Superman saved me that night; he came in through the window. I didn’t even know I had left it open.I knew it was him because I heard a slight whoosh when he glided in. Plus,he had a cape and I don’t think those are in fashion yet. I live on the fifth floor, the house in the corner with the red door. All other houses had black doors. I painted it myself. The landlord threw a fit when he saw the *wet paint,do not touch*sign I had stuck on the wall but I think it was the smell of freshly baked brownies that really made him ring the door bell. By the time we were on the fifth piece of chocolate goodness it was all laughs from the bad puns. He asked for a wet wipe for his red finger tips, ‘next time,read the sign man’ I said as I ushered him out of my big red door. That was the last time I ever spoke to him face to face but I’d always get the usual monthly email reminder when rent was due. I preferred it that way, no need to get too social with people who you are in business agreements with.

When his wife was sick, I baked brownies and made cheesy shrimp pasta and took it over. He wasn’t home. That month I didn’t receive the email, he probably wrote it and forgot to hit send. I paid my rent on time either way.

Superman came into my bedroom; well, the space that is my bedroom in my dainty studio apartment. He took the knife from my hand and bent it halfway. He looked in shock at the blood dripping from my hands. I will save you,he said and whipped his cape to the side. Another whoosh.  I’m making blood sausage (mutura), you can stay for some if you want. I had just gone into the bedroom to check on the window, just in time too. Sorry about the knife, let me just bend it back,yes? He said as he got cozy on my couch, took the remote and flipped the channels. Guess what program he lands on; Justice league; narcissistic much?

Wonder Woman saved my life that night. I had left my kitchen window open. I really should put a child lock on those things. She took the rope from my hand and threw it out the window. The goat was watching silently in the corner and jolted past us soon as the rope hit the ground. Thankfully the red door was locked so it just sat downdown infront of it dejectedly . I’ve never heard a goat sigh but I’m sure that was the sound the poor thing made. We’ll have to use your lasso to tie him up or he’ll get poop everywhere. My bad, didn’t know the rope was for him, WonderWoman said sadly. She carried the goat with such ease and walked to the balcony. She took the lasso off her belt and tied the goat onto the rails. She stood there for a bit and just gazed at the clear sky. I never thought superheroes got sad. I think you could use a hug. I whispered as I took her in my arms and squeezed. She cried on my shoulder, her tears stung like hot acid. Ok that’s enough, I only have the one layer of skin. I make bad jokes in uncomfortable emotionally intense situations. Go keep superman company on the couch, the blood sausage will be ready in no time. I told her and ushered her into the living room.She walked to the living room space, said a flat hello to Superman and sat down on a pillow farthest from the alien man. I wondered what that was about. I divided the mutura; half for me and half for the barbecue the tonight. The Home Owners Association in my apartment building throw a party biannually. That’s when you get to meet the big wigs; private developers,real estate gurus,the kind that own half of the ground you walk on; corner office CEOs and other forms of gold toothed business moguls. They hand you their glossy matte-laminated cards and flash empty smiles, there is no soul in those eyes,just tinted windows. We are together you know, tuko pamoja, they say as they whiff past you to the open bar.

I prefer staying behind the grill,feeding their thirsty stomachs; shoving juicy,meaty goodness down their hungry throats. The blood sausage is divine Anike,they tell me as they go for another piece. I take a few plates and serve the watchmen, I give them the best cuts. After all they let me bring in the goats and chicken for the barbecue among other things. They even help me tie them onto the rails on my balcony and feed them if I’m not around. They also water my precious herbs when I’m away.

Superman and Wonder Woman make an entrance. Together. I guess they made up. Superman in a black tuxedo and wonder woman in a long cocktail dress. A bit much for a barbecue but you know aliens and their big gestures. They immediately become the life of the party telling and retelling the story of how they saved the girl in the apartment with the red door. The one who makes the brownies? The barbecue expert? I let them have their moment,they probably really need it. Time for dessert! I move to the dessert table. There are a few cakes, truffles,a three layer pie and my signature brownies. I have to make sure everyone takes just one otherwise there was going to be a riot. I put in extra chocolate and more than just a dash of my secret ingredient.I grow my own herbs. Everyone always asks what herb I use specifically. If I tell you it won’t be a secret anymore would it? I say with a chuckle. I served every piece with a generous pouring of hot fudge, a scoop of French vanilla ice cream and a spray whipped cream around it. I get a knowing smile from each person as they leave the dessert table. They’ve all tasted my brownies before but it’s always a new experience each time. That should hold them over for a while. I say to the other servers and walk back to the grill.

