There were a lot of don’ts in our home. Exposing my nakedness to my friends in the public pool constituted one of those don’ts, and the latest one; allowing myself to be carried by Nche’e, the madman in our neighbourhood. I liked the madman anyway, and he too loved carrying me on his laps and feeding me with the crumbs of bread he brought. People ran away from him because according to them, he “smelled”. I found it hard to believe because to me, he had a smell like any person’s. Mother would give me that scary look that meant ‘I’ll put pepper in your eyes for letting that madman to carry you.’
I didn’t mean to hurt my mother because she was the only family member I knew. Unfortunately, the innocence of children had this way of putting adult experience to question, at times even ridicule. My curiosity only grew more when mother told me my condition was “amiss” and under no account was I supposed to talk about it to anyone.
“What if I get married tomorrow mother?” I asked her.
“When the right time comes, I shall prepare a husband for you” she said.
I was about eight years when my best friend walked in and saw me stack naked in the school toilet. The look on her face told me she had seen one of those aliens that we were told lived in some planets far away from Earth.
We changed quarter when I told my mother what had happened that day.
“Mom, am I a monster?” I asked my mother as she pulled my hand across the quiet evening street of Bakundu that night while walking to our new home.
“Why do you say that?”
“The girl’s ‘thing’ in the school toilet didn’t look like mine.”
Without warning, my mother pulled me to the corner of a tall building and dropped on her knees. Looking into my infant face in the sheen of the light from the street bulb she said,
“Listen kid, your father was a madman and if you are not careful, you will be mad too.”
“Is that why I have two genitals, mother? Do all mad people have two genitals?” gripped by fear, I started crying.
“Anna, don’t take my daughter away!” Nche’e the madman said few metres away. It became clear to mother that he had followed us unnoticed.
Divine Mbutoh is a teacher, poet and gender equality activist from the Northwest of Cameroon. He writes short sensitisation radio plays for Radio Health International. His debut play, Coastland of Hope was “recommended” by BBC Radio Play in 2016. He is a HOFNA 2016 Spoken Word Poetry Award laureate. His poems have appeared in journals and anthologies in The Sun, Nigeria, India, and Ghana. While working on a third collection, his first collection of poems, Refugee Republic was released in early March 2017, America Star Books. He talks about gender awareness, peace, and youth volunteerism on www.scoopson7.blogspot.com & www.catalogofamadman.wordpress.com.