It’s 6 am. I’m deep in sleep when I hear the sounding of my alarm. I instinctively jump out of bed, not because I’m excited to face this day, but just so I can turn off the buzzing sound of my alarm. It’s Monday morning. Another day to make my dreams come true. Even though I’m not quite excited about it, I decide to start my week on a high note, and I shift my thinking to positive thoughts.
I enter the bathroom to turn on my shower when I realise that I needed to have turned on the pump the previous day, and consequently, there’s no running water. I want to go outside and turn it on manually, but I’m scared. It’s still dark outside, and God forbid anything happened to me.
You see, while this may seem like an irrational fear, it has built up over the years. I’ve lived here for five years now and in that short time, two of my neighbours have tried to aggressively make a move on me. One time, I was reading a book casually on a hot afternoon when I heard my doorbell ring. The guy, a neighbor who eventually moved out, was notifying me that the water had started coming in. At the time we had a water problem in the estate. When he knocked I had been wearing pajama shorts and a tank top. I was at home, and home means comfort. When he saw me he asked to come in, and I stupidly let him in thinking he had something to discuss with me. It was then that he asked me if there was a chance I would sleep with him. He said that I looked sexy in shorts, and he was attracted to me. When I turned him down he left angrily, saying that I wasn’t even that pretty. Ever since then, I’m super paranoid about everything. My curtains are constantly shut and I rarely ever hang out in the compound of our estate.
Eventually, once the sun rises, I head towards the tank and turn on the water pump. But before this, I change to sweatpants and a baggy sweater. I have to do this. I don’t want to attract anyone, and it seems some people just can’t resist the sight of a woman in shorts.
Once I’m done showering, I check my schedule. First things first, I have to go to town to run a few errands. After that, I will head directly to the office. Later on, I have a date with this guy I met at a party some time back.
I would have loved to wear a dress. The weather is perfect. However, because I know that I’m going Downtown, a dress will make me feel vulnerable. I’ve always felt this way. I only wear dresses to certain places, and even then, I’m very careful about the length. From a young age, I was taught not to provoke men. I was taught to cross my legs when sitting, lest a man is provoked to assault me. The irony is, I have friends and family who have been assaulted even when they were in tight skinny jeans and a halter neck top with a hoodie on top. I quickly wear pink paper bag pants and a long-sleeved top and head to the stage to catch a matatu.
As I’m walking to the stage, I see a bunch of men seated on the curb ahead, and I instantly feel a rush of anxiety. I start to calculate how I can cross the road so that I don’t have to face them, but as soon as I start crossing, I hear one of them yelling.
“Sasa madam! Wewe ni size yangu kabisa!” He says, and I ignore.
I take out my earphones and quickly put them on. I don’t want to hear whatever it is they have to say. I don’t care what music I’ll put on. Just something loud enough to books out those unsolicited comments. Luckily I catch my matatu without any other dramatic incidents. But while I’m giving the conductor my fare, I see him winking at me, and I choose to ignore it once again. You see, I’ve been conditioned to ignore a lot of these things. I feel helpless because, given the chance, I would report these men to the authorities. It’s a reality that we have all come to accept, and that’s part of the problem.
Once I’m done running errands in Town, I head to the office. This place is both a blessing and a curse for me. A blessing, because I have learnt so much and even improved my C.V tremendously. A curse, because it seems as though in my career development as a woman, I have to go through the most. When I first got here, I heard all sorts of rumours about me. Some people said that I had slept with the boss to get to this position, and almost every month I would hear a new rumour about how I slept with someone else.
In my time here, again, I have been harassed several times. I can count about ten men who have blatantly asked me to sleep with them. Once even, one of the guys inappropriately caressed my breasts. I didn’t realise it until much later, and when I did, I never spoke to him again. You see, while I might have wanted to report him, a friend of mine warned me that it would tarnish my name among my fellow employees and that I would make him get fired yet he had a whole family to take care of.
I can’t wear a dress to the office either. When I first started working here I would, but after a few months down the line, I vowed to stop. Why? They made me feel vulnerable. Everyone would notice me. I felt as though I was accessible, and that it was easier for a man to get to my private parts. But when they ask why I don’t wear dresses, I smile innocently and change the topic.
I’m finally done with work, and at 4 pm, Johnson, the guy who asked me out on a date, calls. He says that he’s waiting outside the gate. I start to panic. Some part of me isn’t comfortable being in his car. I don’t know him that way. The only reason I said yes to him was that he’s a friend of a friend, and so I hope that at least that will make him act right.
At the end of the date he offers to drop me at home, and I completely refuse. I don’t want him to know where I live. Maybe I have trust issues with men, but you can’t blame me. Prevention is better than cure. So I decide to order an Uber. It makes no sense that I should be comfortable in a stranger’s car, but that’s just how it is. Even though he is offended, I stick to my word. I’m taking an Uber home.
The Uber arrives five minutes later, and I instinctively check that the child lock is off. I seat on the back left seat so that if the driver tries anything, at least I can see him and act as fast as I possibly can. As I walk through the gate of my estate, the watchman stares at me suspiciously.
“Leo huwezi kunisalimia madam? Ama ni kwa sababu umetoka kwa gari? Na vile uko smart madam…” He asks, and again, I ignore and walk right past him.
I get into the house and breathe a sigh of relief.
“Thank you, for arriving here safely,” I say to myself.