The day ended just like any other day. I closed from school, went to the market to get the keys. I came home and played with my friends while waiting for my mother to return from the market to cook dinner. She came home around 6pm, the normal time she returns from the market. That evening she didn’t cook. She brought waakye from the market. Waakye she bought in the afternoon that she couldn’t eat. That was what I ate that night. Around 7pm, she asked me, “Have you done your homework?” I responded, “No, today I didn’t come home with homework.” I was in JSS one. Fourteen or fifteen. My innocence was still intact. I had the dream of a child—to grow up a big man, marry, have kids, have a lot of money so I can give my mother a better life.
Those dreams every child has while growing up. We didn’t care so much how we were going to make the money. We saw too much suffering in the lives of our parents that all we could dream about was becoming the redemption our parents need. That night my mother went to bed early. We didn’t have a TV. No, We did. We had one but it was spoilt so I went to the next-door neighbor’s room to watch TV until it was around 9pm when I came back to sleep. My mom heard me entering the room so she asked me, “Have you locked the door?” I responded, “Yes I have.” She said, “And the trap door too. Did you lock it?” I said, “Yes mom, I did.”
We lived in a single room with a room divider. My mom slept on the bed behind the room divider and I put a mattress on the floor in front of the room divider and slept. As I said earlier, the day ended just like any ordinary day, and the night was expected to end the same way but it didn’t.
I was asleep when I heard the voices of men in our room. They were commanding my mother to keep quiet. One said, “Shhhh if you make any noise, we will kill you.” I thought I was dreaming. I didn’t open my eyes. Then I heard the voice of my mother. She was pleading. She said something like, “Please don’t kill me. I’m poor but I can give you everything I have. Everything I made when I went to the market today. It’s here. It’s under my pillow, you can have it.” I still didn’t open my eyes. I thought the dream was getting horrible and scary until I heard the sound of a slap, bam! It was that sound that woke me up. When I opened my eyes, I saw two huge men in masks. One was holding a huge stick that had nails all around it. The other one was holding two machetes, one in both hands. The one with the two machetes was standing at the door and watching what was happening.
They threw my mother on the floor next to me and started turning the room upside down. At this moment I didn’t know if what was happening was real or was just a bad dream until I got a slap from behind, wham! I fell on my mattress and the guy said, “Lie there quietly. Don’t try to get up.”
If they found anything more than my mother gave them at the initial stage, I would have been surprised. My mom had nothing. My school fees hadn’t been paid and sometimes, I had to go to school in the morning without pocket money. I would run back to the market during break time and eat and later return to school. A journey that took me more than the minutes our break time could allow. When those men didn’t get anything, they went into my mother’s bag and took the new clothes they could find. My mom had no use for those clothes but it was an investment she made. “When you’re going to senior high school and things get harder, I will sell them and raise money so you can go to school,” She once told me. But that night, those men carried my mother’s investment away.
When they finished searching and were about to leave, the one at the doorstep on my back and said, “Hey, get up, turn around and face the door.” I did just that. He gave his machetes to the next guy. By the time I realized she was struggling with my mother, trying to have his way with her. My mother was pleading. She was crying sad tears. She said, “Please my son is here. Don’t do this in front of him, I beg you in the name of God…” Her voice got muffled. Maybe he used my pillow to cover her mouth. He had his way, got up, and buckled his belt. I was lying on the floor crying and scared at the same time. After buckling his belt, he stepped on my back and said, “It’s your turn now.” “My turn? What do you mean it’s my turn? My turn to do what?” He said, “I know you have a girlfriend but your mother doesn’t know it. Come and show her that you’re a man.”
They pushed me on top of my mother. She was frozen. Her skin felt cold and the neck side of her dress was soaked with tears. I couldn’t look at her face. She also looked away. Her body felt too tired to fight back. The guy used the flat side of the machete to slap my back, “Common, do the do and stop wasting our time. Or you want my brother to come and do it so you learn how to do it?” They pulled down my shorts, placed me on top of my mother, and watch me as I go down and up on her. I was crying. My mother was crying too. They were standing there laughing. I was still on top when they opened the door and run away.”
