Every morning, OK most mornings, I jump out of bed and run to the shower. Why? Because on some mornings, OK most mornings, I wake up good while after my alarm clock goes off. I shower performing whatever song seems to meet my mood at the time. I am currently in a Jill Scott phase. It’s one of those bright sunny mornings; I’ll be performing the song ‘Golden’. Yes, I don’t sing in the shower… I perform. (Pause for dramatic effect!)
Today is not one of the days I fall into a pile of clothes and head out. Today I take my time; I choose what I will wear. Why? I have a date with my man. Queue Jill Scott’s He loves me. My head held high, smiling, twirling. My sisters give me the final touches and Mum approves.
Stepping out of the house, I am thrown back into reality. My face is serious; the sunglasses not just for the sun but to hide my face. I walk quickly. Head down, pretending to be on the phone. That way, the guys always hanging out at the car wash won’t take it personal when I whizz past them ignoring the cat calls. Finally at the stage I find an empty matatu, so I wait for a few people to go in before I do. All the while I am animatedly talking to my pretend workmate explaining some “technical details to a new system at the office”. Safety First! I climb in next to a matronly middle aged woman. She is not small because she fills her seat and spills over a bit into mine. Squeezing me… At ease, I end “the call”. Plug in my earphones to Sade’s Sweetest Taboo. I am an old soul and the playlist suited to my date goes on.
Somewhere near Makadara, She steps out and in comes a man. I thought his eyes went straight for my dress barely a few inches above my knees. I must be paranoid. He makes himself comfortable. Once he is I move my phone into the inner pocket of my bag, zip up the bag, fish out a novel and finally place the bag between us so no part of our bodies touch. I have a thing about personal space and strangers.
Finally, I meet my man and proceed to have a beautiful afternoon. The type of example that you will use to teach your daughter, how to know when a man really does love you! He likes my dress. I feel at ease, without a care. Safe! As a woman, I don’t have to tell you what it means when you feel safe in the presence of that special man.
He walked me, my hand in his, to the stage. It is dark already though not too late. I hate sitting at the back of the back of the bus. It’s usually better to sit next to the driver and a healthy number of women in there too. I hug him goodbye. I will text him as soon as I am home. Home safe. Once in the bus I wave goodbye… Then hope I don’t end up with ‘the drunk’, or ‘the pretend drunk’. Both are notorious for not knowing or ignoring the seat divider. Both lean on you and forget where their hands should be. The last thing you want is a long drive home with someone who keeps ‘accidentally’ touching or leaning towards you. I get the chatty woman and her friend. A welcome relief.
To pass the time I log on to Facebook. And it’s the same story all over. A woman, like me. At a stage, like mine. Wearing an outfit, not as revealing like mine. It’s one of those distasteful internet pranks. By the morning, There will be a few raves about how making such prank videos are wrong and plain disgusting and that will be that. Life goes on. I get home using a different route than the one I used yesterday. Safety first. I walk quickly head down towards the well lit area. With a sigh of relief, I am home. Safe. I text… ‘Home safe, handsome… You?’
My sister is not in her usual high spirits. Mum is just shaking her head. It is true. A woman was stripped by a crowd of men. A woman, like me. At a stage, like mine. Wearing an outfit, not as revealing like mine.
The next morning, I want to wear a dress. But I think no. What if they pick me today? What if, today, no matter what I wear, a random man will accost me and start to tear off my clothes? Because I didn’t have enough fare? Because I didn’t respond to his cat calls? Because I demand for my change? Because he is bored? What if they steal all my belongings? Touch my breasts? Part my legs and make a mockery of my sex? Where will I hide? My face all over the internet! My shame bared open for the world to see? Men and women behind their pads, phones and laptop screens debating whether or not I deserved it? Debating what I did wrong to cause them to do this to me? To make joke memes from hash tags for justice? I feel sick! Angry! Afraid! No not me, not in my presence! I pull on my jeans, running shoes, a comfortable top, a simple handbag and inside the handbag… a sharp serrated knife. No not me, not in my presence, Not without a fight!