My Strap

If you met me some months back, you’d have met a shy 17 year old Northern girl who always had her bra-strap falling off her shoulder. It was always an awkward idea to me – wearing bras. I just never had that much luck with them. Either they undid themselves while I walked or one strap fell out and dangled out of my shirt sleeve or the straps just kept itching my back. 
But that was then. 

Now? We (me and these other kids) keep looking over our shoulders like there are greater devils than these people who have kidnapped us; like there are worser demons than these infidels. Of course, we who live in some parts of Northern Nigeria live knowing that we could get carried off or bombed some day, but also knowing that we won’t. Well, I got bad luck walking down the market one day when a truck filled with tough ragged looking young men with long guns, drove in. They picked me up like I was a sack of groundnuts and just flung me into the truck. 

Throughout the night, I stayed awake pre-enduring and imagining them raping me. I shut my eyes, clenched my fist, kicked the imaginary man in the groin with my knee and closed my eyes for the gunshot to my head. But the next day, when they gathered us together and gave us some tuwo to eat, they told us why we had been carried off. When they finished, I started praying for them to only want to rape me. I swore under my breath and prayed that one of these infidel bombers would find me attractive and marry me off forever and kill anyone who tried to make me do what they said we’d do. But my prayers have a way of not getting answered… 

Now I’m squinting in the sun and pretending to be interested in this woman’s okra. I am thinking of my mom, where she is and the proverb that says ‘if you walk through the marketplace, don’t throw stones as it might just hit one of your own’ . But somewhere at the back of my mind, I know my mom is in our village somewhere far away from here; she’s possibly locked up with her 5 best friends crying. 

I look behind me and see Umar. I always hated him more than the rest of the infidels. It only makes sense that it was him they sent to watch me and ensure I don’t back out in fear. I ask the woman, ‘How much for this one here?’. 200naira‘ she replies and smiles at me. Poor woman. Even though I know that the price is too high, I also know that I will not live to eat the okra and she will not live to spend the money, so I smile back at her and pay her with the money Umar had given me. 

As she packs up my okra, I run my hand lightly over my chest and think of how I’ve grown from a little girl with awkward bra strap issues to this person wearing a bomb strap-on.

Now, I will close my eye shut and press the button just the way Abdul taught all of us….

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