KWALE, 1993.

Thunderstorms rumbled outside the thatched house of mama Awele as rain heavily pattered down to the old roof and unto the sandy ground. Every family in the small village was taking shelter in their huts, while some slept from the cold and relaxing feeling the rain brought, others warmed their afternoon meals in clay pots. Babies sucked at their mother’s breasts and fathers lay

with hands behind their heads, thinking of their farms and traps set far away in the bushes.

As a flurry of rain splashed outside unbothered, a naked terrified ten-year-old Chukwufumnanya lay supine, her tiny thighs held wide open by two elderly women.

She shuddered fearfully as mama Awele, the aged well-respected woman of the village approached her with a razor blade, firmly held in between her ashy fingers.

The little girl dropped her head backward in a final plea to her mother who was kneeling above her and holding her hands in place. Her mother’s expression was blank, eyes avoiding her daughter’s terrified stare by all means.

As she held her gaze up to her mother, mama Awele sliced the razor blade over the hood of her clitoris, cutting it off, Chukwufumnanya let out a high pitched wail, accompanied by the violent crackling of lightning outside.

She wriggled her small body in vain, desperate to be set free.

Mama Awele flapped the bloody blade in a calabash of herbs and hunched back in between the little girl’s thighs.

Chukwufumnanya shrieked as another slice took off more flesh from her clitoris. “Nne ehhhh!” she cried pleadingly, back up at her mother.

Her young mother stared bravely ahead at the sandy brick walls of the hut, tears escaping her eyes in spite of her determination not to look down at her anguished daughter.

Another cut sent more blood oozing out of Chukwufumnanya, accompanied by her aggressive screaming.

The four women standing by watched on in silence, emotionless even, except for the quiet sobbing of Chukwufumnanya’s mother.

A loud thunderstorm rumbled over the roof as mama Awele plucked out what was left of a weeping Chukwufumnanya’s clitoris. She proceeded to the labia to slash out the tiny lips of flesh already soaked in blood.

Chukumfunanya’s legs pulsated from the throbbing pain, her body shuddered violently in the stronghold of the elderly women, determined to keep them down.

Her eyes began to roll back into her head and she could feel life begin to leave her body…

“Fumnanya!” her mother fearfully slapped her face, repeatedly. “Fumnanya!!”

She gasped, coming awake as cold water splashed across her face. Her eyes opened to one of the elderly women standing over her with an empty bucket.

“Ei don finish” she heard mama Awele casually say at her feet. “We go bring her second when rain stop”

That was her twin they were referring to. The women continued to converse in low tones.

Their voices trailed away as dizziness again overtook a numb Chukwufumnanya.

Lightening fiercely struck outside, accompanying the little girl as she weakly drifted away.


Chukwufumnanya could not feel it, she lay quietly as her husband groaned away on top of her.

Her mind shifted to the work she had left piled up on her desk at the office, she thought about what her boss would say come Monday when he found out that the report he had asked her to prepare was undone, but it really wasn’t her fault she consoled herself, her laptop had been acting up that Friday, she called her Computer technician who came and picked it up from the office, promising to return it today being Saturday.

She looked over at the wall clock, the time read 7’o clock, she would call him once this was over…She hissed, eager for her husband to be done already.

Ken froze over her and immediately, she realized that she had hissed out loud.

“I’m so sorry” she hastily apologized, gritting her teeth in regret.

Ken recoiled his head, amazed, he looked down at her remorseful face. “Did you just hiss?”

“I’m so sor…”

“My God Fumnanya!” he remarked, rising grudgingly.

She climbed down the bed after him, grabbed her full white slip from the floor and quickly wore it over her naked body.

She ran after him to the bathroom, stopping at the doorway, “I am so sorry,” she apologized, leaning against the door frame. “I swear I didn’t know when I made that sound…”

“But you meant it, didn’t you?” He turned to look at her from the sink.

She shrugged, gesticulating her hands uncertainly.

“Oh my God, really?!, you can’t even lie to make me feel better?”

“Would you want me to?”

Ken gaped, planting his hands to his hips. “I can’t believe you right now”

“I’m sorry..”

“Stop!,” his hands flew up in frustration. “..Just stop saying that!”

He felt defeated. Girls from his past had always commended him for knowing how to please the woman anatomy all too well, so much so he was nicknamed “the hammer”, a title everyone soon caught up with. But his wife, his wife whom he loved more than anything in the world, whom he wanted to give all the pleasure to, hissed at his efforts.

