The clock struck six and Makena heard Dan’s chair move and his shoes shuffle. She tensed and waited for the door to open. The hair on her arms stood stiff and her mind went blank. It’s funny how she had never gotten used to it despite the numerous number of times he did it. Then a familiar knock. Three times and then a slow turning of the knob. She got up from her chair and unbuttoned her blouse and sat on her desk. As she leaned back she felt the warm trickle of her tear racing down to the back of her neck.
“One minute!” she gasped as she quickly snatched some tissue and wiped her face. She didn’t want him to see her crying. She felt horrible but convinced herself it would only take a few minutes.
Dan walked in and without saying a word he locked the door drew the blinds. He then grabbed her by the waist and slid her off the table and turned her to face away from him. He was aggressive. The kind of aggressive displayed by a person taking back property that belongs to him. He unclasped her bra and lifted her skirt almost ripping it along the seams. Using his right foot he kicked her legs apart just above the ankles and pushed her head down on the table like a policeman apprehending a suspect with the intent of finding a concealed weapon. He undid the buckle of his belt as he held her down and dropped his pants this time with his hand tightly gripping the back of her neck.
She felt pain as she felt him enter. More tears. She couldn’t close her eyes while he pushed in roughly. As he grunted and heaved behind her, Makena let her mind wander off by looking at the windows on the building across the road. She watched the people busy moving about their offices as they worked overtime to meet their deadlines. It was interesting how everyone was so engrossed in their tasks that there was definitely no chance that they would look her way.
Her mind wandered off to her husband and kids. How earlier in the morning they all had breakfast in the master bed and laughed their hardest when the youngest child kept missing her mouth as she tried to feed herself like the rest of the family. She made a mess and everyone was happy. The parents had been working hard lately and the kids were ecstatic to have a much needed but rare unwinding occasion as a family. She recalled how her husband dropped her off at work as he started his Uber shift. He was really trying and the fact that he had had better days made her love him more for not giving in to frustration. The last couple of years had been tough financially and both man and wife had to make it work with their meagre incomes.
Makena felt him shake like an old car running out of fuel. He let off a deep guttural sound as his grip tightened on her hips. She could smell his cigarette breath as he contorted forward on her back. He was sweating and for a moment it felt like leaning on a wall of slime in a dirty, humid bathroom. She felt sick, ashamed and worthless. Moreso because it was Valentine’s day and she would later have to pretend to be horny for her husband.
Her boss pulled up his pants and tidied up his shirt. He pulled out his wallet and slipped her two one thousand shilling notes.
“Now you can’t say I didn’t give you a Valentines day gift,” Dan said in a low voice as he walked out, “And don’t come in late tomorrow”.
She could feel the triumph in his voice and how confident he was that this arrangement was permanent and that she had no power to stop it. More tears.
As she cleaned up and put on makeup she couldn’t help but acknowledge the hopeless emptiness she felt. She picked up her back and hurried out to the elevator. She took in three breaths of air and forced a smile as the doors slid open.
She desperately wanted it to stop but she couldn’t figure out how. She badly needed this job and since this had happened in her two previous workplaces, she had accepted that it is normal. Most of her friends were going through the same experience and even though this didn’t make her feel any better, it added further to the hollowness she felt in her being.
As she sat in the bus on her way home she couldn’t stop tidying her blouse and skirt. She felt uncomfortable and insecure as if everyone around her knew what she had been doing a few minutes before. Across from where she sat was a pregnant woman holding her bump as the bus hurtled down Valley Road towards the city center. Her heart skipped a beat and for a moment she couldn’t breathe. Earlier in the day she had taken a pregnancy test in the ladies bathroom. It came out positive.
This is a #TrueStory dedicated to the women and men in Nairobi who are subjected to sexual coercion every day at their places of work.
Flo Mwangi is a gifted writer who is known for her golden words. Maybe it is in the way she presents real-life-familiar situations that leaves readers wanting more, or it could be the way she speaks to me. I have to admit, she is one beautiful soul that I will forever be thankful to ever have met. Intelligent, reliable and well grounded. I also have to admit that I had to talk to her nicely just so she could let me publish this article. Take in her words and maybe then will you find out the reason why I am a hopeless fan. I am clearly biased.
By Flo Mwangi
I was musing about how interactions with people over the course of our lives has influenced and shaped us. Right from a tender age, from your teachers and playmates back in grade school, your first crush. I remember mine, my first crush, I thought I really loved him then again what did I know about love at that age? For all I knew love could’ve been the wonder of a beautiful butterfly fluttering about, or that wonderful feeling I got when mum came home from work with some goodies, or when we did those lovely family picnics, or when my best-friend carried extra snacks just for me, oh the excitement!! But it was so much fun just being together I mean we did not overburden each other with unrealistic expectations we accepted everyone as they were, one big happy family we all were, every day seemed like a holiday, there was so much harmony. And all these were manifestations of love in its simplest and purest form, we of course complicate it along the way as we grow up and life happens.
