My Life - A Slippery Slope
Jaachinma BOC Chukwneke
© Copyright 2020 by Jaachinma BOC Chukwneke
Call me Christy, I was born in August 1976. We are from the Eastern Part of Nigeria but we lived in the Northern part. I had six siblings, two brothers and six sisters. Sometime in November 1989, there was a religious crisis and our area was affected resulting in loss of lives and property. This made my parents to quickly relocate back to the East.
Life back home was tough, my parents had lived all their lives in the North, adjusting to the ways of life in the East became difficult coupled with the fact that our return was impromptu. Due to the crises, my parents who were traders could not retrieve their goods from their shops when we were leaving. They tried to set up mini businesses with the little cash left on them after we had settled down in the village. But the flow of businesses in the urban areas was quite different from those in the village. Soon we started feeding on the foodstuff in the shops which led to the collapse of the business.
My parents then decided to send us out to interested relatives as house helps to enable us to continue with our Academics and at least feed properly. Even though I and my siblings knew such decision without our consent was going to be detrimental to a large extent but considering the harsh economic downturn on my parent's finances, we were left with no choice but to oblige our parent's request.
I was sent to live with one of my father’s sisters who was a teacher. She had five children and her husband who was also a teacher was very nice and accommodating. I was welcomed nicely, sooner than l anticipated, I got well integrated into their family and they all dotted on me.
I guess I got luckier than my siblings. My two elder sisters were converted to street hawkers as soon they got to where they were sent to .as much as my parents hated the idea, they had no choice because they could not even pay our fees when we were with them. I was registered in the same school with my Aunty’s children and I was well cared for on all fronts. I couldn’t wish for more.
It was when I finished my Junior School Certificate Examination that I decided to go home and spend some of the holiday periods with my father who was then a widower. My mother had died a few years back in a ghastly motor accident on her way to the North where she had gone to buy foodstuff for reselling here in the East. While on holiday at home, I had lots of freedom. My father was the outdoor type who kept himself busy by attending various town's/church meetings. Coincidently, my immediate elder sisters, kate visited as well. We were excited to see each other after many years of separation. We had a lot of stories and experiences to share and we had all the time with little or no interference from our father.
I was far ahead of my sister in education and moral knowledge but she was crazily ahead of me in street knowledge and she was visibly shy of accepting what I had and wanted to share with her but was more forceful in indoctrinating me into her street life. Surprisingly funny, I was excited to learn her ways. Within two weeks of my stay at home, I had learnt everything wild. First, she made me believe that remaining a virgin was a big burden for me. It only shows that I was not a 'big girl' yet and that was just what I hated to be tagged as. She introduced me to some randy young men who bided on me as if I was some cheap article on the auction market. The highest bidder paid whatever amount to kate and took me in and ‘did me a huge favour’ of taking my virginity at 13years. It was a painful experience but I was relieved when it was over and I thanked my sister for assisting in lifting the burden off my shoulder.
After that experience, something went off in my brain, I couldn't stop flirting, no one, in particular, was my favourite, I wanted all men. Young, old, all shapes and sizes. I was mad. Nightlife became my fancy. We will sedate my father to enable us to sneak out at night to any nearby club or hotel where we could find men who would buy us drinks, cigarettes, dance with us and bed us with little or no take-home tips. We were having the moments of our lives. Once or twice, my father noticed our absence but we lied that we went for some church programme, he believed us.
When my holiday was over, I was reluctant to return to my Aunty’s place. The life I had learnt and life in her place were a world apart. Kate as crazy as she was encouraged me to go back so that I could at least complete my secondary education. She had a way of making me do whatever she wanted so I obliged her and just to please her, I packed my things and went back to my base. Life in my Aunty’s house suddenly became dull, boring and most times annoying. The things that used to matter before, like group study with my cousins, music classes and house chores became irritating to me. I couldn't find expression to my recently acquired lifestyle and to make matters worse, my Aunty suddenly started behaving like a spy. She developed a pattern of reading someone's mind and thoughts accurately. She kept following every move I made with her eyes suspiciously. I couldn't deal.
