(based on a true story)
It rained this morning. I gazed out of my window, contemplating the clouds in the sky and the ones in my mind. Burdened with anxiety and depression, I rolled my shoulders and tried to summon the strength needed to face the day. Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I dressed listlessly, I detachedly observed the bleakness of my expression; my eyes were two disused tunnels.
I don’t know how many of you have been here before, but I’m here to tell you that it’s not for children. Whenever I sit in a group of people, forcing my face to go through the motions, my mind is shrouded in black velvet, dark, heavy. For everyone else, life is moving on, getting better, getting brighter. For me, I am at a terminus. It is the end of an era. For me, I have been forced to grow up.
You see, just one short month ago, I was a well-adjusted, happy young woman who had life in a firm grip. I was in my final year at the university and I couldn’t wait to graduate. I had finished my final exams and it was that anxious yet giddy time of waiting for results to be out. A group of us decided to stay back in school instead of spending the pseudo-break at home. You know how it is; trying to run away from the endless errands that is par for the course when you’re at home, doing nothing.
I had known Kingsley for a long time. We were buddies, him and I, unencumbered by any pesky attraction or tension. He was one of my favorite people in the world, and considered him perfectly safe, contrary to the dire warnings of many of my friends. He was a bit of a skirt chaser, that Kingsley, and had a reputation that would make Solomon weep. He worked at a known nightclub for extra money and would often take me there on Thursdays. Everyone from the bartender to the bouncers knew who I was, and I spent many a Thursday night doing assignments smack dab in the middle of the club.
This Thursday in particular, my mother had called me to come home for a reason I can’t remember now. I blew her off, pleading that I had to tweak my project some more. We went to the club as usual, and Kingsley and I hung out at the bar. He always kept an eye on me, even if he was grinding against some girl in a corner. Today, he was called off to the VIP lounge to do some troubleshooting and I decided to go to the little girl’s room to fix my face. On my way out I bumped into someone. He steadied me and laughed, apologizing for his clumsiness. I noticed he was rather bright-eyed. I assured him I was fine, and made to brush past him, when he grabbed my hand and asked to buy me a drink. I agreed, and to this day, I sometimes wonder how things would’ve turned out if I had just said no, thank you.
We got to talking, and he was so witty and charming. He told me he was called Ade and he was an architect. He seemed so enamored of me, it was cute. He kept gazing at me and grinning like an idiot. I had never felt so powerful over a man. He suggested that we go outside to his car where it would be more quiet and private. I was a little apprehensive, and he laughed and promised that we would leave the car door open.
We were sitting in his car, talking and laughing, when I saw a shadow loom over me. I looked up to find Kingsley, his face thunderous. He asked me to step down from the car, that he wanted to speak to me. I wasn’t happy, but I went with him because I knew he wasn’t above creating a nasty scene. I apologized to Ade and told him that I would be back soon. I followed Kingsley to the little room off the back where the members of staff keep their personal effects. Immediately we got in, Kingsley started screaming at me about how I had no sense, that why would I follow a man I barely know into his car, if I was so sex-crazed that I was willing to get it anywhere. Of course, I wasn’t having it and I soon started screaming back. One thing led to the other and next thing I knew, my palm was tingling and he was staring at me, hand on his cheek.
The next few minutes I don’t remember much of. I remember him slamming me face forward against the wall. I remember tasting blood and screaming at him that what did he think he was doing. I remember him muttering over and again about teaching me a lesson and giving me what I was so desperate for. I could smell the overpowering scent of alcohol on his breath, his hands, all over. I remember I tried to kick him and he kicked me back so hard, my knees gave way. I struggled and tried to turn, but he backhanded me and pinned me against the wall. At that point, I left my outrage at the side and true fear filled me. I started begging Kingsley. I told him to remember who this was, who I was. He was beyond listening and as I felt the first sharp searing pain in my groin, inside me, I fell quiet.
Afterwards, I sat limply on the floor, staring into space. He sat beside me, hands on his knees, head bowed. I had nothing to say. Nothing left in me, no anger, no hatred, nothing. Kingsley lifted his head and started begging me. He was crying. I simply looked at him blankly. I struggled to get up, and he scrambled to his feet and lifted me, bundled me into his car, and we went back to school. I didn’t say a word throughout.
The next day I went home. I didn’t bother trying to act jolly; I basically shut myself up in my room. My folks were worried, but they assumed that I was flunking and I silently encouraged the assumption so that I could be left alone. I had ample time to think. I wondered where I went wrong. I wondered whether I secretly wanted it, maybe I could have fought harder. I wondered if I’d ever tell anyone and if I did, if anyone would believe me. A lot of people already assumed that Kingsley and I were friends with benefits. I took showers. So many showers, my mother banged on the bathroom door whenever I went in. Above all, I cried. I cried and cried until I was so sure that my heart would break. I turned my phones off because Kingsley wouldn’t stop calling.
Yesterday, he came to my house. I was in my room when the gateman rang the bell and said there was someone outside to see me. I think a part of me hoped he would come, because I needed to make some sense of what my life had become, but , the moment I saw it was him, I almost ran back in. He grabbed my arm and the old fear came back. I had to remind myself, convince myself that nothing would happen to me here. He knelt down there, outside my gate on the street and started crying, begging me. He said he was drunk that night, he said it was the devil; he said he had never forced anyone in his life. I asked him why he started with me. He cried harder, and begged me to forgive him. Strangely, I was not angry. You reading this may think me crazy, but this was Kingsley. I was disgusted and sad, deeply sad. I turned my back on him and locked my gate.
Inside my house, I crumbled. I lay on the floor in my room facedown with my hands on the back of my head and sobbed, deep wracking sobs. I didn’t know I still had any tears left in me. I cried for everything I had lost, my pride, my innocence, my naïveté, my trust. You hear of these things, but you never think it would happen to you. And if it does happen, it suddenly seems like there’s nothing you can do that will ever put things right again. I knew what I had to do, but I was so afraid. What if I told people and they blamed me? Would anyone believe me? Plus, a part of me wondered what would become of Kingsley. I got absolutely no sleep last night. Instead I sat huddled in a corner of my bed, the enormity of my situation weighing on me.
This morning, it rained. I gazed out of my window and rolled my shoulders. I dressed and observed my face in the mirror. I walked out of my room, crossed the hall to my parents’ door, lifted my hand, and knocked.