Whore of the World

Miriam was the whore of the class. Ore told Temitayo that, five years ago when they were in their first year. She told Temi because she knew that was her best bet to make the rumor spread. Temi could spread the secrets of heaven, if she knew them. There was nothing that could keep that girl’s mouth shut.

And Ore didn’t know what she was doing. She didn’t know the magnitude of her lies, or how much, eleven-year old Miriam would pay for them later on. She didn’t know she was destroying a life, or that she was not the first person to do it. All Ore knew was that she was getting revenge. Miriam was smart, and pretty, and the lead singer in the class choir. Miriam was bold—so much bolder than she was meant to be. She was only smart because she was a year older than the rest of the class, Ore knew, so she didn’t understand why she was so proud.

Miriam was the whore of the class, Temi heard from Ore. And Temi never liked Ore much either. Temi couldn’t keep secrets—even she knew that—but the only thing she had never told anybody was that the boy she liked had told her he liked Miriam instead. Now that Temi thought about it, it was probably Miriam pawning herself off on him. Temi decided it had to be true. Miriam was the class whore.

And Temi didn’t realize that the childish hatred in her grew with every lie she spread. Every time she would say the word “Whore”, she would feel this heat in her, this confirmation that she was doing the right thing—punishing a sinner, like the grown-up people always talked about. She would take the lie up a notch, with every person she told, and sometimes she’d tell the same person twice to make sure she didn’t miss out on anything. Temi did what Temi did best. She spread the word.

Miriam was the whore of the class, Tobi already knew this. It was their third year, and he was thirteen and cocky. He knew he was handsome, and he knew the way girls fawned over him. Even Miriam looked away shyly when he approached, which always puzzled him because he expected “Whores” to be so much bolder. But he decided it was an act, a sort of chase. His father had told him, his brother had told him, the male seniors had told him, how much girls loved the chase. How much they wanted some force. And it helped a lot that he was so beautiful, they told him. Girls were silly, and if he gave them enough compliments, with a face like his, they’d be putty in his arms.

And Tobi wouldn’t know, until many years later when he’d read Miriam’s name on a newspaper, how high he had piled the bricks of her destruction. She was his first girlfriend, and you could say he liked her because she was pretty and interesting to talk to. But that wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted what he had heard the boys in their hostel talk about. He wanted the things he had been taught that all boys wanted. He wanted the things she refused to give. And his emotions went from shock, because he realized she was not what the rumors said she was, to anger, because he realized she had turned him down. And he acted on that anger, and you could say his lies helped to solidify Miriam’s monument in that class. The whole class knew now that she was what she was, even though that wasn’t what she was.

Miriam was the whore of the class, and Idris had a thing for class whores. The girl who had been given that label in his class had been his girlfriend for almost two months, but they had broken up when they both got tired. He liked promiscuity in girls because it was so much more fun for him. He wasn’t a forceful person, he wasn’t a bad person. He liked what he liked, and there was nothing wrong with that.

And he liked Miriam, which was wrong, but he would not know that until almost thirty years later, when his fourteen year old daughter would spend the night with her eighteen year old boyfriend that he didn’t know she had. Then, he would remember Miriam, like a ghost haunting his memories. He would remember how she was just a little girl—barely thirteen, when he did the most despicable thing he had ever done in his life. He would put his head in his hands, for a moment, and pray to forget it. Pray to erase the memory of seeing her face all those years later on the internet. Pray to end the guilt. The next day he would have forgiven himself, and moved on to punishing his daughter because, unlike what Idris constantly told himself, he was a bad person. He was the worst kind.

Miriam was the whore of the school. Yes, in her fourth year she had earned that title, such an honor for someone so young. She didn’t understand what was happening, or why, or how it could be happening to her. Did these people even see her as a human being? Or as some news headline to pass around in their free time or when they weren’t listening in class? She would walk through the halls of the school, sit through the classes, and listen to the whole world tell her how evil she was, how despicable, because she had slept with Idris the year before. They all used the word “sex”, and even when the memory of the rape kept bouncing through her head like a rogue tennis ball, she didn’t make efforts to tell them the truth. If it was truth they wanted, they wouldn’t have let it go this far in the first place.

And the school didn’t know that their complacence, their acceptance of the terrors that were haunting this little girl, would pave the way to what would be her demise. The school, with all its morals and ideals written in permanent ink on every brochure and flyer, created the end of this girl. They saw the cracks in her walls and made no effort to mend them, and when they crashed and fell over they weren’t there to pick her up from underneath the rubble.

Miriam was the whore of the school, the teachers had heard. And it was a big school too, so that was a serious allegation. But considering the only “serious allegations” the school took seriously were homosexuality and atheism, they all turned away from the “childish rumor-mongering” of their students without much thought. All, except one man: Mr. Charles Adeyemi. Mr. Adeyemi was the chemistry teacher, and he had been teaching Miriam for almost two years now. She was smart, and serious, and her breasts were full and her waist was tiny. But best of all, she was lonely. Of what he had planned to do, he knew that she would not have a friend to fall back on. He knew she was the perfect victim.

And you could say Mr. Adeyemi had a clue to what his actions would drive Miriam to in the end. You could also say that he didn’t. And when he had locked his office doors and pounced on her, you could say that he didn’t care.

Miriam was still the whore, but not of her school anymore. She was the whore of her neighborhood, and her rounding belly was as much proof as anyone needed. A fifteen year old, pregnant. What could be the reason? Of course it had to be her fault, the world said. She was wayward, this was her punishment. And when Miriam gave birth her parents took the child and sent her out of the house. “We’re not feeding the two of you,” they’d told her. “If you’re old enough to give life, you’re old enough to live on your own.”

And her parents did not think of anything more than their anger, and their reputation, and the “sins” that Miriam had committed. They did not think of her. And when Miriam went out into the world, she was no longer a human being. She had become a slab of meat, a bag of bones, an empty, dead creature slugging through streets by day, and cursing the moon at night. She had decided, somewhere inside her, how all this was going to end. She was dead before she died.

Mr. Adeyemi heard the news from the school principal. He didn’t even know who “Miriam” was.

The students heard it in passing, like the same sort of gossip that Miriam’s name was always accustomed to. They all gave moments of silence, they all pitied for her parents, they all “wondered what she had gone through”, and then they heard Nnedi—a fifth year student—had failed her promotional exams, and Miriam’s name disappeared from the school like a whisper.

Idris saw the news on social media; and when he saw pictures of her when she was still alive, he powered off his laptop and went to class.

Tobi saw her name on the obituaries page in the newspaper. Apparently she had written a suicide note, and an NGO had decided to honor her as a victim of bullying. He said a little prayer for forgiveness and tore out the page.

Temitayo saw the news on a blog. She hadn’t believed it was Miriam at first, but persistent research told her that it was what it was. She made a long, six-paragraph comment about how she was close friends with Miriam, and how she was devastated that she was no longer here. She managed to shed a single tear—for effect—and went to bed.

Ore saw it on the news, and saw censored shots of Miriam’s body that they had pulled out of the water. She had cried, and she stayed awake all night, not even able to shut her eyes for her fear of seeing Miriam’s eyes—eyes that she had killed—in the dark. A month later Ore would think about Miriam once in a while, and still feel the guilt creep up like snake vines. A year later the guilt would be gone, completely blocked out by denial, and Miriam would just be “that girl that life got to”. Years later, when Ore tells Miriam’s story to her children, she would say “Miriam was a terrible girl, she ran away from home, and got killed.” And she would try with everything in her to believe that.

Adesire Tamilore is a 17 year old Nigerian and can be reached on Twitter and Instagram at @DesireTSmith