I was not an innocent, not in the true sense of the word where both mind and body is pure and incorrupt. I had been touched before. Intimately touched and I knew, even then, that it was wrong. I did not ask to be touched. I did not go looking for one to touch me. I was too young to seek these things when it happened to me.
If I was fifteen now, then that unwanted intimate touch happened when I was nine.
I was sleeping at the small shed provided by the row of stores I usually stayed in front to beg for food and money. The old woman I lived with had died by this time and to survive, I sometimes ran errands for shop owners, other times I gathered whatever money I was given and bought a bag of pure water and sold.
I did not do this often, selling pure water sachets, maybe because I found it too tedious and begging by roadsides often fetched me enough to feed anyway.
But it was at the time that I was sleeping at this shed behind the rows of stores that I knew what it was for a man’s hand to touch you where it was not meant to. I had been lying down, with the blanket one of the store owners had provided me spread over me, when I sensed someone beside me. I heaved up and there he was, one of the men—I suppose in retrospect that he was more of a boy. A big teenage boy.
And there he was, stooped over me, and watching me with weird eyes. I was just nine and had no way of knowing, yet I knew. I asked him what he wanted—I must have done. But I don’t think he explained his intention to me. He just slipped his hand under my blanket and then into the knickers that covered my nakedness in those days.
His fingers sought to open me up. At least, open up what was between my legs. But I screamed. There was a mai-guard who usually patrolled the area and he was always kind to me. It was he who saved me even as I struggled to push out those fingers from my knickers.
That was that day. I was touched and I yelled out for help because I did not want to be touched. But when I went to meet John-Bosco at the tree behind the market and he took me inside the uncompleted building a stone throw from the market, I did not yell, or protest, when his hand snuck under my skirt and found its way into my panties.
I did not protest and I did not push his fingers away when they parted what was between my legs. I did not scream, like I had done that first time, when his fingers crawled into me and began to elicit moisture as it glided about inside that secret place of a woman—or a girl.
I did not scream, or protest, or rebuke his touching, because I wanted it.
It was sweet.
That was how I thought of it. That was what I felt. This unbelievable sweet sensation flooding my body, overpowering my mind and making my heart swell. It was as if the more he skated along the walls of my secret spot, and I made those noises I could not withhold, my heart merged with my mind and body to breed a love for him that was alien to me before his touch.
And when he whispered to me. “Margaret, I love you. Let me show you how much.”
I willingly spread my legs wider apart and allowed him to put what was between his legs into what was between mine.
And it was sweet. Painful at first, but sweet later on.
Thus my eyes opened.
What Eve knew after eating the forbidden fruit, I knew it now. That was how I felt. I was now a woman. A woman with knowledge and a woman with power. The power to make a man—a big boy—convulse between her legs as if he had epilepsy as John-Bosco had done minutes after he had come inside of me.
I was a woman, maybe even more of a woman that Sister Mary-Cynthia and Sister Mary-Joan. I have tasted something I doubted very much they had any knowledge of, so I was now superior to them. I was like Eve—I acquired knowledge before Adam did.
I wondered in those days what Eve did between the time she first knew and the time she gave the apple to Adam to eat too.
What I did though was to become more opinionated. I was now a woman with a secret knowledge and I saw no reason to obey those with less knowledge.
“How can you tell me that you’re coming straight from the market you left for more than three hours ago?”
Sister Mary-Joan was complaining, for the second time this week about my—misconduct as she put it. We had met again in our secret spot, John-Bosco and I. Today, he had done it two times before he let me go. It was why I was late in returning home.
“I am coming from the market, Sister Joan. Where else would I be coming from?” I stared stubbornly back at her.
“You dare to ask me that foolish question?” Sister Mary-Joan’s eyes flashed with anger.
“I ask because I have told you where I am coming from and you still question me like I am lying.” I said, lifting my shoulders in a careless shrug.
“That is because you are lying, Margaret.” Sister Mary-Joan declared. “And in case you have forgotten where liars will go to, let me remind you—hell fire.”
“God forbid, Sister Joan. I am not going to hell fire.”
At that moment, I no longer believed in hell fire. And if there was heaven, I was already living in it each time John-Bosco and I met and—came together.
My nonchalant behaviour made Sister Mary-Joan frown and she stared harder at me. “Have you started doing something you should not be doing, Margaret?” She asked after a long moment of silence. “Has this vanity of yours began to confound your senses?”
“I don’t know what you mean, Sister Joan.” I was already bored with the interrogation and wanted to be left alone so I could retreat into my privacy where I thought of John-Bosco and the sweet things he did to me. “I am not doing anything. You sent me to the market, that is where I went and that is where I am coming from.”
“Margaret, you better be careful.” Sister Mary-Joan said after another silence. “The road to perdition is always wide and sweet, but it’s only fraught with peril. You’re a daughter of the convent, remember that and watch what you do.”
I refrained from telling her that I was the daughter of unknown parents and that I knew what I was doing. What was the point of trying to enlighten her when she had blocked her mind from acquiring knowledge such as I have? And what was the point of telling her that the thing I was doing was so sweet it cannot be wrong?
And if indeed it was wrong, as sometimes my conscience reminded me, what was the point to putting an end to it since I was enjoying it so much?
I was in love.
I had discovered that term—‘in love’—from the many novels I read in secret and now I knew what it felt like. It was a feeling that left you in a state of unending euphoria and that made you tingle, and even twitch, when the object of your love was near.
I was in love with John-Bosco and he with me, and we continued to express our love every opportunity I got to sneak to our secret love nest and continued to do that thing that was so sweet and much too short-lived for me.
And short-lived it was, my euphoria and love, for I was soon to be doused with a bucket filled of ice-cold water.