KITO DIARIES PRIZE FOR WRITING: WHERE HAPPINESS IS ALL THAT MATTERS

KITO DIARIES PRIZE FOR WRITING: WHERE HAPPINESS IS ALL THAT MATTERS

When you get to Ifem’s late husband’s compound, you will see a crowd. Men, women and children will be gathered in front of the compound. They will be like balls of watermelons stacked inside the back of an open truck. There will be murmurings amongst them; the men with their arms folded across their chest will be nodding their heads every now and then and their faces will be plastered with disdain as they occasionally spit out saliva and use their right hands to draw an imaginary circle above their heads, snapping their fingers thereafter. Some of the women will stand akimbo listening with their lips twisted in contempt as the others talk and clap their hands at irregular intervals.

They will be waiting for Ifem to begin her dance of shame.

Now, Ifem’s dance of shame will be none of your concern. But you will be there because Ifem will ask you to come. She will want you to be her cradle; the reason she will have to remain unbroken as the result of the dance will be worth the shame. When she sees your face, she will remember your words. The words you’d said to her on that day you both first saw yourselves, when she came to your office with swollen cheeks and blackened eyelids, sobbing and sniffling. You had tried to calm her down with soothing words as, “You are not alone in this… I understand the pain you are going through… I have been there before…”

Words she will remember when she sees you.

Indeed, you have been there before. And like Ifem, you had felt the trauma and the bruises. You have been battered and spat upon, misunderstood and loathed, and happiness flouted your existence, making it indefinable to the extent that you just couldn’t tell what it means to be happy anymore. And like Ifem, you choose to be happy, and so when you founded the Happy Women Organization (HWO), your mantra became: “Where happiness is all that matters.”

Before Ifem walked out of your office that day, the last words you said to her were: “Happiness has no substitute.”

But after she left, she still stayed in your head.

***

On the day of the dance, you will be early. You will take a stand under the Ukwa tree just at the corner of Ifem’s husband’s building. It will shield you from the sun and will give you a good view of the open ground where Ifem will be brought out to perform her dance. Ifem’s dance will be the first of its kind. No, it will be the second. Yours is the first, as far you know. But unlike Ifem’s, you were still a girl of nineteen years when yours took place. You will remember what led to your dance and you will feel a surge of pleasure as it will tickle your nerves and send signals running all over your body. You will remember the blood as it dripped from the kitchen knife and the thought of it will make you wet between your legs. You will sigh and smile and it will fill you with lust, overwhelming you with a longing, making you eager for Ifem’s dance to finally be over.

You were never a killer, and that was an act of self-defense. At least that was what you told the court to be able to escape the death sentence that would have followed. You couldn’t tell the court that at age fifteen, your family had caught you smooching Amarachi under the Mango tree in her father’s backyard, and so you were forcefully given to the pig as retribution, punishment for kissing your fellow girl. The pig – as you became fond of calling him –, whose real name was Igwe, was known to have deflowered more than half of the girls in the village. Even the widows could testify to his sexual prowess. All the more reason why your father had allowed him to take you away without paying your bride price. Your father had wanted him to make sure he made you a woman. To make sure he fucks away the ogbanje spirit of lesbianism that had taken hold of you. Even if he had to beat and rape you, he should.

You still couldn’t tell the court how you couldn’t sleep because of how the pig grunted all night and how his breath stank like a dead rat whenever he was on top of you. You were unhappy and it was your neighbor, Nwanyimarama, who lived next door that made all the unhappiness go away. It was Nwanyimarama who made you feel like a complete woman; the way she smiled, the way she laughed, the way she walked, the way she talked. Everything about her was perfect, and with her, what you felt was happiness that you never knew was possible. She was very beautiful to the extent that she was thought to be a mami-water. It was even rumored that she was still single at the age of forty because men were scared of being possessed by her marine spirit.

As both your bodies became one, so did Nwanyimarama’s dreams become yours. She always talked about living in a world where happiness is all that matters. A world where everyone is free to want what they really want, and not what the society expects them to want. She told you that if you truly want to be happy, then you must begin to write your own story and not just be a character in a story written by people who know nothing about you. She always dreamed of having a foundation that protects queer women like herself, those who live in fear everyday of their lives. Fear of being raped and maimed and killed because they choose to be happy.

“It will be like an umbrella,” she’d said. “What it does to your body when the rain is falling. It keeps the body dry just the way the foundation will keep us free from the hate and the abuse, the harassment and the discrimination.”

And the way she touched your body like she owned it, like she owned even those body parts that you never knew existed, breathing into your ears, telling you about love like she was a poet, Nwanyimarama was all you’ve ever dreamed of.

“Let me tell you what love is,” she’d said where she was sprawled on top of you, with you lying with your face down on the bed, the soft hairs on her groin tickling your buttocks, her breasts full on your back. “Love is me and you walking on the street, and when people see us holding hands and hate, we don’t hate them back. You know why?”

“Why?” you mumbled, the sound of the word escaping your lips like a moan.

“Because we don’t see them,” she said. “We only see ourselves.”

You chuckled. “Interesting,” you said.

“And when the dog barks, or the dove coos, or the duck quacks, or the cat meows, we laugh,” she said and nibbled on the insides of your ear with her tongue. It was wet and it tickled, and you jerked away in laughter. “But of course, we don’t laugh because of them,” she continued.“We laugh because of the things we hear ourselves say.”

You smiled. Then she told you of how much she loved you. That even if she was to die someday, she would return to look for you.

You told her to shut up and begged her not to talk about death again. A life without her wasn’t something you could imagine. “Besides such things as returning again to the world are impossible,” you said. “So if you were to die today, then we will die together. I will not wait around alone and desolate in this venomous world, feasted upon by hate and sadness. I will be miserable.”

