Whenever Mummy slapped me, I would weep hard. Not the pain or the fire in my bladder or the regret of a mistake made, but the rage. The rage I felt knowing I couldn’t do something back. I’ve always needed to channel my rage to something else. When I’m helpless, powerless, when theres nothing else I could think of, I choose something watery. I choose tears.
Mummy always told me I’m a bad bad child, the way I looked at her when I was angry as if I’d pierce her with my arrow pupils. The way I talked back at her, my words like waves of tornado which always left her paralyzed for seconds before realizing it dropped from my mouth, not from the hands of god. Mother taught me how to be a good child. By obeying people older than me, by turning my left cheek when my right is slapped. (She hadn’t used the exact words, but it translated to the same thing). Mummy said it will make the person who slapped me feel ashamed of himself. Sometimes I think Mummy is stupid.
Mummy told me I’m a bad bad child, she knew from the day I came out of her womb when I refused to cry. A nurse had to smack my buttocks three times before I did. She always told the story with the same words, the same gesture, and same precision like a movie scene replaying, as though when it happened she had consistently rehearsed how she was going to tell it. People found the story amusing. I didn’t, I felt rage, and I’d slap the white tiled wall of the kitchen 3 times pretending it’s the nurse.
On a Saturday, Brother John slapped me. Because I said ‘good morning’ instead of ‘good morning sir’. I overheard him telling Brother Kehinde that he hoped for a day he would hold my mother’s breasts because they are so firm, they looked so soft even after suckling a bad child like me. I hated that he was describing my mother’s breast, I hated that he called me a bad child. And when he slapped me after refusing to add sir. I needed to channel my rage to something. Watery something. Something watery. Water. Saliva. Spit. Spit. I spat in his face.
Mummy spanked me hard.
Where did a little girl learn to be so bad?
I told her I don’t like to be oppressed.
“Oppressed? Who taught you words like oppressed?”
“A slap isn’t oppression, its a way to tell you you are wrong.”
I told Mother because someone thinks I’m wrong doesnt mean I am and it’s oppression ‘cause he slapped me thinking I’d do nothing but I spat in his face and now he’s not going to slap me anymore because I told him if he did I will cut off his hands, tie it over a long stick and slap him with it from afar.
We always had many guests visiting every last Saturday of the month. Papa’s friends. They came with their silly children who talked about silly stuff. Mother would put me and the silly children in the children’s parlour, instruct me to play with them but I’d just watch them play stupid games, talk silly things like the colour of their school bags and the food they ate the previous day. I always just watched them.
On the table, after eating Jollof rice and chicken which Mother always prepared, they would drink wine, and some of the men like Papa would drink canned “33” export. Some of the women like Mrs. Adah with funny head gears, Mrs. Coker who spoke so slowly as if every word required a full stop and Mrs. Kaka who always asked Mother for her jollof rice recipe, always joined the men in drinking the lager beer.
When Mother was really smiling or happy or laughing, she looked glorious, it always looked like an image you needed to hide in the walls of your eyes, it looked like each curve and line on her face at that moment is a type of jewel one may never come across again and in those moments, I hated Mother less. But on the table. I hated Mummy. Faking smile. Pretending she was friends with people who didn’t understand her, who faked smiles just as she did.
Papa had told me once that he loved to take “33” export on those Saturdays because friendship is reestablished while adults are sipping beer, theres a flow of understanding and friendship is real and valid only when understanding is present.
The Saturday I spat in Brother John’s face, while all the visitors had come and gone. I heard Dad slapped Mother. I counted to 5 so I would hear him slap her again. Father always slapped her 2 times every last Saturday. That’s why I hated Mummy. Letting someone slap her, then turning the left cheek.
But I didn’t hear a second slap.
Mom spat in dad’s face and when he raised his hands again, she spat again and said with an unwavering voice, “If you ever slap me again. I will cut your hands, tie it over a stick and slap you hard with it. I was behind the door.
She left the room, found me by the door and didn’t slap me like I thought she would. I sat next to her in silence on the green leather sofa and didnt know when I slept off on her laps but I knew then that Mummy had become my friend. Friends influence friends. It felt like I understood her, like I knew her and she knew me and I knew her inside out. And she knew me inside out. And I understood what Papa had said about friendship and understanding. I hated her no more. And Dad slapped her no more. And now whenever Mother slaps me, I dont feel rage. I feel regret.