As soon as school resumed, I got myself a boyfriend, Gray, he was in the same as I was. At first, he was slow in his advances, he was just being procedural about the relationship. He would buy flowers and other little gifts for me, then attach a love letter, during break time he would find a quick moment to come to my seat and drop the package for me. Then after school, he would signal that I wait behind for a while, then he would use the opportunity to ask if I liked the gifts after which we will engage in love talks, hugs, pecks and all those slow motions. I was on the fast lane, I got my exposure from a cracked path, so all his slow patterns were not working for me. I had to take the initiative, called him out to a dilapidated house on the out sketch of our School and introduced him to my wild world of sex. He couldn’t believe how much I knew, then he fell helplessly in love with it and with me. But then, I noticed I had a fault, I do not love any man deeply, I just lay with them once and move on. Gray was different, he refused to let me go and that was so unacceptable for me, so I set him up with his best friend. He couldn't bear the betrayal so he threw caution to the wind and reported me to my Aunty, he told her every sordid detail of our escapades. I thought about everything else but that angle. My Aunty who was grossly displeased with the revelation unleashed unimaginable mayhem on me.
I was repeatedly beaten, starved of food, isolated, given all manner of other punishments to bring me back to my senses but I was far gone into the world to be redeemed by mere corporal punishment. I saw my Aunty cry sometimes concerning my behaviour, I felt pity for her, though in my sober moments I regretted the turn of events in my life, I felt lost totally. My Aunty resorted to monitoring and limiting my movements and constant pep-talks. No matter what she did, I found a way to outsmart her. I continued my prodigal life style almost unabated until I failed class four and was asked to repeat. I obliged unperturbed and combined it with my wayward lifestyle until I took in. The most disgusting part of the story was that I could not tell exactly who was responsible for it. I was very liberal with my body, I lost count and cared less. But when I got pregnant it was a whole new level I never imagined.
My Aunty’s husband took it upon himself to take me round to the houses of the boys I gave their names as possible baby Daddies. As if they all planned it, none of them accepted responsibility. My Aunty’s family had no choice than to involve my father who was devastated by the news. He pleaded with the family to retain me even if it meant withdrawing me from school. My Aunty agreed but on the condition that I must continue to go to school. She said it and meant it. That was when reality started setting into my head. The news was all over the school even though the signs were not visible enough, so I resorted to telling lies and denying the obvious.
I became desperate because I knew it would not be long before the undeniable signs started manifesting. So I wrote a letter and sent emissaries to my sister asking her to come and see me urgently. She got my messages and as if she knew why I was asking for her, she came prepared. My Aunty was glad to see her not knowing her actual mission. She spent a week and made sure her mission was successful before she left. It was on the third day of her arrival that she gave me some tablets to ingest, I took them and within a few hours, the pregnancy got flushed out. It happened outside our house where she took me to. We went on an errand and she detained me there, insisting we wouldn't return home until the deed was done. I was still imagining what she meant until a violent rumble occurred in my tummy and within seconds, I found myself standing in a pull of blood. What Kate did meant free licence to immorality, it was like a free ticket to a banquet.
One day in my final year in school, my Aunty was looking for something in the children’s room where I occupied with my cousins when she stumbled on some contraceptives and abortion pills. All hell loosed. Unfortunately for me, my Aunty’s older children were around, they gathered and somehow they were able to extract the truth from me, I sang like a parrot and what I revealed marvelled the entire family. The family froze, my Aunty felt defeated, she underestimated me. At the end of the interrogation, they agreed to still retain me until I finished my School Certificate Examination. Their decision threw me off balance because I knew within myself I did not know how I would survive in that house with everyone treating me like an outcast. Though they tried to be fair to me yet you could sense the uneasy air in the house, I could not fit in anymore, I felt useless, contaminated and unworthy. Their kindness became irritating and undeserving. When I could not take it any longer, one Sunday after lunch, I quietly packed my things and escaped through the back gate into the bushes from where I joined the track route to the village square, picked a motorbike and returned to my father's house, unceremoniously.
