I’m lying on the table, dressed in an oversized blue gown. My knees are bent and my legs positioned wide apart.
In a few minutes, my doctor will be here, we will engage in small talk of; ‘are you ready? just relax and it will be real quick’, to ease the tension in the room. The talk doesn’t matter anyway, at least not to the self-filth that has recently moved in. A month ago, I noticed a cluster of sores on my vagina. Having been aware of my sexual life, I quickly made efforts to see a gynecologist. And here we are now, with the gynecologist.
I was diagnosed with Genital Herpes and ever since it’s been a journey of, the coldness of a speculum in me, in the name of opening up my vaginal walls, as if my sexual life didn’t open me up enough! Sighs! And, depending on my progress, once in a while, I have to bear with fingers rummaging through my walls. The results were strange malibu capsules, burgundy tablets, yellow pills and a paste that I carried home. The journey, however, doesn’t end at the hospital. If anything, it only gets started.
For the past month, I have dreaded to pee. The pain when a drop of urine lands on one of my open wounds is unbearable. It got so bad that at some point, I would take liquid only when I had to swallow the drugs. If anyone can articulate half the pain I experience every time I have to shower, then my bathroom would make me proud. What I’m saying is, every time I get into the shower, I scream and when my lungs threaten to collapse, I step out. Voila! I’m wet and clean, or not, either way, my lungs stay!
How did I get here? How am I stuck on a pelvic exam table not to check on my vaginal health, but to treat a virus that I will forever carry with me?
I cannot exactly tell when it started, but I will not bore you to death with the story of my life. So let’s narrow down and start with Campus, where my legs learned the art of gymnastics.
My name is Teresa, that is the name my mom sough fit when I came sprawling from her inside screaming like a professional mourner rooting for a pay rise. I must have been a beautiful baby. One because it takes beautiful babies to earn a prestigious name like Teresa and two, because to date, I have normalized breaking necks every too often I grace the streets with my presence.
Everyone who has known me from my childhood calls me Teresa. Then there are those that call me Terry. It is as simple as if you call me Terry you have known me in my young adult years, my now, a maximum of three and a half years. Somewhere in the chaos and drama of campus life, my colleagues had decided Teresa the name and the person was not cool.
You see, I had spent 18 years of my life being beautiful in all aspects, including my name. And here was an offer of learning how to be cool. The cost? To shorten my name. I mean what else would I ask for really? Ladies and gentlemen that’s how I settled for Terry. It would later be the bad girl version of Teresa.
I joined University in 2016, I was what you would describe as a young innocent girl. To be fair, apart from my boyfriend I was not familiar with a lot of worldly stuff. This boyfriend let’s call him Mike because Mike sounds like the guy that beats drum sets in church and hangs around to please the church elders and enjoy the attention of church girls. My Mike lived up to this description and in solidarity with other church girls, I let him have my attention and he took good care of it. So much that a week down the line, he gave me a beautiful golden bracelet right after asking me to be his girlfriend. The bracelet was cheap, but it didn’t matter, I was delighted. Mike was 23, he was working in a cybercafe in town. I could see how girls my age would run to the cyber to print helb documents, birth certificates and all just to see him. Yet he chose me.
Our relationship was okay, the idea was to abstain until marriage. After all, we were both Christians. Five months into the relationship, Mike began to sulk. He would suddenly be moody and in an attempt to ease his emotions I would ask, “What can I do?” and Mike would not delay asking for a kiss. And a kiss would lead to making out and then to the fight of why we should not fornicate, which I had always won.
My victory was short-lived after I caught wind of Mike flirting with another girl. So I confronted him and he accused me of not attending to his manly needs. I gave in to his demands on the condition that we would get tested first.
Mike was my first, to put it into context his touch would electrify all nerves in my body. So when I joined campus at Moi University, I was experiencing severe blackouts that led to an arrangement to visit Mike after every two weeks. (If you are lost, you need to revisit your notes on sarcasm!)
