Love is blind. True. For a while, I was blindly in love, blind to the fact that I stopped walking with any of my male friends, blind to the fact that I didn’t notice when other boys stopped talking to me and blind to the fact that Alex and his friends became the only boys I talked to.
I get the feeling that I just really wanted to hold on to him you know, to hold on to the idea of him, of love.
The first time Alex slapped me, we were at the primary school area after class, just hanging out with his friends. We normally do this when we don’t want to go the dining or observe afternoon siesta and prep.
I can’t really recall what we were talking about but I know that somehow, it was about Chika. I think that was the time he found Chika’s notebook in my bag. Yeah, sometimes he would search my bag. I always thought it was done in jest you know, to yab me for anything he would find, like the day he found clear nail polish and made me paint his nails.
He held the book for a while, quietly staring at it. I didn’t even realize what was happening until I turned to ask him a question. He responded with a slap. You know, I have never been slapped before, not by my mom or my dad. I was a middle child so I had older siblings who always fought for me.
Everyone became quiet. I could see the shock in his friends’ eyes but I was the most shocked person there. At first I had to wait for the light to clear from my eyes before I could look at him, holding the notebook accusingly. His friends took the cue and left quietly. He began telling me how he had warned me to stay away from Chika and all that but I wasn’t even hearing him. I was still holding my cheek in shock.
He only stopped talking when he saw the tears in my eyes. The truth is have discovered that Alex is a sucker for tears. Anytime I really wanted him to do something he wouldn’t normally do, I would use the tears trick (don’t hate me) but this time it wasn’t a trick.
He bent down to hold me gently. I pushed him off, stood up and walked away.
We got a new house mistress, a short dark woman who lived alone in one of the staff quarters near the dining hall. I didn’t like her. She would pay impromptu visit to the dorm, search our lockers and seize any indomie, or rice or food stuff she finds. Normally, other house mistresses would return these items during the mid-term break or at the end of term. But not her. She never returned anything so the only logical conclusion was that she ate them and I didn’t like her. She had a number of annoying traits too, like her high pitched voice that grated on my nerves.
Well, you know i’m a quiet, respectful girl. But not to that woman. Somehow, I didn’t have any respect for her. I opposed anything she said, blatantly disobeyed her and basically talked to her like she was my mate.
As a result, I spent a lot of time cutting the grass in front of her office as punishment. Damn! That woman gave me a lot of blisters. I saw her later, a few years after I left school in a wedding. By then, I was mature enough to feel remorse for my disrespect. I went to meet her and she greeted me not so fondly (haha) but she still had that voice.
The second time Alex slapped me, my eye turned red and my cheek got swollen. It was actually two slaps in rapid succession. This time, we were having an argument in class and he got angry. My pain was not even the slaps, painful as they were. My pain was that he slapped me in front of his class. The news spread round school. I could feel pity practically oozing off anybody that looked at me. I was so ashamed, I couldn’t stay in my dorm. I stayed in Mabel’s dorm, in exchange, I had to tell her the juicy story. Remember she was the school gossip and she always had a way of finding out things.
Girls rallied around me then, giving me hugs and advice.
“Don’t go out with that boy again” they would say and I would nod in agreement or explode into tears and they would hug me again. So we made up our minds to end the relationship. They gave me so much strong words and encouragement that I even began to feel smothered. I felt strong, strong enough to end things with Alex.
I lied to the school nurse that I fell down the stairs so she could give me something for my eyes. I pity Alex during that week. The stares of hate and anger he got from all the girls was enough to intimidate anybody. It was like the whole school rallied against him. I really did appreciate everyone’s support then, even though in my ignorance, I failed them the day I forgave Alex, again.
They just couldn’t understand the kind of hold Alex had on me. I couldn’t feel complete without him, life felt kind of meaningless and I missed him so much. The truth is I didn’t plan to forgive him. I was standing strong in my anger and unforgiveness, ready to break the relationship but he cornered me. He didn’t even apologise. He just looked at my red eyes and his eyes filled with tears. What did they expect me to do? How could I not love someone who felt my pain like that?
The problem with abuse is that if you don’t get out the first time, you fall into a web, a never ending circle that keeps twirling as long as forever. If I had left Alex the first time, maybe things would have turned out differently. It wouldn’t have ended so tragically. But I can’t blame myself. Alex was the embodiment of my dreams and I didn’t want to wake up from that.
Then the day came. The day that changed our lives.
