Do you remember the last day you stopped being a child?
I do; it was one fateful Sunday in March of the year 2000, we had just come back from church and my sister and I were out in the hallway playing when I heard a loud voice, we both ran inside and what I saw that day shattered all the illusions I had.
I saw my parents in a fight; the whole world became still; they were talking, yelling even, but I couldn’t hear them; my whole world spun around. Then I heard a piercing cry, but it didn’t come from my parents. I looked down & saw my sister five years younger than me, crying and holding onto my leg, and at that moment I knew I had to grow up not for myself but for my sister. I quickly picked her up and took her outside. I knew children were easily distracted so I started to sing; it didn’t matter which song, I was just singing, singing; she loved music so she was laughing & trying to sing along. I put her on my back and she soon fell asleep.
I heard furniture breaking, grunts & yells but I didn’t stop singing; all I could think about was that this was a movie, it couldn’t be real. This was one of those Nollywood movies my mum loved so much, this wasn’t my life. My perfect, little, happy family was breaking into tiny unrecognizable pieces.
I noticed everywhere become quiet so I slowly crept back to the sitting room and I saw my parents spent from their tussle; my mum had a broken lip, my dad had a gash on his forehead and in that moment I knew everything had changed; I didn’t know what they were fighting about, I didn’t know who had won but I know who had lost – me.
I was an active child but after that day everything I used to care about, everything that used to bring me joy became futile. I went back to school the next day and I saw life through different eyes; eyes I wasn’t used to, eyes that saw the world as all white now saw it in dark patches of grey. Suddenly, everything my friends and I used to do together became unimportant; my world was different and I could feel it & I thought everyone could too. So, I decided to be on my own. I grew quieter, not mute; just quiet.
I discovered a new friend; words. They were my companion, my confidant, my refuge. Words were how I quieted the voices in my head, words were how I grew to talk to the monster under my bed ’cause with all my pain, too heavy for my young mind, I understood why it was the way it was. Maybe it’s why mummy & daddy fought too but it didn’t have words or anybody else to be friends with & so it hid under people’s beds to hide from the world.
My friends became fewer; whispers had started flying around but the only ones I could hear were coming from my head. I wasn’t unfriendly or rude, I knew my friends couldn’t understand why I didn’t always want to play ‘ten-ten’ or ‘tinko-tinko’ or why I always chose to stay inside when the bell rang. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to, but because from that day; I felt broken & I thought if I became close with anyone, they’d see that I was incomplete and they wouldn’t want me anymore. Sometimes, I wish I could go back to before that day and savour every last bit of my childlike happiness, cherish every smile my parents shared & every kiss they placed on my forehead.