The story describes the plight of young girls trafficked and their gruesome and lonely journey towards growth. It shows strength in the face of hopelessness and that even when life isn't fair to us till the end, there's strength we can draw from others and within us.
Home is not a place, it’s not a person either. Home is somewhere deep inside yourself where you retire, detox and forgiveyourself. There are many times that we forget home because of grief, or neglect or preservation. Whenever we do, we become wandering souls who wear pain beneath our soles.
You and I, two children who grew up mostly under the open sky, came up with this. And it did comfort us for a while. Because when we believed that we were a product of our minds, it was easier to look at ourselves in the mirror and not wonder where we came from. It was easier to forget the voice that gets louder in our sleep, asking us where our heads would be laid when death handpicks our name one day.
You and I, we were conscious from birth. Because the start of our existence was that moment when we shivered in our dirty gowns and were told to make money or die. “You”, they said, “whatever it is you must do, make money or else…” Even as the words bounced off their lips and hung mid-air as if asking if we wanted to hear them or if we wanted them to dissipate into thin air, we grabbed onto them -the way a new child clutches a finger. What choice did you and I have? We saw the cycle that we were to become a part of and it was enough. We refused to become one of those many children whose body became black from beatings, or those who ran for a day or two and came back silent in their hands.
Others even told us that we were lucky. At least, we had been moved in containers instead of the open trucks that dropped weak bodies as it kissed bumps. And we were fed if we were obedient; our seniors said back then, it did not matter what we did, we simply had to pray that as we lay next to each other breathing in polluted air, we did not die of hunger in our sleep. So you and I grew up knowing we were lucky and knowing we had a home –whether or not we came from somewhere.
The both of us worked hard, we did whatever we had to do. Some nights it was simple, we simply had to go around under the sun, seeking for daily breads from passers-by. Or we were to fit our small hands into handbags and pockets till we found something that made us deserving of night rest. Or lure a child from the middle of Lagos markets, or the Christmas parades to them. As we grew up, our workloads grew. Sometimes, we sat on the laps of grown men and wriggled and wiggled just like the seniors had shown us. On some nights, men pulled us to dark corners of bars, or rooms and we knelt as if to pray and worshipped what stood between their thighs. At first it scared us, but as we practiced with bananas and learnt to sheath our teeth, we got more tips pressed into the clammy skin of our breasts.
And we became so good, so high on the two minutes of power that we were afforded that we asked the seniors what to do to get more. We knew what we were, women of age with bodies shaped to pleasure, with brains cultivated for theft and minds kept frozen. If we thought of anything beyond the path cleared for us, it seemed like a dangerous jungle that we were not to wander into. So we stuck to what was easier, what had saved a senior or two –the miracle of bodies perfected for gifting pleasure. The seniors were beds of wisdom, they gave more than we asked. The seniors put their hands between our thighs, pressed eager mouths on the beads of our mounds till they were satisfied we had learnt. It was how we thought those who came after us.
When the time came, you and I were ready –nervous but ready. You shed blood and tears for an eager man one afternoon in a motel room while my pain was for a business man in his living room –he threw money at me after, disappointed that there was no blood. I did not know why there was no blood but I knew better than to ask anyone else.
You and I, we became open to a world we did not know before. We no longer stole, we were no longer beaten. We had sex –toilet sex, alleyway sex, club sex, bedroom sex. We became authorities on positions. We enjoyed the high, we enjoyed the constant haze we walked in. We drank with names others mentioned in their classrooms and allowed policy makers to blow puffs into our vaginas as they licked it and ate it –whatever they wanted. We wore designer dresses, we fixed Brazilians and braided Ombres and once -and twice, you and I stepped on a plane. It was more than we could ever have hoped for -if we had bothered. Hoping is expensive, and it would be a long time before we could afford it.
One day, you and I had our freedom. They set us free. We had paid our dues to them and in return, they let us go. You told me, as we walked out with our belongings that clear afternoon, that you had read a quote on the walls of the house of a professor as he pounded into you doggy style. You said “freedom could not be gifted, it is to be fought for.” You and I mulled at it, and mutually agreed to dump the words in the cab we took. What mattered was that you and I could afford hope again and we bought so many of it that it became a burden too heavy to carry. Like memories after a night of heavy drinking, our heads began to form fragments of soft touches, of soft voices crooning off-key lullabies in our ears. Sometimes, faces had flash before our eyes and disappear again –hide and seek- and those faces made us think that we maybe had two or more people who had once marvelled at our existence.
We were now beyond toilet sex, but we still had shower room sex, and we spent some days tanning black skins on yachts just because we could. There was always a chief to call, an Alhaji in love with us or a pastor who needed to detox before a two weeks crusade. Sometimes, passionate wives embarrassed us before neighbours and some spilled juice down our t-shirts in restaurants but it was okay as long as their husbands paid for dry-cleaning. You and I even had a laugh or two at their expense and wondered why fitting in somewhere was not enough for them. At nights, or mornings, we laid and dreamt about teasing brothers, or mothers who would braid our hair. It made us happy and happiness enriched our pockets. For years we cycled down this road, until we became two people again.
Today, you and I are sitting in a room, silence occupies the rest of the space. You clasp my weak hands and I can see grief waiting to break out on your face –like rashes after a heat wave. You want to smile at me but you whimper and your shoulders are slouched as if they are holding back a heavy weight from crushing you. Your eyes roam over my frame, taking in black and blue and red –my skin that is now of many races. You gaze at my skeleton frame and avert your eyes even as shame creeps up. I know what you feel; you are wandering if my flesh has somehow disappeared beneath my skin. You feel an equal measure of disgust and guilt for the sight of a body that can no longer pleasure.
I ask you now if when I die at the end of today, there will be enough left of me to fit in a six pit grave. You laugh and tell me that you will throw my body into the Apapa Sea instead. I don’t know what I am sick with, it came too suddenly for me to know. Your protests for me to go to the hospital were only half-hearted, we both knew that death was preparing me for its visit. Today is the day -we know, and I turn my heavy head to look at you one last time -from the child I was to another who clutched my hand in fear back then- and I ask you to find home. Not the parents we dreamt up for ourselves in hope, not a place hidden from us by miles of earth, but the one buried inside you that you fled from. A home where you fit in.
Waliyah is a 4th year law student at the University of Ibadan. She spends her free time reading, writing and developing recipes. She volunteers, watches romantic tragedies and empathizes most with the saddest characters. She hopes to work in the law enforcement in the future.