2am and the party was still lit. Second round of meat, drinks and dessert was underway. Superman and Wonder Woman were seated by the bonfire. Wonder woman’s legs stretched out towards the fire, the slit on her dress coming up to her ample thighs. She had a curious tatoo running from her left ankle up and disappearing graciously into her dress. Focus! Don’t burn the meat Anike! She smiles my way, I wink and smile back. Your rack of ribs is almost ready! I shout to her. Don’t forget your special barbecue sauce! She shouts back. She drinks that stuff like juice. That woman can eat. I love it!

The Green Lantern saved my life that night. When I heard the whoosh, at first I thought maybe superman had gone up to use the bathroom. He never just walks anywhere that one. The green, glowing alien knocked the lighter fluid out of my hands and took the lighter from my other hand. Fine then, you can light the fire yourself. I snapped at him and walked away. He came after me, swooshed in front of me on a green skateboard. Sorry Anike, I lit your fire,better get to it before it goes out again. Sorry for snapping at you, I told him and pointed to where the other aliens were seated. He turned the skateboard into green roller blades and rolled over to them. This guy with his antics, sha!

Dawn crept up on us like a teenager sneaking back home from a party she/he was forbidden to attend. As the first rays of the sun hit the ground, everyone kind of paired up with whomever was closer and headed for whoever’s home was closest. I called cabs for a few,including Mrs. Maanake.I was wrapping up the last of the meat for one of the guests to take home when her and her partner for the night walked up to the grill. Would you mind holding on to these and calling one of your cab guys for me please. She smiled as she handed me the man’s car keys. Mrs. Maanake lived on the fourth floor with her husband. Sometimes before he took his usual long business trips,he’d come up and ask if I could check up on her once in a while. She gets lonely you know,he’d say. Of course,tell her she can come over anytime. We’ll bake brownies,share recipes,you know,girl stuff. I’d tell him and somehow that gave him peace of mind. Convinced him that his wife would still be his and his alone when he got back. Let me know when you’ll be coming to pick them,I tell Mrs. Maanake as I put the keys in my jeans pocket. You are such a gem Anike. She smiles and goes back to smooching the gentleman by her side.I know I’ll get the full lowdown when she gets back. I don’t know why she shares stories of her escapades with me or why I look forward to hearing them every time. I guess I like to live vicariously through her.

The aliens waved from a distance signalling that they were about to take off too. Are you sure you can fly in that, Wonder Woman? I ask her pointing to her beautiful dress and stilettos. You are a funny woman Anike. She shouts back and whoosh! All three of the them disappear into the night’s sky.

The watch-men help me clear up what’s left and carry the grill to my place. Thanks guys and good day. Good day Miss. Anike. I go into the kitchen, get a tub of pistachio ice cream, a large spoon and collapse on the couch. I was still riled up from the excitement of the night so I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep for a while. So I just sat down, music playing in the background and fantasized about all the superheroes in my life; saving me even when I’d never admit I need saving.

My best friend Lisa met a guy at a bar last night. I know; who parties on a Sunday night right? But the dreaded 64-day January was over and people always need a reason to celebrate. He was quite the charmer. And, no he didn’t come up to her with the tired cliché; “Hey babe, you look hot tonight.” He wouldn’t have gotten anywhere with that. Do people even use that anymore? And, no he didn’t buy her a drink and insist on joining her table as some men do and think they suddenly have a right to your time and space. I mean just because I don’t have the money to dirt-ify my table (kuchafua meza), doesn’t mean am not content sipping on my two drinks all night.

This guy actually did something new. She had to pass by his table to go to the bathroom. So every time she got up to go to the loo, he would see her approach, smile and offer to escort her to the ladies room, wait outside, tell her not to be long and remember to wash her hands after. When she’d get out of the washroom he would walk with her to his table then usher her to hers. Aside from asking for her number when he was about to leave, they did not exchange more than just those few sentences and a few glances and smiles from their separate tables. Even as the night grew older and the alcohol took its inevitable effect on the patrons leaving some passed out on their seats, he never lost that awkward charm.

Lisa couldn’t even give me a definite physical description of this guy even though they have been texting non-stop since then. She may not even be able to pick him out of a line up if he turned out to be psycho but I get the feeling she will remember those moments for a while to come.

Let’s not pretend; we have all met a few psychos in our lifetime as ladies in this big city and most would never come on too strong in the beginning. It’s when he texts you cheesy poetry at 3am in the morning followed swiftly by 10 texts asking why you are not responding that the warning lights start flashing. Or when he follows you on every social media platform including my-space and likes all your photos and posts from 2004-2017 and comments ‘Be My Baby’ on all of them. Or when he changes his status to ‘Married to *insert your name here*’ and changes his profile picture to a googled photo of yours. Thanks a lot Google! That’s when you know you need to have 999 on speed dial and send a – ‘If I disappear one day look for this man * insert psycho’s photo here*’- multimedia text to all your friends and family.

