Photo courtesy voanews.com

I was talking to Hanaatu the other day. She is one of those who means well, one of a handful who still visit even today, more than 2 years after. 777 days and 12 hours after, to be precise. She is one of those who came and sat with me, cried with me, wailed with me, when it had just happened. But lately, I could feel her patience waning… My grief and my inability to get over it seemed to embarrass her… She no longer cried with me, now it was “why wouldn’t you stop crying?”, now it was “Abubakar and Sadiq look unkempt o! Won’t you do something about it?” In the past, she would help give them baths, even cook us meals as she came…

Hannatu was sitting by my side, today she was asking me a lot of questions. “Asabe, when will this grief end? Really would you want her to be alive still? With those people? In that forest? Do you know what she would have endured? The rape? The abuse? The ill treatment? Are you sure you would not rather that she had passed on? This hope you are talking about, this desire to hug her once again, are you sure it isn’t being selfish? Imagine her own pain now!” 

I watch Hannatu’s lips move as she talks. She’s talking with that kind of piety, that sense of rightness that one has, when one is in a house of mourning but does not mourn with those who do. You know the kind who drop the “it is well” so quickly or the “thank God he is in heaven now.” That kind of piety! The more I listen to her, the angrier I become! I feel the anger rising, it’s like a low rumble deep in the innermost recesses of my belly, hmmm… I stare at her lips and I can feel my grip on her hands tightening, I see my own knuckles turning white… It’s rising, rising through my belly like a volcano that is ready to erupt, my chest expands… 
I have been sooooo angry! Sooo angry! 2 years now, of not knowing where my daughter is! Not knowing what has happened to her! Not even having a voice in the struggle to find her, being told by the ones that have power, that maybe I didn’t have a daughter, maybe there was even no one to get missing! When I come with my grief, they come with their questions “how old did you say she was again?” “What exams was she writing?” Does that exam usually take place at that time?” “Where was everyone else in the school?” The voices play over and over again in my mind… The anger! It rose to my throat, it seemed to consume all of me and from the recesses of my mind, I hear a scream, it’s loud and piercing but it not me! Like scales dropping from my eyes, I see that it’s Hannatu screaming “Dije, Dije, you are hurting me, you are hurting me…”

I release her hands, this anger, it’s fiery hot and icy cold all at once. I look at her “Mama Hadiza”, I say, “you ask if my hope is selfish and I ask if your question is not more so? You ask if I want to leave the child that I bore and suckled on my breasts in the hands of captors who rape and defile her and I wonder what you are asking! You ask me to forget my young! To wish her dead when as yet, she may still live? Do you know, that in the past 2 years, every time I have heard that there has been a female suicide bomber, I have wondered if it was my child? I have literally seen fragments of her body flying through the air! Hannatu, have you ever seen fragments of Hadiza’s body flying through the air? Have you felt a pain so searing that you scream in horror even when there is no physical cause?” 

“It’s been 2 years since I last slept. Do you sentence me and mine to an eternity of fitful sleep? Imagine a future where every time I see a female beggar, broken and with mutilated features, I wonder if she is my daughter or was with her? If like you say, she is dead, then I would like to see a body! Because without that, all and everything I do will mean I abandoned my child! Mama Hadiza, can you abandon Hadiza to a fate that’s certainly brutal? Do you think a day goes by that in the normalcy of my life, I don’t imagine how abnormal and abused and destroyed her life is? Do you think even the fact that I am alive and well, does not fill me with pain and guilt?! In a heartbeat! No, in a fraction of a heartbeat, I will trade places with her, Maman Hadiza!”

She was starring at me, she had started to cry but I couldn’t care! I couldn’t lash out to the real enemy, I can’t lash out to the world that has moved on, when mine has ended. I can’t lash out at my husband who has dealt with his pain like a so-called “man” and now tries to initiate the baby making process, like I can do that without thinking of my daughter! Like we can replace her!  I really cannot care about any body’s pain. It has taken the grace of God and the hope of a future not to want to hurt the world for my hurt! I stare her down, my heart cold and my gaze steely, “Maman Hadiza, na gode kin ji? Dan Allah ki zo ki tefi, leave my house!” I am screaming now, “leave my house! Leave me with my pain! Leave me with my hope! It will not die, I won’t stop crying, I won’t stop praying, I won’t be quiet and let the world forget! No, no, no! I will not be quiet to help you assuage your guilt in moving on! I will not be quiet until they bring back my girl!!!!!!!!!!!”

Hannatu is backing out of my house, tears streaming down her face, she starts to run… I am angry. And I am sad… that was my one friend, at least she still visited, others when they saw me in the market quickly lowered their gaze, embarrassed by my grief, some even pulled their daughters closer, as if my luck could be contagious! I stared at her departing figure… And collapsed in a heap of tears…

This grief it can kill! Unfortunately it is so bad, that it won’t kill…
#bringbackourgirls #2yearson

P.S

*This story is purely a work of fiction. It was inspired today by my friend Chinwe Madubuike who posted something on Facebook about her NGO and how she took provisions and medical aid to visit a Chibok parent who had suffered a stroke. All day my heart has been with her and that family. I could feel a glimmer of their pain and being a mother, I guess it’s easier for me to feel it from a mother’s angle. What I wrote above, what I say I “feel”, is nothing compared to what the mothers of the Chibok girls must really feel. Even if you cannot do anything please don’t let the world forget. Support the Bring Back Our Girls movement, support people like Chinwe. My company works with the Red Cross to get supplies to the IDP’s, that’s really easy, ask your friends for old clothes in good condition, toiletries, food that’s not easily perishable, call the Red Cross and tell them you’d like to send them in for the IDP’s and that’s it. The Red Cross will do the actual leg work. Let us not sit idly by because we don’t know what to do! There is so much we can do that does not require too much from us. Remember when the death knell tolls for one, it tolls for us all! #bringbackourgirls #777dayson

* Read my first Girl Interrupted post here.

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