I thought it was a dream I was going to wake up from. I prayed it should be a dream—a bad dream you wake up from and say, “Wow, that looked real.” The cock crowed. The birds started chirping. The skies brightened up for a new day to come. My mom got up and opened the windows to allow some light in. I was waiting for the awakening. That tap on my skin that causes me to rise up from my dreams. It never happened. My mom had cleared her eyes and was acting normal. Like nothing happened. Before she opened the door for us to begin the day, she said, “Whatever happened last night should never be mentioned anywhere. It’s a curse. Don’t ever stand anywhere and discuss it with anyone. Never in your life. It’s a secret you die with. Even when I die, don’t mention it behind me to anyone. You’re a child. You’ll someday forget and live life as if this day never happened.”
She opened the door only to be greeted by a large number of neighbors also talking about the attack. We were not the only ones who got attacked that night. The whole vicinity was attacked but no one talked about being sexually molested. Maybe it happened to them too and they decided to shush it just like my mother did.
My mom said I will forget but I never did. It pursued my childhood and traumatized my thought. I couldn’t look my mother in the eyes. Never. She would say, “Hey Sammy, look at me. Look at me when I talk to you.” But my eyes would be wandering on the floor, looking for what wasn’t there.
Time happened and I grew up. I had my first ever girlfriend when I was in the university. Alice. I’ve never seen any woman with the kind of beauty and intelligence Alice possessed. We started as learning mates from level hundred. I proposed to her at level three hundred when she had told me that a guy had been chasing her. Maybe I proposed to her because I didn’t want that guy to take her away from me. Alice noticed what was wrong with me right from the initial stages of our relationship. I would visit her hostel and not go inside. She would persuade me and I would still stay outside with her. She thought I was shy of her roommate so her roommate would excuse us. That was even worse. I would pressure her to take a walk with me. I will intentionally bring up coursework for us to discuss.
She tried to kiss me and I pushed her away. So she asked me, “Don’t tell me you’re that innocent at your age.” I smiled it off. I said something like, “This is not the reason why I proposed to you. I want us to stay this way until we get married. Don’t get me wrong, I love you to the moon and back and would do anything to keep you but let’s have some patience.”
We graduated and came back for our graduation ceremony. She booked a hotel for the two of us which I protested. Later, I allowed her to win. That night, she did everything for us to do shuperu. I was ready too but my joystick failed to rise. Everything was done to get it resurrected. It would but just when it gets to the action point, it will die again. She said, “I get it. That’s the reason why you’ve been playing hide and seek with me since the initial stages of our love.” I blamed it on stress. I pleaded with her not to take it the wrong way but she did and our relationship was never the same again until the dust of it settled right before our eyes. I lost Alice. It broke me to pieces. The only woman I’d loved and been in a relationship with was gone but I didn’t want to believe that I have a useless joystick. It rises in the morning and could stay up as long as I wanted it to so everything was supposed to be fine, right?
I tried it with my next two girlfriends and it was the same story. Anytime it gets to that point, I get flashes of that night. My mother’s tears. Her cold skin. Her helpless body and what she told me that morning after the incident. They all come up to spoil my good day.
I am thirty-seven years now. Gainfully employed and taking care of my mother the best way I can. She no longer sells in the market. She was living with me here in Accra but I thought her presence was the reason I couldn’t forget the incident so I got her a new place. A place far from me and set her up so she could be better off. I talk to her often but I don’t see her often. Yet, the problem is still the same.
She asks me why I’m not married. She tells me, “You are the only one I have. I gave birth to only you. Don’t you think it’s time to give me grandchildren? I still can’t look at her in the face. I get flashes of what happened that night. I asked myself, “What is she thinking? Is she so strong that she’s forgotten what happened or it’s just the weakness in me that won’t let me forget? I know I need help. I’ve googled my problems. They say I should talk to a psychologist. They say I should open up. Probably open up to my mother about my problem so the two of us can get help. I know that’s the way to go but I can’t muster the courage to bring it up. My mother has suffered enough. She has suffered for so long and this is the only time in her life that I can see her smile and know that the smile goes deeper. I don’t want to bring back the past and resurrect her pain.
I know she had worked hard to gain this sanity she has now. It’s my turn now. It’s my turn to work hard and work out my own salvation from the pain and torture of the past. It’s not going to be easy but I will take it a day at a time. Sharing this story here is the first step to healing. Until today, no living soul had heard what happened to us that night. But I’ve shared it here. A lot of people have heard it now. I know it’s anonymous but it’s a giant step all the same. I’ll read my own story and a crack will open inside of me to allow light to enter. A light that will shine out the darkness in me so I can be whole again. I know my demons. I’m taking the fight to them. Hopefully, I will win.