The wall clock reads a few minutes to 5 p.m. She decides it’s time to leave the office. Being a government employee, she’s probably among the few still parading the quiet corridors; considering most of her colleagues had not returned after heading out for lunch. She hurriedly gathers her things and stuffs them into her bag; not because she wants to beat the Nairobi traffic that is the bane of all its inhabitants, but because she had planned to meet two of her friends at a restaurant in Upper Hill for happy hour. They were also going to celebrate her recent promotion. Besides, she’s missed her friends, and quite frankly, she also feels the need to blow off some steam. It’s been a long week after all.
Her phone starts to ring. It’s one of her friends, Sheila. ‘She probably wants to ask where I am’, she says to herself. ‘Or maybe she wants to ask where we’re meeting up.’ She smiles to herself. She picks it up and even before uttering the customary ‘Hello’, she shouts ‘Ata karibu nifike!’ (I’m almost there). She says she may be late.
She kicks off her heels under her desk and swaps them for her flats. They’d be easier to walk hurriedly in than the stilettos. She locks her office, bids the secretary goodbye, and walks hurriedly towards the elevators. She wonders whether it would be a good idea to ask the secretary to accompany her. She’s decent and minds her own business; indifferent to office chatter. She decides against it. Maybe next time!
“There’s nothing as frustrating as waiting for an elevator.” The man beside her mutters exasperatedly, while vehemently pushing the elevator down button. It’s the fifth or sixth time he’s pressed it. His exaggerated impatience amuses her. ‘Why do people press the call buttons on an elevator numerous times?’ She wonders. ‘Pressing it more than once won’t make the elevator come any quicker.’ But of course, she can’t say that out loud in the circumstance, because that would be pushing a different kind of button – And she wasn’t one to deal with confrontation, especially from a volatile stranger.
She’s soon on the city pavements, clutching her handbag tightly as a safeguard; against the magicians of Nairobi. You know, those who can make the contents of your backpack disappear while you’re still carrying it. Everyone seems to be walking with a sense of precaution. She’s spotted several men holding closed fists; ready to hit out at any sense of endangerment, like a cornered cat holding out its claws. The Safeboda she had ordered arrives shortly, and she’s soon on her way to Upper Hill; with eyes squinted, and against the wind, building pressure on her chest and hitting her face like it intended to go right through.
She’s soon at the entrance to the restaurant. The guard abstractedly searches her bag and motions her to pass through. The place is packed. She scans the room looking for Lois; the only one among their trio who keeps time. She spots her; seated at a corner table, waving excitedly at her. Lois says that she’s already ordered for food and cocktails. Sheila joins them some fifteen minutes later. They’re soon deep in their usual gossip, with giggles and short outbursts of laughter to accompany their cocktails. They decide to stay past happy hour and order for wine. Her friends raise a toast to her. ‘Excelsior!,’ they shout in unison.
The music in the restaurant is soothing. The few who know the lyrics are mumbling them away, as some dance in their seats amidst their conversation. She looks around and locks eyes with a guy seated three tables away. He smiles at her. She smiles back because she’s having a good time and she has no reason not to. Her friends urge her to join the few people lost in the music on the dance floor. She resists her friends’ persuasions before giving in; and because Sauti Sol’s Midnight Train is such a jam!
The music plays over the dance floor as if fused with the bodies. She feels its vibe and lets her body go free. Dancing was as natural to her as breathing. She would move with purposeful clarity and absolute control over every inch of her body; and with every poised stride she took, she did with sharp precision and a touch of nonchalance. Lost amid her elegant whirls, she’s oblivious that she’s garnering attention. A few enticed by her exuberance, join her; most unsuccessful in replicating her elegant steps. Meanwhile, her friends take pictures. Because what is a great night without capturing a few beautiful moments?