But enough of the morbid talk, what I am really trying to say is; there are charmers out there. I hear even I, am one of them but rarely would you find someone with new game, new lines and a unique brand of charm. A simple gentlemanly act such as an escort to and from the bathroom with no form of obvious intent is a welcome change to the usual;

‘ I got you a drink (s) now turn around, hands to the floor and grind up on me like I just sent 40 cows to your father and have now officially planted a flag of discovery on your behind’

Happy chivalry-hunting ladies. It’s not quite dead yet.

Hi, I am your next obsession, it’s nice to meet you.

You don’t have to be psycho to be obsessed. That day, I came in to the room;I was late as usual; I sat right across from you. You raised your head from your laptop to see who had walked in. Our eyes met and in that moment I knew you would never be able to get me out of your head. I played it cool. I knew I had you locked in. During the break, I was standing alone on the balcony, watching people. Those are actually my most enjoyable moments. I love observing people in a group setting; you always see the most interesting stuff. There’s this guy, loud, charming, and very keen on having people know he exists. He talks to everyone even the conference facilitators. My lecturers in both colleges I’ve attended didn’t even know I was in their class until I went to ask for their signatures on my graduation forms or for a recommendation letter. But this guy; he’s always talking. I don’t think I’d get along with him. He can’t really listen. I was talking to him once and I could see his eyes shifting constantly like he had better places to be or more interesting people to talk to. I just smiled and switched to talking about the weather, giving him an out to move on to the next person. I wasn’t offended; just impressed with how right I was about him.

The bourgeois chic (sorry, lady) just passed me. She looked me over as always, she does that with everyone. I just smiled and waved. She irritates the heck out of me. She always has so many questions during the sessions which would be fine except she sprinkles a whole load of criticism about everything in the conference. No facilitator is good enough for that one even though she clearly doesn’t know much outside of her profession (tiny bubble). She always sits at the centre of the class and it feels like she always has her hand up with a question or a point of correction for the facilitators. It’s so much fun to be one of the silent ones in class; you just sit back and get entertained.

The eccentric guy just gave me a big hug followed by a big ‘Hallo! how have you been?!’. I say a big ‘Great dude! You?’ He says he’s been awesome as usual. No need to tell him I had the longest, hardest week of my life and cried myself to sleep almost everyday. He’s a nice guy and all but we ain’t tight like that. He always sits at the edge of the semi-circle in class. He wears really bright, crazy clothing, has brass rings on all his fingers and bulky long chains hanging on his neck. Not a single piece was generic. All hand crafted; all African or African oriented. I would love to just sit with him one day and ask him about all his pieces. He’s an artist through and through. I wish I could be as carefree sometimes. But that would direct too much attention my way and I’m just not a limelight person.

Something clicks in front of me. The photographer dude is at it again. He’s always taking pictures with his camera with the big ass lens. He’s sneaky that one. He posts a few photos on his wall on facebook and Instagram. Action photos of everyone in their element. He took one of me buried in my notebook. I have no clue what I was writing about but damn that was a good shot! I’m pretty sure he also has one of me digging through my nose or furiously biting my nails. Can’t wait for those to come out. Haha.

You come back from the bathroom downstairs. I happen to see you as you come up; you don’t see me see you. You have no idea what’s coming. You look up once you get to the top of the stairs and as you walk down toward the conference room, your gaze is stuck on mine. Feels like we are playing  ‘who’s going to blink first’. You do, obviously. I’m a pro at that game. You say hi. I come in for a hug just as you stretch out your hand for a hand-shake. Awkward! I pull back, whisper a quick sorry covered by a cute giggle and stretch out my hand to meet yours. Shouldn’t I be the one blushing after that little awkward fiasco? So why are you? We catch up for a few. I can’t remember what we were talking about but it must have been very interesting because I remember laughing all through. You mention that you love the way I laugh. I say thank you and wink, I don’t know why, my eye just went there. Did you just blush when I winked? Did I just stumble on a piece of your kryptonite? I don’t mention it but I put that little piece of priceless information in my pocket to be used later.