Before I tell you about the ‘horrible day’ as I’ve termed it, I want you to understand something. In my hope that one day, Alex would change, I had begun to believe that my love and devotion could ignite this change I wanted. So I stayed with Alex, even when he pushed me down a granite gutter in anger and sprained my leg, and when he punched my mouth and broke my lip, loosening a few teeth. I even stayed when he yanked my hair painfully and cut it with a scissors.
That one was hard to explain. I escaped by telling everyone I had mistakenly got gum stuck in my hair and in a fit of rage, cut it all off. Not a good story yes, but at least, nobody bothered me after that. I told Alex it was over between us after that incident. He responded with a hard laugh and walked away. The next morning, he was waiting for me at the dining, acting as if nothing had happened. When I tried to ignore him, he grabbed my arm and held me close to his body. I didn’t want a public fight so I stayed with him all through that day and waited till everyone had left before I proclaimed, quite boldly I must say, that the relationship was over. Again, he laughed at me and walked away.
The following day, just in front of my class, I heard a commotion and I rushed outside to the sight of Alex beating up a junior boy. The boy’s nose was bloody, his white shirt stained red with blood and he lay weak on the ground. Still, Alex kept kicking at him until other students intervened. In the midst of the confusion, Alex looked at me and smiled. I think that was the day I truly began to believe that Alex was mad, mentally deranged. I never talked about a break up again after that day.
For a while it felt good being with somebody who couldn’t live without me, who was so jealous and possessive and I must confess, a good kisser. The way Alex touched me ignited me, and sometimes, I would lie awake and dream of him.
But I became afraid of him. I became afraid to look into people’s eyes because I knew I would see pity. Tragic love. Despite everything Alex did to me, I still l still loved him. And every time I said I wanted a break up, It was with the hope that the threat would force him to change. Yeah! I was hopelessly romantic.
But I got cured the day he looked at me and smiled, after sending a junior boy to the hospital. He got away with it too, since nobody told the truth. The whole class covered for him. Some days, I would look at him, handsome, tall, laughing, and being normal and wish I could stay in that moment forever.
The worst part of being in an abusive relationship is that you never know what would ignite the next fight. Sometimes a laugh, a word, an attitude, anything can start a fight.
The following term, on my birthday, Alex bought me a white samsung phone. Of course this was illegal but you know, nobody paid attention to their laws. There was always a way around them. Everyone oohed and ahhed about the phone. There was quite a number of envy to go around that day. I was happy, hopeful even. There had been no fights for a while now and everything seemed like it was going back to normal. I began to love him all over again. He put some love songs in my phone and told me to listen to them and think of him.
Everything was going well until….
That morning was a normal one, classes were a breeze and everything seemed fine till we went to the dining for the evening meal. I remember we were having beans that evening. That’s why when Alex told me to meet him in the classroom block instead of going to the dining, I agreed. So I left the dorm early and went to the classroom block before girls started going to the dining.
That night, I heard things got dangerous during the meal. The lights went off in the middle of the meal and suddenly, everything went crazy. It was like the lights took away sanity. A fight broke out, hot beans flew and burned people’s skin and eyes, some girl got stabbed with a fork while other girls were dragged towards the boys dorm for whatever purposes. Only the timely intervention of a heroic senior girl saved those girls. Senior Maureen was the only senior prefect in the dining, you know ss3 girls and their formings. They never come to the dining when beans is being served. Senior Maureen single handedly held boys at bay, allowing junior girls to run out of the dining. Then she went towards the boys dorm and rescued the other girls before anything could happen. So I heard.
While all that commotion was going on, I was sitting in Alex’s legs in one of classrooms, talking a little and laughing a lot. I don’t know how but he managed to get some illegal snacks that night. You know what happens when a boy and girl are in love and all alone. We started making out. I told you Alex was a good kisser, really he was. He kissed me till my lips were bruised, touching me everywhere. Then my phone, the one he bought for me, rang and a message appeared. A love message from some guy named Frank.
To be frank (pun intended), Alex has always been going through my phone everyday. But that day, the message was from Mabel’s new boyfriend. She got his number from those late night shows where lonely people air their phone numbers and since she didn’t have a phone yet, she’s been using mine to talk to him. And this guy was a deranged disturber, always calling and sending angry messages if she didn’t pick. Knowing Alex, I warned Mabel to use another person’s phone to call him and she agreed. I don’t know the juju that made him send that text to my phone, about how I (i.e Mabel) wasn’t picking his calls and how much he loved me and all that. Fool that he was, he didn’t specify any name, just sent the text like the phone belonged to Mabel.
So yeah, Alex was just showering my neck with light kisses when the stupid message came in. Alex, as usual took the phone to check the message. Let me state here, that I was used to this. Anytime my phone rang in Alex’s presence, he would answer it. In fact, every morning, he would go through my missed calls, received calls, dialled numbers, inbox and outbox, facebook activities etc.
