Love first came to you as your father on his knees, arching his back for the gate man; his rolls of fat glistening with sweat with the gate man’s arm wrapped around his neck. The fear and guilt that glistened in his eyes when you asked him why he did it with Abdullahi and not mother was startling. Adults cry?
Your father gave you three times the usual amount of your allowance for a whole year.
Later, love will come to you as your father’s friends whistling at the little mounds starting to form on your chest; making you blush by telling you how ripe you were and slipping a finger or two into your panties as they bounced you around on their laps. They always stuffed rolls of crisp Naira bills into your hands afterwards; the money, a shabby consolation for swallowing secrets that never seemed to get past your throat.
Love will come to you again a few years later as the sound your sister makes when she touches herself in the darkness of the room you both share; her breaths coming in quick gasps muffled by her pillowcase.
You will pretend to make that same sound when you are older.
Love seemed its purest as your mother’s earth shattering scream when the doctor said you might never have children. You finally opened up to your mother about your strange symptoms after your period refused to force itself out of you for almost a year.
“You better take that back, Oga Doctor!”
“My own daughter will bear fruit in the mighty name of Jesus!”
You were indifferent.
Love was also the pastor thrusting into you with the same valour he used when spittle flew out of the corners of his mouth as he threw verses from the holy book into the congregation; sacred grenades of truth. Your mother had dragged you to him to pray away the doctor’s evil prophecy. He released himself inside you and it was love because while he did not give you money, he gave you something far greater – love in a new, painless form. Or so you thought.
Right now, love is the stranger forming inside you. Your mother does not know whose seed made this stranger but she dances around the house anyway. Her god put the doctor to shame. You wonder if love is also wanting to dip its hands into your throat to pull out all the secrets holding you together. Just to prove you are not a colossal waste of space and organs.
You spend your days drenching your swelling belly with anointing oil and wondering what form will love take again. What disguise will it dissolve into? Will the child you are bound to push out of yourself soon bear a resemblance to love? Will the love scar you like your father or hurt you like his friends? What colour will this chameleon wear on its skin?
Olabimpe Adedamola is a law student who constantly overthinks her existence and memorises random facts for the fun of it. She also hopes to be a plant mom someday. Social media handles: @borednigeriangirl on Instagram, @lilbrowneyedfae on Twitter.