MY name is Margaret—

That there was the problem—I didn’t know what my surname was. I had one. One I was registered in school with. One that appeared on my baptismal card. One that was added after my name when I visited the hospital weeks back on a bad case of Malaria Parasite.

But that surname wasn’t mine. No, it didn’t belong to me. It didn’t come from my place and time of birth. And that too was another problem—I didn’t know my place and time of birth. I didn’t know the woman who birthed me and I didn’t know the man who sired that birth. I didn’t know who I was, where I came from and if I dared be truthful, I did not know where I was heading to.

The only beginning I clearly recall was one where I briefly lived with a very old woman. It was a long time ago and I only lived briefly with the old woman as she soon died.

Was she my grandmother? Or any relation of mine?

I did not know. I called her ‘Mama’—everyone did. And she was not exactly nice to me. She sometimes kept me without food and she made me work too hard. Maybe it was because she barely had enough to eat herself and did not have the strength for harder house chores.

Maybe. I did not know why she treated me like she did. But she died and I had no home again. That was until I was found on the streets, begging for money to purchase food, one very sunny afternoon four years ago by Sister Mary-Cynthia.

She asked me my name and then proceeded to ask me more questions than I’ve had to answer in the longest, most agonising half hour of my life where I suffered the trauma of visions of the fifty naira note I was anticipating getting from her filtering through my mind while she hounded me with her endless questions.

Finally, her chronicle of questions ended and instead of opening the bogus black handbag she carried on one shoulder, she nodded her head as if in response to a voice only she could hear and then told me to follow her. I think I must have gaped at her for longer than one minute because she soon started reassuring me that she wanted to take me home with her and take care of me. I still would not go with her. But one of the men, around whose store I usually begged, talked me to and convinced me to go with her instead of remaining on the streets as a beggar.

So I followed her and she took me to the convent where she lived with other Reverend Sisters and four other girls.

The girls, like me, were not Reverend Sisters and had no plans to become one. Well, Assumpta might end up a Sister with the way she went on her holier-than-the-Pope lifestyle. It would be the best thing for her anyway as she was uglier than the wrinkled face of toothless great-grandmother and as shapeless as the letter I.

So I started living with the Sisters. They registered me in their school and since I had already grown breasts on my chest—

Of course, no one could ascertain my age since I could not tell them the year of my birth.

But with breasts already shooting out of my chest like the eager seeds of mango clamouring to acquire its skin, Sister Mary-Cynthia decided to put my age at eleven then.  And since the monthly flow that propelled a girl into womanhood came months after my resumption at their school, Sister Mary-Cynthia worked hard on teaching me to read and write so as to prepare me for the Common Entrance Examination that will usher me into secondary school.

So my primary education was such that happened in only a matter of months.

With the help and dedication of Sister Mary-Cynthia, I did well in my Entrance Examination, actually came out with a Merit and got into the secondary school also run by the Sisters.

Once in secondary school, I started to learn more, I started to build up my lost self-esteem and I started to notice that I was actually beautiful. And that last and more amazing discovery would be the beginning of my self-destructive journey.

My name is Margaret X and this story you will be reading in the next couple of weeks is the journey of my self-discovery.

**To Pass our Thursdays**