I’m Itohan – or should I say, was? You see, if you’re reading this, I’m probably dead already. I’m hoping somehow, this letter never gets out, because, obviously.
My story is not an interesting one, it won’t catch the attention of blogs or social media, I’m just a grain in the heap of sand, but I want you to listen and I want you to pay attention to my life story, or what’s left of it.
I want you to understand that I’m a child and I pray you don’t blame me for my mistakes. You see, it started when Iya Ibeji moved in the neighborhood. No one knew her real names and no one asked. She had no children, so we wondered where she got the nickname from, but no one asked,again. In my neighborhood, you couldn’t be bothered with those things. Oh, but she was rich. Bank executive, she said. I couldn’t care less, about her hummer jeeps and covered number plates,those we thought were the perks of working in a bank.
The day it started, I went to buy akara down the street. Remember what they said about the fly following the corpse to the grave? A-ha! The one. You see, I should have listened to mother and had noodles for breakfast like the rest of the family, but isn’t it too late to explain to you guys that I’m allergic to noodles and I was craving some soft bean cakes to be pursued by a hot bowl of Ogi – I guess it’s similar to what the rest of you call pap or Akamu, but you sha get my point.
When the horn beeped the first time, I wasn’t paying attention, until the bean cake seller tapped me excitedly and pointed to the car with the tinted windows.
“Are you having a heart attack, mama? “
I didn’t see the excitement in a car parked by the roadside. My father had a car, so it was nothing new.
“Don’t be silly,child. That is Iya ibeji calling you. “
She said this in an impatient manner that would suggest I wasn’t being appreciative enough of my good fortune and she shooed me away towards the car, promising to wrap my purchase and set it aside for me. I went towards the car, wondering why they called her Iya ibeji when she had no children. Remember what I said about the fly and the corpse? Or didn’t our parents warn us about talking to strangers? I should have listened, but Iya ibeji isn’t one you’d call a stranger. You know those neighbours everyone knew but no one really knew? Yes!
That evening, she was in our living room explaining to mother why a foreign degree in nursing would be loads better than going to Unilag. You see, from our conversation in the morning, she knew I was a jambite and she said to mother
“You know that her score won’t get her nursing here, you know how our country is na, it’s to your advantage if she goes abroad than staying another year at home..”
They discussed into the night and I got tired of peeping from the kitchen doorway. I don’t know what the final decision was but our pastor came to the house everyday, the next week and told me he sees a clear path where I was going. Father wasn’t too pleased with the idea but mother had the final say in things like this. She showed him the acceptance letter from the school in Wisconsin ,the one we would later find out was a forgery but somehow ,that sealed the deal.
On a rainy Sunday morning ,I left Lagos in a 14-seater filled with girls I would later refer to as coursemates . My mind was far away as we bumped on the roads leading to the seme border. All I heard in my subconscious was Iya ibeji telling mother I had the nurse look and I would be sending money home soon. I wondered,but I never asked why we were going to the US by road when I had my passport in my bag – Iya ibeji promised to handle the visa and we let her. My parents are not poor, we were middle class with our own house ,car and dog, but we trusted the neighbour .
We got to Togo late in the night and everything went skrrr from there. They said the incisions were to protect us, and when we asked why two of the girls were beheaded and butchered, they told us in pidgin ,that
“Their head no good”
I never understood what they meant until later but I started planning my escape. Don’t ask why I never called home. They took our phones as we got on the bus. I was sixteen, alone and helpless,I hope you understand now.
Over the next few weeks, I was transferred from one detention camp to another. In the unfortunate children get to read this letter, I rather save them the horrors of my rape story but I’ll let you know it was endless and some nights $40 an hour with too little food and sometimes no water. The boys amongst us were sold off at auctions, beaten with sticks and stabbed. Many died, but we had learnt not to cry. By this time, we were well in Libya and I worked nights at a local pub.
What I didn’t know was that my parents were receiving letters and postcards from an address in Wisconsin and they had thrown a party to celebrate my success. When they asked for video calls and a facebook account, the letters would claim I was staying off social media to focus on my studies and my parents blessed my soul. If only they knew!
I started hearing of girls vanishing in the nights. First, they said they were in Italy, but we saw shoes and other articles of clothing that couldn’t be left behind but we never asked. In this life, you didn’t ask too many questions, lest you vanished too. I didn’t ask questions the night I vanished either . It was a limo this time, I had been bought by a rich Arab to attend to his son and his friends.
They did things to me and made me do things – things that would make your mother blush to think about. Sometimes I had to get stitches at the doctor’s and resume work that same night. The doctor was middle aged and had no expression on his face – he was used to young girls brought in bleeding from places the sun didn’t shine. On rare occasions he would warn me to hold still lest I ended up like the girls who left his operating table in black bags for the morgue. I was in pain, yet mother told her friends I was entering my final year in nursing school ,about to be the first foreign nurse in the family.
Remember what I said about the fly? A-ha! I should have said no, insisted and fought, the night the Arab young man wanted to try something new. I don’t know what went wrong, it could be from all the pills he had been downing with outrageous amounts of tequila, but he stopped moving and I was huddled in a corner, muffling the sobs and saying the Hail Mary under my breath. Even before I died, I knew.
I had killed a rich man’s son. They weren’t going to wait for an autopsy, it was the black girl’s fault. As they bound me and sealed my mouth with duct tape, I thought of mother. When I was dizzy from the floggings and warm blood was dripping down my back, I thought of the day I refused to eat noodles and knew I should have starved instead. I never should have left the house that morning. They double taped my mouth with another mask of duct tape, my screams were being heard in the hallway and they couldn’t have that, and as they stabbed me repeatedly in the back with a slender knife, I thought of the fly and the corpse.
Two weeks from now, my parents would read in the news and see on the television, corpses of young girls of Nigerian descent abandoned on the streets of Libya. We would never be identified, of course. You see, our parents would receive letters from addresses in the US, telling of how we graduated nursing school and were interning in a community hospital. They would throw another party and give thanks to God their daughters were not part of the girls who died on the streets of Libya, prostituting to make quick money and pepper them on Instagram. They wouldn’t know of course, that the letters would stop coming in a few weeks and they would wonder why we abandoned them after the amount of money they sent weekly to our addresses in the US. For now, they party.
As I was lowered into the mass grave along with three other compatriots, I thought of social media, awash with news of the slave trade in Libya. At first, they wouldn’t care. Then, Chris Brown would talk about it, then suddenly everyone would be concerned. Posts would be made, songs sung, videos shot, but it would all die down in a few weeks. You see, bad news didn’t make for good press. People didn’t want to know there was trouble in the world.
In a few years, mother would realize I was never coming home. She would March to Iya ibeji’s but would get turned away by armed security. Now, Iya Ibeji should be building her fifth apartment in banana island, the banking industry was booming, of course. My parents would put two and two together and understand what happened to me, they would report to the ministries and nothing would happen.
Father would die of a heart attack on his 50th birthday and mother would live with guilt till her death two years after. I would be in the grave of course, with a mask that will never come off.