The weight behind a word does not lie in the number of letters it consists of. Nor does it come from the number of times it is uttered. Stop has four letters and I have said it over a hundred times to Uncle Clement – my stepfather. Each time I did the word floated off the tip of my tongue and landed in his ears but it was never heavy enough to make him listen.
The first time it happened I was in bed, beneath the covers, reading a book. The Book Thief. I had just gotten to the part when Rudy died and I was about to reread the entire page when I heard my door creak open. The heavy footsteps that followed gave away his identity. I quickly lay flat on my back. I was scared.
He had come here every other night for the past few weeks. On some nights he would stand and watch me. On others, he would get in my bed and lie there, with his arms wrapped around me. I would lie still, keep my breath steady and wait for him to leave. On good nights, he would stay there for all of five minutes, get up and walk out.
On bad nights, he would stay with me for much longer and his hands would travel all over, as if my body belonged to him. As if I were a safari built purposely for exploration and exploitation. On those nights, staying still was impossible. My body betrayed me and reveled beneath his wandering fingers. He stirred surreal sensations within me but my mind kept on screaming at me, telling me how wrong everything was. But I didn’t fight him. I couldn’t.
I never spoke during his visits. He never did anything that hurt me and I didn’t want to risk him taking my resistance as encouragement. I never spoke about his visits after they happened. Not to my mother. Not to anyone. I kept the words locked in my throat and stripped my tongue of the power to set them free. Anytime they got restless and threatened to escape I reminded them that this secret wasn’t just mine to keep.
“You can’t tell anyone about this” Clement had said after the first bad night. “This is our little secret.” He’d smiled as he spoke but the smile did not reach his eyes. I looked up and inside them I saw swords that swore to slit my throat if I ever told anyone. So I agreed. I nodded.
The first time it happened, I should’ve screamed. Part of me knew that that visit wouldn’t be like the others. The first warning sign came when he shut the door. He never shut the door. Then as he moved closer I could smell alcohol and cigarette smoke coming from him. Another thing that never happened. By then my heart was already racing and a scream was building at the back of my throat.
“I know you’re awake, Chika.” He smiled as I turned to face him.
“Shhh,” he said as if he could sense my growing distress. “We’re going to play a special game today.” I watched him loosen his belt and unfasten his zip. Then he let his trousers drop to the ground. He stepped away from them completely and stood there in nothing but briefs. There was a fat bulge between his legs and as he rid himself of the briefs as well the fatness stared me down.
He looked at me with hungry eyes and I remember feeling a severe discomfort because he looked at me like a piece of meat. I didn’t speak till he started moving towards me.
“Stop!” I said when he got to my bed. I slunk to the edge, till I was right against the headboard. I held my pillow up like a shield and prayed it would protect me from the monster about to devour me.
“Shhh,” he started. He took the fatness in his hand and stroked it. “Just come here. You’re going to enjoy this. I promise.” He waited for me to move. When I didn’t, he grabbed my foot and yanked me closer.
I kicked out and struggled against him but his grip was too strong. One hand held me down and the other tugged at my shorts. He had me naked in a heartbeat.
“Stay still! It will pain you if you’re moving like this.” He slapped me twice. The shock from the slaps sent my senses packing momentarily and when they returned I didn’t move again. “Good girl. You’re really going to like this.”
He rubbed his fatness between my legs, his eyes fixed on me all the while, waiting for me to enjoy it. I didn’t. Tears were streaming down my face. I wasn’t struggling anymore but I hadn’t stopped begging. He put my pillow over my face.
Then he forced his fatness inside me.
I screamed but the pillow swallowed it eagerly. I screamed some more, from the excruciating pain, from the terror of it all, but the pillow gobbled up every sound that left my lips. I cried too and the pillow turned my tears into a meal as well.
He withdrew from me and then plunged even deeper, filling me up. The pain was unlike anything I had ever felt. It felt like I was being impaled and the hurt was searing through my entire body. He made soft noises as he pushed his fatness in and out, slowly at first then faster. Each thrust felt like fire and drowned me in renewed pain. When he was done his body went taut and he let out a sound, louder, more rigid than the others, then I felt something warm spill inside me.
When he pulled his fatness out I felt a chilling emptiness fill me up.
He got off me and put his clothes back on. He was sweaty and breathless and there was a smile on his face. I lay where he left me, blood and other fluids leaking from my body. I curled into a ball and waited for him to leave.
When he did, I got up and dragged myself to the bathroom but walking wasn’t easy; my legs were throbbing so hard, it was a miracle I didn’t fall. I spent an hour there trying to wash myself clean. The blood and sweat came off easy. The guilt didn’t and neither did the shame. I scrubbed and scrubbed my skin way past when it got sore. It didn’t matter that those feelings were in my head. I felt them cling to my arms, legs and torso, and the combination of soap and sponge could not peel away the grime.
As I walked back to bed, I blamed myself for letting him taint me. I hated myself for not saying a word to my mother. If I had, I told myself, it wouldn’t have gotten this far. The emptiness inside me roared in agreement.
Before I lay down, I changed my sheets and threw the stained ones in the washing machine. I didn’t want to have to explain where all the blood came from.
I didn’t sleep much that night. Not because I wanted to stay awake but because anytime I shut my eyelids and flirted with the idea of sleep violent images and sensations would flood my mind and replaced the budding solitude with a terror that kept me up.
After hours spent cowering under my covers I crashed, completely exhausted, only to be woken up shortly after by my mother. When I cried that I was tired she asked whether I slept, and when I said no she asked why. I hesitated and then went quiet, and she slapped me for wasting her time.
I couldn’t tell her about Uncle Clement and his fatness and what he did to me. And I definitely couldn’t tell her about his visits, how long they’d been going on for and how I’d been quiet about it all along. Swallowing words as they grew wings to fly wasn’t something I was new to. I just imagined them to be medicine and forced them down in one gulp. The hardest part was ignoring the bitter after taste silence came with.
Growing up broken leaves little room for love. My many cracks and crevices are filled with rivers of hate that run deep and overflow at the slightest of situations. I am now a volcano of emotions that erupts as often as the wind changes.
I hate being broken.
I hate that I never had a choice. That my autonomy was taken from me. I hate that I was never strong enough to defend myself. That I let him have me for months.
I hate that I get irritated in my own skin and that I’m blind to the beauty everyone says they see. I hate that I’m a flower that will never blossom.
I hate that every touch feels like a threat and that every glance looks like daggers and every stare seems to spray gunshots. I hate that I’m still scared even though he’s dead.
I hate the emptiness that calls me home even though it’s the only thing that makes me feel whole.
And most of all I hate waking up disappointed because another night of prayer didn’t work. I hate that I’m a coward. That I pray for death to take me rather than handing myself over.