and began to talk to herself about the possibilities of doing it in a painless, tactful way. Perhaps pills, maybe a toxic substance in her food…but she shook it off and said she was being stupid, maybe it wasn’t worth it. When her sister calls for her, she realizes why she doesn’t want to be in the company of people often, because her artistry needs its space. But they don’t understand, they never have, they never will. So she sits it out, waiting for another sunset to ponder on thoughts of a better life, accepting once more her sadness.
Her youth is a blur of images, but in those snapshots, she remembers her wide smile, her ebullient laugh, her needy hands that warm night in the phone booth entangled in Morrison’s arms, breathless, seductive. She remembers these snapshots now and often wonders where that girl went, and why this woman now says so little. Then she recalls that treacherous moment, wishing it wouldn’t haunt and haunt, when all she wants is release…
Her head held high, she walked the corridors of the school boarding house and across the lawns to her haven, preparing to rehearse the music piece she’d written for the annual school concert. She was poised and confident, all the while content in her ambitions, proud of her introvert-extrovert nature that made her the life of the party one moment, and the reserved musician the next. Seventeen. Pretty. Popular. She turned on the lights to the music room and felt her heart sing, just seeing the cello at the corner, the flute set on the teacher’s table, the music, the music. She was in the main class of the four in the small building, and put down her repertoire to begin, when she heard a muffled sound coming from the third, no fourth room. She stiffened, remembering having locked the building door early that afternoon as per her prefect duties, and leaving no one inside. The sound came again, now a thud and movement around the room. She got up quietly and followed the sound. She turned the broken doorknob and in the dark, made out two figures trying to hide. Before she could make another move, they pulled her in, as she kicked and bit, but their hands on her mouth muffled her so that she couldn’t let out a scream. They began calling her all sorts of names, show-off, tease. She tried to break free but their hands were still on her mouth, then one of them groped her so violently, tears sprung into her eyes and her body shook as she sobbed and fought. One hand reached for her womanhood, painfully violating it, as the other tore off her skirt, and she bit furiously as they now began to hit her, but she kicked and one of them yelped, as the other said it wasn’t worth it, let’s leave this pathetic person. They pushed her to the ground and kicked her before running out of the building, and she lay on the floor in pain, her womanhood throbbing and bleeding slightly, her hair messy, her eyes swollen, her soul in despair. And she was never the same.
She never know who they were, why they waited in the dark to insult her and try to strip her off her dignity, why they didn’t finish what they started, why they were so violent in their sentiments against her, why she survived it. Since then, she became ashamed of everything she was, and because everyone around her noticed how much she’d changed, from the giver to the withdrawn damsel, she felt inclined to say as little to anyone as possible. Her music faded, her body was never touched by another man, her smile was bleak, her voice a whisper.
She sits in her room once more, her lips quivering at the thought of that evening, and she falls on her knees and starts to seek her release. Her unhappiness provokes tears that burn her face and belittle her spirit, as she kneels and places her head on the mattress. She asks to be forgiven, she asks to be made whole once more, the way she remembers herself at seventeen. She curses the two that made her carry her dejection and shame everywhere she goes, who found it in them to destroy everything she’d carefully worked to achieve. She calls out, wishing there was someone who could tell her she was the centre of their universe, craving the attention of her parents who seemingly stopped trying to help her pull through, needing the assurance of a society that takes and gives in a way that drains her, angry at the world for disowning her.
She stands, leaves her room to wash her face, returns to pick up the piano composition she last penned at seventeen but kept as a reminder of her successful days, and leaves the room to try for a second chance at life. To re-ignite the fire that was put out on solemn a night. She says little, true, but her heart now searches in all the right places.
© Janet Mbugua 2009