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Telling Mother: A Short Story by Nan Owo

“Help me Mother,” I heard myself saying, “Help me get it right in my mind. I’ve fought long, fought hard and fought alone. I’ve run out of tears. The pain has numbed my body. But my spirit refuses to be oppressed.”


Most times I resort to telling half truths. I wonder what people see when they look at me. I try to step outside myself, to catch a glimpse, to test, to tease, to gauge whether the pain shows on my face. If it doesn’t then I know I’d done a perfect job of concealment. My day to day activity consists of scorning memories, trailing emotions, reliving nightmares and hushing demons. Tension wraps round me tightly like the skin of fresh melon.

Now I look into the eyes of the soul that bore me clothed me and fed me. How could I look her in the eye and tell her that I’m not whole. How do I break mother’s heart by telling her a mother’s worst nightmare? How does a daughter tell her mother the man she opened her doors to would unlock the unopened door of her daughter’s modesty?

Many a time, I toyed with the idea. I would open my mouth and tell her what happened. More importantly, how long it had been happening. I would begin by first reassuring her that I was ok. How strong I’ve been keeping it all in for twenty years. I’d tell her that it didn’t matter that she hadn’t known then. When he used to come to me whenever she was away working hard to make me happy and comfortable. How it all went further than she’d suspected when she saw him touching me. I’d tell Mother how he showed me places I wasn’t ready to go. And how he made me do things I only did it because of the candy he promised me. I’m sorry Mother. I didn’t know any better then. The other kids would be playing out side and when he was done he’d tell me not to tell anyone. Not even you. He said if I told you, you would be mad at me. So I didn’t tell you. I never told you because I didn’t want you to think if you’d given me enough candy, it would never have happened.

But now I want you to know. I’m ready for you to know Mother, I’d hear myself say.

Well, I’d start by telling her that all that didn’t matter. I’d tell her that what was more important was that I had turned out a strong woman. I’d then reassure her that I’m going to be okay. That she has always been my pillar of strength though I never had the strength to confide in her. Because I couldn’t stand to see the look on her face.

I’d tell her that there have been times when I didn’t feel like a woman. When I’d be overwhelmed with feelings I never knew I deserved to possess. I’d tell her how many times I stopped myself from running into the arms of every other man who opened his arms to me. How I always felt confused and overwhelmed. How the most basic emotions were always a struggle to comprehend. That many times, I thought of giving up altogether. Perhaps I should tell her how close I came to ending it all. Perhaps I will. Yes, I will.

I’d tell her how hard it was waking up each day to fight a demon that had neither a face nor a name. She deserved to know that there was a time when all I contemplated was ending my life. She needs to know of how many times I’d stand on the balcony, leaning against the balustrade and the ground beneath would call out to me. How the earth seduced me and begged me to be one with it. How whenever I’d drive, the other cars called out to be rammed into. How I always thought the next bend I come around might be my last. How with every pill I popped, others begged to be popped along to. How the kitchen knife always seemed more like a play thing and how I longed to feel the crest of cold metal that longed for the warmth of my heart. I’d tell her of how many times it came close to feeling my pulse, but that her grieving face stopped me. I’m here because of you Mother, I’d hear myself tell her. I couldn’t stand to break your heart by ending it all.

But she’d be too busy crying now.

I’d tell mother to stop crying. She might not listen. All she’s wondering is how her little baby has been through so much. So I’d wipe my own tears and tell her I’m really okay now. I’m healed. I don’t hate anyone Mother, not even men, really. I know there are nice ones too and I already have one that’s mine.

I have a boyfriend and he loves me and perhaps someday we’ll get married. She’d wonder if I love him too. And I’d tell her that I do. Then she’d ask me if I think he’s the one for me. I’d tell her that my heart tells me he is and that if he wasn’t, I’d soon realize and find someone else. That the one who’s meant to be mine is waiting out there for us to discover each other. How perfectly he would complement me. How we would merge into one. How he would scotch my face with hot kisses even though inside I felt disgusted and dirty. He would convince me otherwise when I try to convince him that he’s making a mistake by even looking at something so repulsive. No, he wouldn’t listen to me. Instead he would make me a woman again. How I would want nothing more than to loose myself in him. Someone who sees me for what I am. Someone who could strip away my defenses and let me experience life, the way it’s meant to be. Someone who will tell me that he’s real standing right there in front of me, wanting to be loved by me.

She’d say, forget about the men, what about you, are you alright? She’d begin to apologize for not noticing all the little signs. Then I’d cut her short. I’d tell mother, that I don’t cry myself to sleep every night. I’d tell her that the world is a beautiful place. I’d tell her that the hellishness has been reduced to a manageable slice of relief. That I’ve managed to shove those cumbersome thoughts aside. That whenever one surfaces to drag me down I fight it with all the might I have. I’ll tell her how I’ve always made my own happiness. How I’ve always felt alone in the world, not because I hated it, but because I couldn’t bring myself to get along with the world. I always loved to be locked away in the demented depths of my inner sufferings. I couldn’t blame the world.

I’d tell her I’ve had enough pain. That I’m ready to begin my life again. Afresh. I’m telling you mother much as you’d rather not hear it. And if it tears you too apart, together we’ll piece you together again.

Nan Owo
Nan Owo
Mrs. Owo is a Batonu woman married to an Ijebu man. Her short story 'Changing Ways' was published by Silverfish Books in 2004 while she was a biology major in Universiti Sains Malaysia. As an African youth growing up in Asia she turned to writing to express the inner longing for her continent. Now as a woman back in Nigeria she writes mainly because there is no better way to spend her time.

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