When I joined campus, I made a friend, Maureen. She and I shared a lot in common except in the little things that we completely differed. She was beautiful, not the princess kind of beauty, her beauty lay in her confidence and her stillness. Maureen liked to be heard but she did not try too hard. Her conversations were buoyant and trapping. She had an opinion for everything expect she did not force it down your gut. In fact, if you disagreed with her, she pitied you for not seeing the ‘correct’ thing.
Even with her force of nature aura, Maureen was always there for the people she loved when they needed help. She was the hero in most of our troubles except her presence was not pronounced. In her presence things moved, solutions to problems magically appeared, yet she never stuck around for thank you. You could easily assume she was living her God-given purpose.
Me on the other side, I was the princess’s kind of beauty. I was confident but only when I had to be, like if I wanted to curve a son of the soil. I thrived more in being laid-back than in being an opinionated force of power.
We differed slightly in things like a boyfriend, not that she had anything against the male gender. But she would mostly emphasis on things like being sober in love when I was clearly drunk in love, using protection and being tested regularly.
I spent the larger part of my first year with Maureen, given our few similarities it was only normal that people confused us. Our friendship was summarized with where Maureen is, look keenly Teresa is around. So, we were the two beautiful non-nonsense principled freshas. In the second semester, Maureen vied for a political position in the university, which did a good job painting our names all over.
Meanwhile, Mike and I were turning 1 year, we were thriving, and had managed to keep our love a secret. Then I got pregnant, the first thing I did was share with Mike and I remember the stutter in his voice when he said he would call me. But he never did. The next weeks would be a series of efforts to contact him to no avail. He had disappeared from my life, blocked my number and all my social media platforms that I could reach him.
At the beginning I was confused, but two things were clear, my mom would skin me alive and two, I was on my own. The thoughts of abortion pitched a camp for some time, but I was more scared for my life than I was for the baby. I was not ready to go that route but I still did not have a plan. I figured I would live a day at a time
I wanted to share with Maureen what was happening but she was busy with her campaigns. I also felt I had let her down. Weird but Maureen was beginning to look a lot like, ‘the me’ I always wanted.
As the baby in my inside grew, so did the bond between me and Maureen, only the latter was growing apart. I started looking for ways to drown my thoughts and Maureen who really wanted in on what was eating me up, was standing in the way. So I distanced myself from her, regrouped, found a new gang and formed a friendship.
Now that Maureen was out of the way, I had an easy time drowning my thoughts in the toxicity of alcohol. I would be lying if I said my new friends, who by the way orchestrated the name Terry, introduced me to the bottle, that one was a personal decision. However, they did introduce me to several things like partying, passing the blunt, smoking and once in a while the mouth freshener, Kuber.
At some point, I moved in with a guy who had rented a place outside school. This was especially fuelled by the fact that people felt the need to ask about Maureen every time they bumped into me.
I felt like Maureen had absorbed my whole existence. You see the way you get married to someone and now all conversations start with, “How is John?” John here being yours truly or how people start refereeing to you as ‘Njeri wa John’? Like hello! would you please stop at Njeri! It’s me, I’m standing right here and John is probably somewhere emptying his bowel! I mean. So yeah, that is exactly how it felt with Maureen; you now understand why I had to completely cut her off right? However, have no doubt the respect and initial love between us survived our separation, only that we reduced our interaction to, ‘if necessary’
Looking back, I feel like me changing my name to Terry was marking a new chapter of my life.
You remember the guy I moved in with, his name was Chali. He was a typical young handsome campus guy. He had tattoos in all the right places and his voice scratched properly. He also dressed in slimmed pants and was always in a white, orange, pink or blue hood. On top of the hood was a jungle green oversized jacket. Sometimes, the oversized jacket would be a denim coat, as long as it was oversized. Allow me to mention that he also owned a pair of pink lips.
Chali was among the guys I met at the many parties I attended, but he was not just another guy, he was the first guy I slept with after Mike.
Chali thought I was beautiful and he made me laugh, so we became an item. I stayed at his place for about 3 weeks. Then one day I fell sick, we would have dismissed the symptoms for hangover were it not for the fact that I had been sober for 2 days because, finances. I was rushed to the hospital by Chali and Wambui his best friend. The results came out that I had mild symptoms of Malaria and of course strong symptoms of a 3months pregnancy, Boom!
