I had my first kiss when I was twelve years old. It was from my uncle Kareem. His lips were soft and plump like the pillows on my bed. His upper lip was dark like that of a chronic smoker and the bottom was deep pink, like the colour of the cotton underwear I was wearing. He had his hands cupped around my face and had the look of love in his eyes. I knew this wasn’t supposed to happen but he had promised to help me with the Math homework I had at school.
‘Don’t tell your mummy oh. Don’t you like it?’
I could feel the heat of his breath very close to my skin. It was obvious what he had had for dinner – Two scoops of fried rice, three deep-fried turkey breasts and a cold bottle of Fanta; just the way he liked it. And yes, I did like it. I liked the way his moustache tickled my face, but my head shook side to side in disagreement. He pulled back and sat on the rim of the bed with an offended look.
‘Ehn, your teacher will give you zero and mummy will beat you.’
So I let him carry me on his lap and kiss me – His tongue wagging in my mouth with too much force than I had expected.
* * *
I jumped off his lap when Boda Andrew came in, pretending to look for a pen that had fallen between the bed and the wall. My chest felt like a yam in a pot being pounded to submission by an Ibadan woman. How could I bounce back from the embarrassment and awkwardness? What will happen to Uncle Kareem?
He looked around the room for a second, to me, then to Uncle Kareem and back to me, scanning my face then let out an unbothered sigh.
‘Food is ready. Mummy is calling you.’
I scurried off my bed, rubbing my lips as hard as I could in a bid to get the throbbing sensation of Uncle Kareem off me.
I lost my appetite very quickly when I saw the dining table set for lunch. It was the same thing I had tasted a few minutes ago. I was not allowed to not be in the dining room because lunch time was family bonding time since Boda Andrew worked night shifts but I complained of a stomach ache and mummy sent me off to bed with a cup of Agbo Jedi.
Boda Andrew came in a few minutes after lunch and sat on the edge on my bed. We watched a Nollywood movie together, mocking the fake British accents and overly exaggerated sound effects. And I forgot about Uncle Kareem until he blurted it out.
‘Did he touch you?’
‘No, Egbon mi, he was helping me to look for my biro.’
It was easy to see the discomfort in his face. He shifted uncomfortably, staring at the floor with his feet tapping in a spaced out rhythm.
‘O sure? Ma puro fun mi o’
He put his ring finger up towards me and waited patiently for me to join mine. We had made a pact when I was five years old never to lie to each other. He caught me in my lie immediately.
Crying like a hungry toddler sucking on dry breasts, I told him about the homework and the kiss.
‘Are you angry with me?’
‘I am not angry with you. I just want to make sure you’re okay.’
His voice was very soft and shaky and he scratched his head in anger.
Right then, uncle Kareem came in scooping his penis forcefully and releasing it as fast as he had grabbed on like it was disease infested.
‘Andrew, mummy said to ask if you called the plumber -‘
Boba Andrew’s first blow came as a shock, leaving uncle Kareem as a staggering drunkard. Once he regained his stance, he looked at me and knew that I had spilt the beans. But his ego was bruised and he couldn’t let a younger man disrespect him so took a swing back and tried to leave the room. The only thing was Boda Andrew was not done. He tackled him from behind and pounded his fists in Uncle Kareem’s face and sides, each time letting out a grunt.
Mummy’s yelling was what broke up the fight – well, the beat down because Uncle Kareem, as opposed to his various stories of beating up bus conductors and touts that he encountered, looked helpless.
‘Andrew, are you sick? Boda e lo n fu ni blow.’
Uncle Kareem immediately came to his defence and feigned a chuckle.
‘No, we were just playing o. Blow ke, ko really lu mi beyen’
But Boda Andrew wasn’t having it.
‘Are you crazy? Who’s playing with you? Mummy, he tried to take advantage of her! He forced her to kiss him and who knows how far he would have gone if I didn’t enter? He fucking assaulted her.’
‘take advantage’ ‘forced’ ‘assaulted’ – those words held such negativity in my mind and it was then that I realized something really bad had happened to me.
Uncle Kareem was already on the ground at that point. Tears, sweat, and mucus all mixed up on his face.
Mummy called her army friends and they dragged him away. She said they were going to show him ‘pepper’.
She looked very strong then, but I heard muffled cries in the middle of the night and my heart sank.
I cried every day for weeks. At first, it was because I felt like I had done the wrong thing; like I was the one in the wrong. I mean, wasn’t I supposed to be punished too if I enjoyed it?. Then I thought of how Uncle Kareem was her only brother and how I had broken up their family and relationship. Who would mummy talk to about grown-up stuff, who would help her with the housework?. And then, it turned to self-hatred. I was disgusted at the person I saw in the mirror. I felt dirty and violated. When I walked in school, it felt like everyone was staring at me because the word ‘assaulted’ was written on my forehead. I felt… like a victim.
It’s been twelve years, and I have healed, just not completely. I haven’t seen Uncle Kareem since that day, but I heard he’s married with two children who I sometimes catch myself wishing evil upon.
Egbon mi – my elder brother
‘O sure? Ma puro fun mi o’ – Are you sure? Don’t lie to me
Boda e lo n fu ni blow. – Is it an elderly person you’re hitting like that? (Not a perfect interpretation)
Blow ke, ko really lu mi beyen’ – A blow?, He didn’t hit me that hard
Boda – A term for a man that’s older than you