at birth your father did not want you because you did not come with a penis
but the doctor was right behind him so he couldn’t flee
or strangle your mother to death
so you lived.
you were only seven when your mother started making you wear ‘decent’ clothes when your uncle came around.
you did not understand this, or why she did,
but you were quick to learn that your body, as young as it was then,
was a thing to be put away.
because it made men go astray,
and you had to be careful not to seduce your fifty three year old uncle
and make him do something he did not want to do.
when you turned nine, you realised that you weren’t doing your work well enough.
your uncle loved to touch your thighs
and conveniently brush his palm against your chest
sometimes he did this in front of your mother, and she acted as if she didn’t see him.
sometimes she laughed.
but when he left, she would call you in
and chastise you — -but you didn’t know what for, and she didn’t say either.
you just knew that you were ultimately, inevitably the receptor of blame.
so that when he did it — -
that night, when he asked you to buy him a cigarette,
sneaked out to corner you against a wall,
and invaded your body,
your mother — -and your father, when he later knew, in far away Borno — -
said it was your fault, because you wore a spaghetti top.
you were a brilliant child and you deserved that class captain post.
you wanted to become a leader at only eleven years old,
and everybody agreed you were the most fit for the job,
you also took the first position in the test your teacher wanted to use to choose a captain.
but your class teacher didn’t seem to think so.
she gave the post to the second best candidate
because he was a boy.
your father never came back from Borno.
your mother said it was your fault, she seemed to think he left her
because she couldn’t give him a boy.
you too, you thought to yourself, why did you have to come as a girl?
before you clocked sixteen, you were already ‘ripe’. you looked like a grown woman
everybody told you this.
when you walked on the street, men who had nothing going on for themselves
whistled and shouted ‘fine girl!’ ‘sister!’ ‘my size!’ at you.
and the ones that did not shout,
stared you down as you came and went.
the girls in the neighbourhood envied you. they said you should be happy those men considered you attractive.
but you weren’t.
not one bit.
it made you feel like a piece of meat.
some said your mother wasted too much time by waiting
until you were eighteen
to marry you off to a rich man.
of course you didn’t want to get married,
but you never had say over your own life
since the day you were born a girl.
so your mother exchanged you for tubers of yam, kola nut and gin bottles
and you became a wife
to a man old enough to be your father.
your husband loved it when you did things to him,
he loved owning you.
only a few months after,
he found a light skinned girl. she was two years older than you. your husband loved her more than he loved owning you.
but his love vanished into thin air after, only months later,
she fled with his bank cards and land documents
your husband raged with anger.
he started to transfer the aggression to you
when he had to drastically go from a big businessman
to a taxi driver.
at first he was only hitting you once in four days.
until it became more frequent,
and soon you were walking around with a big gash on your head
that reopened every two days.
you wanted to go back to your mother but
you didn’t know where she was.
and your husband continued to beat you,
until one day, when your body gave up
and you died by his blows.
Omotoyosi Salami is a poet and writer living in Lagos, Nigeria. A lot of her writing is influenced by the various inequalities that exist in her country and her culture, Yoruba, and its traditions. Her work have been published in Kalahari Review, Brittle Paper and Constellation Journal. If you do not find her reading a book, you will find her writing something. She is on Twitter as YORUBASNFLWR