Chali: You never told me you were pregnant
Me: That’s because it was and is none of your business
Chali: Are we talking about business now, because I have been really busy with your body, which also happens to be the kingdom of a small being in your inside.
Me: You know what I will not allow you to talk to me like the dad I never had. Goodbye Chali!
Chali: Okay… okaaay! I’m sorry, you don’t have to leave, where are you going to stay? In that small dungeon that you share with six other friends. Stay, I will help you take care of it.
Me: (Rolls my eyes) As long as you don’t try to be the boss of me.
A few weeks later, Chali threw a party in his place. Students find the lamest reason to indulge in drinking cheap liquor, Chali was an expert. This particular party, he denied me access to alcohol and so for the better part of the night I stuck to juice, which he had specifically said was mine. I still drunk alcohol anyway.
Halfway into the party, I began to feel extreme clumps in my lower tummy. It was so bad that I had to leave. I must have collapsed because when I came to, the noise had died, the lights stabilized and I had two humans staring at me. I was in Wambui’s house.
As I tried to sit up, I felt the need to pee, so I staggered to the toilet holding on to my tummy. That is when all hell broke loose. I started to bleed, I was terrified of the blood until the pain came knocking! What was happening! I remember being naked with a whole kg of cotton wool between my thighs only for it to soak in blood before I made a step out of the toilet. I remember sitting on the toilet floor waiting to die. I begged with tears to be taken to hospital but Wambui insisted Chali had refused.
I bled for five days, Chali and Wambui had conspired to lace my drink with abortion pills. For five days, I watched as the only piece of my serenity was reduced to blood and flushed down into the septic tank.
I know was not sure what I wanted with the baby yet, but for God’s sake, I also didn’t want it gone! I was in intense physical pain, but it couldn’t measure up to half the mental torture that I was subjected to. I was dying on the outside but I was long gone in my inside. The day my baby was aborted something died along with it.
After the five days, I still bleed but in manageable amounts, I had lost so much blood and weight. I looked like the skeleton version of me, I moved back with Chali and we never talked about it. Not that we talked about anything for a week. He would bring me food and fruits and then leave until late in the night when I would be already asleep.
I might have spent most of time indoor, but my days were busy just like any other day. I spent them arguing and mentally angry at myself, at the end of the day I was exhausted from self-hate. One minute I felt relieved of not having to take care of a baby and the other minute I felt responsible for the loss of my baby. The guilt was overwhelming and fighting myself was only making it any easy. A ticking time bomb I was!
Two weeks into recovery, Chali came home early, I was already in bed. He touched me suggestively; he was trying to get laid. I cannot exactly tell how I jumped from the bed to the kitchen sink and grabbed a knife. All the pain, tears, anger, self-hate melted down to this moment. A flame in the pit of my stomach laced my veins and crept to my spine. My vision became blurry and the fire did little to warm my now stone-cold heart.
“ Listen, you filth,” I said as I clutched on several small breaths. “This is the last time you will ever lay your hands on me. I am coming back to that bed with this knife and if you make the slightest movement to suggest you are touching me, I swear on my babies grave, the one you murdered, I wi..ll kill you sloo..wly and painnn..fully!” To date, I cannot explain what that moment felt like, but calling it rage does not come close to the tip of what I experienced.
Chali did not spend the night in the house and the next day, first thing early morning I left with all my belongings.
So I was back to hanging out with my crew. We lived in a small bedsitter that hosted six of us. The house was full of clothes, shoes and makeup. Our work was to come in change and get ready for the next party. This increased my rate of truancy and my grades were affected since I had missed several cats. It raised concern with my mum who was very keen on how I performed. I blamed my bad grades on the noise of sharing a hostel among other things. So, in an attempt to make me as comfortable as possible, mom facilitated for me to move into my rented place.
At this point, I was battling so many demons. I drunk as if my life depended on it, smoked anything and everything and I even tried out codeine. That a story for another day.
The partying didn’t seem to work and neither were the drugs. So I went back to the drawing board and figured the missing equation was control.
I lost control with Mike and allowed him to have sex with me and get me pregnant
I lost control at the party and ended up having my drink laced
Now here I was ripped off my child and life.
