Friday 6 November 2020

The First Time

Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition on Unsplash

‘Remember the family from which you are from and be careful the things you do.’

These words from my mother were playing in my head as I walked to the chemist to buy contraceptives. 

You see, I had not been thinking of my parents when I had sex, and I had definitely not been thinking of my family when I had sex without protection. So here I was, 17 years old, feeling my heart constrict as I thought, ‘Was I pregnant? Could I be pregnant from having done it once?’

Oooh! If I was pregnant, I was going to be in a world of trouble. How would I face my very conservative family where we were raised to act, think, believe and behave a certain way? My mother would kill me! Or maybe send me out of the house. Would I have to raise the child on the streets? Would the father – curse him for refusing to use protection – help me? Oh, who was I kidding? He would probably get away with it while my entire life turns upside down. 

My steps quickened as these thoughts ran through my head, matching the erratic beat of my heart. Funny that a heart attack would be preferred right now than the idea of being pregnant. 

Finally, I was at the chemist. I took a deep breath, steeled myself and entered. 

There must have been seven people in that small room, all waiting to be served. I could barely see the shelves and their different sections: drugs on one side, groceries on another, and other Knick knacks here and there. What I could see clearly was that ‘Doctor’ was moving from shelve to counter with the speed of experience. PS: He wasn’t a real doctor. The community had just gotten used to calling him that. 

He turned to me. ‘Yes? What do you want?’

Of course, I wasn’t going to say what I wanted in front of all these people. There was no way I was going to bring shame to my family – my mother! – by letting these adults know that I had had sex. So, I looked around and my gaze fell on a bar of Snickers on one shelf. I love chocolate…and I just found my escape. 

‘Snickers, please.’

Doctor went to the shelf, picked it up and passed it to me. He stretched out his hand for his money, but I looked away, pretending there was more I wanted. He walked to another person and his trips from shelf to counter continued. He, however, continuously glanced at me…probably making sure I didn’t run away. 

When everyone had left the shop, he turned his full attention to me. 

‘Ehen. Anything else?’ He turned away from me, picking up a juice packet to return to its shelf. With his back to me, I bolstered courage and asked for what I really wanted.

I…I…can I…please have…Postinor?’

Doctor froze and slowly turned to me. My chest tightened furiously, sweat began to drop from armpits and my palms became clammy. 

‘You say what?’ Doctor bellowed. 

‘Ermmm…the drugs you use for…’

‘I know what it is used for!’ Doctor interrupted. ‘What is a small girl like you doing with Postinor? So as small as you are, you are an ashawo?’ I flinched. In my community, Ashawo was a crude term used to refer to sex workers, or women who dared to be openly sexual. And now, I had been classified as one. 

Just then, another customer walked in. I gasped. 

‘Look at this small girl oh.’ He engaged the new customer. ‘She wants to buy Postinor. She don spoil so tey she dey sleep with man and she know wetin she go do make she no get belle. She wan continue this behavior.’

The man looked at me, a look of judgment on his face mirroring that of Doctor…and what I knew would be the same look on my mother face. 

I wanted to turn back and run away but I imagined all the beating I would get, and other ways my mother would communicate her displeasure if I got pregnant. The fact that I would be ostracized in the community did not even scare me like what my mother would do to me. If I didn’t get this contraceptive, my life as I knew it might as well be over. 

So, I squared my shoulders, flared my nostrils, looked at Doctor straight in the eyes and shouted, ‘Mr. Man! Are you going to sell the Postinor to me or not?!’ If word was going to get my mother, they could as well add that I was also a rude child. 

Doctor look at me, turned to the shelf with the contraceptive, picked it up and tossed it at me over the counter. In like manner, I took the money from my purse, bunched it up and tossed it right back at him. And even though I wanted to run out of the shop, I raised my head up and walked out as calmly as my shaky legs could carry me. 

That day, I got my contraceptives. I didn’t get pregnant. And my family never found out about the issues…until just now that is. 

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