Does violence have a name? No? Okay, how about a face? I am half awake and from a distance, I can hear a female voice talking. I am not sure what she is saying but even if I am half asleep, I can tell that she is angry. First, I feel convinced that she is in the company of another lady. Perhaps they are leaving a house party and they are as high as kites. I am also certain that they are at the gate giving the guard a hard time and hence struggling to get into the court.
Jesus, is someone being killed?
Suddenly a loud thud followed by a scream wakes me up forcefully and I sit up. “Can’t be this apartment, must be the next”, I think to myself. You see, the only thing separating our apartment from the next, is a low fence. Often, I can hear neighbors sing and have conversations. My chain of thoughts gets interrupted by another scream that has me sprint out of my bed and head to the door.
This night, I slept without locking the door with a padlock. I quickly open the door, stand outside, and start listening to where the noise is coming from. All this while, my door is slightly open. I make sure to hold onto the door just in case someone is thrown out violently, I will enter the house in a jiff and lock the door.
Instantly, I can make out that the fight is in my next-door neighbor’s house, and realizing that they may be attracting attention, they switch off the light. This, however, does not stop the lady from loudly demanding to be let out of the house, and using all the cuss words she has learned. By this time, I have already moved from my door and my ear is on their window. I need to hear and know more.
Let the banging continue…
No sooner had I found a listening spot than another loud thud and scream sent me back to my house. This time, one hand is dialing the caretaker and the other is lowering my pajama while at the same time, looking for a pair of jeans. “From the look of things, it is important that I be decently dressed before the entire flat shows up on our floor”, I think to myself. I continuously dial the caretaker’s phone without any success.
“How can someone sleep like a log?” I wonder. Who is supposed to go and knock at his door to wake him up? What someone seeks refuge in my house as I am busy looking for help? Not me. If the worst happens, I will scream. Trust me, my chords can give a good one.
Luckily, my neighbor was able to quieten his partner and the violence stopped. The argument became heated and let’s just all agree that on this one, women carry the day. Eventually, I hear the lady demand that the door should be opened and after a few struggles, she manages to open the door. Despite the fact that I’m certain that the lady will leave and she will be safe, I can’t help but wonder where will she go. Who is she?
Once a snoop, always a snoop
I stand by my window and draw the curtain enough for one eye to peep. The curiosity to see her is driving me. If there is someone I have always held in high esteem, is my neighbor. This is partially because he looks to mature to allow an argument to escalate and he works for a media house. I mean, the media covers domestic violence every day and so he of all people should know better, right?
Once the lady is out of the house, the door is immediately locked from inside. Apparently, she forgot some of her items in the house and she requested that the door be opened so she can take them. Amongst these things were her keys and her beer! A few quiet exchanges happen and the lady leaves. That door is not being opened. At least not tonight.
And the victim looks like the woman
From my strategic position, I see that she has short hair and has no sweater. She is also quite tipsy. Once I am certain that she is on the floor below, I quietly leave the house and peep to see if she has gotten to the ground floor. I quickly make it to the end of the balcony, so that I can see her once she steps out of our apartment. I have to see where she will go at this hour.
Our gate is designed in such a way that you don’t need a key if you are inside which makes it easy for the lady to leave. Once she is outside, I have a clear view. This lady meant business. She even has her handbag on her! But wait a minute, she did not make a right and head for the main gate, she took a left! So she lives in this hood?
But doesn’t my neighbor have a girlfriend? Stupid me. His girlfriend has long hair. I can’t believe that I missed out on that clue. Anyhow, not my circus, not my monkeys. I go back to my house. Even if I feel relieved that the lady will spend the rest of the night somewhere away from this guy, I do not feel better. I feel disturbed. My mind goes on overdrive.
Down a memory path
I remember all the violent men and women that I have come across. None of them look like they can even harm a fly. They all look defenseless during the day but when night falls and they put on their full armor, you don’t want to be near them. I remembered Wangui, a childhood friend. Her parents were clergies. On Sundays, they always dressed to kill and harmony was their middle name.
During the week, her parents would fight every chance they got. They lived like two kilometers away from us. One time, during the harvest season, we were threshing beans on the farm. We always spread a big canvas on an empty spot on the farm and placed a heap of green beans in the middle. Everyone would then take a spot and started working on the green beans.
It was a quiet day. It was at about eleven O’clock. We were having small talks to make working easier when all of a sudden, we saw Wangui’s parents running towards our direction. Her father was in hot pursuit. Her mother was screaming. Startled and confused, we all stood simultaneously to watch this sight.
Frustrated and unable to catch her, he threw a slipper to her. Fortunately, he missed her. This incident happened more than eighteen years ago, but it is ingrained in my memory. It is one of those that I will live to tell. I still want someone to answer me, does violence have a name? How about a face?