FICTION

S for Stalker

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Were it not for her 28th birthday, we wouldn’t be having this story (this is the part you give the 28th its roses). We will all agree it has been a different year, weird even. For Taanu, 2020 is the first year she has celebrated her birthday indoors. Think about the life and soul of a party, and at the heart of it, you will find Taanu. So, courtesy of a different year, she invited a few friends to her crib, to help her grieve a lost opportunity to be in the club or tick off a destination from her bucket list.

This is her story

“We were all drunk. A group of 3 at the corner were having a political debate. Some two individuals were dancing or rather grinding on each other’s groins and then there were the rest of us, 6, playing a game. We( 11 of us) had started off with a party, which had transitioned to a drinking game night. We played different games. At some point when playing 21 questions, the 3 political friends dropped out. 

Something about having political secrets didn’t allow them to participate. 21 questions transitioned to another game and another, then to Truth or Dare. While else this particular game landed me in trouble, as you will later see, it brought two strangers together. The two individuals that I mentioned. Yes, the ones dancing rather suggestively.

Now, truth or dare is a game that is mostly used to settle scores between acquaintances or friends. It is also a game you may want to initiate if you crush is in the crowd, and you are interested to entangle with him, albeit for two seconds. The latter is if you don’t have the balls to come clean.

Our truth or dare had settled a number of scores and as I said earlier, strangers had already started entangling. It was beginning to get boring with a touch of tension. Just as we were about to change to a different activity, Mumbi my best friend said, “Wait a minute, niaje hujafanya dare, you are the birthday girl for goodness sake!” Everybody joined in to jeer at me and that is when Mumbi dared me, “I dare you to call a customer care center of your choice and flirt with the receiver for 2 minutes.” You should have heard how the rest of the team cheered.

Ideally, that sounds like an easy dare, but not for everyone and most certainly not for me. I am everything. Loud when I have to be, bubbly almost all of the time, serious when it is bringing me money and wild in my DNA. I am all that and more but I am not a flirt. I can’t flirt to save my life. Trust me to be awkward and to say the wrong things.

I took the dare, called my Internet Service Provider’s customer care and luckily for me, a man answered the call. It’s a man, it would be easier, I thought.

I started by pretending to be launching a connection problem. I then proceeded to fumble with words, mixed my lines that I had rehearsed two seconds prior and without a twitch, embarrassed myself. My friends were having a good time witnessing the mess of a person I had become. But the man on the other end of the call was not.

Somewhere in the mess of my flirting, I had picked a tone of agitation in his response. However, he wouldn’t hang up, it was his job, and I was not making it any easier. I also noticed that he had an almost subtle Meru accent. One that you could tell he was trying to hide, but I guess he did not hide it enough from my friends who were listening to the phone on loudspeaker.

I can barely remember the exact words he said, but when my friends picked up the accent, one of them imitated him. Then, another held their mouth to signify a monstrous desire to burst into laughter and another, while holding her belly, moved away from the kitchen counter where the phone was placed. I suspect that is where she stores her laughter, in her belly not the kitchen counter.

Suddenly, everybody was laughing. It was a loud, nefarious laugh. When I could no longer hold my lips together, I joined in.

The laughter continued for some seconds which felt like a lifetime. In between, we made more jokes about his accent. After we sobered up from the tickling, someone said, “Gosh you guys we didn’t hang up!” So, I jumped on the phone and pressed the red end call button.

We melted into the party, into the beat of the music, the fumes of the drugs, the harsh taste of whisky and the tough banter. Then one by one, we all either bowed down to sleep or blacked out.

                                                               ***

The birthday was on a Saturday, the plan was to rest on Sunday and report to work on Monday. But that was not the plan for my other friends. So, on Sunday I was dragged to Ngong Hills. They said we would just chill with one or two botties.

Did we chill? Yes. With a few botties? Hell no. By the time I was seeing my bed, my head was pounding, my throat was on fire and yet I would throw up one more time for the culture. Luckily for me, I was going for a night shift on Monday. Enough time to sleep off the hangover.

