I remember this one time I was in a bus headed back home; I stay in Mwiki which is a three hours drive from where I work. I love sitting by the window so that I can stare through at how people are living their lives out there, look at the big mansions on the way then try and imagine how beautiful the lives of the people inside are. The one thing that always catches my eyes on the ride home is the beauty of love. The couples walking hand in hand, the ones on a date in this big flashy restaurants, seated at the balcony staring into each others eyes, those in the bus with me seated next to each other with their fingers entwined... It's a beautiful feeling that I can't even imagine. I always look at all this wondering how nice it felt to love and be loved. Nice is an understatement; the feeling is divine. I always wonder how great it would feel to be so close to someone, so close that you even share stuff like clothes, the bed, secrets; so close that you even have 'your thing'. All these thoughts cross my mind and fill me with joy because I know that one day, when the time is right, I'll be able to feel all this.
Which always brings me to the question; when is the time right? Then, the question comes with dreadful memories of this one time when my friend was dating a violent manipulative son of a...who did all sorts of diminishing things to her. Every time my mind travels back to that incidents that occurred, my heart shuts down completely and I detest relationships. Of course her story wasn't my first encounter with abusive relationships; I've grown up with my eyes open, witnessing several incidents where women were being treated like punching bags and being reminded of how worthless they were; I would never wish to experience that.
My friends' relationship started like any other; boy meets girl, girl gets smitten and boom, they are living together. I was against it of course, always the voice of reason but again, there was this part of me that said...
'Stop discouraging her, we both know you have never been in any relationship simply because you are a coward that doesn't want to give love. In fact, you know nothing about love so shut up!'
Which was true. I have never experienced any sort of romantic feelings towards any man and even when they do develop I ruin everything because I'm never ready. So seeing Lela* in her happy state I decided to accept it and force myself to be happy for her. She never told us anything. I wonder why victims of abuse always hide it. In public she was her jovial bubbly self telling us of how much she loved her guy, how they were doing stuff together, how he was right for her; she even bought him gifts. In reality, every night was a nightmare for her. He would beat her up for petty things like saying 'hi' to a male neighbor to not cooking on time to receiving a call from family; he even possessed her phone so as to completely shut her out from the world. Whenever a relative called, he had to give the consent as to whether she should pick the call or not.
Slowly, the situation grew worse when he now started cheating on her. At first he did this in secrecy but gradually, he started coming home with his women from wherever he was coming from. They would go about their business in her presence. Their relationship had become a complete disaster that he would even force himself on her amid her tear. We her friends knew nothing about this. We never suspected anything since she hid it well. Even the obvious bruises she lightly covered with weird stories like;
"Aaah, hapa? Nilifight na kischana kingine jana kwa hangers za manguo, hamkuskia?"
(I got into a fight while hanging my clothes yesterday. Didn't you hear about it?)
Of course words hadn't reached us. Even I, the nosiest of us all knew nothing. Other stories were like; 'oh, I collided with that butchery guy, the fool' or 'guys, can you believe my allergies, now they are affecting my eye'. She always had a way of putting her cover up stories that was so convincing, we never suspected anything.
Now one day I met one of her neighbours on my way to school. This particular neighbor is famous for her big mouth.
"Hey, sasa Nyash?"
She didn't even give me a chance to greet her back.
"Your friend will die in that house, huh, don't say I didn't warn you. Everyday he beats her. That guy...huh! You are her friends, why wont you tell her? Or you guys are waiting to hear on TV that her body was found rotting in that godforsaken house?"
I was dumbstruck of course. I opened my mouth to enquire more then closed it when I realised that this was just too much to ingest. The lady walked away like she never said anything. That day I skived all my classes and went to look for her. Of course I called Wangeci, our other friend and together we headed to Lela's place where we were denied access simply because we went without notice; can you believe it!!!
