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Atiteh’s Notes: Uncle Joe (2)

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Source: singleblackmale.org

Titilayo continues her short story this week! You can read the first chapter here The principal! We were in morbid fear of him. As soon as he walked in, we immediately stood to greet. It was all we could do to keep from trembling. After telling us to serve our punishment at the school orchard during break, he left us with the order, “Will you stop messing around this minute and face your studies?” Although we never did tease Uncle Joe after that, we couldn't help giggling when he twisted the principal’s words so: “Thop mething around.” Irene giggled the loudest and muttered under her breath, “The principal didn't say thop or mething. He said stop and messing.” If Uncle Joe heard, he pretended not to and returned to writing on the board.   *                                                                      *                                                          * “Why did you call him Uncle Joe?” the voice of my therapist brings me back to the present. Suddenly, I’m not an eleven year old anymore but a twenty four year old in therapy. Therapy! I chuckle bitterly as I play with the word in my head. I begin to wonder why I let Seyi talk me into this, this whole thing. His exact words the first time he suggested it were, “It’ll be good for you.” I didn’t see how then and now that I sit in front of a therapist, whose deep set eyes remind me of a cat’s at night, I still don’t see how. In fact, I wonder if I didn’t make a mistake by giving in to Seyi’s pressures. “Although the school didn’t quite approve, we called most of our teachers, especially those we liked, Uncle or Aunty,” I reply. “He was well liked by the students then?” the therapist pries with her intense gaze. She looks rather small behind the huge desk, on which is placed a small wooden piece with the name ‘Dr Akintola’ carved neatly. “Oh yes, he certainly was,” I say hugging myself with my arms. Outside, it’s starting to rain and although the windows are shut, I feel gusts of cold wind on my face and bare arms. I regret leaving my shawl on the arm of one of the sitting room chairs at home. It wasn’t until I was about to leave the house that I changed my mind about taking along the green shawl Seyi had bought me for our second wedding anniversary. The sleeveless dress I was wearing would do just fine without a shawl, I convinced myself. Presently, there is some silence except for the sound of light steady rain that is gradually replaced by loud, tumultuous rain drops. I hug myself again as goose bumps break out on my skin. I’m not sure it’s the cold but I’m certain that the rain unnerves me in some way. I wonder if it’s because it brings back memories of that cold, rainy Monday morning in March, thirteen years ago. The dormitory’s alarm bell didn’t ring, even after six o’clock. Students, thus, found the perfect excuse to sleep on except for a few that got out of bed. This incensed Uncle Joe, who upon his arrival at the dormitory fumed about how “pa---pa---tho----patholo--gically la--lazy” the girls were. He then showed no mercy in meting out punishment to them all. Although I escaped punishment along with the few others that got ready for school early, we were all stunned by our house master’s reaction. We had never seen him so angry. It certainly seemed ominous, combined with the dorm’s alarm not ringing and the raging storm, which was in no hurry to stop. The day, however, continued quite normally until mid-morning when Uncle Joe sent for me. It wasn’t unusual for him to do this. Since my parents had made him my guardian at the all girls boarding school – he was mummy’s relative of sorts - he often sent for me to deliver messages from home. He was also in charge of my weekly pocket money and while I still had some left with me, I was almost certain that that was what I was sent for. The bell signaling the start of the long break had just been rung and Mary, the senior girl who was sent to call me, seemed in a haste to get to her break. "Can you move your tiny legs a little faster?” she yelled out to me as I practically ran after her. I wasn’t surprised when she took the path that most students used as a short cut to the dormitories. The staff living quarters, where Uncle Joe lived, was close to them and I had used this same path once or twice while running errands for him. Still, I asked, “Isn’t Uncle Joe in the staff room?” I might as well have been speaking to a tree trunk for Mary kept mute. She spent just enough time to hand me over to Uncle Joe wordlessly before returning to the school area. “Your mummy asked me to give you something,” Uncle Joe said as soon as I was alone with him. I stood at a corner of the room that obviously served both as his living and dinning area. Because it smelt of stale sweat and cheap perfume, I got the impression that the clothes strewn awkwardly all over the scarcely furnished room were dirty. “Do you want to see it?” “Yes!”  I said, in a flurry of excitement. All I could think of was mummy’s recent promise to buy me a dress for the end of term party. In my excitement, I didn’t notice when Uncle Joe moved swiftly to the door and bolted it. Even more quickly, he crossed the room to clench his hands tightly around my shoulders. I didn’t know which was worse, the numbing terror that gripped me or the pain that came from his tight grasp. When I looked up at him, I thought I was looking at a monster from one of the movies I had watched. I could scarcely reconcile the fierce looking man now pinning me to the wall and making fearful sounds with the pleasant house master I knew. Before long, he started to unbutton my school uniform as well as his shirt hurriedly like he was being chased. Frightened and confused, I screamed, or I screamed in my head, because no sound came out. I tried again but still no sound, so I shut my eyes instead, telling myself that if I shut them hard enough, the madness would all go away. It didn’t. Then suddenly, Uncle Joe went quiet and froze. Save for one large hand placed over my mouth, he had completely loosened his grip on me. It was then I heard foot steps retreating from the front door.  I knew this was my chance to scream for help, so I bit on my attacker’s fingers and screamed. The sound of the hard slap that followed reached my ears before I felt the sting on my right cheek but I was undeterred. I screamed even louder and harder until the foot steps returned to the door step, slowly at first, then rapidly. Someone tried the door handle and knocked repeatedly before thumping hard at it. “Hello? Who’s there? Uncle Joe?” I recognised Mary’s voice and screamed with all the might an eleven year old could muster. But this time, Uncle Joe would have none of it and hit me harder than I had ever been hit. The hot liquid that ran between my legs told me I had peed in my pant before I realised it. My head began to spin. A noisy Boy Scout band was playing in my head, beating against the delicate nerves of my brain, and when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, the huge black monster in front of me melted away. I was later told by the school matron hovering over me that I fainted. Had Mary not returned to Uncle Joe’s front porch in search of her missing pen, I might have sustained much more injury, she told me. Thirteen years, a husband and child later, I'm still dealing with the emotional “injury” I sustained. Seyi has been very understanding but I fear that my problems might get too overwhelming for him to bear. My frequent nightmares, and my clawing and gnashing at him each time he comes close to me, might one day push him away. Now, more than ever, I’m grateful for his persistence about the therapist. I hope she can help in some way. I watch as she ruffles through some sheets of paper on her desk, picks one and studies it quietly. I know the quiet is only for a short while till she asks a question or makes an observation. Still, I appreciate it and mentally block out every sound, even the sound of the rain drumming on the roof.   By Titilayo Olurin

The post Atiteh’s Notes: Uncle Joe (2) appeared first on Aphroden.


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