Riding down the slopy road at Missory Avenue, enjoying the rhythm of the wind, the chirping of the early morning birds, this was Kamsi’s favourite part of the day. It kept his young, troubled mind at peace. His heart does a flip dance when he spots his favourite akara seller from afar. Miss Sarah’s akara was simply the best. He increases the momentum of his bicycle. A few feet from her stand, she sees Kamsi and smiles. As usual, she puts two extra balls of akara, specially for him.
On his ride back home, an image consumes his mind. That knowing look on Miss Sarah’s face whenever he said his goodbyes. Her face carried what he read as pity. He saw it on most people’s faces. “The child from the trouble-filled home”. Everyone in the neighbourhood knew his family was a dysfunctional one. The gossip spread like wildfire. Their houses were so close to one another, that every conversation from the next house could be heard, and so everybody knew everyone’s story. Some were just more sensational than others.
At the gate of the compound, he takes the extra akara he was given, hiding it in an inner pocket space he designed in his baggy shorts, his long shirt over it. He rushes into his room, violently pulling away the shorts. Closes his eyes, and exhales. The heat from the akara seared the fresh cut on his thigh. It stung. Scrunching his face, he mouths an “Aaarrhh”.
Still holding onto the stinging thigh, he hears voices coming from the parlour. “It’s only morning” he says under his breath, turning his head away. But as the voices grow louder, he puts his shorts back on, hides away the akara, and runs to the door in his room, placing his ears on it.
One loud blow. He knows his mother ricochets to the floor. And then, another blow. “1, 2, 3…” he begins counting aloud to sixty. And then, starts again at 1. Another sixty…but the sounds just won’t stop. Covering his hands over his ears, he rushes into the bathroom.
He swore yesterdays cut was going to be the last, but now, he picks up that familiar container at a corner in the bathroom, brings out the silver blade, and reaches for his right thigh. One cut. Blood spills out. In that moment, screams draw from the parlour “Get your hands off me, filthy man”.
His eyes bulge out.
In all his the years his father laid hands on his mother, he’s only heard her plead for her life. As she pled, he kicked and punched even more. “What did you say?” his father responds. He wishes he could see his face then; see how stunned, shocked to his stomach the cruel man will be. The punching bag had developed wings.
“I’m leaving with my son” she yells. He’s dreamt of this day all his life. The day she yells, the day she stands up to him, the day she decides to walk away. She runs into his room “Kamsi! Let’s go”.
Wiping away the blood with water, he rushes out at her order. “Pack up let’s go, Kamsi”. Just then, blood starts to seep out of the wound, passing through the open space at the hem of his shorts, to his legs, and then the floor. He immediately places a foot on it, putting the smeared leg behind the other. But as he looks up at her, her eyes tell him something- She’s always known. She looks at him, more broken than he’s ever seen her.
“You know” he says, with his face down. “Yesterday” she replies. “I saw your lopsided gait, I heard your muffled screams while you were taking your bath”.
She cries uncontrollably. “I was too broken, too ashamed to face you. How had I missed the signs all along?”. Today, when he laid hands on me, I heard those muffled screams again, and I knew we both had failed you. Every single time I forgave and stayed back, I gave him license to hurt me, and in turn hurt you. Somehow that thought gave me strength to push, to make a decision. “Never again, Kamsi. Never again”.