The next time we saw her it was after two weeks of numerous unanswered calls and text messages. She was thin but happy as usual. We had lots of questions for her but she answered none, just said that she was fine and not to worry. By now, worlds were going round on how her relationship had turned toxic. Everyone in the neighborhood knew about her predicaments. We tried out best to talk her out of the relationship but she insisted that she loved the guy and that he was just going through some issues and needed her presence and support. Finally we gave up and decided to mind our own business. I completely cut my ties with her and remember stating that I would beat up anyone who ever came to me with information on Lela.
The next time we saw her was at Wangeci's birthday party. She came with him, her beast. They were so affectionate with each other it made me sick; not because I was jealous but it was all for show, we all knew what went on behind closed doors. She kept trying to talk to me but I ignored her; I was tired of her drama. She looked drained, pale and even her deceiving smile carried sorrow. A week later after the party, I was at my place cleaning when I received the call.
"Sasa Nyash, uliongea na Lela mwisho lini?"
"Nilisema nini? Mtu asiwahi niuliza chochote kuhusu huyo msichana"
"Iza dadaaa, ni ju tu nimesikia kitu sijui kama ni ukweli"
"Kuna mtu ameniambia ati Lela amepatikana kwake kama amekufa"
Stop! That's all I remember. Everything came to a halt. My hearing abilities, my speech, my movement; I just stood there in limbo with my heart beating like it never has before. That very minute, I ran out of my house in my pair of shorts to her place, I never step out in shorts. I got there just in time to see her body being whisked in the black bodybag with people surrounding the police range rover that came to serve it's purpose. I had so many questions running through my mind, so many. Why, what, who, how...I didn't even know where to begin.
"Wah, na ndo naambiaga tu wasichana abortion si poa. Sasa ona vile Lela amegenya"
I heard some guy with a big foreheads say. Abortion? She had tried to procure an abortion? When Wangeci confirmed this to me, I almost lost my mind. Why? Wangeci knew about Lela's pregnancy and had tried to convince her to keep it but she wanted nothing that would tie her to her abusive partner; she died just when she had finally made the decision to 'walk'.
Up to now, I have never recovered from that. I look around me at lovely couples and cant help wondering whether it's all for show. Are they really happy? I look at the ladies and wonder how many abortions they have procured. I can't deny the fact that relationships give me a big fright.
I remember this teacher back in preschool who once came to class with a black eye. Then an aunt who was beaten to the point of miscarriage, then another that was being flat ironed by her husband... I once saw a guy slap his wife in public and the worst part is, no one intervened, everybody minded their business despite the act being wrong. There's this one time in the hostel that I lived in back in campus, a guy beat up his girlfriend. I remember knocking on that door, hard, but he kept it locked and beat her till her cries turned to whispers. Guess what, I was the only one in the whole hostel who tried intervening. Some people would pass by, ask what was wrong then walk away without doing anything. I know it was never my business but all the abuse just got to me; abuse is wrong! No one has a right to lay a hand on another, male or female, no one!
Do you know what abuse does to a person? It lovers their self-esteem, their self-worth. Victims of abuse detest themselves because they can't do anything, because they feel less important, less loved, less respected, less needed. How do you lay your hand on someone's son, daughter, wife, husband, mother, father...how? How do you even raise your hand to hit anyone? Come to think of it, abuse in not just physical; mental abuse is rampant too. The hate you give through words of mouth can ruin years of worked on self-esteem. All these thought come to my head every time my heart starts glowing and completely shuts it down. I want a man, yes. But if having a man will come with bruises and physical pain, then I'm better off alone. I'm not discouraging love, it's a beautiful thing that everyone should experience. But love should come with respect and boundaries. A raised hand is enough blast to bust that bubble and remind you of your worth. You are important, you are special, you are worthy of love and respect and anyone who doesn't see that is not worth being in your life.
So yeah, this is me talking to myself, loudly and clearly stating that you'll never know the right time to find love but when the time to walk away comes, you'll know.