Cycling Stories

Thoughts of a Nigerian Girl

April 17, 2020

Thoughts of a Nigerian Girl

Even in the 21st century, it was in a community where females wore skirts or gowns only. You couldn’t wear shorts or trousers. Or, if at all, they must be worn an under a dress. It was immoral. And that was that.  

Maybe it was because she was the only girl of the family, but she was a tomboy. And one of her hobbies was cycling. But then, she couldn’t do it. 

Now, there weren’t any laws stopping her from being a cyclist. But, her skirt always got stuck in the wheels of the bicycle anytime she wanted to ride. And she’d already pulled it all the way up. But then, she could only do that in their house, because it was immoral for a girl to show her bare thighs in public.  

It was a Monday afternoon. Her stepmother had sent her to buy pepper, which was a ten-minute walk from their house. There she was, brooding about the long walk and stomping her feet while heading out the door. But only once she was out of sight of her stepmother, of course. In their culture, a child should never talk back to their parents or elders. It was disrespectful.  

She was almost out of the house when a bike caught her eye. “Yes! I’m going to take that bike,” she thought. She wiped her glassy eye with the dorsal part of her palm. Maybe she wanted to cry while she’s being remorseful about the long walk. It was her brother’s bicycle, but he’d gone to school. She’d be in school, too, if she hadn’t already graduated high school.  

The bicycle came in handy, even though it was too small for her five-foot, 15-year old body. Of course, she was wearing a skirt, so she clumsily pulled it up and tied the sides into a knot, revealing her fair skin.  

She glided so smoothly that she looked like a pro. She noticed her silent surroundings. “The children have all gone to school,” she thought.  

She wasn’t sitting on the seat. Her back was curved over the handlebars, and she didn’t care. She preferred standing on the pedals, anyway, rather than sitting on the seat. Her preferences didn’t matter, though. If she rode while sitting, her thighs would have collided with the handlebars, and the bicycle wouldn’t have been able to move. 

She learned to cycle on her own with this same bike. She never had a chance to ride one when she was a child. Instead, she remembered building a small cave with sand when she was a child, and putting some grains on the outside. She stood guard, as still as a sculpture, waiting for a bird to fall prey. She remembered playing hide and seek with her siblings and her brother’s friends.  

The most memorable times were when she played daddy and mummy with her friends. She was the mummy that day, and she went to a corner with daddyDaddy told her to lie down on a concrete ground, and he laid on top of her as well. She was worried that someone might catch them. She didn’t know what they were doing. She didn’t know what romance was. Maybe she would learn it from her friends, or maybe it was just inborn. The only thing she knew was someone mustn’t catch them in that position.  

She winced at the memory and wished it would somehow be eradicated from her mind. “What if I decided to slide down a steep hill on a bicycle?” she wondered. Hopefully, she’d crash and be left with a brain injury that wouldn’t allow her to remember her past. She’d always thought of that as her first time having sex. But, was it actually sex? She was sure she wasn’t naked that day, but maybe she’d forgotten some parts.  

Sometimes, she’d even stand in front of a mirror and separate her legs. Her Biology teacher told her class that there is something called a hymen in the cervix. Standing there, she’d sometimes think she saw the hymen, but other times she was doubtful.  

She made up her mind that she was going to do a virginity test when she turned eighteen. What would be her reason? She wouldn’t dare tell her mother. Maybe she even lost her hymen during those high jumps in the forest while playing with her brothers? Or while cycling? It was possible. At least that’s what she’d read online. But if her hymen had torn while jumping or riding, she should have seen blood, right? 

She was so deep in thought that she barely noticed a woman shaking her head in disgust as she rode by. “Such a grown-up girl, riding a bike as if she’s a kid or a boy,” the woman murmured. 

As she wheeled in front of the shop, she thought that the ride had seemed so short. Another problem was that she’d forgotten what type of pepper her step mother instructed her to buy. Is tomato, or cayenne pepper? Was it tatashe and rodo? She decided on cayenne pepper and rodo.  

It wasn’t until she was back home and her stepmother was about to blend the pepper that she realized she bought the wrong peppers. Her stepmother wanted to cook fried rice and stew, but she didn’t buy green paper or tomatoes. She was hidden behind the door, waiting, gauging her reaction.  

“Take the bicycle and hurry back now. The food will soon start burning. Oh, by the way, change into a leggings so you’d ride more easily,” her stepmother advised as she shooed her away.  

She couldn’t believe her ears. “As a lady, I thought it was immoral to wear leggings,” she wondered to herself as she rode.  

The woman who had shaken her head in disgust earlier saw her riding now. Although this time, she did something worse. She would have shrieked at the top of her lungs, had a cough not caught the sound and prevented it from fully escaping her throat. “I’m going to tell your mother, you slutty child!”  

But, she had already ridden ahead.  

Rosheedat Lolade Akindele is a first-year medical student at Usmanu Danfodiyo University in Sokoto, Nigeria. She's a fan of memoir, mysteries, and poetry - especially Dylan Thomas poems. 

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