My first boyfriend wasn’t mine. He belonged to my best friend. When he was with her, I passed the time in chat rooms, telling men I was naked beneath the covers while they defended their lust by telling me I was mature for a kid my age. Sometimes, I showed them my candy-coloured briefs and they told me I was a bad little girl who needed a spanking from daddy. My daddy was at work or at church or wherever held promises of girls who looked like my mother before my brother and I tore through her body.
I liked to taste my best friend on our boyfriend so he came straight to me when he finished with her and when I finished with him, I went straight to her to torture myself with stories of what he did with her body. I asked her questions that I had no business asking and with a sparkle in her eyes she let me into their world, recounting their dreams of forever. She told me how his mouth found her breasts the moment he opened the door and I struggled with the wetness between my thighs. I wanted to know what he said to her and what she said to him and with hands swinging wildly, taking up all the space in the room, she would tell me.
When I think about the night her forever ended, it is the hollowness of her eyes that haunt me and the way her hands dropped to her sides as she watched in horror while our boyfriend worshipped every orifice on my body.
With pursed lips of disapproval, wrinkles around her eyes and creases on her forehead made visible from age but mostly from sleepless nights wondering where her daughter was, my mother would tell my brother to take his gang of wayward friends somewhere else. He would sputter and stammer, almost choking on his words while he tried to convince my mother that him and his friends were nothing like our pastor’s sons who lured choir girls into the vestry to smoke Indian hemp during Bible study.
Michael was different. He hadn’t yet learned the fake gruffness that his friends wore. His gait was easy and he wore his pants on his waist, not below his buttocks like the rest of stupid friends. When he looked at me, his eyes rested everywhere else but my face and I wondered if he saw me.
I looked at him with an intensity that erased everyone from the room. Everyone but us. When we finally had sex, it was impossible to tell where my body ended and where his began. I taught his shy hands where to go, what to do and how to do it. Soon, he looked to me for permission to exist. He was only happy when I was, which wasn’t often and when the world burdened me, I put it all on him.
When he met a girl who was plain and simple and without a hunger to control him, he held my hands with a tenderness that wasn’t like him and said; “thank you”. I asked him why and he said it was for teaching him what love shouldn’t be.
The next time my brother showed up with his gang of wayward friends, I set the dogs on them.
I had never seen anyone so distraught from bumping into me. By the time he finished picking up my books, he had apologised four times and his face was as red as his dark skin could allow. He had light brown eyes, a stubby nose and a hairline that aged him beyond his years. Soon, he was hanging around my lecture halls waiting to buy me breakfast, lunch or the world if I asked. He took me home after my classes and believed that when the Fumata Bianca went up, Cardinal Arinze would be the new pope. I told him we weren’t ready and he laughed and stroked my hair.
He took me to church and cast me questioning looks when I rolled my eyes during the homily. “Father, she loves God. She just doesn’t know it yet”. I wondered when I too would have this faith, this substance of things hoped for and so I offered mass intentions, day after day, after day.
His house was small but clean and I fit right in like a piece of furniture that was waiting to be placed. When I got into bed hours after he had turned in, he would reach for me, half-asleep and pull me into his arms. He was kind-hearted, and compassionate and when the Bellview Airline crashed, I stayed up all night handing him tissues.
He told me his father beat his mother, and his sister, and then his brother and when he tried to stop him, he beat him too. He had no dreams in life except to be nothing like his father. So, when he backed me into the corner of his self-contained apartment because I forgot to mould his eba like his ex-girlfriend did, I told myself he couldn’t possibly hit me. He was nothing like his father. When I found myself buying concealers and foundations that were dark enough to cover the bruises on my face, it didn’t make sense. This man was nothing like his father.
As he loomed over me the last time while I slipped in and out of consciousness, I tried to point him to the TV. What kind of a God allowed children to die so mercilessly in the Sosoliso?