December 17, 2017

Pocket Square Confidential: Cleansed

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By George Ojema

The room is eerily silent. It has been for the last three minutes. The faint light from a reading lamp is all that illuminates the captive audience.

“Excuse me,” she says as she stands. Sheila stands and follows her and she does not protest. Ciru instinctively follows them out with the box of tissues. In an almost perfect choreography the ladies make their way to the bathroom. A low rumble of distant thunder invades the room.

“I think it’s going to rain,” Simon offers after a long pause. It’s evident he’s looking for words to fill the uncomfortable room. He nods in response, not really sure what would be an appropriate answer. It suddenly dawns on him he is in need of a glass of water.

“Can I get you some water?”

“Nah…I’ll come with you.”

They walk to the kitchen, aware of the tension against them. How could something so bad happen while they were in the house? Simon retrieves a bottle of mineral water from the fridge and tosses it lightly at him but lost in thought he fails to catch it.

“Sorry bro.”

“It’s alright.”

The stubborn silence sets once more. The two men cannot muster the courage to stare each other in the eye. The shame of failure leaves a thick scent on them. “We need to do something,” he mutters, still lost in a myriad of thoughts and pity.

“Hmm?”

“We need to do something.”

“Like what? You know how these things go.”

“We can’t just do nothing…”

“But there’s nothing we can do. If we report this…”

“What do you mean ‘if’? We have to!”

“Yeah? And then what? We report it and then…?”

Simon has spread his hands wide in a gesture only completed by his widened eyes. It is a good question. In a country where cases of sexual assault are rarely investigated and the perpetuators rarely booked where would they begin? How do they even start tackling the crime?

“And even if we report it, do we have any witnesses?”

“Yes! Us!”

“Don’t be stupid.”

Simon finds a cup and pours some left over milk into it. “We’re not witnesses, she just told us the story. What if she’s lying?”

“Oh, piss off!”

“I’m serious! Even if she’s telling the truth and we report it it’s going to be her word against his. He said, she said!”
Simon has become animated in his argument, thrashing his hands about and not realizing he’s spilling the milk as he talks. A vein protrudes from his temple, a testament to the anger he feels at the hopeless situation. He knows that even if he decided to help the odds are stacked against them.

“She’s what…nineteen, twenty? Ever heard of a case like that? Never! You know why? You really want to know why?”

He pauses, finally looking his friend in the eye to see if his rage, and not his argument, has been passed across. But only hot coals stare back, enraged by the logic they are discovering to be true.

“You know I know why.”

“Then stop being stupid. Besides, she needs to be ready to report it, not us.” Simon raises the cup to his mouth for a big gulp but is surprised to find the cup empty. He puts his rage in a calculated swing and tosses the cup into the sink where the handle snaps clean off. He curses with is eyes and opens the fridge for a bottle of water instead.

“I don’t want to do it.”

The soft voice contrasts sharply with Simon’s. He has no idea how long she’s been standing behind his back but she seems to have been there for a good while. Simon tries to look apologetic but fails miserably at the endeavor, perhaps it’s because he is still worked up from the last hour’s events.

“I didn’t mean…”

“It’s true,” she silences him. “I’ve got friends who got raped who reported it and nothing happened.”

“By the same guy?”

The distant rumble of thunder responds to the question in a way she never could. It didn’t matter. They had been hurt and something should have been done that wasn’t.

Sheila calls Simon from the room and he leaves. Now it’s just the two of them standing in front of the fridge. Once more courage deserts them as they search the floor for a yet unknown item.

“Thanks,” she half whispers in a brief moment of courage. He nods uneasily in response.

“Are you hungry?”

She nods.

“Sandwich?”

She shrugs an unenthusiastic reply and sits by the sink. He finds the ingredients and prepares her a simple snack. She devours it in a flash as he prepares a second. This one she eats at a more controlled pace. He observes her as she eats, building a question in his head and taking it apart. Trying to find the right way to ask it.

She notices his unbroken gaze and responds in kind. He suddenly feels oppressed by her gaze. “I’m going outside for some fresh air.”

She follows him out and they stand in the cold night in silence. The moon has become shrouded in thick black clouds and the rumble of thunder is drawing closer.

“Are you going to be o.k?”

She remains silent for a long while after he asks this question, cycling between holding back tears and pretending to be brave. But the silence is the only answer he needs, and he regrets asking it.

“I don’t think I’m fine.” She breaks once more and turns to him, clutching his arm and sobbing into his sleeve. He cradles her in his arms, they are not the most masculine arms but they will do the job now. She jerks violently as the emotion rocks her frame. He just stands and holds her, convinced it’s all she needs right now.

It feels as though time has stopped to advance her first step in recovery. The moon breaks from behind thick nimbus clouds to peek affectionately at her. The sky itself grumbles at the misfortune visited upon her. But time waits not, and her tear cease to flow, replaced by heavy breathing. It dawns on him that through the entire episode he has not bothered to find out her name. But the thought fades away swiftly. The backdrop against which their paths crossed does not afford him the casual pleasure of small talk.

“I’m sorry,” she whimpers from under his bicep.

“It’s alright.”

“Do you think I’ll be fine?”

He doesn’t answer immediately, waiting for her to look up at his face. When she does, he smiles warmly down at her.

“I don’t know. I want to lie to you but I don’t know. What I do know is that you won’t be fine for a while, and that’s o.k. What happened to you is wrong, and it hurt and you’ll be hurt for a long time.”

She looks at him, perplexed. She was expecting him to say something different. But her feet won’t let her move and something inside her tells her to listen on.

“But you can get past it. I know you can. It will take time…but you’ll be fine. And if you’re not, just call me, or Simon, or Sheila. We’ll be there for you. We’ll be just fine.”

A rain drop lands on her cheek, a kiss from the sky to grace her beauty. Another quickly follows on her forehead. Her heart beats lighter in her chest as the shower intensifies. She had taken a shower after the horrendous ordeal but the defilement had rent her soul filthy. She had been disgusted by her body all night and tormented by the fact that she could not escape it. But now, the rain feels like it’s cleansing her.

‘It will take time…but you’ll be fine.’

The words replay in her head as fresh tears stream down her cheeks.

“…you’ll be fine.”

 

(This is the last installment in the Pocket Square Confidential series. Thank you for reading and your continued support. If you would like more such articles/series or a continuation of this series kindly drop us a comment on our twitter handle @EtaarifaNews or Facebook: Etaarifa News. Thanks again.)

(PS: Rape is a serious crime. Victims require support and not stigmatization #NoMeansNo…EtaarifaNews team)

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