Little did I know that my best days were over.
Back home, I had my freedom and this time, I had a lot of experiences too. There was nothing to look forward to, no one to guide me and ultimately no one to fear. I was disillusioned to think I was ready to face the world on my own.
At first, it was sweet, I did whatever I wanted, went wherever pleased me without interference. My father was frail and sickly and I didn’t give a damn about his situation, I guessed I liked the way he was because it made him ignore me and my wildlife. That bond between father and daughter was never there. With no one to properly care for my wellbeing, I went all out in search of survival, that was the peak and I didn’t realise I should be more careful with the slippery floor up there, then I started descending. I met a man Sammy, he was well over two decades older than I, it didn't matter, he was handsome, fairly comfortable but most importantly, very interested in me. He started buying gifts and other glossaries as well as advancing cash to me. Oh, how I thought my dream had come true.
I got pregnant for him, he didn’t deny it but he was not enthusiastic about it. He never identified with me in public and never introduced me to any of his friends. I thought it was because of our age difference but I later realised it was because he wasn’t proud of me. He still lived in their family house with his younger siblings and his mother. He worked in a mini transport company as a luggage supervisor. I was still operating from my father’s house until it was obvious to everyone that I was pregnant then tongues started to wag. All along I was mounting pressure on him to take me to his house to no avail. To jolt him out of his reluctance, I packed my bags one morning and came to his workplace claiming that my father kicked me out of his house. He had no choice than to take me along with him after work to his family house.
I still have goose bumps each time I remember the look on the faces of his family members when we arrived, he managed to settle me in calmly but the tension was undeniably obvious. When we were done with dinner, his mother summoned us, unknown to us she had already invited other members of the family. When we were all gathered, she requested an official introduction from his son of his guest.
Sammy was cut up in the middle, he joggled between introducing me as his girlfriend and his wife to be. But he made sure he informed them I had come to stay because I was pregnant with his child. That sounded like a bombshell. His mother and two sisters went wild, they abused the hell out of him while they called me unprintable names. I just sat there helplessly crying for myself.
His mother was very blunt, she made it clear that I was not accepted. She went on to say with that tone of finality, that her son will marry a ‘proper’ woman when the time was ripe. His sisters who were far older than I but still single, poured their venom ceaselessly on me. One of them approached me as if in a fight, asked me how old I was, how I imagined that hooking that thing (she pointed at my stomach) on her brother would make him accept me as his wife. They lashed at me as much as they wanted, screaming and threatening hell of how miserable they would make my life should I defile their treats and decide to stay. I sat like the orphan I have made myself. Sammy also sat there looking lost.
They made good on their treats. My life in their house was hell. In the morning, Sammy would leave for his place of work to return late in the night. His family only gave me food when it so pleases them. I complained severally to Sammy and requested he mobilizes me to get kitchen utensils so I can be doing my cooking, but he vehemently objected to it insisting that as a family, they did everything together including cooking and eating, that I would not bring separation into the family. I told him I was already looking anaemic and may die of hunger if nothing was done but he wouldn’t bulge. I had no one to run to or complain to, so one day as a last resort and out of desperation I approached our neighbour, an elderly man who used to seat in front of his house for fresh air.
I complained to him and begged him for food as I was starving to death. He listened to me attentively after which he asked why I think I was being maltreated by my supposed inlaws, I fumbled for answers, finally, I answered that it was because they hated me and wanted their son/brother to marry someone else. He disagreed with me and he told me the reason for my situation was because I presented myself as a nobody with no relations, no values, no virtues and no future. He told me no one wanted anyone with such an empty profile. He said if I must survive that phase and remain, that I must find a way to add value to my life. I was confused as to what he meant, he explained it further that in life no one is complete, we all have it in bits, so people look for who would complete/compliment them. No normal person devalues a person of value. He asked what I thought I brought into the family apart from the pregnancy which had turned out to be a burden to me and to the family I came into. He informed to my chagrin that he had asked about my background when he noticed the way I was being treated only to discover that I was a school dropout, with shattered background and battered lifestyle. He said he concluded that all I did was to plan for the kind of life I was living and that I deserved every bit of the meal I am being served.
