RELIVING IT

He grabbed her by the arm and pushed her to the rough dusty ground. As she fell her ankle hit on the table sending a sharp pain throughout her body. He removed his belt from his waist and she screamed begging him not to hit her but he could hear none of it. Only the neighbors’ intervention saved her.

“We want to sleep. “
“You have become too much.”
“Hey! you are going to kill her.”
His attention shifted to the noises that now filled the air. His drunken voice joined in. Throwing insults to the neighbors.
“Big ears like elephants. Smelly mouths like toilets. ”

It was none of their business. He took one more look at her lying on the floor, tears running down her face pleading with him not to hit her. He pointed an angry finger towards her and turned to leave telling her that he would be back. That he was not done with her yet. As he disappeared behind the orange curtain she wiped of her tears, softly rubbing her ankle to soothe the pain. Then she heard the voices.

“Until when? Until when will Jamila put up with such a husband?”
“A woman such as Jamila, beautiful with the charms to drive any man on his knees to serve her, how could she let Duni treat her like that?”
“Why don’t she move in with me? I am still single and I can treat her better.”

She listened to them. Someone was cat calling her from the audience. Another one commented how pretty her nails were and as the narrator entered the stage she was carried away by his narration to a time and place she always wished she could erase from her memories with no luck.
Her mother’s screaming woke her up from her dreams. She tried to block her ears with her pillow but the noise filtered through. There was nowhere to run to. Tears filled up her eyes. She was determined not to cry but she was not strong enough. She heard her mother’s pain in her voice and tears freely flowed down her cheeks soaking into her pillow.

Theirs was a three roomed wooden house standing in a communal compound. Her grandmother’s house, the only stoned building in the compound, was right outside their house next to the water tank. Her uncles’ wooden houses was a few yards away across the small play ground that together with her cousins they played during the day after school and on weekends.

She heard her parent’s bedroom door open and banged shut. She had her mother banging on the door saying all she needed was to pick her child. She wondered how her younger sister could sleep throughout the chaos in the house but then she was just a year old. She heard her father’s voice telling her mother how he would teach her manners. Then came her mother’s sharp cry. She knew it was better if she stayed in her room but she could not take it anymore. She got out of bed and put on her red slippers. Her sleeveless pink flowered sleeping dress flowing to the floor. Her sobs had become louder and as she moved to the door she heard her mother’s plea asking him not to hit her, all she wanted was to pick her baby. She opened her bedroom door. Her parent’s bedroom was directly opposite hers and in between was the little sitting room that also doubled as their kitchen. Her mother was pushing on the door as his father a nyahunyo in hand above the door raining thrashes on her.

Everyone knew how painful nyahunyos are. They were used by watchmen at night and the maasai for grazing cattle. There was a man who owned a donkey at the shopping Center and he had a nyahunyo that he used on the donkey when it was carrying heavy loads for it to move faster. How could he use a nyahunyo to beat up her mother? How inhuman could he be? What had her mother done that was so wrong that a weapon used on thieves and animals was being used on her?

She heard her voice escape her mouth joining her mother to plead with him to stop hitting her. Her mother turned around as the strip of black rubber fell across her shoulder she screamed and asked her to get of the house. Her legs were fixed on the ground but she could not take it anymore. It was a chilly morning and as she walked out goose bumps filled up her arms. A shiver hit her body and her teeth clattered. She found a spot on her grandmother’s house veranda, below the window of her cousins’ room and sat. Huddled up. Her legs folded up her chest. Her hands rubbing her arms up and down to warm them up. Sobbing silently as the screams inside the house continued.

She heard her grandmother’s door open but didn’t look up to see who it was. She heard her grandmother’s voice calling out for her dad as she walked towards their house. The screaming stopped but there were voices.Angry voices. And she drowned away in her own voices inside her head. What if she ran away? But where to? She could just follow the river to the direction it flowed to the end of the world and no one could ever find her and she would never witness her father beating up her mother with a nyahunyo again. Or maybe she could just throw herself into the river. Kill herself. No. Killing herself was not an option. She knew no matter what happened she had to live for her own sake. For her mother’s sake. One day when she would be old enough, educated and rich she would take away her mother from all the thrashing. She would make her life far far away from all that was happening. Away from her mother’s screams. Away from the nyahunyo. She would never get married. No man would ever lay a hand on her. She would become a lawyer and help any other woman who was in a situation like her mother’s. But her mother never went to the police or to any lawyer for help. How many more women out there woke up to their husbands beatings instead of a hot cup of tea?

She knew what would happen after everything had calmed down. Her mother would pack a small bag, mostly containing her sisters change of clothes, carry her sister and go away. She would be left behind. She had to because of school. Her mother always told her education was the only thing that would save her. Give her a better life. But she always came back after a couple of days. Maybe a week. She always came back. A meeting with the family elders and everything would go back to normal. As if nothing ever happened.

There was someone calling at the door and her voice brought her back to her current situation. She rose from the dusty ground. Wiped her tears, arranged the sits that Duni had thrown around on stage chasing after her and went to the door to welcome her visitor who was getting impatient. She knew how the story would end. She had been through it more than enough times during the rehearsals and on several shows around the country. She had lived through it.