The conference timekeeper who was really just one of the attendees who had volunteered for the job was nagging people to go back into class. I say nag because honestly the fellow is an actual nag. He’s always passing some form of instruction masquerading as a ‘suggestion’ or a ‘personal opinion’ about one thing or the other. Yesterday was the first day of the conference; we barely know each other because we are all from different pursuits and passions, different walks of life, different parts of the city. This guy walks in and the first thing he says after announcing his arrival is how maybe we could change the sitting arrangement to be more class-like so as to enable us to focus more on what’s being presented at the front.  I hope he saw how my face cringed at his ‘suggestion’. This is a flipping conference dopey not your chance to finally become the class monitor you’ve always wanted to be. Of course I didn’t say that out loud; nah, such outbursts are for my journal’s pages only. During one of the breaks I was having a light conversation with Mr. Eccentric and Mr. Class Prefect comes up to us and tells us to lower our voices and turns to me and asks if I could laugh less loudly. The nerve of this guy. We actually gave him props for having the audacity to come up to us to say that but then we went back to talking just as before. Mr. Timekeeper actually turns back and gives us a warning look. Whoa that just kills me and I let out a glass-breaking guffaw. Why was he trying to bring out the last traces of the rebellious teenager in me? I should probably tell him that I don’t think I was created with a built-in volume-regulator for my laugh. But I’ll keep the peace for now.

The last session of the day goes off without a hitch. Time to go home. The hotel venue is a fifteen-minute walk from the CBD where most people get their buses home, if they are not driving that is. I like taking long walks alone sometimes just to think on the day and unwind for a bit. I pick my backpack and head out saying a quick goodbye to whomever glanced my way on my way out.  Down the hallway, down the stairs to the ground floor, I wave to the nice receptionist and walk out of the hotel main doors and into the driveway-parking lot. Halfway through just as I’m about to walk through the main gate, you suddenly fall in step beside me. You apologise because you see that you startled me a little. Its ok, I wasn’t exactly complaining. You try to hide the fact that you are out of breathe because you probably had to jog so you’d catch up with me. Just another piece of information for my pockets to be used in the near future. As we walk down to town talking about this and that, I’m thinking; ‘Well this is going to be a very interesting five days’.

End of Day 2…

*All characters in this series are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.*

 

I used to be the coolest person you knew, I know how you laugh loud and boisterous, they used to say they could hear us from six floors up and they would know it was me and you, how you smile such a huge smile it is, how you walk even how you cough when you are sick or just clearing your throat, sneeze, yawn, chew. See I still love you, I still pray for you and yes I still feel uncontrollable rage sometimes, it bubbles up inside me and I can’t be near you for too long, small doses of you are enough.  That look grinds my teeth to dust, that shrug reduces me to a pile of nerves and that turn-away when you see me coming a mile away turns my heart to shreds so I take the long route to the water dispenser so I don’t run into you. I have made up Monday-morning-sickness so I don’t have to sit across from you for a hour during weekly staff meetings.  I have filled my roster with client on-site visits so I don’t have to see you all eight hours of the day at the office. I take long walks at lunch time and avoid all invitations to group lunches that I know you will be in. Basically my life still revolves around you even though I’m not with you. How’s that for hopeless? I know you know why it had to end but I don’t, I feel, I feel, I feel like..

I want to love and be loved. I only wish it could happen without all the complications. You love someone and they hurt you beyond measure. But so what, did u think u would be the exception? Well as stupid as it sounds, yes, yes I thought I would be an exception. So you have to go with it and you know you should because halloooo!, someone else’ life should not affect yours right? Yeah well someone should tell that to my heart coz it keeps finding itself constantly connecting, attaching, attracting, it’s like it can’t help it. No matter how many times I teach it the same lesson. So this is what’s left every time, just me and my writing and one heck of a mess to clean up coz I just made a fool of myself again thinking it’s me when it’s so obviously is not. No one really understands how much their lives affect those around them. You may care less but there is someone who does care and they hurt when you should, they cry when you don’t and they love you anyway funnily. I guess that’s on them though, I mean you cannot be responsible for their feelings too, not with all you’ve got going on. So you know you are sorry but there’s really nothing you can do. I mean this is who you are, if they are your friends as they claim, they should understand that and if not then screw them, you don’t need them, you were just fine before you knew them and you’ll be just fine after. Your world will keep turning and that’s all that counts. It feels selfish though coz every time it’s always me getting hurt, me getting left, me getting pushed aside, me confused about something, me not understanding why they act that way. So why not just turn it off? Coz it would mean turning off a part of me and nothing should be worth that. I will try though, try not to hurt so easily, try not to let that look break me, that ‘oh my gosh look at u getting hurt at every little thing when everyone else is just fine’… that look. I’ve gotten it so many times I see it coming a mile away. It’s selfish to always play this tug-of-war with people. Who’s stronger now…who needs who more; games we play with each other’s hearts every time there is conflict. It’s just pride causing strife where there was peace. The unspoken human affinity and craving for drama.