                                                                 ***

Someone was ringing the bell at my gate. Initially, I ignored it then when they couldn’t give in, I did. I found a man standing next to a van outside my gate. He introduced himself and said that he was there to fix the internet connection that I had complained about on Saturday. He also went ahead to explain that they do not work on Sunday and hence the delay.

If I was not feeling like I was about to die, I would have probably apologized for my friends’ and my bad behavior. But the hangover was killing me, it had been killing for hours. At first, I was a cat with nine lives. Then things got bad and at that moment, as the sunlight squirted in my eyes, I felt like a cat that had been run over. So why apologize? I might as well go down with my head held high.

I quickly invited him in, there was no problem with my internet, but since he was already here, the least I could do is let him check it. The man looked around the house, checked the cables, moved from one room to another room and after about an hour, he said, “It should be working well now.” The whole time, I was curled up on my couch. I faked a smile and said thank you. I then walked him out to his van and locked the gate.

I woke up at 5 p.m., this time it was courtesy of my alarm. As I normally do, I made some food, ate, cleaned up and got ready for work. I was supposed to be at work by 8 p.m.

Before I stepped out, I took look at the mirror in my room. Right in front, me was a curvy woman dressed in a blue body con dress. Was it the shade of blue or the buttons that allowed a slit to be created at any height? Maybe it was the caramel legs that protruded past the last button. Whatever it was, I liked the image and so I took a mirror selfie.

I uploaded the photo on Instagram and captioned it as ‘night call duties’ #essentailservices. By the time I got to the parking space, the photo had about 234 likes. That is the life of a public figure, although I am still new in the industry. My work description is a journalist.

At the parking, as I was getting into my car, I heard a movement behind me. I checked over my shoulder but there was nothing. An eerie sense of fear came over me and was almost immediately cut off by the buzzing of my phone.

A message from a new number came up: “I think you should open the last two buttons, looks like they will burst out anytime.”

I shrugged. It was normal to get such messages especially after a gossip blog had publicized my phone number following a story about my dating life. Somehow, my ‘fans’ felt the need to have an opinion about everything in my life. You know, it is a public career not a public life and yet people are not nearly as interested in a celebrity’s work as they are with his or her personal life. Hectic!

                                                                    ***

On Tuesday morning, I was looking for an outfit for a later planned date with Mumbi. Out of the many, I couldn’t find one. I never have the right outfit, me and 100,000 other girls. So, I called Mumbi to rant.

“Imagine I don’t have an outfit for leo,” I begin as soon as she picks up the phone. I can feel her hesitant mocking voice. We have been here before.“Just put on something simple.” She replies. I am not satisfied with her answer and before she goes on lecturing me on how beautiful I am, I interrupt her. “Kwanza, have you seen my potty lately. Wa! Ebu sign me up with your instructor.”

Her voice is orotund and doubtful. “Sasa wewe uende Gym! Plus, that potty of yours kwani ni we tu huona, cause it’s a ghost to the rest of us. Ebu thank God for good genes.” I stare at my belly in the mirror. The extra blubber jammed around my mid-section has been a nightmare for me. Mumbi continues, “We should start with you avoiding junk food. No more cookies, chocolates and those sweet things that you are always craving…”

Mumbi was right, there was a mug of coffee and a packet of cookies on my bedside table. We chatted for a while longer and agreed on the time and place to meet.

When I looked at my phone again, there was a message: “Always take two warm cups of water first thing in the morning, we can start from there”

The message was from the same number that had texted about the button. I texted back to inquire who it was. After a long minute, a message popped up on my phone, “S.” I tried calling the number but it was not going through and neither was the rest of my messages.

Later in the day, I was in the kitchen pouring a glass of wine before I retired to bed. Suddenly, that eerie feeling crept over me. A sense of foreboding. Someone was watching me. Again.

