Our eyes locked across the room and I fumed at the in recognition. How could Uncle Mufasa not remember his favorite little niece? His favorite cub? I gripped the handle of my seat to control the seething rage building up in me. It was grandpa’s burial and I didn’t want to create a scene.
Mufasa and the cub was our secret identities when I was seven years old. He was my favorite person on planet earth. He was always coming to spend short holidays with us and I was always looking forward to each and every one. Uncle Philip, his real name, would send my older brother on long errands and call me into his room to give me extra candy. I’d giggle as he tickled me and whispered, “Don’t tell Jaye I gave you extra candy, okay?” I’d nod in excitement, eager to be a keeper of secrets. Then we’d play horse, where he’d lie on his bed and I’d ride him like a horse. I always felt special because Uncle Philip said not every little girl had an uncle who’d be a horse for her. Moreover, dad would never take us to the park to ride a wooden one.
One of those days, he called me into his room and gave me my usual candy bribe. Then he stood up and pulled down his shorts. Innocently I shouted as I covered my face, “Uncle Mufasa cover your bum bum joor.” He told me not to raise my voice and asked if I’ve seen a recorder before. I said yes we played it in music class. He removed my hands from my face and said I shouldn’t be afraid. This was a different type of recorder. A very simple type of recorder. I didn’t even need to play it with all my strength. I just needed to suck on it like I suck on the candies he gives me. I was confused but I believed everything he said because Uncle Philip had been to america and he was smart unlike my dad’s other noisy brother who only came to us to beg. Moreover, he promised me extra, extra candy. It hurt a bit because it was bigger than the recorder Aunty Eunice makes us play but I played for him on three different occasions.
Then Uncle Philip went back to America and I began to long for him. I missed him and his candies. There was no one to play horse with. I pined but I couldn’t tell anyone why because mufasa and the cub had made an oath of secrecy. Over time, all was forgotten until I took a course in sex education in my second year in the university. Uncle Philip never loved me, I came to realize. I was just an object of sexual gratification. Over the years, I nursed anger, guilt, felt like trash. I had rehearsed over and over how I was going to maim him if we ever crossed paths again. He had taken away my innocence.
I fought to keep the tears from gushing as fear paralyzed me on the spot. The bastard had not recognized me while I had been left to carry this heavy burden for years. I had been too ashamed to tell anyone and now he’d get away with it. I wondered how many cubs he’d had since then. I closed my eyes tight to shut out the images that were floating in my head.
“Uche, say hi to your uncle.” My mom’s voice rang through my thoughts. I opened my eyes to see exactly who I had feared standing beside her.
“Uche…” He said with a sweet small voice. “…you’ve grown to become a nwanyioma* .” I stared blankly as it dawned on me I was in the same air space with this monster. Without thinking, I got up, looked straight into his eyes and blurted. “Anu ofia ka gi nma.* Otoro gba gbue ka gi!*”
I walked away hiding my tears and fully aware all eyes were on me. But damn them all. The look of mortification on his face was more than satisfying.
*nwanyioma – beautiful woman.
*Anu ofia ka gi nma – a useless animal is better than you.
*otoro gba gbue ka gi – may you die of an uncontrollable running stomach.