I am scared. I wasn’t always scared, but the past few months, this fear has been with me constantly. Seeing that I was not hurt, I guess I shouldn’t be scared but I am.
It was a Saturday, a little after seven in the evening, I think. I needed to get home, but I only had twenty bob on me. When you live in Rongai, twenty shillings cannot do much for you as far as transportation goes. So I figured I needed to find a Chase bank ATM. The nearest one was at petrol station in the Nyayo Stadium vicinity. I could have used that twenty bob to get there, but I could not just stand at a bus stop and wait for a bus. I needed to be active, I needed to do something, I needed to be busy enough to block out thoughts.
Walking has always been a chill activity for me. Sometimes, when I need to think (and hear myself do it) I walk. Then sometimes, when an exhauster truck breaks down in my life, the escapist in me goes on a walk and literally walks away from all the troubles in my life, this was one of those days Craig David days.
I looked around, up and down the highway and I was sure I would be okay; Mombasa Road is surprisingly well lit. So I began the long walk to that ATM…
About a couple hundred meters into the walking, two dudes walked by. I pulled further into myself… then I noticed they did not even look in my direction, they did not pause in their conversation, they just went on their way…and suddenly, and this decision walk to Nyayo on a fairly dark night was vindicated.
There is this overpass between Nyayo stadium and Capital center, you cannot possibly miss it. It is right next to a heavy machinery dealership, and on the other side of the road, there is a Shell petrol station.
So, I got there, and it felt a little scary walking by the road. It felt like I was being squeezed by some invincible heavy weight and would anytime find my body smack in the middle of the highway. I have never been a lover of big spaces, and life at the center of a highway did not appeal to me, over speeding cars aside. I decided to climb up to the overpass and use it to access the other side of the road (which looked like it had wider pavements.)
That climb was terrible, not that any climb is supposed to joyous. It was not necessarily steep but overuse of the path had made it so smooth with fine dust that it was slippery. But I was determined! Humming Miley Cyrus’s ‘The Climb’ to myself while I held onto the maxi dress and made sure the hem was a good few inches away from the tenacious fine dust. Halfway up, I saw this woman coming down from the top and I was like, ‘here goes the fall’ but she was a pro at this walking the steep path business, so luckily for me there was no tumbling (down) and soon I was on that overpass road.
I was standing at the edge of the overpass, any further step along that road would have led me to Nairobi West…or one of the alphabet Souths. I needed to cross and rejoin Mombasa Road, but a car was oncoming so I stood to let it pass. That is when I saw him. He came up from below the bridge from the side opposite me, he seemed rushed. And I recall thinking that if he didn’t pause for a second before diving into the road, whoever was behind those headlights would kill him. But he obviously was not much of a mind reader because he did not pause and certainly not the cautious type, he accelerated. And I was there practicing my eye witness accent and telling myself that this was it. I was so preoccupied that he was in the middle of the road when it hit me that this skinny dude in a checkered shirt and a pair of straight jeans that fit so well they might as well have been skinny jeans was not in a hurry to cross the road, he was in a hurry to get to me!
I hate to sound like a tape recorder, but it happened so fast! One minute I was thinking that, the next I was pulling my bag away from him. I cannot remember his face… I remember screaming ‘No!’ so many times, so vehemently in the hopes that he would be a believer that No really does mean No. And for the second time in my life, I encountered a man that would not take no for an answer. He took the bag and dived back. I was left with the handbag strap in my hands and headlights blurring my vision.
Looking back, I recall thinking to myself how cute his Vans were…probably a size seven, and since I am a size six; they would fit. Then it hit me that that ATM card I was planning to use at Nyayo stadium was gone; only then did I break down.
A watchman from a neighbouring house came forward and asked, me what was wrong. When I told him I had been mugged, he said ‘oooh, pole’ so casually that I wanted to throw stones at him…then he walked back to the house and I was so mad at him than I was with the thief. Anger is a weird thing, mine immobilized me. I just stood there and scream, one nice well rounded, sharp at the top scream. I might have done more theatrical screaming but these two dudes from KIMC heard me on their walk back from campus and came to my rescue… I got home okay.
This was a while back, and looking back, I know there is so much I could have done to avoid the situation (so save that lecture). And I will do all that (and more), in fact I have been doing it; but it does not mean I am not scared that it will happen again.
I am scared.
Some days, I’ll be walking (in daylight) to wherever and then one of those annoying dudes will come and walk alongside me, even after I have out rightly told them that I am not interested in a conversation and I will find myself clutching at my bag… Or I will be in town, waiting for traffic light man to change to green and I will find myself moving to the edges of that crowd, only to get to the jav, take a window seat, triple check that the window is shut tight then do an inventory of the contents of my bag. I am scared. I do not feel safe.
I am okay with being scared, I think, but I would not wish it on anybody. Which is why I am angry too. About a week after I was mugged, I was seating in a coffee shop hogging cake talking about the experience, when someone just went out and said I deserved being mugged. I was pissed at this utterance, but with time, it feels dim and I think I have forgiven it. But I am not so sure if it really is forgiving since I am yet to forget. I continue to be scared, even when I have all the reasons to feel safe, I do not ask for people to take up others’ emotions as their own, but sensitivity is key. Major key. Everybody deserves to feel safe, if you cannot empathize, say nothing!