She blamed dad for raising us like Wazungu, calling his brothers uncles, such distant titles instead of father, their children cousins instead of sisters and brothers, taking blood relationships far.
“They belong here, where there forefathers’ bones lie, not in the towns, where people do not respect kinship.” She would say.
“Gigi is going to make me a proud great grandmother one day,” adding sarcastically, “with a respectable Samia man.”
I told her how I hardly met any decent Samia boys in the good schools, the few who carried our names, too embarrassed to be non-baganda, in a prestigious Buganda school.
“There are so many good families from which your father can choose a good man, when the time is right.”
The idea of an arranged marriage so infuriated me that I wanted to disappoint them so much by doing something wayward, like befriending a Luo boy, from Northern Uganda, just to get onto their nerves. Deep inside, I knew that I was incapable of such a thing, my strict upbringing had emphasized the issue of public image so much so that it mattered to myself more than to anyone else.
Only my grandmother would go Scot free for insinuating such suppositions about decisions I knew I ought to take myself.
She genuinely understood that the pressures on a young girl like me were drastically different from those she had faced during her days, and dared suggest some form of accommodation for the time difference.
Thinking of it, that rebellious possibility is probably what had convinced me to let a fast growing sentimental relationship with Mr. Otim, uncontrolled, appropriately fusing it with the trusting intelligent student vs. keen instructor role or the charismatic student leader vs. supportive staff member.
He was too keen on keeping up his guard, acting protective like a big brother would want to, which angered me. I wanted him to view me like an equal.
To me that was the highest mark that a teacher would reward an exemplary student, the respect that one would regard an ideological peer.
Yet, it seemed for all the intellectual maturity I struggled to display to match his own, I perhaps appeared to be more vulnerable, to be in search of some form of approval from him that would place him in an elevated master-thinker role, shining the right path for me.
Our literary arguments, over mugs of hot chocolate, became animated, beyond ideological.
He thought that the fact that boy Waiyaki, the main protagonist in The River Between, had eyes that would embarrass old women with their sharpness was more a sign of pure sexual innocence other than naughty childhood impatience with matters of adult engagements, which enraged me.
How could a man believe in such a thing as stupid as sexual innocence?
The two words cannot simply lie in the same sentence. It occurred to me that he thought that I was oblivious of matters sexual to the extent that he wanted to protect me.
True, in my nineteen years of life, the closest I had come to sexual intercourse was the regular fantasy about an older handsome cousin that I had a crush on since I was young, imagining glorious exalting sex that would elevate me to some sort of holiness above the petty cheap form of sex for pleasure that was the norm with our generation, and in the few of those instances, when my physical excitement could take the better of me, I would close my eyes and play with myself, to my chagrin, after which I would cure myself, seek for God’s forgiveness in the chapel alone at midday, taking a voluntary one day fast to cleanse my mind of such evil thoughts, my soul of such immoral acts.
I never held boys my age in high esteem especially in such matters. I believed I was created for a much higher purpose than letting kids barely my age, rub their crotches on my solemn body under the guise of slow dance during the annual social dance with another prestigious boy school, like some of the girls enjoyed doing.
I took it upon myself to monitor such ‘bad behavior’ making it a point to keep at least an inch between any overzealous couple, taking walks around the room to keep a keen eye on the boys and girls, whith their borrowed jackets and mismatched ties, their ill-fitting dinner dresses that did not auger well for their mixture of teenage hormones and sweat.
The job earned me a hushed nickname.
Virgin Mary, scribbled on toilet walls and occasionally on chalk boards of lower classes.
I took it upon myself to find out these wicked children who moved around in the middle of the night with pieces of chalk scribbling nonsense everywhere.
After one of my late night visits to Mr. Otim, on one Friday, I was checking around the student toilets at the far end of the tennis court when I heard some noises.
I tiptoed nearer and behold, a Form Four girl was busy playing touchy feely games with a susceptible looking Form One. I had heard about lesbianism in the school but it had remained just a rumour. Here I was watching two girls right at it.
I was too stupefied and stood to watch them. Just when they were through with it, the younger girl saw me and scampered away.
The older girl instead stood there defiantly and looked at me as if I was the culprit for watching them.