I looked around the house, there was no one. I grabbed a knife and slowly tiptoed towards the kitchen window. Just as I was about to peep through the curtains, my phone buzzed. It was so loud that I dropped my glass of wine “Damn! I should change the vibration mode!” I cursed.

I wouldn’t have looked at the message, had another one not popped up when I had settled down. Both messages were from S.

S: You there

S: Hectic Night ha!

Me: Listen, whoever you are, I’m not in the mood for your silly jokes. It’s not cool at all.

Me: Are you the one who is creeping me out, have you been watching me. Who are you?

S: Aah! You Have felt me right? Bingo! (strong arm emoji).

Me: This is not funny, Who are you?

S: I told you I am S

Me: S? For what?

S: I thought you would never ask

S: Well, I’m S. S for Stalker.

The more I read that last message the more I believed it. That spooky feeling that had hung around me for the past two days was lying so low in the room it might as well have moved in.

S: Look through your window. I have a surprise for you.

I looked through the window and beyond the gate, on the other side of the street, was a shadow. You could tell the person was tall and averagely skinny. He also had a baseball cap.

Although the estate was engulfed in the darkness of the night, I could tell we were both looking at each other. After he had heard the satisfaction of looking through my eyes and feeding off the fear that was building up, he started to walk away.

I paced up and down my living room. I felt a storm of panic form right below my legs. Then, slowly but steadily, it crept up to my limbs and wherever it passed, like a dark spell, it crippled me. I was drowning in fear, and yet thoughts were accelerating in my head. What to do? Call Mumbi, Mumbi, call her!

I did, but she didn’t pick up. I called again, and again and again. There was no response. The panic that was shutting down my body had arrived at my hands. Suddenly, I dropped my phone. Then I dropped my body on the couch. When panic had no more parts of my body to shut down, fear replaced it.

Had I not visited a spar as part of my birthday treat a few days ago? Then what were these hairs standing on my body? I could feel my eyes throbbing and my heart threatening to pop out of its cage. I felt helpless. Fear flooded my existence, overwhelmed me and finally exhausted my body so much that, the only thing I could do was come down. I didn’t sleep that night.

                                                                 ***

I spent the next day pale and tired with just enough energy to look over my shoulder. At work, I shared with my colleagues what had happened. But they all brushed it off. One of them said, “Taanu, small small popularity is getting to your head!” Stalking among female public figures was so normalized that they hardly saw it as a threat

Over lunch hour, I shared with Mumbi what had happened. She couldn’t stop apologizing for being too drunk after our date, passing out and hence missing my calls. I would have moved in with her, but her boyfriend was around.

That night, any slight movement, any noise, startled me. I sat in silence and then the silence grew too loud. So, I decided to switch on the television. There was a comedy I had been watching, ‘The Goldbergs’.

Everything was fine until I logged into my Instagram. The message icon was standing out as it normally does with the red color indicating the number of DMs. I casually clicked on the icon and at the top, were 5 messages from the same person.

A new account had mentioned me in their Instagram stories about five times. The story read; “Watching The Goldbergs with _beingtaanu, (my Ig handle). I looked up the account, it was new. It had no followers and was not following anyone either. It didn’t take much to figure that that was S. How did he know what I was watching?

Then things began to make sense. I looked at the pic I had uploaded on Monday and realized it was not showing all the buttons. S must have seen me up close to know that I had closed all the buttons. How did he know I was having a hectic night when the wine glass broke? From the outside, you could not see through my windows although I could from the inside.

Had he set up cameras in my house? Was he watching me? I had so many questions. Eventually, I dozed off on my couch.

I woke up unusually early. You can’t sleep much when you suspect someone is watching you in your own home. Also, when you are being stalked, the first thing you look at is your phone. Even when your favorite motivational speakers doesn’t approve.

Just as I was reaching out for my phone, a message popped up

S: Warm water first, remember?