I couldn’t believe my ears, I never saw my life in that light. I stood up to leave, he called me back and advised that I go back to my family, that no matter how disappointed they would be about me, they would never treat me with so much contempt. I left with my head feeling heavier than the burden in my heart.
That day I resolved to go back to my father’s house, even though I was not expecting some royal welcome or queenly treatment but I would have some peace of mind and maybe some love and care with time when the anger and despair had given way. So I got home, packed my bag and waited for morning to come. Sammy came back half-drunk, he managed to ask why I was looking dejected. I told him I wanted to go back to my father’s house until he was ready to marry me properly and start treating me better. He did not argue, he just landed on the bed and within seconds, he was snoring. I must have overslept or he went out quite on time because I woke up and he was gone. He dropped a thousand naira on the table with a short note, 'use it'. I could not say what he meant by that phrase 'use it', whether it was that I use the money for my upkeep or transportation to my place. Well, there was neither the time nor the reason to keep querying the motive for the money. I just took it and left for my father’s house.
Pain finally found a resting place in my heart.
I got home and met a fresh grave in front of our house. On close enquiry, I was told my father died two weeks ago and was buried three days before my arrival. I slumped. I later woke up on a seat in the living room. I struggled to regain full consciousness, my head and my heart was pounding as if they were going to explode any moment. Then I saw my elder brother and kate, they sat on a chair opposite mine and the look on their faces were that of disgust and resentment. They asked what I was doing back home, what I thought would happen now that our father was gone. My sister was furious, she asked how silly I was to allow myself to get pregnant after everything she ‘taught’ me, she bragged about on the number of rivers she had crossed without drowning. My brother stirred at both of us unbelievably at how we were analysing our escapades carelessly as if we were expecting some crown. When he spoke, it was calm but decisive, he told me that I had my opportunity to a good life but chose to throw it away. That I have chosen my path and whether I understood the implications or not, I was solely on my own. He said our father died lamenting about me and my disappearance. He lashed at me for running away from my Aunty’s place thereby dropping out of school. He blamed me for not taking care of our father even when I returned to live with him but choose to run off with an unknown man to an unknown place. He blamed me for our father’s death. He said he died out of frustration, negligence and broken-heart which were all caused by me. He concluded by warming I hurry and return to wherever I was coming from. That there was no place for me in that house anymore. He informed that since he was not resident at home and our father had died, he would be renting the two rooms out to tenants and the remaining room with the living room he would lock up for his personal use whenever he visited. He told me to sleep over but by the following day, I should return to that ‘fool’ I ran off with before he would lose his cool and vent his muddled up frustrations on me.
I silently prayed for death to come and take me away. I cried all through the day and night until there was no more tears to shade. That was the darkest and longest night I ever witnessed. I thought of how I would return to the hellfire I thought I had escaped from. I thought about the implications and how bleak my future looked moving forward. I remembered my Aunty and her advice, kindness and efforts to better my life. I recalled the good life I had with a real family, I remembered my Aunty’s children and the dreams we shared about our future. I remembered my father and how much he encouraged me to dare to be different from kate and all my siblings. I remembered what my life looked like before Kate came along and infected me with her madness, immorality and demons. I hated myself for turning my life into a total mess, I realised I was totally in for real hard times. If only I had dared to be different, if only I had listened to real advice from real people, things wouldn't have become so messed up…
For the first time, I cried deeply for my life!
My name is Jaachinma. I am from the Eastern Region of Nigeria in West Africa. I have a degree in administration. Currently I am putting some pieces of writing together and hope to make a breakthrough someday. I love writing and would want to make a career of it.