There really wasn’t much to be said for the house. Except for the fact that it possessed the curious quality of being typical and fascinating at the same time. The house which by fair description was really just two rooms, housed a total of 11 individuals by night. By day, it was anyone’s guess the amount of comings and goings its wooden doors witnessed. The first room, slightly bigger than a shoe box, was officially the living room but it underwent all kinds of rearranging to accommodate the various needs its occupants imposed on its limited capabilities. Whenever there was food, usually in the evening, the table and three seats would be cleared and present members settled for the food. Each morning, fish was laid out on the same table and sorted before being taken out for peddling. At night, when it was time to sleep, a rolled up mattress would be retrieved from the other room where it was stuffed every morning and it would be laid on the ground. Exhausted bodies rested here intermittently. At random intervals during the day, select girls wandered in with men and if the room happened to be empty, they stopped here. Usually they proceeded into the next room and did what it was that happened when money, among other favours, was the exchange for sex. The second room served as the parents’ (and toddlers’) bedroom and kitchen and dressing room and store and hiding room from occasional police raids.
The one main task the house performed at length was housing men; the kind who enjoyed being drunk and did not seem to have any reservations about drinking first thing in the morning. These were men who had long given up owning up to any kind of responsibility or making anything for their lives. It was enough for them to sit around and discuss politics they did not understand, exchange crude words and crawl back to their homes (or holes) whenever NyaarMama, the matriarch, announced it was time to leave. The alcohol they endlessly consumed was illicit, brewed and sold by NyaarMama, who swore that whatever she served was cleaner and healthier than whatever else they bought. Nothing, she often announced, was illicit about the brew she worked at every night.
The selling of the liquor was and had always been NyaarMama’s reserve. Only she handled the money. Serving fell to Seline, the youngest. Of the four girls hailing from NyaarMama’s womb, Adhis, the eldest, always peddled fish. Belinda was a wild card whose whereabouts were never fully known. Sharon, Belinda’s twin, was more grounded but Seline suspected that had to do with the two children she tended to in the house. There were brothers; two of them. But they rarely ever spent time in the house. Junior tended to be gone for days and was suspected to have another roof somewhere. Otis was more around and was even known to buy the occasional sweet for his child; the one whose young mother had dropped off at NyaarMama’s when the baby was barely a month old. The father and NyaarMama’s husband was said to be a little crazy. When he was not fitfully dozing off in one of the chairs, he was out and not a single soul knew where it was he went.
It was not that the house was dysfunctional. No. It operated on a seemingly complex maze which was navigable only by its occupants. There existed only a single rule which NyaarMama enforced with an iron fist; no one was allowed to steal from her or anyone else. Everything else passed. And a surprisingly whole lot happened within those four walls. There was that one time when the supposed wife to the man that had fathered Belinda’s first child came into the house breathing fire and baying for blood. The ensuing argument started with ugly words, led to exchanging of very unwomanly blows and ended with both women at Kenyatta’s emergency room. Then there were the occasional police raids which inadvertently ended up with a cuffed Otis being led to the back of the police truck with a pleading NyaarMama following closely behind. There was also the many times fights broke out between the drunks when one failed to agree with the other. In all these, NyaarMama stayed unfazed and sturdy. The only other always present witness was Seline; a timid, unnoticed and fully absorbing presence.
Seline, whom NyaarMama often jokingly taunted for her big bones, could not, in her 14 years of living, remember a time she did not hate this house. The first time she became acutely aware of the disdain and contempt; particularly towards men, was the time a man casually rubbed his fingers over her small chest while she poured alcohol into his empty mug. She had just turned eleven. It was contempt which had since grown mechanical from use and a developed anger simply too old for someone so young. When she sprouted breasts, barely visible swellings, the men noticed. Suddenly their gazes would linger a little too long and snide comments about how “watoto wa siku hizi wanamea haraka” became common talk. The casual rubbing quickly graduated to outright assault; especially when it was evident she was “too big” for her age. These men accosted her, carelessly grabbed and painfully groped her with absolutely no regard. NyaarMama watched and often reprimanded the men. Generally though, she dismissed this abuse as harmless fondling by harmless drunk men.
The first time the rape happened, she had been left alone in the house. NyaarMama was out tending to some errand after leaving strict orders that money had to be collected before the alcohol was served. By this time Seline had gotten used to the stares, the comments and the inappropriate touching. She had learnt whose touch was softer and which ones were particularly hard. The first customers were two men who drunk continuously for an hour before one suddenly left. Seline stared at the remaining man whose speech increasingly got slurred with each emptied mug. His name, she would later learn, was Mose.
“Wewe Seline hebu kuja hapa,” the demand came after a few minutes of staring.
She ignored this and moved to the next room hoping the man would leave. When the man followed her and pushed the door shut, she panicked. Some part of her believed she would be able to ward off these unwanted advances; she had done it so many times before. Only the man was not interested in talking. He crossed the room backing Seline to the end of the room. She stopped short when she hit the clothes drawer. Mose loomed over her; a hideous smirk pasted on his face.
“Let me out!” Seline demanded, the tremor in her voice betraying her fear.
“You know what I want.” Was the slurred reply.
The attempted shove would have worked had Mose not been so big. It did not and Seline found herself pinned to the ground struggling for air. Mose worked fast; obviously familiar with undressing unwilling women. The skirt she was wearing was half-torn, half-dragged off her and the first pain hit when his fingers dug into her thighs. She let out a scream which was cut short by a blow so vicious she tasted blood. She fought, God knows she did, but after the sixth blow, she stopped struggling. With each forceful gyrate, Seline swallowed her cries and hoped it would be the last. The whole ordeal lasted exactly three minutes. Mose got off after he was done and stumbled away with his zipper still open. On the floor Seline lay still, feeling her lips swelling and excruciating pain from somewhere between her legs. It was NyaarMama who found her on the floor an hour later.
Part two will be up soon 😊.