She laughed and grabbed you with both hands, squeezing your breasts as she whispered into your ears, telling you that she wasn’t going anywhere.

With Nwanyimarama, you were ready to go the extra mile, damning all the consequences. And so when the pig caught you with her on his bed that day, he hit you until you bled from your nostrils. Nwanyimarama tried to intervene but he brought out a knife from his pocket and stabbed her several times until she died.

The pig wasn’t arrested. No. Who arrests the killer of a queer woman, a lesbian, a societal menace, a serious problem? He wasn’t a killer but a hero, and was applauded by neighbors and friends. Even the headlines on online newspapers read: One Less Queer, One Less Problem. And strangers who heard of the story of how a man stabbed to death the lesbian lover of his wife-to-be after he caught both of them naked on his bed celebrated him. The nation was in jubilation and your head even remained where it was on your neck because the pig had told you that he wasn’t ready to be rid of you yet, and so he was going to tell people that Nwanyimarama had forced herself on you.

On that day of your trial, you couldn’t tell the court how you stabbed him three times in the neck on that Friday when he returned home from work and had wanted to force himself on you as usual.

However, when your family heard of his death, you had to dance the dance of shame; even though you were not married to him. You were stripped and whipped and was made to dance to the amusement of your audience, twisting your waist this way and that with both your hands on your head, far away from either of your private parts. It was an ambush. Your father had planned it with your mother and your brother. If not, you wouldn’t have bothered to return home from Lagos to attend the pig’s funeral.

***

The gong will be beaten and a silence will fall. The priest will be clad in red and white and will be tall. A white circle will be drawn with chalk around his left eye and a black beaded bracelet will be worn on his right ankle. He will carry a staff that will command the silence of his audience, and he will speak with a loud voice that will be heard even at the junction few kilometers away from the compound. That will mark be beginning of Ifem’s dance.

You will see her from where she will be pushed out by some women, and she will be clad only in a single wrapper tied to her chest. When she sees you, she will pretend not to notice. Of course, it will be for your own good. So that her persecutors won’t think that you are one of the cursed women. Women who sleep with their fellow women when there were so many men in the country to choose from.

“Aru!” they will say, one to another.

“Tufia! Ozu nwuru anwu!”

“Shameless woman. I wonder what she sees in her fellow woman that she doesn’t have.”

At first, what you will feel will be contempt; their words will sting, almost choking you with repugnance. The same way it did when Ifem’s late husband barged into your office weeks ago, asking you to stay away from his wife. He told you that it was no business of yours if he beats his wife, and even if he decides to kill her.

“After all,” he said, “she had already been condemned by her family because of her useless lifestyle. No one will miss her. I am only doing her a favor by being her husband.”

Then he threatened to report you and your organization to the authorities for harboring lesbians. He told you it was like protecting thieves and murderers.

But later, you will feel pity, because you will look at them and see their misery as it will become clouded there, on their faces. You will later find out that the reason they will hate Ifem so much will be because, after the dance is over, Ifem will have the one thing they know they will never have. Every wrinkle on their faces will tell of their struggles, the battles they face every day as they try to be a good character in the story written by the society.

Ifem will be stripped and spit upon. She will be whipped with the leaves of a palm tree and pushed about by women. Some of the men will pull down their trousers, their penises dangling freely like disturbed pendulums, and they will show them off to Ifem. They will mock her and tell her of how much she is missing. And on and on it will go, Ifem dancing naked, both her hands on her head, being tossed about by women, the children laughing and pointing fingers, the men flapping their exposed penises this way and that, telling her that this is what she is supposed to want, that it is the only thing that will make her happy.

When the dance is over, you will return to your hotel room in Owerri. And when Ifem knocks and enters, she will be smiling. She will tell you of how liberated she feels, and she will thank you for being the one who made it all possible.

But Ifem’s dance of shame will happen three weeks later. Today, you are here to console her as always. You are seated on the couch, with her head glued to your chest in an embrace. You are asking her to stay strong, promising her that you will make sure she gets her freedom and the happiness she wants. And you mean every word, because Ifem is the only woman who makes you feel exactly the same way you felt for Nwanyimarama.

The front door squeaks open and Ifem’s husband walks in. He catches you and Ifem in an embrace and rushes to where she is seated. Before Ifem can run, he grabs her by the waist and throws her back on the couch. With both his hands, he holds Ifem’s neck and begins to strangle her. You try to push him away but he is too strong.

Ifem’s face becomes transformed into Nwanyimarama, and you watch as the pig keeps squeezing her neck. You reach for the ceramic flower vase on the table and hit his head with it. He falls down and the vase breaks. You pick up a piece of it and repeatedly stab his neck. Blood gushes out and he dies. And you feel no guilt.

For this is your second chance at happiness and you will not fail to protect it like you did years ago.

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  1. Mandy
    January 25, 21:34 Reply

    YES! Protect your happiness at all costs, especially when the people who are threatening it are scum of the earth. I can’t count how many times I wish I had superhuman powers. Because if I did, I’d come out to the world, and then wait to see the first homophobe that will try shit with me. I would be very soulless when it comes to destroying homophobes, because any person who inhabits the inhumanity of not letting others be or live because of who they love does not deserve to be or live themselves.
    Love this story!

  2. Sideeye
    January 26, 10:04 Reply

    Love!!! but damn! this was dark.

    Admin, will it be possible to have some possible trigger warnings before stories to warn potential readers of the themes that might occur, just in case some of it is triggering.

    • Pink Panther
      January 26, 15:16 Reply

      You’re right. We’ll start attaching trigger warnings to stories. Thank you for that notice

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