End of rant….

Once there was a family of pretty worms, well as far as worms can be pretty. They all lived in an abandoned anthill. Each had their own room of course and slept on a soft bed of ant exoskeletons left behind by the former tenants. No one knew why the ants left just that now a family of pretty worms had a big home.

East wing, West wing, North and South wing, 1200 bedrooms in all to share among six, seven, ten worms currently. Mommy kept popping them out so who knew how many they were really. Some were long 20, 30,100mm long. Some were short 5,10,15mm or thereabouts and among the shortest ones was Boo, well that wasn’t his name, worms don’t have names but this one always thought he did. He was like the rest in every way, he was brown and slimy on the outside and gooey on the inside. But everyone said he had a weird twinkle in his eyes. See Boo was born during a strange season. They had just moved into their new home. Everything was so cold and eerie and not even because there were broken pieces of dead-ant scattered all over, I mean that only meant free furniture for the worms. There was an easy explanation too; rain and wind must have simply unearthed the ants’ burial grounds and spread it around. But there was an odd feeling in the anthill at that time but Mommy chucked it up to ‘new house heebie jeebies’. It was during this season that Boo was born. It’s a funny story really. Mommy wasn’t due for another few days and despite Doc urging her to complete bed rest, she decided to take a walk around the home, down to the North wing, up the steps, down the shoot and around the pool, well it was more like a puddle with the sides reinforced with mostly ant skeletons cemented with ant poop. While gazing into the pool, suddenly Mommy saw ant eyes staring back at her; hollow, dark eyes looking up at her from afar. As she gazed deeper she saw them coming closer and closer and,

“Praat!!” a heap of ant skeletons splashed into the pool. Mommy got such a scare.

“Are you ok down there?!”A voice came from above.

‘Aargh! Construction worms!’Mommy thought as she looked up to the frightened worm holding a shovel. In the midst of the thought she thought she heard the faintest cry and felt something slither beneath her. She looked down only to see the cutest little worm staring up at her with the biggest gleaming eyes she had ever seen on a baby worm. And that was how the name ‘Boo’ came up as in “Peek-a-boo, I just came out of you”, at least according to Boo himself.

Boo was an odd little fellow growing up as if he was born on his head or something but everyone loved everyone in the worm family. They put extra cushions on his seat at the dining table so he could reach the top. Every time he was happy, the twinkle in his eye would somehow get brighter.

One day during a family outing, Boo got a little lost, well as much as worms can get lost.  All he had to do was follow the slimy trail or the trail of slime back home. So let’s just say Boo intentionally got lost or lost himself because through the twinkle in his eye he had seen something magical. Right in the middle of the forest stood a tall tree. A tree so magnificent, it towered above all others that seemed to form a sort of protective ring around it. It looked like a ballerina, I think, with a bright spot light shone on her; beautiful and handsome at the same time. Boo was drawn to it.

“Boo!Boo!” he heard  Mommy calling.

“Time to go home my weird little baby,” Mommy was always saying funny things like that.

But from that moment, he little worm was obsessed by the ‘Ballerina tree’ as he called it or rather as I call it. Home they went, had dinner, washed up, kissed Mommy goodnight and went to bed.

In the days to come, Boo dreamt only of the tree. He wondered what it must be like to be the tree; tall, handsome, beautiful, the envy of all. Don’t get him wrong, Boo loved his life, his home, his family, he wouldn’t trade it for anything. But for some reason he felt sad for the trees that weren’t so tall, so magnificent, and so shiny. “Were they sad too?”He wondered. He wondered if in some way, maybe he could help them grow tall. I don’t know why a tiny worm would think that but this one did. Day in, day out he watched, he planned, 3 days in all.

He had seen how the dead leaves would seem to give life to the trees and the vegetation on the ground. He asked Mommy. She said;

“Look at our home Boo, there used to be a big colony of ants living here. What they left behind, the dead little things, that is what has given our family life.”

And right then, Boo knew what to do. He set out, slimy trail following. He found the smallest tree among them that surrounded the ‘Ballerina tree’ and lo and behold, right at the heart of the tree’s trunk was a hole carved out. Boo didn’t know who had carved it out, maybe it was the same person who put everything in place because how else could a little worm explain how everything in his small world came to be and how so very perfect it all was. He didn’t have 3 more days to fathom it all, time was running out and he was on a mission.

So the little brave worm slithered all the way to the tiny tree just a few feet away, got into the cave like curve-out, coiled himself into it ever so gently and fell fast asleep.

