Intelligent. Kenyan.

Published: 1 year ago

Of Men In Checked Shirts and Little Children

 

This essay was taken from Brainstorm’s third e-book, Ha!Kuna Matata, which is on security in Kenya and is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays.

by Murugi Kagotho

I met him the other day, this man. He was dressed in his characteristic faded yellow checked shirt that now looked overly worn, brown khakis, and the hat I had grown so accustomed to seeing. I met him the other day, 13 years later, and this time round, I looked him in the face, with no fear. He seemed taken aback, intimidated in fact, and though for some reason my words failed me at the moment, I am sure that he knew he was no longer in control.I had regained my ground – and intended on keeping it.

I must have been around 11 when I saw him for the first time, this man. Walking home from school, I noticed him pass me by then suddenly stop. I could feel his eyes on me for a long time, but being young and naive, it never struck me as particularly strange. This was until I saw him the next day, standing obscurely hidden along the road as if waiting for something, and that something turned out to be me. He stared and stared at me this man, day after day, until he finally gathered the courage to start trailing me. He followed me home. Close, but not close enough to raise any suspicion from anyone. And that was when my instincts made me realize that this checked shirt may lead me to my grave. I remember running home and frantically telling my mum what was going on, and true to say, when we stepped out of the house, we could see him standing at the corner just peering in the direction I had just ran to. My mother never got a good look at his face.

Not to say that he never stopped following me, but after that, my mother talked to the shop owners, who were our friends, about it, and every time I thought this man was watching me, I would slip into a shop and stay there till the shop owner called my mum or had someone escort me home. Needless to say, this man was so obscure that my attempts to describe him to anyone always proved unproductive. It’s as if he did not exist except in my mind, and there, he existed for the sole purpose of filling me with fear. I was lucky that he did not take it any further.

And so I met him the other day, this man. 13 years later, still looking exactly as I remembered him, albeit run down by life. I bet he recognized me at once, recognized how much I had grown and how much of a woman I had become. I bet he recognized the fearlessness and the confidence I was now shoving into his face. I was now grown enough to confront him.

I stared him down, this man, on behalf of all the little boys and little girls that men like him find easy prey. I stared him down on behalf of every little boy and little girl whose innocence has been taken advantage of by a perverse stranger. For every little boy and little girl who is unaware of the men and women around them with intentions that are far from good. For every little boy and little girl who has to live in fear because their parents are not around enough to listen to what they have to say about the man that grabs their hand every day after school. I stared him down on behalf of our little boys and little girls whose childhood has been shortened by the need to be wary of the life around them; of the things they hear and the things they see. I stared him down so that he would know that he had lost the battle and the war, and that he could no longer use his power to intimidate and scare me as he once had.

I may not have spoken a single word to this man in the checked shirt, but he understood every single thing I had intended to say, and the next time I meet him, on behalf of every little child out there, be sure that my words will not fail me.

Murugi Kagotho is a multipotentialite, and an excessive capitalizer of letters and hyphenator of words. Follow her on Twitter.

This essay was taken from Brainstorm’s third e-book, Ha!Kuna Matata, which is on security in Kenya and is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays.

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