Madam Ene, apart from her food vending business, was also a herbalist and spiritualist. She helped in delivering pregnant mothers of their babies. I learnt from Itodo that she was gifted in the act of delivery and circumcision of babies. She was always being called upon to deliver children. The part of circumcising children, especially the female children, was the act I found very repulsive and wicked.
So many of the mothers brought their baby girls for circumcision, in the traditional belief that it prevented the girls from being promiscuous when they become grown up. Madam, Ene would get a metal basin and fill it halfway with water and little salt added. The mother of the child to be circumcised is not allowed to hold her baby while the act is being done.
The grandmother or any other elderly person does that. Prior to the circumcision, Madam Ene would have prepared a pasty substance mixed by grounding some leaves from the forest and the mother of the child comes with a new packet of razor blades to be used in cutting the flesh. Madam Ene would start by muttering some incantations in a bid to wade off any evil spirit that may be present and then pick the child from the grandmother and start making incisions on different parts of the child's body, from the back, face to her little thighs and buttocks. The cries of the children and the blood that gushes always brought chills to me on such occasions when I witness the mutilation; Madam Ene always makes me stay around to help her.
Lastly, the child's legs are held apart to expose the genital area, Madam Ene will then squeeze the vagina to expose the tiny flesh of promiscuity which is carefully cut with the sharp razor blade. The child's wounds are then washed with the salted water and the pasty mixture rubbed on them. The baby, in great pains, is then handed over to the grandmother who smiles and tries to make her stop crying. The child, by this inhuman treatment, is then guaranteed to be virtuous and would remain faithful to her husband when she marries.
I viewed the entire act as wickedness to the innocent defenceless babies because Madam Ene and Solomon his boyfriend were really a case study of infidelity. The women that do bring their babies were charged ten shillings for putting their children in pains and permanent handicap. Before Easter of that year Madam Ene had so many babies to circumcise that she did not have time for her business, I became in charge. The only obstacle on my way was Itodo. He started stealing money from the returns I made and accused me of the theft.
On one occasion Madam Ene made me remove my clothes in order to search me in the presence of Itodo. I was really humiliated that evening. After that incident I took my money, our money, which was now too many to enter the match box, and wrapped it in a nylon bag which I buried near the barn. I then enquired of Madaki how much he would need to hire a bicycle.
"With two shilling I can get one," he replied.
The problem became the time I could spare to practice time. I could not make out time to learn riding. Madaki opted to be of assistance but did not know my motive for wanting to learn how to ride. I confided in him of my plan to run away out of trust. The moment I let him know my secret plan, Madaki's attitude changed. I noticed he started avoiding me and started getting along well with Itodo. I was scared he would tell Itodo of my plot and made the first move to plead with him.
"Madaki please don't tell anybody of my plan," I begged him. He agreed not to say anything on the condition that I sleep with him.
"Sleep with you? How?" I asked innocently.
"I want to f*** you," Madaki said poking his index finger into his other cupped hand in demonstration. I refused vehemently and stopped talking to him. Itodo and Madaki then teamed up to make life unbearable for me; along with their friends. I kept ignoring their many abuses and gossips. With the loss of Madaki's acquaintance I could not trust any other person. He then resorted to blackmail. He informed me one evening that he was giving me three days to make up my mind otherwise he would reveal my plans.
The three day elapsed and he threatened he would go and tell Madam Ene the next day if I did not meet him in the evening at the track road leading to the stream. I decided to meet him, at least to reason him out of his intentions. I saw him waiting under a tree in the evening when I went there.
"I will not do it," I told him boldly as I approached him.
"You are still stubborn," he threatened, "wait until I tell your Madam, you will be begging me to do it to you."
"I will do any other thing but not have sex with you," I offered.
"What other thing," he asked.
I offered to give him money for his help to which he rejected vehemently. All my pleading and begging was to no avail.
"Okay, I will not poke you," he accepted "but I go suck your breast" he demanded. I kept looking at the devil in Madaki, not really understanding where the friendly part of him had gone to.
"Remember that I will carry you and your brothers away from your Madam," he added.
I stood there confused and helpless as I thought about the many beatings and maltreatments met to me, Okechukwu and Ekene, I remembered their bloated hands due to the rigorous farm work administered more out of punishment than industriousness and my mind wondered to the many nights of sleeping very late and waking up early in the morning. I knew I had to capitulate to Madaki's advances. I despised myself for what I had to do and hated Madaki for his demand on taking advantage of me.
"Ngozi make up your mind, at least I have agreed not to fuck you but I go suck breast," he broke into my thoughts.
I was looking at him with eyes that were pleading for understanding and, at the same time, radiated hatred. At that very moment, I was not feeling any emotions; pain, anger nor passion. I was still looking at Madaki that way as tears started rolling down my eyes.
"Ngozi don't cry, you know I like you too much," Madaki said wiping my tears with the back of his hand and gently bringing it down to my lipsâ€¦ then to my neckâ€¦ and then slower down to my breasts. He squeezed them one after the other and let out a moan. Encouraged by my silence and rigidity, he gently raised my blouse and put his lips to my exposed breasts and started sucking on them while clutching his groin with the other hand.
I just stood there like a zombie, watching the horizon, trying as much as possible to separate my mind from what was happening; I took it to be a dream, one of those dreams you find yourself committing sin against your will. He must have been at the act for as long as he could be with his hands wondering from my back to my buttocks and up my thighs, I felt nothing but guilt. After he had had a feel of my carnality, Madaki smiled victoriously.
"Whenever you are ready tell me. It must be in the early morning," he warned. I arranged my clothes and slowly left him feeling disgraced while he stood accomplished.
As I walked down to the house that evening I felt filthy like a prostitute, real dirty; dirty in the heart, in my soul and on my body. I could not believe I had just sold my body to Madaki, a Northerner, for a chance to run home with my brothers to my mother; for a chance to be with my people; for a chance to have hope of staying alive. I carefully removed the chaplet from my neck as I knew I had desecrated it; I was no longer worthy to wear it. As I went to sleep I could not pray as usual; shame would not let me. How could I open my sinful mouth to pray the Rosary? I wept until I slept. The guilty hang over was still there when I woke in the morning, I sat up trying to comprehend how I went that far.