Black Boy Review

Lady Bolt by Ifeanyichukwu Eze

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

He pulled.
She struggled.
He pressed.
She wriggled. Harder he pressed himself on her, taming her wriggling to be free,  ruffling her effort. She screamed a muffled note, whispering a muffled plea.

Please sir…

Her hands flailed as they struggled from being held down. She weakened. They went down.

Don’t you dare shout…..I’m not hurting you….

Please sir….you have a wife…

Shhh….

Sir. ..Please. …

Her face felt a clap of his clammy palm on her left cheek,  and on her right too. She went lame. He stood above her on his knees unbuckling his belts, unbuttoning his trousers, pulling down the zip, feverish with speed.

She laid thinking. What would she do? She caught his ravenous eyes. Red! She remembered her legs. They were under his astride thighs. Numb! But she moved them anyway. They obeyed. They lifted, jammed the underside of his loins, his hungry yonder. She hit again, and again with a force that surprised her. She wanted to keep hitting, to keep hitting the balls.
He went weak with fury, lolling over beside her, grabbing the balls of his worm, and grinning loud with pain. She dragged herself up. He reared up and grabbed her legs. She steadied her hand on whatever she felt her hand had grasped. He lounged. She swung. His head received the smash. The  glass shattered on it. Blood trickled.

*******

Now I am here. My breathing is thumping the walls of my chest. I have not run like that for years since I won medals for my school at the inter-house sports. I was called lady bolt. I bolt like a spark. It did not matter if I was behind. I sprint pass like a flash.  They say I have long legs. And I’m tall and slim, and beautiful.

I am walking now, down the road. Cars drive pass once in a while. I look to see if any is coming for me. None stops, perhaps for now. It’s twelve am. I stop at the bus stop. I sit myself down. I stare. I stare at nothing but blankness. I touch my face, feeling the flesh of my cheeks.The pain of the slap is still there. It’s not the first. It’s just a new one on an old pile.
His wife doesn’t satisfy him or what? How is that my concern? I heard her on  phone the other day complaining to a friend that her husband doesn’t satisfy her. Worst still, he is seeing other women. She feels imprisoned in the marriage. He doesn’t allow her go out except in his company. But how is that my business?

I wash their cloths. Their dirty cloths. I clean their shit. I cook their food. I am always in the house. I can only sleep when everyone is asleep. Twelfth Am! One Am! And I have to resume work by four am. I wake up late sometimes. Most times! Did I come here to sleep?

How can  I even sleep when the children are a bunch of rodents, ages thirteen, eleven, and seven. Senseless noisy busybodies! Their voices like enchanted parrots buzz in my head, even in my sleep.

What’s that your  name?

Where are you from?

Are there lions in your country?

What about monkeys?  I can’t see your tail

Are you hiding it?

Why is your skin black?

I say nothing. What will I say? They wear new cloths everyday.  I wash them everyday. I stay awake and nod my head sleepily while they play video games or watch TV. I nod. They laugh. They tickle my ears with thread.  I slap the disturbed ear. They laugh.
Hey, my hands arch, you have to feed me. I’m hungry.
Have you washed my cloths…?
Clean my lips .There are stains of food on them
Clean mine too. ..and wear my shoes for me. ..
Don’t touch me, you smelly thing….
I will tell  baba to stop paying you.
You are lazy
You will go back to your country…your poor wretched country.
Mama, she is sleeping.
Hahahah. ….

They pour cold water on me while my head dances on my weak neck. I wake with a start, struggling for breath. I rub my palms down my face. They laugh. My eyes dance from one curious face to another. That is the only regard they have for my presence. They can’t stay still. Their voices ring out, clashing against their decibels. Their legs carry their slim bodies here and their, hiding and seeking. 
Stop that.  You will hurt yourselves. Hey …stop.. stop…stop. 

They kick an imaginary leather ball at each other; they climb about, jump down, scamper about. Their din is an eternal hum. The play becomes playfully intense.  A scuffle of two bodies ensures.One mouth sinks it’s teeth into the naked arm of the other.  The owner charges, pounces on the other body, sits on top of the body and  punches away without mercy , like they do in video games.

Stop. Stop. Stop.

I pull them apart and stand between them. I am angry.  I want to beat the hell out of them. They don’t care. They want to continue.

The child is crying and you are here?

Get your black ass here.

My face receives it. She owns my face. She slaps it as she likes. She gets a whip. It special for me. She swings. I dare not make her miss. I duck. She misses. She has to start all over. I gnash my teeth to kill the pain. Not this new pain, but an old one. She owns my body. The scares on my back have become designs like tress, fruitful tress, wet fruitful trees of pain.
What were you doing when they were ran around?
….and  he is bleeding?
His brother bit him…and  they didn’t want to stop.
Did you tell me?

No.

I wash the brat up. We go to the hospital. He is still whining. I pet him. I snuggle him to myself. He doesn’t stop. He will not stop. And I have to make him stop. I didn’t give him birth. How do I mother him like this? Tomorrow is another school day.They have their cars. They have monthly salaries. Why do they need to go to school. Why study?
Mama,  you have to take me to school in my own car…
Mama,  I don’t want to go to school today….I am not going…no mama..
No baba….
Baba,  my teacher beat me yesterday because I was talking. No, he said I was playing in class….
They call the police. The teacher is asked to leave the school premises before the police arrive.  He is never to return. He has lost his job it means.  Why didn’t he know that teachers are like puppets in this country? How could he smack the child with his dirty black hands? You dare not fail any child. Every child must get promoted to the next class. And the kids are unteachable.

I have only one free day in a whole month. Just one day. It’s a day I go and do some shopping at the mall. Does it matter?  Thankfully I am allowed to go on my own. I don’t buy nothing.  I just sit and look.The day comes and goes like it never comes. Work cycle takes me away again.  I sleep.  I don’t sleep.  I wake. I don’t wake. I clean. I scrub. I wash. I cook. I pet. I get beaten.

******

I remember his face. The agony stricken mass, a squeazed mass is staring at me like he is here. His deep groan still floats about me like he is close by. The redness of his eyes resembles the red that trickled out of his head, red with fury, red with hunger, hunger for me. The same way they look when he comes unobserved into the kitchen or anywhere around the house.  He smacks my ass like he is their owner. My breasts are a constant leisure for his hands.

They will call the police. How dare you raise your dirty foreign hands on the citizen. The locals? You stinking black shit! I will be put to jail before they fly me back to my country on the plane of shame. My madam wouldn’t plead for me but for her business. She can replace me with someone better. I am not good for business.

I have rarely seen her since I came here. I don’t know her much. She is the one who receives my salary.  How much? She gives me whatever she likes through an agent. The agent is answerable to another agent. There is another agent. I don’t know which is which. No. My business is to work: to keep them in business. Sometimes, I get nothing.

Maybe they don’t exist. Maybe my madam is all the agents. She is responsible for my coming here. I must pay her off. She has my passport as a collateral. 
Morning is drawing near. I can’t sleep. Sleep will make it come faster. I want to stay awake and control its speed, to delay it’s coming. But sleep will come. Morning will come anyway. When it comes, they will know that some black maid has smashed the head of her employer and ran away. They will find me.

(Photo from Carol Brown)

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