Therefore, I made a tough decision to go to any length to secure my control, and what better way than to use sex. I started sleeping with men, but only men that I had hunted down. I had to have initiated everything to finally go to bed with you. And even in bed, I was the hunter and the man was the prey. For a lot of men, it seemed like a power fetish but for me, it was an assurance that I have control. That for the first time it would be, I bedded him and not he bedded me.
I started with colleagues on the campus. There, I would sleep with about four guys in a day. University is a small village especially if gossip is one of the residents. I, therefore, opted to fish from outside school.
While I was starting it gave me an odd satisfaction. I was sleeping with bankers, managers, lecturers, politicians, businessman and yes married men. It didn’t matter who you are, as long as you, made eye contact with me and I was in the mood, then prey you would be.
These people also financed my lifestyle. I would change hair in 1 week or less, my class would end on Thursday and Friday I would be in a different town with my catch and already snooping around for the next. I once slept with one of my lecturer who I seduced in class, in the presence of 30+ students. No, it wasn’t for grades just like it wasn’t for money, money was just a by the way.
By the time I was done with my second year of studies I had slept with 36 men. But who’s counting. I have a book where I write down every single people I have slept with, not by name but I have a way to remember them. The book reminds me that I have taken my control back.
Everything was working; I had control, money and my grades at school were getting better thanks to Maureen. I had made up my mind to befriend her again, she would keep me updated about all the schoolwork, and she did a perfect job.
Here is a summary of my life, in school, I’m this straight principled lady except for a few who dared not to speak out about my reality. I was also a favorite to a few lecturers who saw me for the angel I was. At home, I’m an educated girl who should be everyone’s role model, Teresa. And then there is Terry.
With all these characters and roles to play, I did not see identify crises as a possible crisis. But It was and it caught up with me faster than then actual problem which is my lifestyle. I had been switching roles and characters on one body and I was exhausted, run out of word, actions, and moves. I didn’t love being terry, but the only memory of Teresa I had was Maureen.
It’s been three years, you can only sleep with so many men, you can only accrue so much power or control. Life will find a way to humble you, mine is not an exception. 3 months ago, I looked into the mirror, and I almost chocked in disgust with the image on the other end. I had had enough men in me; maybe I would settle with one and end it all.
Let’s call him Francis. Francis is an Interior designer that had been one of my regulars. He is kind and among the few men who don’t try not to treat me like the whore, I am! A month ago, he took me along to one of his business trips to Naivasha. That was the first time I had raw sex after Mike.
After having a good time, there, below the beauty of the setting sun, the glossy serenity of the chirping birds and the breeze of the lake, I confessed my undying love for Francis. I didn’t know what to expect but news of a wife was far from it. He had never shared with me that he was married. Turns out, he was 11 months into marriage and I had known him for almost 6 months.
He said “ I love my wife Terry, I can never leave her ?” to which I responded with. “Where does that leave me and he must have said something about me being gorgeous and great but what I heard was, I don’t know where this leaves you.
Two weeks later the sores formed. (Screams) Francis!!!!
Four years, perhaps two, a month and even a week is a long time, a lot can happen. As I near the end of my 4 years on campus, I may leave this institution with a degree but I have lost a lot in this same institution. I have spent my sick days reflecting. I wonder if my life would have taken a different path had I decided to stick with Maureen. She is one of my most real friends, we may have fallen apart but she is always there anytime I need her.
I’m faced with questions: Does the choice of friends influence our decision or am I just looking for a scapegoat to my actions? Now that I am about to face the real-life outside school, am I going as Teresa or Terry, or do I need a new character for this chapter of life, a lot can happen, a lot is a decision away.
The door opens and my thoughts are interrupted. “Are you ready Teresa?” the doctor asks as he is reading from my card. I want to say its Terry but is it? So I don’t.
(I am reaching out to all my readers, first of all thank you for sitting through my story telling minutes. I am because you are. Second, this is the first story on the Campus tale Series that I will be runing. Do you have a story based on University Life that you would love to tell, reach me on my email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us share your story, Cheers!)