“Fuck!” You say the f-word for the third time in your life. And you repeated it more confidently and rapidly like a roaring generator – “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” Your voice like a machine gun dropping bullets in an uncontrollable ecstasy. One would have thought you have gone out of your mind. But you haven’t. Not yet. Instead there is a glow on your cheeks like a sun has been buried in each of them. You bounce up and down on your squawking bed with outstretched arms as you chant the f-word.
The first time you said that f-word, you were simply seven. You were watching a WWE Championship between John Cena and Batista with your father when the word slipped out of your mouth. You must have learnt the f-word from Uncle Sani, who stays next door, but often comes to your father’s sitting-room to watch football.
“Blood of Jesus!” Your mother, who was preparing dinner of semovita and efo riro in the kitchen, screamed, as if she needed the blood to wash away the atmosphere you had made filthy with the f-word.
“Daddy Dido, did you hear the word your daughter just used?” She was out of the kitchen, standing with her hands akimbo and back blocking the TV screen. This is the best position for her to get your father’s attention.
“Dido, where did you learn that dirty word from? Don’t you know a child of God should never use such word?” Your father turned towards you to chide you. Your face dropped like a sagging cow breast – mellow, humble and penitent.
“I don’t want to ever hear you use such word! You hear?” Your father said further.
“Yes, sah!” You replied, a repentant rogue.
But your mother wasn’t satisfied with the action taken by your father. You could carve out the word “SHOCK” from the way she twisted her face. Somehow, you could also carve out the word “DISGUST”
“Is that all you will say and do to her? Imagine if she said the word in a Sunday School Class? The child of a Pastor saying the f-word? Just imagine?”
“Mummy Dido, what again do you want me to do to her?” Your father, who was eager to continue watching the wrestling match, asked with a grimace eating his face. Frustration was forging itself on his face too.
“Have you forgotten that if you spare the rod, you will spoil the child?” Your mother fired using a Bible verse, as usual.
“But it’s not all the time that you flog a child na?” Your father said in defence.
“Says who? The Bible?” Your mother countered him.
“Okay. She is our child. If you believe that she should be flogged, take her to the room and do it!” Your father said, hoping to be free from this troubling storm of a wife.
“Haba, daddy?” You turned to your father with surprised eyes; you didn’t like what he said.
Your mother marched towards you, grabbed your left ear and dragged you to her bedroom. There was so much fear in your body that your skin emitted sweat like a running tap. Your mother asked you to strip. She picked up the pankere that she usually buys for fifty naira from an aboki in Bariga market and she always keeps beside her bed. She then asked you to say sorry to God seven times, gave you an assignment to write a letter of apology to God that you would never use the word again, and in the letter you should write the word “sorry” seventy times seven to God. Afterwards, she flogged tattoos on your bare skin. Your tears would have drowned the house if not for the efo riro that got burnt and beckoned your mother’s attention.
Seven years later, you heard a girl in your class used the f-word and you tried to chastise her. Her name was Sabi. You were both in SSS 1, Sarah College, Gbagada. A boarding school for only girls. You were lying on your bunk in the dormitory, reading the white Bible your mother gave you while starting secondary school when Sabi, your bunkmate, who was reading one of Hadley Chase’s novels – precisely his Not My Thing – that must have been sneaked into the school, burst forth in a chant of fuck fuck fuck. You dropped your Bible, stood from your bunk and faced her: “stop using the f-word?”
“The word you just used?”
“What word did I just use?”
“Em em em… The f-word na…!”
“I don’t know what you are talking about…”
“Are you serious? Didn’t you just say the word fuck?”
“Oh, is it fuck that hasbeen hard for you to call since? This is fucking serious!” Sabi said and laughed a deep, long laughter, the kind that brings tears to the eyes. She was not the only one that laughed. Most girls in the dormitory that heard the conversation between you two laughed too. You tasted shame on your tongue and skin – it was salty and stinging. You folded yourself back to your bunk and closed your eyes very tight to hold back the tears.
Now, you are on vacation. The door to your room is locked. You are learning to say fuck without guilt or past hurt from the flogging you received seven years ago. You are trying to find fuckasm, the freedom and pleasure of saying fuck without fear. You bounce on your bed, still wearing your pyjamas, although it is about 11am.
There is a knock on the door. A heavy knock that can only be your mother’s. You pause your chant. The air gets terse. You skip a breath. Your mind is no longer at ease.
“Dido, did I just hear you use the f-word?” Your mother shouts through your closed door. You could imagine veins bursting out of her neck, thick enough to break through the door.
“No, ma! Maybe you heard it from one of our neighbours.” The fear of your mother is the beginning of wisdom. Someday, you hope to be able to look into the eyes of your mother (and father too) and say the word “fuck” without fear. You hope to find full fuckasm. But today isn’t that day.
“Are you sure I didn’t hear the word coming from your room?”
“Yes, ma. Very sure!” You hold your breath until you hear her trudge away. Then you breathe out the word again: fuck!
Sami Tunji is a full-time freelance writer and editor. He currently stays in Jos, Nigeria.