“Please grow tall and strong tiny tree, you can become a ballerina too,” whispered Boo to the tree as his eyes grew heavy, his body tired and sleep carried him off into forever-land.

The lit mosquito coil scent soothes me believe it or not. It reminds me of days gone by,  a past I cannot get back and part of which maybe I wouldn’t even want to get back. Some find it choking or simply irritating, backward even.

‘Can’t you get one of those plug-in mosquito repellents?’ one would ask as they see me unfolding the metallic holder.

‘Or maybe even a net?’ another would ask as they saw me struggle to separate two coils so gently so they wouldn’t break in half (that was a very valuable skill back in my day). You wouldn’t want to break a coil in pieces and have your mother scold you about how you now want the whole family to die of malaria because of your carelessness.  Melodramatic much mummy?  Times were simpler then.  Back in Primary school, when the only real worry, at least for me was finishing homework on time. I also worried about how I was going to get in the popular girls’ good books because that would put you at the head of the juice-line at break time. The juice line wasn’t anything official. The popular girls created it every break time underneath the big mango tree at the centre of the school compound. They would have ready to drink juice that came in packets with fancy flavors like tropical and mixed berry. I remember vividly standing in line to take a sip from the juice box and a tiny piece of chocolate chip cookie. I savored every bite (it was just the one bite though). Even now every time I buy myself a juice-box I feel like I should pat myself on the back like I’ve just achieved something big.

I used to wish I could be one of the popular girls; but maybe not, I’m sure I’d be drunk with power, make the little brats build me a shrine or something. Maybe that’s why I’m not a millionaire now? Haha! Yeah, maybe not.

Anyway, Scents can take u back to a very specific point of your life. It’s like you are back there all over again.

I remember the soap I used to use back in high school. I was a real tomboy back then. A sleeveless ‘School of hardknocks’ tee, black bandana (I had a collection) covering my short hair, baggy side-pocket pants; the ones with the zipper at the knees that you could turn into shorts (I had a collection) and sketchers was my signature look. I also had a pair of those shiny, reflector Sean John jeans, if anyone still remembers those. They were baggy of course and I had a plaid blue shirt to match and a blue fisherman’s cap, because, why not.  I loved blue and grey and black. I only discovered other colours in college and I kinda went colour-crazy when I did. The combos I’d wear, eish! I wasn’t happy till I had the whole rainbow on in one outfit.  One time, still back in high-school,  I remember I went with my mum to buy school uniform and the guy behind the counter asks ‘Kijana anavaa size gani? (What size does your son wear)? I honestly should have been offended but I just smiled to myself as if to say, “Mission accomplished!”

I remember the lotion I used to put on back in 2005 to 2006, just after high school because that was when I fell for a basket- ball player. He was my neighbor.  I could sec catch a glimpse of him and he of me even if just for a few seconds. It’s true, I was hopeless.  He had an interesting African (specific country hidden) name that still echoes in my mind sometimes, 10 years later. Let’s call him Nani for purposes of this particular story. Back then, Nani was a phenomenon in my books. He was 6 feet something tall, he had a beautiful physique; a tight six-pack, chisel shaped biceps, well-toned legs, a jaw to die for and amazing eyes. He was somewhere in the middle of a dark and light brown. He had this deep, coarse voice. I could listen to him all day even though all he really seemed to be interested in talking about was what party he was going to and who got trashed last weekend and bla  bla bla. I, know, I’m ashamed that I would shut up just to listen to that but a girl was sprung sha. Even now if I smell that lotion anywhere I get the chills. Sometimes I buy it just so I could remember but also because it’s very good lotion.

This was my journal entry the day we met…

Sometime in January 2006

So we met these two guys Arnold and Nani-it’s French. Two of the sweetest guys I have ever had the pleasure and privilege of meeting. And no, I was not the one who introduced myself in some odd, corny way but Nani started. I almost collapsed, believe me. He is polite (courteous),sweet and drop dead gorgeous and so is his bro Arnold.

Suffice to say, I was whipped from the get go so when he asked me out soon after, February 2nd 2006 to be precise according to my journal, how was a girl supposed to say no?

I remember the smell of his sweat mixed with Deodorant after practice. I would probably find it gross now but back then I even contemplated getting one of his sweaty t-shirts from his gym bag and maybe not giving it back. You know those times when you really aren’t a stalker but for a second you come down with a case of stalker-tendernitis but logic kicks in soon after?

I’m not a basketball fan but I used to sit through hours of his practice sessions just daydreaming of being a flippin’ basketballer’s wife and having cute basket-balling children.

