LivMedia’s Nigerian version of The Doctors, America’s daytime talk show hosted by real-life medical professionals, had gradually boosted Bass TV’s dwindling ratings, shooting us back to the top where Chief Bassey believed his channel truly belonged (With all those private stations springing across Lagos, competition raged fiercely). It never occurred to me Doris would temporarily replace Dr. Gyang on the panel—I didn’t even think she’d actually graduated—and I certainly didn’t expect her to Jackie Chan my nutsack in front of bewildered colleagues who barely lifted a finger to help me. Well, the grey-haired one offered his assistance, but the contempt in his crinkly eyes revealed his sentiments exactly. How many sane people sympathised with a sex offender?
“Listen man, you’re an animal, you should be ashamed.” Dr. Zainab adjusted her blue hijab and gave me the once-over. “You don’t deserve to breathe, people like you make me sick.”
“You’re still here?” Doris exploded, struggling to release herself from Dr. Chidiebere’s biceps. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I hate you. I don’t care what happens to me after this, but I’m going to inform Chief Bassey there’s a rapist in his midst, and we’ll see if you still have a job here.”
“There’s no question he’ll be disappointed, imagine having someone like you for a son-in-law,” added Dr. Chibiebere. You had to bring that up, didn’t you?
“Huh?” Doris mused.
“He’s Hogan Bassey’s son-in-law; he’s married to his daughter Shirley…”
Doris waited for the shocking revelation to sink in. “What! This gets better and better, doesn’t it? You can walk around this station like the big shot you think you are, but I’m going to make sure the real boss knows about the evil spirit processing his family, just watch me…”
“No, no, please…” I pleaded desperately, envisioning exactly how Chief Bassey would ruin me for linking his name and business to a sex scandal. He hated my guts, subjecting me to his scorn and bullying for years, and I’d turned the other cheek. And what about Isaac? No question he’d fight tooth and nail to gain full custody of his grandson if his rapist dad couldn’t support him. Who else would employ me after the news leaked, and after every project I’d ventured into outside of Bass had flopped? “Please don’t tell him anything…”
“Shut up!” Doris managed to break loose from her colleague’s hold, landing another sharp slap across my face before Dr. Chibiebere restrained her again. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kill you…”
“Dr. Duru…Dr. Duru!” Dr. Bayo’s voice rose above Doris’s squeals, silencing her at once. “Are you going to do this here, in a TV studio of all places? Remember who you are and what you are. Are you going to ruin your reputation by acting uncivilised, and is he worth it? Anyone could walk through that door at any minute; how are you going to explain all this? Threatening to kill someone…are you out of your mind? And how do you know Chief Bassey would listen to you if you report this man? For all we know he might defend his son-in-law and dismiss you. Stooping all the way down to this level doesn’t solve anything, it only makes you look pathetic. If you can’t handle his presence, maybe you should just go home…now.”
“Come on Doris, let’s get out of here,” urged Zainab. Doris continued to glare, and I could tell she was fighting the urge to deliver another punch. I dug out my handkerchief and tried in vain to wipe the blood stains on my face, and Doris left the room, Zainab’s arm firmly on her shoulder, Chidiebere following close behind. Just before the door closed Doris turned and wagged a finger at me.
“This isn’t over yet, I’ll deal with you, bastard.”
Dr. Bayo gave a disapproving glance before departing without a word. Was Doris merely bluffing? Was her threat a real promise? I peeked through the doors to make sure no-one stood in the corridor before I rushed down to my office in the adjacent building. Doris’s nails had dug deep into my flesh leaving three wounds. Throwing on a jacket to hide the blood stains on my shirt, I reached the car park where I climbed behind the wheel, lit a cigarette, and watched the tall fan palms standing against the cloudy air, troubled thoughts bouncing in my heat.
That “boys will be boys” remark I made the day she saw me standing outside the National Theatre had been mean-spirited, but I’d revelled in her pain while she struggled to hold it together. On the day I left university following my expulsion, I asked myself whether Karma actually existed, and my subsequent employment with Bass Communications briefly pushed aside any mounting fears until my downfall commenced. Doris, on the other hand, appeared to have done well for herself as a medical doctor. She lived her life to the fullest while mine fell to pieces.
Five B&H’s later, I drove to the nearest Victoria Island hospital where a diligent physician examined my wounds. “These seem really deep, Mr. Okoroafor. They’ll take a while to heal, but I’m afraid you’ll be left with permanent scars.”
He nodded slowly. “I can’t believe the mentally ill are allowed to roam the streets unsupervised,” he added, referring to my cover-up story regarding a roadside lunatic who lunged at me in an unprovoked attack. “I’ll write you a prescription, and the nurse will show you to the treatment room.”
A lifetime reminder of Doris’s retaliation? Nine years ago, that stupid test audience had called me ugly and some pretty boy had stolen my TV role, but at least Shirley had fancied me. Nine years later, I’d become the proud owner of a face only Mama could love. Thank goodness my wife had travelled to Europe two weeks ago on one of her ‘girly trips’—perpetual peace at home, thank God—but Isaac coiled back in fright upon seeing Daddy resemble half an Egyptian mummy.
I returned to the studio the next morning, my cheek still stinging uncomfortably. Not one person sympathised. No-one gave a damn. Did I catch a satisfactory smirk on a cleaner’s face? They all hated me. My secretary looked up from her PC and perfunctorily rose from her desk. Vivian had replaced my old assistant who resigned during a heated argument after I’d lashed out at her. Maybe I should show more compassion towards my staff, or I’ll struggle at this rate…
“Good morning, Mr. Okoroafor. The receptionist asked me to give you this, she says it’s urgent,” she announced, waving a brown envelope.