It was offensive, depressing even.

Heaving a sigh to calm his nerves, he dropped both hands to his sides and took two steps to stand in front of her.

“Fumnanya,” he began, “we’ve been married for a year, today marks it one Year and a week precisely, yet since the day we said ‘I do’ which you made me wait for, by the way, you dodge sex at all costs. The times you consent to it, you just lie there motionless, no moaning whatsoever. You said it would be better if we used lubricant, I bought one, grudgingly,” He held up a finger to emphasize his point, “yet nothing changed. No matter the amount of lubricant I use which was your idea in the first place, you still lie there stiff, it’s like you’re not even here. Am I so terrible that I bore you?…”

“I enjoy your company”

“In bed goddamit! You know what I mean”

“But I said I’m sorry, it’s not like it’s my fault..”

“So it’s mine now? huh? Haven’t I done everything you’ve asked of me?” He paused, took in her silence then continued. “What is going on Fumnanya? Tell me what I can do to fix it, to please you”

She turned away and began trudging back into the bedroom. “You can’t,” she said, lowering herself unto the bed.

Ken interpreted that as a vulnerability to talk so he strolled lazily to her side and sat down beside her, waiting.

She crossed her arms across herself and leaned forward on her knees.

Slowly, she looked over at her husband whom she knew loved her so deeply. He had been patient, respected her when she chose celibacy until their wedding night, loved her and stayed patient those two Months after their marriage when she won’t let him touch her. She was terrified of the very idea of sex.

But she had her reasons and those reasons traveled way back.

At thirteen, Chukwufumnanya like many girls her age were warned against sexual practices, she was forbidden to be alone with a boy, she was to wait until she got married, this she gladly concurred to.

She was in no hurry, her mother had told her all too often that her virginity was a pure thing, so pure it had to be protected. So she went through Secondary school safeguarding it, never going beyond kisses no matter how much she liked the boy.

When she turned twenty, she set off to College and there she met Emeka, a 21-year-old student in her Department. They fell in love, fast and hard. They were inseparable, going everywhere together, doing everything they could as a team. Their closeness got them the nickname ‘love birds’ around the school campus.

Waiting until marriage didn’t seem like a good idea anymore, she was in love and for Emeka, she was ready to give up her long-cherished virginity.

So, one cloudy Sunday evening, she followed her beloved to his friend’s house off-campus. With her heart pounding in her ears, she laid willingly for him to take her honor in exchange for that sweet pleasure she read about in books, watched in romantic movies and heard everyone so pleasurably talk about, she even hoped for an orgasm – a feeling a girl in her hostel had described to be the greatest feeling ever! ‘Cloud 9’ was what she called it.

But, like mismatched puzzle pieces that wouldn’t go together no matter how twisted and entangled, she was tight and unaccommodating. Emeka plowed in any way, and she cried in excruciating pain.

“It is expected,” he said to her afterward as she lay still, recovering from the agonizing pain. “Next time will be sweet” he assured her.

But it didn’t feel sweet the second time, the third time, not even the seventh time, she didn’t get her orgasm either, and so she ruled sex off her books, it wasn’t for her she decided. She avoided it like a plague, much to the disappointment of a very lascivious Emeka…

“Fumnanya..” Ken touched her out of her thoughts “Talk to me, please”

She heaved, parting her lips. Her throat felt dry but she fumbled out her words anyway, “I am sorry”.

She rose from the bed and begun walking towards the other side of the room.

Ken was furious now, he stared at her back, lacking the right words to hurl at her.

“Is there someone else?!” He finally yelled, jolting to his feet.

Shocked, she whirled around to stare at his infuriated face. “How can you ask me that?” she queried, hurt that he could think so low of her.

But Ken was too angry to care. He had always sensed there was a part of her that she kept from him, he had been patient, maybe too patient, but not today, he was not having any more of it.

Slowly but threateningly, he began to stomp towards her, his brown eyes darkening with every step. Chukwufumnanya shivered, backing up against the wall as he closed in on her.

“Is there someone else?” He repeated, standing right in front of her recoiled body, a hard furious gleam flaring in his eyes. “Am I some kind of a joke to you? some pawn? is that what this is?”

“N-No” she stuttered, shaking her head. “You’re scaring me, please back away”

He maintained his stand, eyes cold and dim.

