I don’t remember much about my life. I guess my brain shut out as much as it could, a biological fail safe, a way to lock up all the demons and memories of demons in a deep dark place. A place where they could never escape where their horrid heads would never be seen again.
The only mark of their existence being the gaps in my memories, some filled with fabricated experiences. Tales weaved subconsciously to cover up the pain, stories even if couldn’t believe. But they had to do. People ask questions and expect answers, without these fabrications how would I pacify their curiosities?
I remember some things. Vividly and clear as if they were currently happening, unfolding themselves before me, usually slowly and from so many angles that they seem like an IMAX film. Characters and scenes unfold like part of a screenplay. Love, pain, anger hatred… death. I remember these scenes, no, memories. I have to keep reminding myself that they are memories, that I was there, that the characters are real. I know them. I knew them.
I can’t remember the first time he beat me, I honestly can’t. It’s something that seemed to just happen, it was how it was. I never told anyone, I covered up the marks as well as I could. And I was a good liar too, I think that was one of the sins he was trying to beat out of me. It’s surprising how easy it was for a young boy to convince even so called experts that they were wrong. My Sunday school teacher knew I had been upcountry when I broke my arm. I fell from a tree. It was that week that a cow had kicked me, breaking three ribs. My friends believed the scabs on your arms were from the awesome bike adventures I had with my older cousins. Spontaneous adventures they were never invited to: I laugh at how they looked at me green with envy, wishing they could come for the next one. “you can’t!” I always replied when one had the gall to ask for an invite, “you’re too tiny and soft, they only let me go with them because I’m hard core.” that was enough to silence him. I don’t even remember why the beatings happened, either that or I got tired of keeping track. It’s funny how I was never scared, I always knew it could happen at any time but I was never prepared. I didn’t wear an extra pair of underwear like we did after exams: when we knew we’d get six of the best for every failed subject. I never tried running away and fighting back? Ha! That wasn’t even a wild fantasy. I took it like a man. I never screamed, I never curled up like a ball, I never begged for mercy, I was strong. Every blow was met with clenched teeth and tensed muscles. Even if it sent me to the ground I would muster every out cell of energy I could to get back on my feet, either that or wait to be dragged up by big strong hands. My father’s hands. “You think you can fight me huh?!” he was fond of asking, “you think you’re strong? A man?” he bellowed. I never replied not verbally at least. But inside I shouted at resounding yes! I was strong, I was a man. I remember sleeping on the floor on those nights, no one forced me to but the cold helped numb the pain, midnight showers too, but those carried the risk of being heard.
I do remember the last beating get though. It’s one of those mental movies I’ve told you about. Crisp and clear as if fifteen years was fifteen minutes. It was February 14, Valentines Day, the day for love, the day boys in school snuck in chocolates and flowers to give their beloved. Fools. Didn’t they know that love was a myth? That those ladies they swooned over would leave them in a heartbeat for others with a bigger car and a better house? Did they they realise all women were materialistic succubi? All of them, just like mum had been, just as these bubbling pre adolescents with their perky breasts and barely there hips were destined to be? Idiots. The day didn’t end soon enough for me, the sickening PDA’s made me feel physically sick, I rushed home at the first “ding” of the bell, at least I had a few hours to myself before he came home.
I washed the house although to me it was spotless, I cooked supper, ate, cleaned and dried the dishes before immaculately arranging them in the cupboard. A routine I had come to perfect:there could be no wrong.
I was in bed when I heard the latch turn. I didn’t make a sound, I clenched the rosary I always slept with in my hand. It had been my mother’s, the only thing I had of hers. I heard footsteps going past my door and the balcony door open. My breathe came out in slow, long, calculated puffs. “He must be tired today, I’m lucky.” I thought to myself.
“Get your lazy good for nothing behind over here!!” the little hope that was growing in me died.
I remember the long walk to the balcony, a few steps felt like a trek across the Sahara. I remember how he sat there on his favorite chair; an old worn wooden thing that looked as crude but sturdy as the 40-something year old man that stared down at me. His eyes were livid under the dim balcony light. I remember the sound of crickets singing happily in the dark.
I don’t remember what he shouted next, I was too engrossed in the symphony of the night. It must have been a question though, because the next thing I remember was his hand connecting with the side of my head. “you won’t answer heh!!?”
Everything else that happened next is a haze. The doctors say he died from the fall, there was no mention of any other marks or injuries. The nurse however, looked at me with curious eyes as she bandaged my knuckles handing me back my rosary, bloody and tangled. “Are you ok?” she asked. Something in her tone making it clear she wasn’t asking about my hands. “Yeah I am.” I replied, a big smile breaking across my face. I had been acting for 14 years, it came so naturally. The nurse smiled back, a tense and unnatural, smile. She didn’t say anything else and quickly finished me up.
I cried at his funeral, it was only natural: expected. My aunts took turns ushering me under their arms like hens brooding chicks. I appreciated their concern, their love, but deep down inside knew it was unnecessary: I didn’t need it. In my heart I was happy. He was gone. I remember that night as I lay down to sleep. The crickets’ seemed even more cheerful, their songs matched the joy bubbling inside me. I remember my dream that night, I was an eagle flying high, I remember that feeling. I was free.