“Who’s it from?”
“They didn’t leave a name, sir, but I was told it’s urgent.”
“How can you collect a letter from someone without knowing their name and business?” I charged. “I thought you had more sense than that.”
“Sir, it wasn’t me. The receptionist…”
“Just give me the fucking letter.” I snatched the envelope from her hand, entered my office, and sat in my leather chair. So much for showing compassion… Tearing the envelope open, I realised who sent this written message…
For years I have replayed that incident in my head over and over again, asking myself what I had done to deserve that sort of treatment. Of all the people in the world, of all the girls on campus, why did it have to be me? And after everything you put me through, why do you continue to be so heartless?
When your friend let me into the flat that day, I trusted him completely. All I wanted was to study with a group that never existed – it was all a trick to make me suffer. You drugged me and raped me before throwing me out, warning me to keep my mouth shut if I wanted to stay alive. I had never been with a man before, but you stole my innocence while I was unconscious, and you treated the whole thing as a joke, laughing in my face and behind my back, claiming I deserved it.
You even said I knew I wanted it, which is nonsense. No woman wants to be a rape victim, and if you think the opposite, that makes you a fool. If I wanted to be raped, why did you drug me first? You’re just a born loser who cheats to get what he wants. Even when we met again six years later, you laughed again and said “Boys will be boys”. You have no brain and no heart, but you have carried on with your own life without any stress or worry while mine has been a living hell ever since.
You even said I would never graduate, but by the grace of God I managed to obtain my degree despite the odds. And you? You dropped out of EU. Even then, hardly a day goes by without me seeing your face, your smug, evil face laughing at me. Today, every single person I meet is a potential foe no matter how friendly they are, every single place I go is a potential danger zone, and it affects every single aspect of my life. I have to live with this fear every single hour, every single day, and you just don’t care because it was never your problem, even though you created it. Life isn’t fair.
I’ve met other victims too frightened to speak out, and have had their lives stolen because of their attackers’ perversion, predators who are never named because these poor girls are afraid to face their wrath. People like you make me sick, but the sick ones who should be locked up are the ones roaming our streets, pouncing on unsuspecting women, and returning to their freedom while the victims struggle with a life sentence. And you still think it’s funny?
I may have been your victim, but I refuse to be a victim. I will never fully recover from what you did to me, but I shall continue to rise, because try as you may, you will never bring me down. Why? Because my parents taught me to force myself back up, whatever hard knocks I face in life, just like my father before me when he was a student in London years ago; he went through some really tough times there, but he sailed through. That’s right, I am someone’s daughter. How would you feel if someone as sick as yourself touched your own daughter, defiling her body and robbing her of her purity? That is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy…you. Should I pretend you never raped me, though? Not a chance.
It appears those wounds I gave you will leave you with scars. Good, whenever you feel the pain, think about the pain you caused me, and imagine that pain as part of your life forever. Whenever you see your face in the mirror, think about the emotional scars you branded me with, and how my life will never be the same again. Even if I was able to press charges, even if you apologised (You couldn’t even swear on your son’s life you were innocent), even if you dropped dead, it won’t undo your crime. If by some miracle a small part of you feels remorse, you can take your pathetic apology and shove it up your rapist ass, because I hate you and will never forgive you. Never. Sugar-coat it all you want, but underneath that designer suit, and despite your Bass Communications job, you’re still a rapist. A predator. A criminal. An animal. You may think your marriage to Hogan Bassey’s daughter changes everything, but you’re wrong.
Believe me when I say that when Karma catches up with you, I will pour myself a drink on behalf of all women like me who demand justice, justice we’ve been denied for so long. Rot in hell for all I care, you deserve it.
Karma is real.
PS – NEVER contact or speak to me again.
I scrunched up the message and threw the paper into the corner of the office, missing the wastepaper basket by a few inches. Doris hated me. I’d never shown any interest in superstition, but fear gripped me as I reflected on my past mistakes, the words she uttered before Mex turfed her out echoing.
As long as my name is Doris Duru, you’ll never know peace. You’ll never know peace. Never know peace. Never. Never. Never. Never…”
Dropping out of school, losing a lucrative TV role, a shotgun wedding to a spoilt woman I’d never loved, Chief Bassey’s dominance, my demotion at work, my cocaine dependency, losing a great deal of my savings through dubious deals… As Doris had predicted, I hadn’t known any peace, and as long as she continued to hate me, progress eluded me.
My Samsung ringtone broke the silence. They could wait, I had more important issues to deal with. Should I apologise to Doris? No, she’d merely slam the door in my face before marching down to Chief Bassey’s office with her recent revelation. If she hadn’t done so already. The phone rang again, and with a sigh I answered the call.
Sah?” Fabrice sounded mournful, and I cursed frustratingly. Couldn’t he deal with any problems concerning the house until I returned? “Sah, come home quick-quick, something happen for your house.”
“What?” I bellowed as I paced around the office. “I’m busy right now, can’t it wait? Tell whoever has come to see me I can’t meet them now.”
Non Monsieur, you come inside house, I tell you…” Fabrice insisted.
“Stop speaking in riddles and tell me now,” I ordered my butler impatiently. “What’s going on?”
“What? Is my wife back? Is Isaac well? What the hell is going on?”
Sah, Madame Shirley has dead.”
© Okoro Dedeh, Tami, 2019 All rights reserved