I tend to think that life is a kite suspended in air. One moment in this direction, the other moment in that direction. I don’t know how yours is. But mine changed just like a kite in the wind that day, a day that will forever be fresh in my memory. I know it does not concern you, but you should know that my mum is an elder at our local church. That being said, that day was Sunday and she was sitting somewhere in the congregation listening to what the preacher had to say. While she was there, I was making myself comfortable in my couch, staring at Johnny Bravo having a hard time with girls despite all his cool lines and muscles. Not that I don’t go to church, but on that Sunday I did not, a decision that I regretted, that and may more days that followed.
Terry (of course not her real name) had passed by my house and we spent the whole day doing what girls do best – telling stories of other girls and other boys. Quarter to seven PM, Sunday evening, I decided to escort Terry into the dark, but not too far from where I lived. Our house was among a sea of other houses. If you were to look at my neighbourhood from the sky, you’d think that a million glass bottles shattered into billions of pieces. My house is the biggest estate (sometimes they call it slum) in Africa, Kibera.
Here, we survive, we don’t live. This place imposes itself on you. To remain on top of the food chain, you have to be alert and 5 steps ahead of your time all the time. You must master all the major roads, streets and the loneliest of lanes (we call them choche – from chochoro). And this is important because at one point or the other, you are going to have to use them to save your life from dogs, gangs and even yourself. But most of the time, you will be saving your skin from the people who are supposed to be saving you – the police. They pretend to roam the neighbourhood in search of thieves and disorderly people, but in real sense they look for a lone girl to take advantage of, a youth to harass and eventually kill ‘because he/she is part of a gang that terrorises the hood’ or just another citizen minding his own business to extract kitu kidogo ya serikali out of.
Had I known that embracing my friend and turning back to head home would have brought me the calamity it did, I would have proceeded onwards. Had I been warned that it would be literally the most fucked up day of my life, I would have gone to church with my mother. But I did not know. I know God knew, but He did not tell me. I had no idea that after living in this environment for fifteen and more years, it would one day betray me. That after investing in the right friends, they would invest in a knife to stab my back. That they would allow themselves to be filled with greed so much that it makes them forget we’re family.
They stole from me. In fact, they robbed me. And I am still yet to recover.
If you wake and see people walking their ugly chihuahuas in the morning instead of walking to work, then you have no idea how difficult life can be. Worse if you are in Kibera. Difficult is not even the word to describe the difficulty. And it gets even hellish if you are a woman. When you are a woman living in the slum, your life is not yours.
So that Sunday night, I happened to walk by a group of boys busy doing whatever it is boys do at night. I was in a hurry because it was late already, and ugali had better be cooked by this time. As mannerless as they are, they began to catcall after me. I ignored. Did not even turn my eye. They expected me to stop and hear them out, but I could not because it was late, and ugali should have been ready by that time. They boys got frustrated and furious. So they stopped idling and began working their way in my pursuit. They were THEE boys of the hood. Ones who commanded other boys around. How dare they call me and I refuse to answer?! All this time, they are calling me names. Shameful names.
I am scared. I immediately feel that I am in danger. I step on the gas. I was somewhere in between walking and running. My heart was somewhere between beating very fast and beating very fast until it dies. Before I could take off, they had caught up with me. A helpless babe surrounded by bloodthirsty men. A frail chick in front of a spitting cobra. A wounded calf subdued by hyenas.
I cannot explain how powerless I felt. But I can tell how they ripped my clothes and tore their way past my pants. I begged them to stop. But they did not. I tried to fight them off. But they were too strong for me. I screamed before a mighty hand covered my mouth. Another one pushed my legs apart with so much power it easily paints a picture of Samson trying to break the two pillars of that Philistine church. Then, when the pillars gave in, he forced his way inside. I swear it felt like a rocket launching in me, burning its way through. Like a double-edged sword that was repeatedly slicing its way up my chest from my quim. Immense pain. They took turns at me. Different lengths, gurths and energies. With each thrust something broke in me. With each stroke another thing died.
Putting up a fight proved futile. My body was utterly useless. All I had to do now was wait. And I gave up to their force. Those boys abused me. As if I was a rug in a school’s dormitory. I was opened up, then everything I was comprised of was ripped apart. This body was not mine anymore – it belonged to them. I wished I would die.
They would have gone on forever. But an inquisitive voice shouted from a distance:
“Mnafanya nini hapo??!!!!”
They took off. Leaving my soulless body lying there. In the cold of night. As desolate as a human being can ever be. I was no one. I even struggle to pay my taxes. I did not deserve this. Why was the world like this? Wait, where was God? Where was He who claims to love us more than anything? WHERE?!
God was nowhere to answer. He had abandoned me. Broken His promise.
“Madam nini mbaya? Uko sawa?? Wamekuguza?? Ongea ??!” a male voice demanded. I could only see a silhouette.
“Sasa hizi ni gani tena?!” He remorsed as he covered me with his jacket.
No matter how many showers I took, how many brands of soap I used and how many scrubs I did, nothing made me feel clean. The dirtiness was inside. I felt like a foreigner in my own body. Like a foreigner who was not welcome. For many days I locked myself up and did so much crying it were oil, the US would be conspiring to invade me. I blew my nose so hard it turned red and sour. I battled with myself. I hoped no one would notice the piece of junk I was.
Everyone became a threat. You were damned if you happened to be a boy. I became insecure and violent. I kept to myself, bottling up the bitterness I had with life. I became venomous. I could not stand the mention of God. My life changed.
You measure your will by the actions you take after a fall. I went through my dark days. I moved on. Today, as I share my story with the world, I am happy that I conquered my demons. I still wonder why and how, but it does not drag me back there. Maybe I should have gone to church that Sunday, or I should not have invited Terry, or better still, I should not have escorted her. Well, that’s in the past now.
PAIN CANNOT ACCURATELY BE DEFINED. AND WE HEAL EVERY DAY!
Owner of story: Nancy.
Bio: Nancy is a videographer, editor and communications assistant at a reputable NGO in Nairobi, Kenya.
Story re-written by Oliver Kagwe.