The next day, I was too cared to tell the master on duty. How would I begin? I noticed that everyone was looking at me, then giggling, behind my back. Lillian, the assistant head girl drew my attention to another night time scribble in the form four classes.
“May be the virgin Mary is a lesbian.” I struggled to erase the words as I pretended to maintain a stoic persona about it all. But inside, I was stung by knowing the lesbian had probably done this to get one up on me.
That evening I sauntered over to Mr. Otim, while still in my sports uniform, sat in front of his television and avoided any discussions while I downed cup after cup of strong coffee.
He noticed the brooding and just kept off, occasionally rustling papers which he was marking and making comments about this or that.
“So what is with the head girl today?” he asked. “Mood swings?”
“Why do you always like to treat me like an inferior?” I erupted. “Is it because I am a woman? Do I have to be in my periods to be angry or sad, you chauvinistic pig?”
He held my shoulders to try to calm me down.
“Do not even start to pretend that you understand me? Nobody calls you the Virgin Mary on the toilet wall because you are trying to keep students from messing their lives up.
Nobody calls you a lesbian. Nobody expects you be a f***ing angel when everything is collapsing around you. Nobody expects you to be a human, which feelings just because you are Gaudencia, the infallible.”
“Look, Gaudencia, you should have told me these things….”
“What would you do then…Play God?”
Crying was not my favourite pastime.
Here I was, trying to force the tears from not pouring out. My father believed he had brought me up as an upright Christian. To pray to God, whenever faced with such challenges, not to cry like a child.
My eyes welled uncontrollably and I could sense that he was becoming emotionally involved in the outburst.
I opened out my arms to him like the vulnerable child he would have wanted me to be, or so I thought.
I clung to him and believed that perhaps only he could understand that I was also an infallible human, susceptible to pain, feelings and looking out for guidance and support.
He took me to his bed and covered me up like one would a daughter. Without thinking of the consequences I slept off.
In the small hours of the morning, I woke surprised to be in a bed not my own, alone.
After a brief moment of confusion, everything came back. Mr. Otim, had slept on his sofa set, with the lights on. I knew that this was my moment.
By the time he woke up, I was kissing the lower end of his stomach, letting the hard nipples of my sharp teenage breasts to torment him.
“Gaudencia…what are you doing….dear God Gaudencia.” He furiously protested even through I could tell that he was taken aback by the sight of me, naked, and ready to be deflowered.
“You have to help me get rid of this. You have to help me become a woman.”
“No…Gaudencia….No…I am your teacher. Am like your parent Gaudencia.”
“Then I will tell the headmistress that I slept here if you don’t. I will tell my parents…” it did not take long for me to win.
That is the lesson that I carried with me and exercise often with men when I was living in Katanga. You can always trust that they will not stand being tormented by a teenager about their manhood.
They could do anything to prove nothing.
I don’t know if he was skilled or if he had always silently wanted to sleep with me, but apart from a brief sharp pain, he made me lust more for him.
He escorted me back to the dormitory and begged me not to tell anyone.
The next day, he did as I had requested. The lesbian got an expulsion letter because Mr. Otim had found him in possession of alcohol. Whenever I wanted, I slept at Mr. Otim’s house.
I was too tense to do anything stupid, made sure that my biological clock did not make it dangerous. During the last week of the third term, I spent all the seven nights in his bed experiencing the joys of lovemaking in the hands of a mature man.
Trouble started when just before I was to report for my form six, the routine medical tests showed that I was pregnant. I could not believe it, nor could Mum. My body was okay, I assured her.
“There has to be a mistake Ma.”
A second test confirmed it. Mum, thought the wisest thing was to disappear for a while because dad would kill her.
Two months later; a slum woman assisted me to get an abortion by the Katanga’s traditional medicine woman. It did not turn out well. I lost my womb. I could not go home. What could I tell dad?
I resorted to finding ways of survival. The slum woman found men who could pay well for a teenage girl. It could be ten thousand or twenty thousand shillings and for unprotected sex, sometimes thirty thousand.
It was barely enough for the cassava chips. For three weeks, I had to first pay her back for the abortion, and then I became free like a bird.
I prowled onto the streets by the night seeking for my prey and slept by the day.
I missed the protection that my father’s name gave me, the self confidence that Mr. Otim offered, but now, I was on my own. Caught between a rock and a hard place.