It was just a regular rainy evening, and I was driving on the highway at a very crazy speed when suddenly, I thought I had seen something that seemed to be like a passing flash. It couldn't be that it was unreal; my mind could not have been playing tricks with me. So, I halted on the break and reversed the car; this time, I moved the car as slowly as I possibly could. My heart thudded, cold sweat broke through my skin, and my hands were wet and shivering on the steering wheel. It seemed like I had swallowed all my saliva gland could produce, but the thirst to quench my doubts would not let me listen to my thudding heart, so, I returned.
Then, I stopped when I thought I had reached where he stood. It was the man, that same man I thought I saw earlier. He turned quickly the moment he saw my car halt. Since I wasn't sure if he would attack, I didn't step out of the car but stretched my neck out to get a good glimpse of him. He was not the same man as Sims, but there seemed to be a grin curved on his lips towards me and some deadly resentment. Could he be him? But the face is not so much like Sims... It's been twelve years, but it all seems just like yesterday.
Sims...A notorious gangster in college. He was unto me, but I wasn't. He was everything that Mama (as I fondly called my mum) had warned me about from childhood. Even though Mama passed a year before college, I had her words with me, and they wouldn't let me stray...
I couldn't bear the deadly stare on the man's face, so I stepped on the accelerator and sped off, my heart racing louder.
I raced the car as fast as I could, looking at the rear mirror to see if He was coming behind me. The house was just on a bend off the highway, so I raced towards the parking lot and dashed out of the car, forgetting to remove the car key. Spark, my dog, barked loudly at the door; I guess the poor thing thought someone was chasing after me.
My wife came down the stairs and leaned in for a kiss, but my lips were cold. She wrapped her arms around me, but I was too distorted to respond to her love. The same arms that I constantly desired to be wrapped in now seemed to suffocate the life out of me. I wiggled out of her arms and reached for the sofa to lay.
Kareen thought she had done something offensive, but little did she know who I thought I had seen on that highway.
‘John,’ she called as she came closer to me. Would you mind sharing?
I shook off my head in the negative and went to the bathroom for a shower. This was the longest bath that I had ever taken. I felt like the running water would wash Sims' face away and release me from this clenching thought. My mind replayed his face, and a cold shiver ran through my spine this time.
As I stepped out of the shower and reached for the towel, I felt a hand over mine and screamed, ‘Don't come near me!’.
Alas, it was just my wife who came in to see if all was well with me.
With a deep breath and a shaky voice, I said, ‘Oh, Kareen, it's just you?’
Kareen knew there was more than what meets the eye but refrained from further questioning. She gave me one of the tightest hugs I had ever received and whispered to my right ear, ‘It's gonna be just fine.’
I responded with the tightest hug this time and almost squeezed her spine. Then she led me to our bed and sat while she placed my head on her lap as I laid down. This was a lovely moment for us. Our relationship had always been that of trust; even when she didn't know what was wrong with me, she held me closely and trusted me.
‘Could I ever keep this from my wife?’ I thought.
I had met Sims on my way up the stairs to the Amphi Theatre for the Art 1121 lecture, clumsy as I was—a fresher and a mama's boy. I was just 16 and quite big for my age. I was late for Dr. Tradford's class and didn't want to be scolded by him, so I ran fast, holding my lecture notes and some other stationery; bumping into Sims was the greatest mistake of my life. All through the lecture, Sims had his eyes on me and had the same grin I saw on the man on the highway's face. Coincidentally or planned, I kept bumping into Sims every time I left my hostel; It was frequent and alarming...
Reflecting on these incidents frightens me and makes me regret, but I can't help but remember them. I was overwhelmed by these memories and suddenly began to shake on the bed.
I panicked whenever I came out of the hostel, worried he was behind me again. The lecture was over one evening, and I was returning to my hostel. I heard footsteps behind me, but each time I turned back to see who it was, no other coursemates going to their respective hostels. Hastily, I got into my room and jammed the door. I went into the bathroom out of fear and ran the shower over my head. Came out in my towel and then heard a lock-opening sound. Alarmed! Who else had the key to my room? Jeez! I shouted, only for a hand to cover my mouth. I was tall enough and entirely built, but Sims managed to overpower me. He had a handkerchief over my mouth and nose, and I soon drifted asleep. I woke up with finger bruises all over my fair body the following day, naked, too. I had an excruciating pain in my butt; I was raped. Awfully as it sounds, ‘raped by a fellow man!’. I felt so worthless and like trash. I couldn't even tell any human about it; else, the shame would have been too much for me to bear. College was hell after Sims' escapade. I saw his stare everywhere and lowered my head in shame. He kept chasing after me...
A tear strayed as I tried to hold the tears back; I didn't want to wake Kareen.
Since there was not much I could find courage to do, I kept the secrets to myself. I raced down the school's lakeside for my morning exercise routine one morning. I stopped to catch my breath after a short distance. Shocked, I saw Sims sitting by the lakeside and smoking marijuana. Unfortunately, he saw me before I could hide. He grinned as usual, came closer, and had his hands all over me. This time, I was conscious. I couldn't believe it, but I punched him. He came towards me again, and we went into a scuffle. He pushed me close to the deep side of the lake but I turned and gave him the most brutal punch I could. He fell. He fell into the lake, and I could not save him. I returned to my hostel, packed my stuff, and fled the college. I took a transfer from the college and never returned...
Tears stream freely this time, as I could no longer restrain. It felt as if I had opened a dark can of grief and fear that had kept me caged all these years. My first night with Kareen after our wedding was nothing so good. I kept running from my wife, and we slept in different rooms. It took therapy for me to let my guard down around my wife. I never told her why; she felt it was my first night with a woman. Indeed, it was!
All through the night, I was wide awake and disturbed. I thought about a day I would summon the courage to tell my wife the truth about my past.
Would Kareen still look at me the same way after I told her the truth?
This remains an unanswered question in my heart.