Today a man approached my car.
Now if you’re female and you’re reading this, you already feel the apprehension that I did. I work around the Westlands area. For those of you who don’t know, when street people were shuffled out of the CBD they moved to Westy. There are loads of them mulling about the sidewalk and skulking at the corners: constant reminders of why I need to be grateful.
Today, while approaching a junction to the main road after dropping my brother off, a man approached my car. He looked, well, he didn’t look high, but he wasn’t quite all there either. His skin had an oily reddish brown tint and his teeth had little coffee squiggles doodled over them. He had short hair- not unkempt- and a large gash on his forehead. He also had funny looking bruises all over the place. He did not look well.
I saw him before he even thought to approach me. I saw him see me and process a young lady alone in the car with her window rolled down all the way (“fresh meat” I thought). He calculated how long it would take me to close the window versus how long it would take him to get to me, factors like fear, common sense and shame remaining constant. Then he walked up to me.
“ Madam niaje”
“hi” (lame. I know)
“Unaweza nisaidia na…”
“Aki leo sina” (not entirely a lie, I just hadn’t checked)
“ Madam si uangalie tu, unajua niaje? Aki sijakula siku mbili na mi ni mgonjwa…”
At this point traffic started moving and I took the easy out. I was slightly panicky because he had been moving closer and horror stories (real and imagined) were rushing through my head. I pretty much took out a lorry as I sped (through traffic) to get out of there. All the way to the office I couldn’t get that guy’s face out of my head. I hated myself and I hated Nairobi.
As I look at the situation now from the comfort of my desk sipping fresh home made mango juice, I figure he really couldn’t have done anything to me. There were so many people and not enough time for him to do any real damage. Worst-case scenario I get a lapful of you-know-what. That’s bad- but I can deal. Actually, worst-case scenario is he cuts me and… I don’t even want to think about it.
I’m a Christian girl. If I didn’t lose them so often, I’d probably own a WWJD band or two. I know the golden rule and everything. I know I need to help those in need but truth be told I was really scared. If my brother was in the car I would have probably talked to the guy and given him the money, or my fruit juice or something, but on my own I didn’t even want to acknowledge his presence. I’m pissed off right now. I’m mad that I live in a world where a man, a man, just like my dad or brother or cousin or workmate, a man approaching me just like that is scary. That I feel helpless to do anything about it. That I feel, in turns, selfish and foolish for wanting to protect myself. I’m ashamed that I did nothing to ease that man’s suffering and upset that he may not even have been suffering but now I am. Ugh.
I’m not too sure how to end this piece. I started out wanting to vent about fear and inability to overcome prejudice but now I’m not too sure. I mean, really, I may regret not helping him, but I’ll regret that for a little bit. If he’d done anything to me, I’d regret stopping forever. So why do I feel so guilty?