From my vantage point, I’d sized him up enough to decide that he was going to be another time-waster. Like those girls in Nairobi who window shop at stores long enough to have you bring out your best merchandise, then go on to animatedly engage you in an impassioned session of haggling ( they bargain so well you’d think they are marketers, only that they are buyers) and end up saying ” niekee, wacha niende hivi nakam.” Seeing as it was too late to just disappear and leave the shop unattended, I stayed and braced myself. The closer he got, the darker my moods got. There was something disturbing about him that I couldn’t place my finger on. Maybe it was the way he smiled; a thin lopsided smile to match the predatory gleam in his eyes. His mien exuded a certain kind of sleaziness. And he moved boisterously, throwing his limbs about aimlessly, like he owned the premises and I wasn’t aware. Like time was not of the essence to him at all. He would pass for a forties man, the kind that led a careless life, one that said “I don’t give a hoot, as long as I’m fed and I’ve got a place to call home, I will not toil.” The lot that just sit around, play draught, or sip chang’aa like there’s no tomorrow, because the Lord was gracious enough to make up for their inadequacies through their hardworking wives. Wives who get their backs ironed by this scorching unforgiving sun tilling lands for people just so they can have a plate on the table come dinner time.
I can’t quite recall what he requested. But I’m sure it wasn’t something expensive. Not something worth getting off my chair for; coming to think of it, I reclined the entire time, with feet stretched out in front of me, oh, and I perilously had them on the counter as well.( My dad says the position is good for blood flow.) The odds were for me as whatever he wanted wasn’t in store. But I don’t know what had suddenly possessed this man because to my utter shock, he started leering at me. With eyes darting ever so quickly between my chest and thighs. As if I was just a faceless feminine thing sitting there. My feminist self refused the urge to have my legs off the counter or to reach for the hem of my dress that had ridden a tad bit up my thighs.
Me: Shida yako ni nini?! Si nimekuambia chenye unataka hakiko? Umengoja???
Him: (pretending to be speechless.) Aah ooh.
He stands there unmoving and now my heartbeat is frantic. I would have missed it, had he done it surreptitiously. But I saw his hand shift from his beard to his pocket then to his crotch. With eyes glued to my thighs, he slowly fondled his manhood to my horror. This couldn’t be happening! Not to me! What’s he doing?
And I shout, because that’s the only thing that can save me, it’s the only weapon I’ve got. If it kills me, let it be known that at least I fought back, and I hope they say that I also did finish the race, and kept the faith. And yes, there’s the possibility of me falling off this high chair and landing on my neck in case this man from hell does what I think he plans on doing.
Or worse that while trying to get away I may land not so graciously on the sacks of nails just behind me and have them driving through my skull like darts. Oh Lord! That would be a painful death. My brain short circuits and I find myself on my feet, with arms akimbo, hurling profanities like a mad woman.
Me: ( grunting) Urgh! Toka hapa na hiyo tabia yako muozo! ( I am subconsciously making for the backdoor, and I don’t know if seeing me retreat makes him get ideas, he starts for the only thing keeping me away from him; the little door that partitions the two sections!
This creepy man is not saying anything, just moving, and I can’t think fast enough. So I cry out loud for whoever that cares to listen.
Huyu anataka kuniangukia!! I think the wind carried the words with it, as seconds later I hear pairs of feet shuffling in, the light patters for those that had their shoes on already and the scuffs for those that just left as soon as the words were out, and now are trying to get to me and have them on at the same time.
The man must now be thanking the stars for the two entrances at the premise for he makes it out just when the others are ready to have their paws on him. And I’m left to narrate the sordid tale with the insistence that he was just here not so long ago. The deflated men disappear and now its just me choking on fear, I think I smell him but then again that could be fear at work. Driving me insane and letting him win.
So I pull out my phone and furiously type, in a bid to let out all of the emotion that I’m feeling; The anger towards men who think they can get away with harassment, conservative zealots who think that when situations like these happen, men are the victims and not us women, misogynists who think women like us, with voices that demand to be heard have nothing better to do, that women who choose to dress in short dresses, skirts or trousers are lesser women who deserve even less respect. I am angry at a culture that is still behind when it comes to taking action towards these men, on account of perpetrating the vice by doing so. A harassed woman will be told ” Don’t think about reporting him to the HR, that will be bad publicity for us. You may also risk losing your job. How about you pray about it? And maybe wear something appropriate next time?” But most of all, I’m enraged at the thought of another woman sitting on a story of this kind, or worse, thinking its her fault, or that it isn’t feminine to be so loud. To demand what was to be given to you in the first place!