I didn’t think anything of it till he removed his hand from my chest and threw the phone to me. From the look on his face, I knew it was something bad. Something really bad. After reading the text, my mind whirled. How would I explain this? It was so incriminating.
“So this is what you do?” Alex asked me quietly, with a calm that surprised me at first.
“It’s not what you think…” I tried to explain. “Frank is Mabel’s boyfriend and….”
“Shut up!” He thundered.
There. The roar I was waiting for. I closed my eyes and held my body tight, anticipating a slap or a kick, a blow, anything. It didn’t come. Instead,he pushed me to the ground.
“Since you like other guys so much, am going to make sure you like me better than all of them.” He said calmly and began to unbutton his shirt.
Ever since I started dating Alex, I’ve known a lot of fear, but that night, watching him calmly remove his shirt, a new fear entered. It blocked my chest and paralysed me. I began to beg. He ignored me and started to unbuckle his belt. His rage, slaps and blows I could understand but this calmness was new. I became disturbed. I had to leave. So I stood up and ran to the door. He caught me and slapped me, hard.
I fell to the ground and he came on top of me, smiling as he dragged my skirt up. I thought about how I had worn that skirt with so much love, so much hope. He was heavy, I couldn’t push him away. I just lay there, crying, grunting weakly as he did what he wanted to do. I didn’t scream, not once, no matter how hard I held the rough cement floor digging into my skin.
When he finished, he stood up and began to wear his trouser and shirt. I could feel the wetness between my legs, spreading through the floor, staining my shirt and skirt.
He came and held me up, whispering words of love and how he was sorry but he just had to teach me a lesson, that now he had claimed me and I belonged to only him, that I should forget about Frank. All the while he was arranging my shirt, zipping my bloody skirt up and cleaning the dust off my body. He tied his cardigan around my waist to hide the blood then took me outside and began to walk me back to the dorm.
‘Just bathe and rest, you’ll be fine’ he kept saying. I didn’t tell him my sandals was wet with blood running down my legs. I didn’t tell him I couldn’t even feel my legs. I was numb, looking but not seeing as held me close, whispering. Then I saw it. A hoe, just laying beside the road. Probably used for labour and forgotten by a junior student. I don’t remember picking it up. All I remember was the surprise on his face as the hoe connected with his skull. There was a crack. Then he fell. Was he dead?
I woke up with a jolt. It was dark, empty and quiet. I was alone in the dormitory. Apparently, I slept through the evening meal. A bit nervous, I stood up groggy and rubbed my eyes, yawning wide and stretching.
The dorm was quiet, so quiet you could hear a pin drop. I lay back down, telling myself that the shadows were not moving and jeering at me. Once, when I was in Jss3, I woke up at about 3am and found myself alone in the entire dormitory. I could hear noises downstairs but fear did not let me leave my bed. Apparently, some girl had seen some spiritual red figures in the dorm and raised an alarm. The whole dorm rushed outside and then began a night vigil of intense prayers, worship and prophecy.
But today, it was barely dark. What did the dream mean? Was Alex truly going to rape me?
To be truthful, that thought didn’t make me afraid. It just made me realize that I would kill him if he tried anything. I once heard about a girl who got stopped by six senior boys after school and was asked to kiss all of them. She came back vomiting and full of rage, a deep dark rage that followed her like a cloud for weeks. If she had a gun, those boys would have been dead.
But none of that happened to me. Even though a few minor skirmishes occurred, Alex never raised his hand to me again. Okay, let me be truthful. After our holidays, Alex came back a born again. I know it sounds like a cliché but it’s the truth. He started going to Sunday services at the chapel, joined the ushering department and even made me start attending Chapel. Normally, we would go to the catholic mass because they close early and spend the rest of the afternoon playing around. But things changed.
And I have to admit, he changed me. He called me aside one evening and told me that since he’s now born again, we wouldn’t be kissing or touching or any such romance business and even said, if I wanted, we could end the relationship. I stuck with him. He got me to say the words of repentance and I did, half heartedly just to please him.
Sure enough, he was made the school prefect and I, a house prefect. People called us the ‘ideal couple.’ we even won ‘best couple’ award in our last press/social event before we left school.
I haven’t seen Alex since we left school six years ago. We tried to keep in touch but lost contact after his parents sent him to school abroad. But every now and then, I remember him and I smile. He brought out the voice inside of me and for that, I am grateful to him. I hope I see him again someday.
Now that I’ve told you my side of the story, which of you can guess my name? Or have you been reading about me without even knowing my name? LOL