Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
I read a very interesting Igbo (one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria) poem sometime ago. Part of it reads :
Mgbe a muru nwa,
O bia kuo ume nke mbu,
O ya-ebe akwa,
N’ihi na, aruluala di n’uwa,
Mana, onye ka o ga-akosara?
It means :
When a child is born,
And takes his first breath,
Because, there is wickedness in the world
But, who can he tell?
Listening and understanding is more of a gift than an art. Many people don’t want to share what’s going on in their lives for a variety of reasons. Chances are, twelve percent of problems get solved, and the other eighty – eight percent do not get solved. So much for a problem shared getting solved. So, what’s the problem? Is the problem with us, the tragic narrators, or is it with them, the lukewarm listeners?
The girl that sells oranges at the market. She sells oranges after school, and sometimes doesn’t even go to school, just to make sure she sells everything. She comes home to an over-burdened mother who has five other children to take care of and is hindered heavily by a seventh pregnancy. There is no father at home because he is drunk somewhere and concentrates on his ashawo (mistress) more than he does on his starving family. And so she keeps selling oranges every day, until the day she is lured and sexually abused by a ‘nobody’. She gets pregnant, and all her hopes of ever becoming the best are shattered. She tells her friends, her fellow orange sellers. They advise her to go to some ‘quack’ who will ‘fix the problem ‘. She tells her mother, who responds with ‘not in my house ‘. And so she gets kicked out, out into the cold, into a life of nothingness, repeating her family’s cycle all over again like it were some kind of curse.
Or should we talk about the fat teenage boy who gets bullied at school, and returns home with a swollen, red-puffed eye as proof? He tells all about it to his workaholic parents over dinner that day. They only sigh and sympathize, saying ‘they were bullied at his age too.’ Next day he wakes up to find his parents gone to their more important jobs, with a note on the kitchen table for the nanny that includes the names and addresses of some psychiatrists and therapists in town who can ‘fix it’ before they return from their all-expenses-paid trip.
What about the maid who gets touched at night by her boss, when his wife is not around? Whenever the mother of the house goes away on official duty, he slips into the maid’s bedroom, and touches her in a way that goes far beyond professional relations. Pretty much every member of the maid’s friendship group is getting touched; it’s a way of furthering their positions. Resisting such a temptation would therefore be against her better judgement.
Should we talk about the student? She has a,bright, budding future ahead of her until she meets the love of her life, or put more appropriately, the undoing and the Waterloo of her life. What could be more downgrading than getting beaten and isolated from her friends and family because of a love that soured, turned to hate? She no longer has her privacy as he now regulates who calls her and who doesn’t. She talks to a counselor once, when she starts out anew in the relationship. He is quick to add that some relationships have their ups and downs. He isn’t sensitive enough to ask why she wears long sleeves in a hot office like his. If he did ask, she would show him the dark, burn marks of quenched-on-her-skin cigarettes that leave their marks on her brain.
Then there’s the girl from next door whose mother died. She’s been having a hard time making new friends after moving to a new school and getting used to this change-of-environment her father said would do them both good. She’s greeted too quickly and soon by a woman visiting her father most nights, claiming to be a ‘friend of the family’. Her sleeps are disturbed most nights by the banging of the headboards against the wall of her room and animalistic screams of ‘yes!’ , ‘More Baby!’ and ‘Harder!’ which is when the headboards hit violently like an ensuing bull fight. She tries to tell daddy but he’s rambling about getting married and starting a new family: ‘Can’t you be just happy for me, honey?’ And so she stays put and keeps her mouth shut.
Now, how about the girl across the street that every boy wants to have a good lay with? She has a pretty face and big breasts. Even at twenty-one, she still hasn’t forgotten. The childhood flashbacks still haunt her, tormenting her, tearing her very being apart. Her neighbour, Uncle Jon, as she fondly called him, opening up her skirt zip when Mummy left her in his care, forcefully putting his ‘being’ in her. She still has the memories, and still wets the bed during her night terrors and awkward dreams about Uncle Jon, and when no one is at home, she cuts herself sore. Little, painful, yet deep cuts, that leave painful, damaging psychological scars in their wake. She laughs like crazy, and cries at the same time whenever she makes a cut, because she talks to mummy, and mummy says ‘it’s okay to feel that way’ – end of story.
Now, don’t be quick to reply me, but just take your time to understand that there are inner ‘demons’ wanting to break free and all they need is a listening ear, and an understanding heart. Give or take, it’s either a win-win situation on the part of the narrator and listener, or it’s a lose-lose situation. We could decide to take it, or decide to leave it. Is brutal honesty the best policy?