There was a hurried knock on the door then it swung open. I heard a screeching noise and my mother poked her head through the bedroom. I skipped the laundry pile on the floor to the bathroom to hide my modesty behind a towel. I was not fast enough. Her eyes surveyed my body while I cupped my hands over my chest. She said nothing and proceeded to greet me.
“How was your sleep?” she asked.
“Well and you?” I said.
“The sun is up,” she replied. My mother had not changed a single bit. It had been 10 years since I left home to start a life and family of my own and still, her answers to routine questions were flat. If you said “I need money” the response was always “Where do I come in?”
“Mayo, that’s rude,” I scolded her and shooshed her away from the bedroom. She hesitantly walked out with her head ostriching around. Still the same nosey mother from when I was a handful teen.
“Come to breakfast,” she echoed from the wall between us and then I heard her tiny feet stomp the passage to the dinning table.
Alone, I took a deep breath before deciding to dip myself into the tub. Momentarily, I questioned the wisdom of my decision to take a cold bath, but the nurse’s prescription mattered. It mattered that I listen. It mattered that I heal.
5 seconds later I sunk myself into the salts of the water and hissed at the pain. One slash on my back for questioning him about his drinking. Another slash on my chest for for tending to cleaning duties at church. The most memorable one was the one that landed on my face last night. Our son had not done well in his school term – not according to Martin’s standards anyway- he came 5th and Martin was not having it.
“Musonda!” his voice thundered. “No son of mine will get pathetic results.”
“I’m sorry daddy,” Musonda sobbed. I could hear our 10 year old son’s regret in his voice as he assured his father he didn’t mean to fail.
“Who came first?” Martin asks, patronizing him.
From behind the wall I heard Martin stroke Musonda with a belt he had him pick himself. It broke me to a thousand pieces but my fear was by far greater than my pain. He was going to kill me if I dared interrupt his disciplinary session.
“Linda came first because she loves her parents. You came fifth because you don’t. If you loved us- If you loved me, you would have topped your class.” Martin added as he continued to batter our son. My heart thudded against my chest until I couldn’t bare it anymore.
I finally built up my courage and stormed into our bedroom to stop him from hitting our son then he decided I had disrespected his authority in our home and waved the belt at me. I could feel the landing of the blades of leather on my face and rip my skin apart. As blood splattered, my brain decided it was time to go and I packed what I could for our son and myself, then I fled to my mother’s house.
Tiny drops of red tricked from my skin, staining the water. I could smell the blood. It was as if a dazzle of unfortunate Zebras had tried to cross a crocodile infested river, then inevitably became a meal. The salts pinched as they dissolved into my skin and stung excruciatingly. It was a reminder of the horror. I had lived it for so long.
I drained the tub only to refill it and remained curled in the pool of water as I wondered why my mother had not said anything. She knew why I had come. I didn’t have to explain. But she was not addressing the elephant in the room and that made me cry, almost. Are things like this left unsaid? I pondered as I circled my index finger on the surface of the water. The load I was carrying was heavy, but I was taught to be strong. I was taught to perceiver. Ukushipikisha, yet I had now run to my mother for refuge when I shouldn’t have. I had broken all the codes written down by the Bana Chimbusas. I held back. Not today, I assured myself. Big girls- married girls don’t cry. They put on a happy face and mask their pain.
I could hear Musonda’s voice outside laughing joyously. He had become attached to the neighbors children very quickly and I was elated to know that.
Covering up was another horror I was bound to because the fabric stuck to the wounds. Taking them off was agonizing. I wished that today would be different, but it was foolish of me to expect better results from the same method. I thoughtfully sat on the floor to enjoy its coolness then my mother came in once again.
We said nothing to each other, but our minds met to discuss. She reached her hands towards me to help me get up but I ignored the gesture for the simple fact that I needed her to confront me. To seat by me. To hold me. To assure me. And she did. I gave into her sympathy and sobbed silently. I didn’t have to tell her anything.
“Big girls don’t cry,” she said as she wiped my tears with the back of her right hand.