Last night I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a post asking men to wear cameras or something to avoid being falsely accused of rape and other sexual impropriety. I was too sleepy to react to the post and for the life of me, I can’t remember who made the post. My last thought before I closed my eyes was, if you fitted women with cameras, the world might just tilt off its axis from the weight of revelations.
This afternoon, I came across Azaya’s post on the frequency of males getting accused falsely and women being sexually harassed. I wondered if any of the young men I know have been falsely accused of sexual misconduct, and I wondered if any of the young women I know have not suffered one form of sexual assault in their lifetimes. I suspected the numbers for both parties would be largely the same.
The bus I was sitting in was stalled by traffic and the heat was overpowering, a passenger wondered aloud about what it would take to get the Apapa traffic fixed and another passenger answered that it would take the ten thousand Ifa Oracles to get it done. Something in that statement triggered a memory.
My brother was in his first year and was staying in the hostel while I lived off-campus. He was in the Aminu Kano Hall (Hall 3) at the time and had a bunkmate who was pretty nice to him. Because being a female visiting Hall 3 is nobody’s idea of a pleasant task, I rarely went there to see my brother. Actually, I only went there twice when I couldn’t reach him on phone and I didn’t know his bunkmate neither did I meet on any of my visits, even though I was familiar with (and eventually became good friends with) one of his roommates.
Because my brother became notorious for being unreachable, I asked him to give me his bunkmate’s number so I could call the bunkmate when I couldn’t reach him. I called the guy the next time I couldn’t reach my brother and he assured me he would call me when he saw my brother and he did as he promised.
He began to call me fairly regularly, to ask how I was and if I had seen my brother, these calls came weekly and we didn’t talk about other things. My brother told me that his bunkmate said he had fallen in love with my voice, it didn’t strike me as odd, it was usually the first thing people remarked on when they met me.
One Sunday evening at about 8pm, my brother’s bunkmate called and said he was at Newton’s Villa – a few meters away from my hostel, and he wanted to see me. I warned him about only having corn flakes available, knowing the penchant of Uniben ‘boys’ for visiting babes on Sunday when they were assured of Sunday rice. He laughed and said it was ok, he wasn’t even hungry.
In a few minutes, he was at my door and I let him in. Romance novels often describe a man by saying he filled the room, it was appropriate in this case. While he wasn’t particularly muscular, he was tall enough for the top of my head to land on his forearm, it didn’t even graze his shoulder and I am 5”6.
My roommate was preparing to go for ‘night class’ and she left a few minutes after he came. We talked for a while and soon ran out of things to say. I was feeling sleepy and told him I wanted to sleep, he asked if he could sing me a lullaby. I looked at the light skinned, handsome young man who was boring me to sleep and very nearly told him to keep talking and the lullaby would be unnecessary, but I decided to be nice.
He sat on chair by wall beside the wardrobe, with the table in front of him and one of the windows behind him, while I sat on the bed. He stood up to leave and I stood up to walk with him out of the room and walk with him to the gate. I do not know what martial arts the next move he made belonged to, I can only tell you that the result was that I was back on the bed with his weight draining the air in my lungs and seemingly crushing every bone.
He was whispering apologies and promises to love me forever, he explained that it was love pushing him as he slobbered on my neck and face with his hands trying to find the space between us in obvious search for my breasts. I knew enough not to struggle, I quietly told him I was burning for him too, could he please let me lock the door so no one could walk in on us. He jumped up and ran to shut the bolt and I slid my left hand under the mattress, pulled it out and jumped up.
He looked stricken by the sight of me holding a knife aimed at him, I couldn’t hurt him because I loved him, he said.
I didn’t even laugh at his silly joke, I kept my face even and tried to swallow the panic that wanted to spill out of my mouth.
“Baby” he said again.
“If you come near me, I will slice off one of your arteries and you will bleed to death in this room and when you die, I will move your body and dump it in the middle of the road.”
“I’m sorry, it’s love that was doing me”
“Love when you are seeing my face for the first time.” I asked, my ears still ringing from the whole nonsense.
“Yes, it’s love. An overpowering love.”
“Choose between love and death, you bastard.” I twirled the knife and moved one step closer to him, my face still blank.
“You are a witch, stone cold bitch” he hissed and opened the bolt with his hand across his back and he moved forward, his eyes never leaving the knife as he inched out of the room and ran out of the hostel.
I locked my door, returned the knife to the place I had kept it since we moved into that room, the same place I had kept it in the previous places we stayed, since my neighbour – a final year medical student at the time told me to keep a knife handy and showed me what arteries to target before I got overpowered.
It was the first time I was using the knife, I would wield it three more times in that room before I graduated, three more times I had to fight off the advances of young men on their first visit to that room, and I did not even invite any of them to start with. All of them claiming to love me, and for a long time I wondered if love wasn’t a code word for “I want to give you nightmares.”
The funny thing is, this was the least traumatic of all the experiences I had, inside and outside my room. Yet it took me more than six hours to face the memory and another five hours to write the less than 1,500 words of this post.
So, I’m half sitting, half lying on my bed with my laptop on my lap and memories finally dancing in the sun after hibernating for years. I have a new set of problems and it’s not as if I haven’t already exceeded the problem quota for my age group.
How do I send all of these other memories back to the fort I imprisoned them years ago? They are taking up all the space in my head.