When you are a child and your family is broken up, you tend to blame yourself for everything. This was the situation I found myself in following my parents’ breakup. I blamed myself endlessly since I could not blame them; after all they were my parents. I thought that by taking the blame, I could somehow change things for the better. Moreover, it was easier to blame myself since I had somehow caused the fight that led to the separation. I endlessly told myself that the fight would never had happened that night if I hadn’t insulted my father and provoked him into beating me up. But then I was wrong, for my parents’ marriage was doomed for failure long before it actually failed. Indeed, that unfortunate harmattan night’s incident was bound to happen even as my mother was bound to abandon us all and leave. But I was just too hurt by the fact that it actually happened to see the reasons why it happened.
Unfortunately, life became extremely difficult following my parents’ divorce. Hunger was the greatest challenge, followed by that feeling of despair which came with being completely abandoned. I remember those days my siblings and I were left at home for several days with nothing to eat. My father would be too busy getting drunk and shamelessly disgracing himself at the village square to care about providing us with food. And so in a desperate bid to find what to eat, we would often climb the trees around our neighbourhood looking for fruits but seldom finding any. And then one particular afternoon as the hunger became so unbearably excruciating, my brothers stood in front of our compound and cried miserably while passersby watched them. It was while they did that that one old woman who was returning from the farm saw them and enquired what was wrong. She then gifted us some tubers of yam which we cooked and ate without telling my father about it. But somehow he got to know about the yam and punished me for disgracing him.
Meanwhile, inasmuch as I readily took the blame for everything that happened to us during this time, I wasn’t prepared for my father’s blames. I wasn’t prepared for it when he decided to make me the scapegoat in every situation, punishing me every time he wanted to relieve his frustrations. He beat me up at the slightest of provocations. As a matter of fact, he seemed to anticipate the opportunity to beat me. And every time he did beat me, he beat me exactly as he used to beat my mother. Perhaps he saw my mother in me; after all I was the spitting image of her. He imagined himself punishing my mother every time he punished me. He would call me a witch and a prostitute just as he used to call her, and then he would threaten to kill me if I didn’t leave his house.
Prior to this time, I always knew that my father disliked me very much. Right from when I was a toddler, there was hardly any special father-daughter bond between the two of us. I grew up being scared of the man I called father because he was a wife beater who frowned all the time except when he was drunk and stupid. And then he blamed everyone else for his woes in life except himself. He especially blamed my mother whom he accused of blocking his good fortunes with her bad lucks. All the time I wished my father could love me but he never did. And as I grew older, it dawned on me that he would never ever love me. Instead, he hated me just as much as he hated my mother. This was one of the reasons why life became extremely difficult when she left us; for my father shifted his hatred for my mother to me. And while I tried my best to endure it all, I wasn’t prepared for it when his blames and punishments became constant. This was why on the day he nearly killed me for menstruating for the first time, I knew I had to leave and never return.
(Shame and Forlorn Gaze by Emmanuel Abara Benson; coming soon)