One day, you will walk into your one-roomed house and stumble upon a folded piece of paper as you open the door. It will fall through one of the gaps in your wooden door, its frame too weak to support it. Your heart will race. You will not remember leaving any paper, not one that is haphazardly torn from a book.
Your heart will race because it is 9pm on a Sunday night, and when you left the house at 6.30 pm, all was well.
Your heart will race because the only people who know you in that area, are the very ones in whose house you have been for the past two hours. Your heart will race because in those two hours, the two of them did not show any signs that they wanted to say anything to you.
Your heart will race because if they had to say something to you via a note, then it sure must have been something huge. And scary. And heart-breaking.
You will, gently, place your laptop on the floor as you pick up the note. The whole time, your heart will be in your mouth.
In the past, you have heard of such kinds of notes that sneak their way into people’s houses. Threatening notes, warning of impending danger. You have heard of people who have died minutes after reading the notes. Or days later. Or months after they ignored the contents of the note. You have seen your sister break down minutes after her best friend was killed in an attack that was preceded by such notes.
Notes slipped under someone’s door have always, to you, meant massacre.
You will unfold the paper and meet one of the worst handwritings you have ever set your eyes on. You will struggle to read through the large letters, carelessly mixed with small ones to convey a message that is foreign to you.
Although the message will only be a few words long, your stare will linger on it for moments too long, you mind blank throughout. The race in your heart will turn into a fire. It will, slowly, start heating the blood that runs within you. It will make you break into a sweat that will drip from your armpits.
You will sigh, so deep that the leso tied around your waist will loosen. You will step back outside, close the door and walk back to Maryanne and Mary’s house, the very house you have spent the past two hours in.
As you gently knock on their door, your hands will be shaking. You will be struggling to keep a straight face, because for the past few years you have known each other, you have always been the bravest of them all.
They will take a moment too long before they walk towards the door. Because just like you, they are scared of nights in this strange place. Even more scared of people who knock their doors at night. Doors that did not need much effort if you wanted to break in; just a strong push would be enough to throw it open.
“Maryanne!” You will call out. You will be too scared to stand alone in the dark.
“You will hear footsteps approaching the door, and Mary’s voice saying, “Haiya, mbona umerudi?”
When the door finally creaks open, you will rush in and hand the note to both of them, who will be standing at the centre of the room, eagerly looking at you.
You will watch as their mouths fall in surprise. As their faces register surprise, shame and disgust at the same time. You will watch as Maryanne’s hand drops from her waist, as she walks away from you. You will watch as she sits on her mattress and buries her head into her palms, pulling her dera over to expose her brown legs.
Mary will look at you and ask, “Umetoa wapi hii?”
“Chini ya mlango yangu.”
After that, you will break into tears. You will let them roll freely because never before have you been disrespected as you have been. You will cry as a result of the shame you have been trying too hard to hide.
At that moment, all of you will be helpless. You will look at each other, and silently agree that you have been defeated. Then, you will take back the note, and start to walk back to your house.
Lying on your 3*6 bed, you will weep your heart out. You will weep for the number of times you failed to listen to your gut. You will wonder why, out of everyone else, you were chosen for such kind of shame.
You will weep because for the past two months, you have learnt to shoulder your own troubles. You have learnt that people come and go, especially when you need them most.
You have learnt, in the hardest way there is, that even the ones you thought would always be there for you, will leave. Sometimes, they will be the ones who give you the lamest excuses ever.
My phone is acting up. I might take two days to reply to your text.
What do you mean you are disappointed in me? What did you expect me to do? I was under a lot of pressure. I was not sure you still needed me.
That night, you will realise that sometimes, strangers will do the best for you when you least expect it.
So, you will text the one person you think will reply, although you had only met a few months ago, and your conversations have always been confined to art.
“Hey, are you okay?” You will ask.
“Yes. I am. How about you? How is the space?” They will ask, because puns are their way of life.
At that, you will cry again.
It is HARD! You will want to scream. But no one will be next to you. To hold you in a tight embrace. To tell you it will be alright. To assure you of safety. No one will be next to you to remind you that it was a passing cloud, and life comes with plenty of those.
“Something happened today. Someone slipped a note under my door,” You will text back.
You will then take a picture of the note, then send it to them.
Of course, they will say that boundaries have been crossed. That you are right to be scared and angry at the same time. That it is not okay to continue living in that place. That if possible, you should get out first thing in the morning. They will say you deserve better. That you are a great person.
They will say, because that is all that people who are far away from you do. They say things.
You will cry even more, before unknowingly drifting into sleep.
In the morning, you will wake up to a pounding on your door.
“Esther, ebu fungua.”
You will open the door to find Mary standing with her phone in hand.
“We want to call the landlord. I think we have figured out who wrote the note, and why they did it.”
She will make that call. You will stand there watching her lips move, but you will hear nothing. You mind will still be ringing with the words in the note.
If you give me your vagina, I will devour it like someone who has been on hunger strike for two weeks. I have seen it, and I am already wet just thinking about it. I don’t think you have a choice, or do you?
For the next few months, these words will refuse to leave your head. You will walk around with extra care, trying to search faces that are likely to write such words. You will constantly look behind your back every time you step into the bathroom, opting to finish your business in darkness.
Unknown to you, that will be the beginning of frustrating days filled with sexual abuse, albeit emotionally.