He turned out to be a complete jerk in the end though. Have you ever been phased out of someone’s life till you are completely out but you still think you are in? Once in a while, he would pop back into mine, flash that award winning smile, give me that signature bear hug, plant just one amnesia inducing kiss on my lips and in that moment I could swear that if he had asked me to go back to him I would have. And then two minutes later he’d go back to being a jerk and I’d kick myself for even thinking about going back.

I got stood up a lot in our, I’d estimate 3 week relationship. I could be wrong about the length. My journal tried to warn me but I didn’t listen.

Journal entry Later in February  2006

I just have one question; it’s recurred in my mind more than once. How come a guy can know a girl for just a couple of weeks and already fall for her? I mean he’s even told me he loves me a bunch of times. I mean, I do have feelings and can sometimes like a guy a lot after just one or two days but I would never say anything unless I’m sure I want to really go out with them. I hope he just doesn’t want sex because that’s a no-no. I need to really get to know him better, the swimming date will be a great opportunity to do that. I hope it works out. Hope I get a swimming suit and swimming cap. Hope both are fly and fit properly in and out of the pool.

Later that week…

Oops! Got stood up on the swimming plot. Ouch! I was devastated. Who can blame me? After gathering psyche for 1000 people for just one date. Anyway there must be a good reason why he didn’t show up. Hope he kujas (comes) with it soon coz I’m running out of guesses.  

You know how sometimes you don’t listen to your instincts and then that whole decision comes back to bite? Well, this one bit and chewed and regurgitated my sweet behind. You live and you learn though.  Let’s just say I have a love-hate relationship with that particular scent.

I look back at 14-17 year old me in high school and I am in awe of her confidence. Being a late bloomer (the hips, boobs and booty kicked in way way later) wasn’t exactly fashionable in high school but still she was so comfortable in her own skin and her own style and her own awkwardness. Fast forward to 18 year old me who had just lost her mummy to cancer and moved from a laid back, evenly paced  life in a Coastal town to the ‘Big,Fast’ Capital City. She was struggling with identity and self-esteem issues mixed in with a major crisis of faith, basically at her wits end. Somehow she survived.  I think maybe as the years went by the two finally found a balance, each learning from the other. Her faith kicked back in, full swing; she discovered her beauty inside and out and she continues to discover very interesting parts of herself. She is still an emotional blob but she owns it. Haha!

I can’t wait to get to 35 and look back at 30 year old me. I already have a few scents I will definitely be talking about!

P.S: Watch the kind of mark you leave in someone’s life while you are in it and if/when you leave it. Those things last for a lifetime.

“Hi my name is Stellah and I survived.”

“Hi Stellah!” came the chorus reply that seemed to echo endlessly in the dim-lit basement hall.

This was the first time I actually stood up to share. I would come every Monday of every week, sit in the corner of the back row and listen as people gave horrific stories of abuse; years of physical, emotional and psychological torture. I would cry and ache for them but I wasn’t like them. He didn’t force me to do anything. He only ever slapped me once. Even after he did he came crawling and I mean literally on his knees slapping his own face over and over screaming “I was wrong!” “I was wrong!”

I had had others before him, I wasn’t naive. I had heard the stories, I had friends who had suffered in the hands of their abusers.  Some survived; if going through life feeling like a broken empty shell is what you would call surviving. Others were not so lucky but maybe they are the ones we should be jealous of; at least they found peace in death.

I knew how to protect myself so I did not know what abuse really looked like as I had never experienced it. Maybe if I had I would have seen this coming. Maybe I would have sensed that that’s what it was even though it did not follow the typical pattern, even though I didn’t have the scars on my body as they had, both self-inflicted and others to remind me that I was being abused.

When I first met him, he wasn’t wealthy, he didn’t promise me the world, he didn’t promise to love me forever, he just wanted to know me. I didn’t have much either but I was comfortable. He asked me out on dates a few times. At first it was just for coffee. He liked his black, no sugar. That soon turned to lunches, then dinners. You know the drill. Sometimes he’d pay, other times I would, most times we’d go dutch.  It was two-way at least it felt like it was. How was I to know he wasn’t showing me the whole hand?

He didn’t treat me extra special; he didn’t make me feel like a queen in that sense. He didn’t treat me like trash either.  He was just normal I guess. Maybe that’s what threw me off because I expected the extreme, I was experienced in the extremes but not this. He simply slid so smoothly into my life that by the time I thought I needed to leave I still wasn’t sure why.