The man from before is visibly fascinated by her dancing. He approaches her and asks if he could dance with her. She politely declines. He places his hand on her waist and pulls her gently; with a ‘don’t be like that’ face. She tries to pull away but his grip has grown tight. She wriggles away from his grip and pushes him away with potency. ‘I SAID NO!’ She shouts, her voice drowned in the loud music. Her friends charge towards the scene on seeing the commotion and order him to leave. He walks away abashed.
They return to their table. They drink, sing along, and dance in their seats.
She soon shows herself to the washroom, because she has sweated a bit too much and she needs to freshen up. She looks at her inebriated self in the mirror and smiles. She remembers scenes like this in the movies; people staring at their hammered selves in the mirror and burst out laughing.
The washroom door squeaks open, interrupting her thoughts.
This guy again!
He says hello. She’s lost for words. ‘This is the ladies’ room,’ she tells him.
‘I know.’ He says, moving closer to her. ‘I know we got off the wrong foot. I wanted to reintroduce myself.’
‘This is so weird and uncomfortable. Please leave.’
He doesn’t listen. He’s a few feet from her. ‘I don’t even get a chance to know your name?’ He’s up-close now. He has a shaggy beard and a small scar on his left cheek. She senses danger.
‘If you won’t leave I’ll leave.’ She says. She picks her purse and attempts to walk past the man. He pulls her back. ‘I mean no harm, miss.’ The grip he has on her forearm tells a different story. She tries to wrestle her hand free but he’s too strong.
‘You don’t have to be like this.’ He says.
‘Leave me alone!’ She pleads.
She finally gets her hand free. She’s pissed. She walks past the man, without looking at his face. He slaps her ass as she walks away. She turns back to confront him. He has a wry smile plastered across his face; visibly proud of himself. She attempts to slap him, but he grabs her wrist and wrestles her to the ground. She tries to fight. She claws, scratches and throws aimless punches. He pins her other arm to the ground.
The next few minutes are all a blur to her. She sits on the cold floor, drowned in trauma, for the next few minutes.
She pushes her aching body to get up. She turns to look at her reflection in the mirror; this time, no thoughts of laughter. Instead, she breaks down.
And yet this was a night meant to be memorable.
If we were to be introspective for a minute and try to imagine your daughter, sister, mother, aunt, girlfriend, female best friend, or any other beloved female you know. How would you feel if either of them narrated to you disturbing tales on how they were sexually abused?
I feel like it’s really embarrassing in this day and age to keep reminding people about basic human decency. Yet, cases of sexual abuse increase each day. The most affected are women, who unlike men, have to endure an instance of abuse every single day. They are the ones most likely to be fired because they reject sexual advances from their boss; the ones most likely to be raped when they go out for a jog at night (they can’t even think about doing that in the first place); and they get to endure cat-calling or people talking about their bodies. I have a friend who wears earphones when she leaves the house in the morning, not only because she has a dope playlist, but also because she doesn’t want to hear such men shamelessly cat-call her, or speaking about her body in a certain way…because it hurts.
I think men who behave in such a manner don’t deserve that label ‘men’. I think we should go ahead and question who really raises those who engage in such behaviour.
You don’t have a right over a woman’s body. You’re not entitled to it to begin with. The minute you start to view a woman as anything else but a human being first, you need to reassess your mindset. Also, gaslighting women into thinking that they are the authors of their pain; that they should have protected themselves better; that if they relax and treat all men as human beings, it’s their fault if they get raped; shaming them when they’re abused because they wore skirts that were a little bit too short. All that is inappropriate!
Sex without consent is rape. Read that statement over again. I’m sure that you’ve probably heard it before. There’s really no two ways about it. No blurred lines. No ‘agree to disagree’. There can’t be a difference of opinion over basic human decency. If she’s feeling uncomfortable or reluctant, stop it! If you go further, that’s rape. If there’s any form of coercion that’s rape. If you have any doubts about anything check the meaning of the word ‘consent’ in the dictionary, lest you end up starring in some girl’s Instagram story.
Beware of the frauds though – those girls, who fabricate harrowing tales just to slander a guy. We must call them out as well.
The fact still remains…there are no blurred lines.