Me: Tell me what you want. Please tell me what you want so that you can leave me alone.

S: I want to know your deepest fears and insecurities.

I didn’t reply to that message. Not until 30 minutes later when S asked if I was serious about him leaving me alone.

Me: I fear to fail and I’m insecure about my body. I want to be petite.

Me: Please, leave me alone, Please

S: Come now, not too fast, don’t you want to know my fears?

(Long silence)

S: ASK ME!

Me: (trembling as I type): What are your fears and insecurities?

S: I fear that I will have to kill you! I have watched you for the past few days and you look like a good person. But then again, it is your bad behavior that attracted me. What gives?

(Silence)

S: You know, I have worked on my rage for the past 2 years after I was deported. And then last week, you walked right into my space, ‘ruffed me up’ and made a joke about it. Former me would have your floor soaked in blood that very day. Yours and that of your friends. A bloody cocktail ha! But then again, I’m a changed man. So, I took my time.

S: Go on, ask me my insecurity

Me: What’s your insecurity? By this time, my vision was foggy from the tears and my phone screen was wet.

S: My big nose. But hey, Corona with its mask is a lifesaver. I wish something would help me cover up my native accent. Would you have any recommendations? I have tried everything.

S: Anyway, you and I are to meet officially tonight. Use the day to put your affairs in order.

S: Oh and about the body, warm water first. Nobody wants to die in a body they loathe. Imagine being trapped there for the rest of your life. Tragic!

Since I was sure S was watching me, I didn’t carry anything unusual. I looked like I was stepping out for my regular job. Mumbi and Jim picked me. I called in sick for work and spent the rest of the day at Jim’s brainstorming on who the stalker was.

Then it occurred to me it could have been the customer care responder for my Internet service providers. Since my house was largely run by my day scholar house manager, I had hardly interacted with them before.

After insisting, they checked their records and there was no register of a call made on Saturday. It was a dead end.

S did no contact me for the next 2 days. On the other hand, I was making minimal to no movement. There was no telling if he had given up on me or he could not find me. Still, his absence had a subtle sense of relief.

On the third day, Jim’s girlfriend was coming over. The way Nairobi is stereotyped as one big bedroom, nobody would buy my story. Besides, I had enough trouble on my plate. The only option I had, was joining Mumbi who was attending her sister’s wedding after-party.

The party was at their home. I figured I would be safe among people. Also, only about 60 people, mostly family members, were attending.

We made merry and celebrated love. I held back at first, then slowly I let go of the fear and blended in. The house is a maisonette, there was enough room for everyone to sleep. It’s not like the curfew gave us no choice anyway. I slept with Mumbi and her cousin.

I was up by 7a.m. I must have been the only sober person at the party. I needed a cup of coffee, so I headed downstairs to the kitchen. To my surprise, there were two of us.

“Didn’t have much sleep ha!” I said. “Not really,” he replied, “Not like I would, if I was drunk.”

“That makes two of us,” I said as I reached for the coffee maker.

“You should try warm water in the morning,” he remarked, as he placed a cup of water in the microwave.

I looked at him, thought of brushing off the sense of alarm but then again, I was not taking any chances. I slowly moved back, reached for a knife and quietly pulled it from the cutlery.

“What did you say?” I asked.

The microwave went ding! He opened it and with the cup of warm water in his hand, he turned to me and said, “You should try taking warm water first thing in the morning. It sets your day on a higher note.” He then made a step towards me and said, “Here, tr…”

I jumped and before his hand could get to me, the knife in my hand was deep in his belly. He screamed. I screamed. The door opened.”

                                                              ***

(The door opens)

“Wakili, time is over” the police signaled her lawyer. “Is there anything else?” the lawyer asked as she got ready to leave.

“It was self-defense, please, I didn’t mean to kill him,” she said with a dwindling hope that she would get out of jail.

“Oh, he is not dead.” Her lawyer responded.

Photo Courtesy: AMI Clubwear (Google)

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