He started accidentally leaving stuff at my place; a tie, cuff links, a watch, documents he’d need for work. It was cute so I let him. He’d always remember to pick them up the next time he was over. I must admit he put the time in. He never asked for anything but I gave him everything anyway, not all at once, just drops at a time really so I didn’t feel it, I didn’t see it. See everyone seemed to know what he wanted from me but less was said and known about what I wanted from him. I’m a simple person. I rarely ever demand for anything.  I get comfortable very quickly.  Some of my friends joke that I come pre-domesticated. I would be offended by that if it wasn’t completely true. In short, I didn’t know what I wanted from him, not really.  I was comfortable but he knew what he wanted from me, knew how to get it without asking, and because he didn’t ask, I didn’t know what I was giving.

He came over one night, we watched a few movies, I fell asleep on his lap, and he carried me to bed, tucked me in and slept on the couch. Next morning, he made me breakfast, we had it in the dining room. I found his toothbrush next to mine; “How did he know he was going to stay over?”

He said goodbye after breakfast, he was running late for work.

A couple of weeks later he came over again. We had dinner which he made, we watched movies, I fell asleep, he carried me to bed, tucked me in and went to sleep on the couch again. I got up, watched him toss and turn on the couch, I slid in next to him. Next morning, I made him breakfast and asked if he was coming over again that night. He said he would.

I cleared out a drawer on my dresser for him.’

At that point of my sharing I knew most of the people in the room were wondering why I was there. Why I was claiming to be a survivor yet I had the proverbial (mythical) ‘perfect man’. That’s why I had never spoken up; there were no scars to prove it. It was the same look they gave me at the hospital after they pumped my stomach. They asked me why I took all those pills, why I slit my wrists and I couldn’t explain.

‘I had a big project coming up, one I had been passed over for about sometime before, actually around the exact time I met him. I only figured out that particular connection later. It was worth millions. The guy they had put in charge had scammed the company and ran off, but they needed it done. I had a spotless record so I was chosen. I was ecstatic that night and couldn’t wait to share the news with him. I blocked out a few details but told him everything else. He didn’t ask any questions, he told me I was the best for the job. He made dinner, we watched movies, I fell asleep, he carried me to bed and as he was walking away to go sleep on the couch, I pulled him back and showed him his side of my bed. He slid in next to me. It felt right. Next morning I made us breakfast and asked him to move in.

He said he needed some kind of guarantor so he could still keep his old place; maybe rent it out, more income for us. I signed the documents. I didn’t read anything.

He changed his forwarding address to mine. I received a few packages for him, my signature on all of them. I didn’t open them, I wouldn’t. He didn’t ask me much so I didn’t ask him much either, that would be rude.

I talked to him about my big project, he offered advice, and every time I followed it, it worked out so well I asked for more and more advice. I even showed him a few of the plans, just to get a few pointers really.

He asked me to marry him, I said yes. Two months later he was gone. He didn’t take anything with him, not his clothes, not his shoes, not the espresso machine he had bought; nothing. He just disappeared.

Just days after he left, I was dropped from my project; the company found someone better who knew a more efficient way of doing it. That was the official story.

Turns out he had developed the same project only better in another country and patented the license.  He then somehow  blackmailed the company that hired me into letting him take over and so it would be kept quiet I was offered a handsome severance package but the company blacklisted me, I would never be able to find a job in that industry anywhere in the continent.

I have no physical scars to prove it, not even a dented bank account. I met a woman a few months ago, she has a son, 8 years old, we became friends somehow but she told me it wasn’t by chance, she had been tracking the man for 4 years now and the trail led her to me. We weren’t the only ones either. We don’t know how many are out there or how many there are still to be.

The bouts of uncontrollable rage started coming later, when it finally sank in. I’d have panic attacks every night just before bed and every morning like clockwork. I spent those moments sprawled on the cold bathroom floor, unable to move, clutching at my chest unable to catch my breathe. Sometimes I’d sing to calm myself, most times I’d just cry, cry until the moment passed. I wasn’t able to keep anything down in those moments, any food I’d try to eat would come right back out. It felt like my tummy was permanently stuck on a roller coaster. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my family or my closest friends.  What would I say? How would I prove the damage? I thought I was losing my mind, that I had dreamt it all but he was real, it was real.  I willingly gave him everything so I honestly felt like I had no one to blame. You can blame a rapist, a burglar, a kidnapper, a serial killer, a wife-beater, an emotionally abusive friend. They take, by force, with devastating consequences for their victims. But how do you blame someone you loved and who seemed to have loved you back. Someone who gave you five beautiful years. The heavy drinking came soon after and eventually the suicide attempt. That brings us to now.

I have a son too, he is 4 years old and he looks exactly like him.”