Partying was my thing. Weekends were the best part of my life.
Talk about jam sessions, ramogi nights, mulembe nights… I can’t even exhaust them. Life was as easy as “one, two, three.”
Mum… that lady used to get into my nerves. “Hey! Don’t do this… Hey, don’t go there… What time is it?… Do you even respect yourself?” She was always nagging! I wished to get married as soon as possible just to get out of her sight.
One particular Friday night, I had been enjoying jam sessions from 6pm, when I met this young man. Handsome, well-built, tall, dark. His succulent lips… Oh! No lady could pass him without saying hi.
Let’s call him Vic.
Vic came to me smiling: for once, I froze. I couldn’t imagine such a handsome guy could ever approach me. “Hi, Maureen,” he said. “Hi too, Mr. Stranger,” I replied, blushing off. My blood was rushing; my heart was beating very fast. My hairs stood up.
I was young, fresh, still in high school. I had never been in a relationship before. He said his name was Vic, but I called him Vic, the Handsome Man. He gave me his card to call him once I got home, and even ordered an Uber for me, saying that young and beautiful girls like me should not be out this late… He sounded like my mum. But of course, his deep voice got me to leave the session and go home at one word.
I got home and I couldn’t settle. His image would not leave my mind. Of course, it was late and as usual my mum came to nag me, but my Vic’s voice was the only one ringing in my head.
I went on seeing Vic day in, day out. He was self-employed; he had this good business that gave him a lot of money. He used to spoil me. Talk of money, a phone, good dresses, shoes!… In fact, the latest fashion in town. I had found love at my young age! My friends couldn’t talk me out of it.
At some point, I was not even going home.
One day, Vic proposed to me and said he loved me so much, that he wanted to make me his wife, to be with me for the rest of his life. I couldn’t resist such a good act. I said yes. But something came up: “I am 35 years old,” he said. Fifteen years older than me! But I couldn’t hear anything: “Age is just but a number, Vic. I love you, and I want to marry you.”
That was the best day of my life. He treated me three times better than he used to do. Took me shopping and even took me to a salon. I plaited my favorite style braids. I went home much happier than ever before.
When I broke the news to my mum, she started hurling insults at me. I threw insults back to her. She even pulled me by my braids. I packed everything, called her a loser, and left to Vic’s place. Vic took me in, happy that now we could spend all of our minutes together.
We started jamming and going for every party that came our way. My life had completely taken a different direction. Vic loved me! More than my own mother ever did.
Soon, I became pregnant. I was expecting a baby boy from my handsome Vic! He was good, and very supportive… until I gave birth.
Things started changing, Vic could not see me in the eye. He started to sleep out, and would not even make time to look at his baby boy. He disappeared.
Rumors had it that Vic was once married. I found out on my own that Vic had another wife who was into cultism, and had used the cult on Vic after he left her. What? What did I get myself into? Is this cult causing Vic to behave this way? I was more scared than ever before.
Vic stopped providing for his boy. The baby had no clothes, no food, …nothing. Vic wouldn’t allow me to work, either. How did he expect his boy’s need to be met? I was so frustrated. This was not the Vic I married.
I later found out Vic was cheating on me with a lady I saw daily, who lived just nearby. It was heartbreaking for me, and asking him about it was the worst mistake of my life. From that day, Vic became a real animal. He would beat me mercilessly; my baby boy was old enough by then, and used to cry every time he beat me. Life became a living hell.
I found out the girl Vic used to cheat on me with was infected with HIV. When I confronted him, all I got was slaps and punches. He told me not to talk ill about her, because he also picked me from a club. “You are just like her,” he said.
I packed my belongings and went back to my mother. Mum was very angry at me. But I regretted everything, I wished I had listened to her.
When Vic came back for me, he pleaded, saying that he had changed. I followed him back home, sure of his change of heart. But this time round things were even worse. He would bring women over and have sex right before my eyes. All I could do, was watch in pain and anger. My son would look at me and say, “Mum, sorry.”
Every time I spoke, I would be beaten. I got to a place where I would just quietly watch him do this in our home. For my own peace and that of my son.
Time passed, and Vic’s business collapsed. He became broke. Me? I got a job. But all the cash I got, Vic would take, claiming that the moment I got paid, I would cheat on him. Vic would lie that he was saving the cash on my behalf, but rather he would use it on prostitutes. I said nothing.
With time, Vic became ill. He had contracted HIV/AIDS. He became so bitter, and vowed he would not die alone. Vic would force me to sleep with him, so he could transmit it to me. I was young, defenseless. Every time I refused, I was beaten. I was full of scars, far from resembling that beautiful girl that once blushed off at his presence.
I contracted HIV/AIDS. “I wish I heard my mum. How did I ever fall in this downward spiral?…” I was broken… For how long must we suffer, for us to know we are hurting?… We need to talk, we need to be heard. My story is just one of many others undergoing abuse and violence. My voice is their voice. And when I speak up, it becomes yours.
We are one. And we seek dignity, justice and peace. Speak up!
Written by Georgina Otieno