They abused me three times today.
I was walking down the road today on my way to Lilongwe Academy. I was going to talk to the principal there about going to give a presentation some time soon. It was really hot out, and, when I’d much rather be wearing shorts, I was wearing a pair of skinny jeans and a light cotton blouse. I was in serious mode, given the task at hand, so, clad with my handbag and a folder with some documents in it, I marched in the heat to my destination. Tenth Avenue North was blasting into my ears, and I walked to the beat. I walked to the beat in the heat. With my feet.
As I walked on to the music, I passed by an open gate, where two young men of about twenty years old stood. From an indistinguishable distance, I could feel their eyes all over me. As I drew closer, I kept my eyes on the road ahead of me. Walking to the beat. In the heat.
“Iwe,” I heard one of them call at me. I didn’t respond. I had earphones on. I had an excuse not to look his way. “Iwe!” he called even louder. “Iwe aise!!!” he called again, this time a slight annoyance sprinkled over his tone. I walked on, at the same speed as before. I didn’t have to walk any faster. As far I was concerned, I didn’t hear him. I didn’t have to walk any slower. I walked on. To the beat.
I heard him call something else out in anger, and I cranked the music up higher. Sent by Ravens played loudly in my ears as I approached a T-junction. I was two thirds there. Ahead of me, parked trucks on either side of the road, parked under the shade of large trees. The truckers sat under the trees. Some shirtless. Some shirtful. Some pigging off on oily wedged potatoes. They must have been screaming loudly because I could hear their shouts even over Sent by Ravens. Sent by Ravens is not a quiet band. I didn’t hear them, either. How could I, when I had earphones in my ears. I thanked God I had to cross the road. I thanked God they were behind me. My heart settled. To a beat. In the heat.
Lilongwe academy was just down the road from where I was. To the far left of the road, little red and yellow specks revealed themselves to be shiny, hard construction helmets glimmering in the sun. Covering the hard heads of men who can’t stay silent at the sight of an eighteen year old female minding her own friggin business. Walking a little bit faster than the beat.
The heat is intense. I can’t wait to get home and take my pumps off. I remember the place to my right. I should probably practice my guitar today. That was me trying to block out their vulgar shouts. Over Sent by Ravens. An unaccomplished feat. In the heat.
I got to Lilongwe Academy and back, dreading the second trip mildly, because it was broad daylight. But perhaps I should have feared. It was only a little over a year ago that young women like me were undressed to their very nakedness here. In broad daylight. In the heat.
What kind of filthy men have we raised in this country? That cannot help but verbalize their lust to the detriment of our young women’s peace of mind. Not to mention our dignity. It’s days like this that the optimist in me gets a barbaric beating and lapses into a coma. And a pessimist I don’t know stands in in the mean time.
My jeans weren’t tight. I have tighter. My blouse was down to my elbows. My hair was tied back, I was in serious mode. And yet, they will use “the way I dress” against me when they abuse me. Oh yes, their hollers are abuse. They abused me three times today. And they will, even if I’ve cover up everything but my eyes. And walk, sweating my soul away. In the heat.