One thing I miss about being young is how despite of whatever catastrophes’/disasters might’ve been going on about us, we remained completely oblivious and so grounded in the moment it’s like we existed in a protective bubble and everything just bounced off of us. Nothing mattered more to us than the moment, we were not burdened by the worries and cares of tomorrow. We had so much energy, it’s like life just flowed through us and then growing up just saps it out of us *sigh* Where’s the time machine??
Ok maybe all was not rosy but our greatest fears, which at the time seemed life threatening, were school bullies and the meanies who in their torment sure sharpened our survival skills; we knew just when to sprint and what not to say around who and that just about covered everything. The meanies, now that’s a frustrated lot in life; you spend your life bringing nothing but agony and grief to others and think Karma will just pass you on by? Think about it though, if it weren’t for all those encounters we wouldn’t be who we are. All those people showed us how to live like we do. Whether it’s my ex best friends who I really don’t know how we grew apart, or past loves. I sure have had experiences of what love is and isn’t.
To those I loved but never showed it enough and they were taken from me too soon or we just drifted apart, and they took away a piece of my heart. I might not be able take that back, much as I wish I could, but from that I sure learnt to appreciate and cherish loved ones better for as long as I still have them around. Then there are those that have been there from the start whose loyalties haven’t changed even in the tides of time. Timeless friendships and unions; the beauty of such people is I never need to explain myself to them because they understand me and love me, faults and all, and they only want what’s best for me. They’re ever challenging/inspiring me to be better. And not even my worst profanities can keep them away.
But I’d have to say the lessons I hold dear were from those that scarred me. Right from*Stacy who couldn’t stop running her mouth about me in grade school, for a long while I thought the problem was with me while clearly baby girl had bigger issues. All that bad mouthing was just a projection of her own shortcomings and nothing to do with me. And the likes of *Stacy don’t change much even in adulthood. But knowing that people will always have an opinion about me and how I should run mine, and that I cannot for the life of me please everyone, helps me deal with all that -if you ain’t got nothing constructive to say you could keep going till you’re out of breathe and drop dead for all I care. To *Mark whose broken soul I was so bent on loving till it mended until l I realized no amount of loving would fix his broken self. Positive change can only be brought about by one’s own acceptance that indeed they do have a problem and genuinely seeking out solutions to that problem. Love is just not enough if the one you love has no willingness to change for the better, no matter how much of it you give, and making up excuses for them trying to cover up for their flaws does not help the situation either. Hoping that you can love someone enough to change them is deluding oneself. Before long you find yourself in an emotional rollercoaster that completely drains you emotionally and physically and that is no way to live. Walk away from that.
And if you’re lucky all that wrong might be righted by an encounter with someone who forever changes your perception of love. Right from our first date I knew there was something special with this one. I went into it with an open mind and having no expectations whatsoever except to enjoy myself. I did not have the ‘Mr. Right” checker list we girls secretly carry around. We have all the wrong things on there anyway; all centered on image. Now see that’s where we go wrong. I’ve done that; stayed with someone cause we looked so good together, picture perfect and behind closed doors we could not have been more incompatible. Or because he was well off and seemed like he had a lot going for him and boy did he have a lot going; women, children, physical and emotional abuse. You get the drift.
Back to my date; expectations aside, guard down, I have never had more fun. There were no facades no fronts. He made me laugh. I felt comfortable in my skin and so did he. It was like we had been doing this for years. How do you explain being with someone for the first time and yet feeling like you’ve known them all your life? There was chemistry too; not the ardent urge for physical gratification but a palpable excitement brought about the anticipation of what could be. By the end of that evening I knew that that was the onset of something wonderful and I wasn’t wrong. He has proven to be the best thing that has happened to me in a long while. Loving him is effortless. Even after all this time, every time we get together feels like the first time. I could talk to him for days. He gets me. He sees right through me. Now would you fault me for wanting to have that for a lifetime? Didn’t think so. With him am constantly reminded that there are still some good people in the world, and that we all have a right to happiness in spite of past disappointments and failures. We might never forget the pain caused by those that did us wrong in our past but neither can we keep punishing those that we meet for others’ mistakes. We should never give up on love.
I know we all sit and wonder where all these people -that’ve touched our lives one way or other- are. We’ll never see those days again, and things will never be that way again but that’s just how it goes.
People change, but memories are forever.