The Pukiche Girl Child Foundation

A cup of warmth

“Sorry,” She whispered as a young man drew the chair away from my path…

I walked in the room, not knowing what to expect. It was my first time going to a group like this. I had visited a reading club once or twice, and a ballet club after my dad insisted after we relocated abroad from my native country, Nigeria.

I remember feelings of excitement that used to accompany me to these meetings and for the first time I hated being around these new people. I used my hands to smoothen my gown as I entered into the facility that housed the various groups. Hate might be a strong word. Yet, it described without exclusion, the way I felt about the situation that forced me to be in a meeting with them.

For my father’s sake, I had to do it anyways. A few steps from the stairs and I stood before the thick wooden door. The inscription lay embedded in iron and sprayed with chipping copper, “RAPE SURVIVORS”. I stilled the nervous vibration on my arms and pushed the door open.

The creak on the door caused the dozen eyes to turn to me. The other survivors looked away from the center and followed me with their eyes until I go to the edge of the circumference. Their smile followed the spectrum from sympathy to empathy to something that resembled hope. My eyes stayed fixed on the one lady in the center who seemed to exude such hope that I almost truck my foot on the edge of the chair,

“Sorry,” She whispered as a young man drew the chair away from my path.

I wondered what he has experienced that brought him to a meeting such as this.

“Thank you,” I whispered and sat down with a squeak.

I took a quick sweep around the room. From the involuntary body twitches and subconscious movements, I could take a guess of the medications they have found themselves on.

The plump lady in the middle clapped softly and spanned her eyes around the circle. She made sure to maintain a micro second of eye contact with each person before moving to the next. She looked at me directly and said to me, “Now that we are settled in, would you like to tell us about yourself?”

She had the voice of an angel and her voice seemed to coo me out of my shell. I looked at her and shook my head in the negative. She nodded in understanding, “Alright,” She turned to the young man beside me, “Khalil, would you like to go next?”

Khalil sighed and nodded. I wondered what it was he had to say, He was male, nobody in this room could have had it worse than I had. I inclined my ears and listened to him speak. Khalil spoke about his home town. He had shared a full life in an apartment with his family and younger siblings in Borno before the internal conflicts broke out. In a bid to save their lives, they all ran to various places and they got separated. Hiding for his life in the bushes, he was found by some fall out bandits and beaten brutally. After which, he was raped and left for dead.

I heard chairs squeak and the survivors made a line. Each person approached Khalil and gave him a hug or a warm handshake. I felt the warmth of the community and the numbness I carried with me began to ease away.  

I could hold the pain I felt no more and pushed my chair back, “I am Aisha,” I blurted.

The silence was the most comforting I had experienced in months. I took a deep breath and continued, “Back in Canada, I majored in History. My family relocated back to Nigeria a few months back and I had to apply to Universities,” It felt like the survivors absorbed my words and exuded comfort, they gave me the strength to continue, “My father introduced me to someone who was going to assist the admission processes, sometimes…,” I held back the tears that threatened to choke, “Sometime later he called me to come get some files and that pedophile… he raped me,” I blurted before I could even take them back. I had poured out all that was left in me and I stood.

Little by little, I began to hear the chairs squeak. The line of love approached me and one hug at a time I felt the last block of ice melt away and turn to a pool of tears. By the time the entire line had shared their warm with me, I felt smiled. The first smile in months, I was indeed grateful for community and looked forward to our next meeting.

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