“Please” she pleaded. “I’ll tell you, just please move away”

He shut his eyes, let out a loud sigh then released them, tightening his jaw.

He took two steps backward, allowing her space to duck away and stand by their bedroom window.

She stared out into their interlocked yard, silently.

Her shoulders began to rise and fall. He was afraid she was crying, but he was too angry to take her in his arms or walk around to face her, so they stood still, her back to his, his yearning face to her back.

“There is no other man…” she truthfully said, glancing to her left, “..and there never would be.”

She returned her gaze to staring out the window.

“When I was ten, I was circumcised” Her voice was barely audible, but he heard her, he heard those words and as his heart dropped in realization, compassion overtook his rage.

“My twin and I” she continued, “but hers was more severe. I kept passing out throughout the whole thing so I had just my clitoris and labia removed. Hers was what they call the type III procedure… her labia and clitoris were removed and her orifice stitched up. They left a tiny opening for urine, it was terrible. We battled various infections during that period, we were sick for weeks, high fever, then there was the open wound in our vagina that throbbed from dawn to dusk. I remember us being wary of water because we were too terrified to pee. We figured that if we didn’t drink so much, we won’t have to go pee. Having to ease yourself with an open wound in your vagina hurts, it hurt so bad” She paused, not wanting to cry but the tears swam down her cheeks anyway.

Ken felt rooted to his spot, his lips parted as he listened, still watching her back.

She moved away from the window, walking with her arms wrapped across her body. She sat down on her dressing stool and all Ken could do was turn his head towards her direction.

She sniffed, brushing her wrist over her runny nose. “When my sister turned 27, she got married which was two years before we met,” she gesticulated her finger back and forth between them “she had to go for a surgical procedure to open her up so she could become intimate with her husband..”

Ken’s brows shot up in surprise.

“When she got pregnant and it was time to have her baby, I watched her suffer so much on that bed, I mean, I know that labor is supposed to be hard but what she went through wasn’t normal” she shook her head insistently at her husband, and he nodded understandingly. “The labor was prolonged, it was taking forever, the doctor said it was due to a fistulae formulation. Eventually, they opted for a cesarean section but the baby died and two days after, my sister went too…” Her lips quivered at the bitter memory. “..And here I am” she shrugged helplessly, “unable to enjoy sex, unable to feel a thing”

Ken’s jaw tightened. It made sense now, all those times she won’t let him go down on her, how much she kept avoiding any move that meant burying his head in between her thighs, every position that could have even allowed that, she said she was shy but it was like she didn’t want him to see her there, and now he understood why. It made perfect sense.

“I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you before” she cried, “I’m so so sorry!”

Part of him was mad that she could keep such a vital aspect of her life from him, but the other part felt pity for her, and it hurt him, watching her sob like that.

He tried to imagine what it must have been like for her, the procedure, all those years she must have carried the pain, the emotional trauma, but he knew he couldn’t possibly comprehend what she had gone through.

He uprooted himself from his spot to the bed, cradled her in his arms and let her weep against his beating chest, a tear unexpectedly escaping his eye.

“I’m so sorry,” she said in between sobs.

He tightened his grip around her, rubbing her back tenderly. “It’s okay” he shushed her.

He continued to rub her back until she quieted down.

He lifted her chin with his finger and looked down tenderly into her misty eyes. “Can I see?”

Her brows flinched, unsure, before relaxing back on her face. She owed him this much, she knew she did.

Sheepishly, she nodded her head.

He let her go.

She shifted back into the bed, dropped her back to the mattress and locked her folded knees, embarrassed.

Ken knelt before her and placed his hands on her closed legs. “It’s okay” he assured her, gently trying to spread them apart.

She stiffened, not willing to open up.

“It’s okay baby, it’s okay” he encouraged.

Shutting her eyes tightly together, she willed herself to relax. Slowly, her legs came undone against his hands.

And there it was, half a clit.

His brows arched in shock, recovering quickly before she opened her eyes and caught his expression. He would be damned if he made her feel more uneasy than she already did.

“Are you done?” she hurried him, eager to slap her legs back together.

He parted his lips to speak but words failed him, so he bent forward instead, and lovingly, he placed a soft kiss on her scars.


56 thoughts on “PLUCKED.”

  1. Sigh…. expertly worded to stir emotions. Moving piece.. Hopefully as we advance as a society, we can get rid of this evil part of tradition. Female genital mutilation.

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