I can’t believe I’m finally ready to write this post.
Shit. Fucking hell.
I was at a funeral last Friday. Another one.
And, this post I wrote about my friend’s passing?
It’s like every month of this year, someone around me died or lost someone they loved.
The month of May was not spared the touch of death either.
My favourite cousin’s father died this month after a short illness, and our whole extended family traveled upcountry on Friday last week to pay our last respects and lay him to rest.
The funeral service was packed, we couldn’t even get inside the church to listen to the sermon. So many of us had to stand outside and listen to the proceedings from the blaring speakers.
He was a pastor, and you could tell that he had impacted a great number of lives while he was still amongst us. It was truly humbling to see that many people come to pay their last respects to a wonderful man.
My baby brother and I were outside during the service, busy chatting with the wife to one of my other cousins. We were just catching up, making jokes. We’d missed her after months of not being together.
And then, out of the blue, with the conversation between my brother, my cousin’s wife, and I getting funnier and louder, I saw him.
He had just walked into the compound, and he was probably looking for a familiar face when our eyes met.
My heart froze. I just looked at him, into his eyes, willing him, nay, daring him, not to come and say hallo.
He quickly looked away as he walked past us, but, I kept my eyes on him for five more seconds.
I was transfixed. I didn’t want to be the first to look away because a part of me wanted to show him I wasn’t scared any more.
Another part was just trying to comprehend if this really was the man that I remembered from so many years ago.
The other part was just trying to mess with his head. ‘Boy, I see you! Run!’
But, I needed to look away because every extra second was becoming unbearable for the little girl inside.
I was a bit frazzled after that, and I remember telling my brother that I was going outside to look for another family member.
Anything to ensure that I don’t come into any contact with this individual.
I think my baby brother understood immediately because as I started to walk away, he followed suit, leaving my cousin’s wife standing there confused by the abrupt end to our engrossing conversation.
She probably thought we were so rude. I did feel slightly guilty for dragging my brother along when I was the one with the problem.
Hope she didn’t think ill of my brother. He was just being a loyal sibling and friend.
For good reason too. He’s the only witness to what I am about to tell you.
Our history with this man I was avoiding now dates back twenty years ago.
Our birth mother had just passed away, and we were living with our aunty, Wahu, and her husband (mum and dad as we now refer to them) in their huge house.
At the time, dad’s ailing grandfather was also staying with them. He was a mean old man, but my brother and I (mostly me because I was the cheeky one) always found a way to make him laugh.
Owing to his age, and his deteriorating health, he needed a constant caregiver. We too needed a minder because we were still young, and our adopted parents had full time jobs.
Their youngest son, Sam, had just joined med school, so he wasn’t available to look after the three of us.
That’s when mum made the fateful decision to hire extra help from upcountry. One of dad’s relatives was struggling with school fees for his young kids, so mum decided to hire their eldest son in the hopes that he could use part of his earnings to educate his younger siblings.
He was a teenager when he came to work for the family. I think he was in his late teens at that time.
It worked out well for the first few weeks, if I remember correctly. My grandfather was happy with the arrangement because this was someone he knew, someone he could trust, and definitely someone he could order around (my granddad loved ordering everyone around).
My mum was happy because now there was someone to take care of the old man, my baby brother and I, the house and the yard.
Everyone was seemingly covered, and life became manageable again for my adoptive parents.
But, things weren’t so rosy if you peeked below the surface.
After he had acclamatized to his new surroundings, the nightmare began.
My mind has successfully blocked out most memories from this time, but this is what I do remember;
– the taste of his mouth from him forcefully kissing me whenever he’d find me alone in some part of the house
– screaming myself hoarse and wondering why no one could hear me everytime he’d pin me on my back and mess with my privates until it hurt (usually happened on Saturday mornings- we were home from school, and the house was usually empty)
– how painful it was to take a piss after he’d touch me down there
– my baby brother’s confused and scared look when he’d heard me screaming one time from our room only to run and find me pinned to my back, kicking and screaming, with the houseboy forcibly fondling me (He stopped when he noticed my brother was at the door)
– him twisting my wrists painfully or squeezing my hands everytime that I tried to resist him, or I refused to do as he said (like touch him down there, I was not a fan)
– I remember endlessly kicking him, punching him, scratching him, trying to get him away from me, and he would be smiling and laughing all the while as he held both my hands together tight with his one hand, use his free hand to abuse me, and use his lower body to keep my legs still.
To stop me from screaming, he would be suffocating me with his mouth (his idea of kissing)
– I remember how tired I would feel after every encounter, and how sore my wrists, my hands, my arms, my privates, and my legs would feel. My head would also ache from the screaming and the crying
– I also remember how stupidly defiant I was. I would insult and berate him (with the little English and Swahili I could master back then) after every episode knowing full well he was going to come after me again.
I would fight, and I think that’s where my violent streak comes from (Don’t worry, I’m much calmer now).
This is just the gist of the abuse that probably started in 1999/2000 and ended in 2001, to the best of my recollection.
There was never any penetration. Not that I can remember. I don’t think my mind would have been able to block that out.
I never told my mum. I never told my elder brother. I never told my best friend. I never told a soul until now as I narrate to you what I went through.
I don’t know what, if anything, my baby brother remembers but he must know something. We talk about everything else in our past except those two years this man was living with us.
If I remember correctly, the man left as soon as or slightly before my grandfather died. I was in class five, quiet, withdrawn, and yet highly attention-seeking when I was out of his reach. I think I just wanted someone to ask me what’s wrong.
No one ever did.
When it hit me that he wasn’t in our lives anymore, it’s like I awoke from a deep sleep.
I remember I started making friends in school. I began to actually focus on schoolwork and getting better grades. Like better grades to a point that I started receiving academic awards in class 6 and beyond.
Before that, my grades were sucky, and I would get into my fair share of trouble with my class teachers, Mrs Okumu (class 3) and Mr Nyambu (class 4).
I was exhibiting behavioural issues at this time that no one really latched onto.
But, now that he was gone, I was a whole new girl. Making friends became easier. My studies became easier. I was finally able to flourish.
I pushed the memories of that time down so deep, and for years, I couldn’t allow myself to think about it.
Then I started writing this blog, and I began to see how events in my childhood had almost messed me up completely.
And, I began to realise the power and the healing that comes from writing about them, not so much for people to read, but for me to acknowledge my pain, and to be open and naked enough to show others where the wounds were.
It was easier to talk about my mother’s suicide, my father’s abandoning us, my dalliance with depression, drugs, and sex in my previous posts than it was talking about the sexual abuse.
But, I knew one day, I’d have to. It’s part of the journey in shaping my own narrative devoid of the horrific things that happened to me, to us, when my brother and I were kids.
Yap, that’s it!
In memory of the little girl I was before this, and in solidarity with the millions of children abused in our country, Kenya.