We usually think that if something bad were to happen to us, it wouldn’t happen on nice days. We expect they would happen on cloudy days with gloomy overcast skies. But that isn’t always the case. The day of my NRE was bright and cheerful, one of those typical lazy Anyigba days, where you just plod along nicely and everything goes smooth from dawn to dusk.
But first, a bit of background…
It was 2008 and I had just gained admission into KSU. For the past 3 years and over the course of writing 3 JAMB exams in that period, I had come to anxiously look forward to going off to the university. My father had refused my request to attend a boarding secondary school so this would be the first time I would leave home for any substantial length of time. I had always looked at my older siblings with awe when they came home on break from the University. They seemed gay and sophisticated to me. Their university photos were much prettier than other pictures, their friends more worldly and wise, the stories they shared with me more animated. In fact, this was the culmination of all my desires at that point: To go off to school and experience University life for myself!
When I finally got the admission in December 2007, I was terribly excited. So it was that January 2008, I went off to school to begin the next big chapter of my life.
Now, the 100 level registration process is one that cannot be adequately described. It must be experienced to be really understood. The trekking, the queues, the jostling, the endless enquiries, the tiredness, the misery, the triumph when you get one form signed and on and on…
One day, I was in the midst of my registrations, having completed a large part of the process when I was stopped one day by a guy. Now, if he had done the typical bit of saying “excuse me”, I would have blatantly ignored. In fact I did ignore him for the first few seconds but he was persistent. He kept calling me some girl’s name. I finally turned and asked,” Are you talking to me?”
“Yes” he replied …”Aren’t you Ola’s sister?” I’m not sure he said Ola, I’m just improvising here because I actually can’t remember what he said.
“No”, I replied abruptly. I hate being mistaken for someone else and I hate being stopped on the road.
“Oh my God” He looked shocked at this point. Then continued,”I am so sorry! You look so much like her. I was so sure it was her. My apologies. Her brother is a really close friend and I wanted to know when she came in”.
Blah blah… I couldn’t really be bothered. Like, can I go now please? But he seemed really contrite about stopping me and so I didn’t have the heart to walk away. At the end of our few minutes’ interaction, he apologized again and we parted ways. No names exchanged, no contacts, no plans to hook up later. Just an honest mistake resolved swiftly and forgotten.
As chance would have it, months later, I saw him again. Around my hostel, I think. And he goes…”Hey, my friend’s sister, how are you?” Okay, so this was cute, he remembered the incident and all so I just smiled, said I was fine. That was when we exchanged names (his name was Kole) and numbers and I moved on, never expecting him to call me or to see him again.
The former was true but the latter wasn’t.
He never called but I did bump into him periodically over the next few months. Apparently, he was supposed to have finished from the school but had some lingering issues with his department which he had to resolve before he would be let go. His Faculty, Management Sciences was just across the road from mine at Natural Sciences and KSU is a pretty small community so it was perfectly expected that I would run into him as I did.
Fast forward one year.
I’m now in 200 Level and walking home from the library one Sunday when a car stops beside me. I glance over curiously and see a guy come out of the passenger side and starts walking towards me. For a few minutes there, I was like…Who TF is this?! Then he came closer and said my name. I recognized Kole.
It had been ages and he looked good. I didn’t bother asking what he was doing in school, I didn’t care. We exchanged pleasantries, he suggested we hook up for lunch while he was in town, I said sure with no intention of doing any such thing. He rechecks my number, promises to call and we part ways.
Now, all of this time, I had never gotten the vibe that Kole was interested in me in anyway even remotely sexual. What I got was a bit of big-brother/doting friend vibe. And even years after, this is still what I remember… he had no sexual interest in me.
The next day, I’m bumming around on campus, chilling after my lectures end early when my phone rings. Kole is calling. I’m a bit surprised but I pick and he says he’s catching up on our hangout plan.
At that point, I was just fantasizing about going home to rest for the day. So I lied that I was busy and would check back later. Why I just didn’t say no, I don’t know.
So, I’m back home unwinding and he calls again. He says lets hangout, I say no, he whines and whines and then proposes a compromise…
“Why don’t you just pop over to my place then? We don’t need to go out, just sit and gist.”
I thought to myself, ”Zainab, you’re just being mean. This guy is just trying to be your friend. Just go. Spend 20 minutes and come back”
The pep talk got me moving and after plenty directions over the phone, I find Kole standing on the road waiting for me. Then we walked the rest of the way to his home.
I was relaxed for a few minutes and then a couple of things started sending my inner alarm off.
One, his friend whom he was staying with and who I was introduced to, but whose name I cannot remember and whose face is a blur at this point left the room after a few minutes.
In unspoken university code, guys do not typically leave the room when females come to visit their roommate. They only do so when asked by their friend. They have this silent code which has probably been honed from years of communicating that exact message.
So, errrr…. Where is this dude going?!!!
That was the first thing that set my alarm ringing.
The second? Kole got up and locked the door.
Yep! My alarm is clanging at this point.
I don’t say anything. I’m just looking.
I go to sit on the chair. He says, ”Uhn, come on… sit on the bed so we can look at these pictures together” I say no please, he laughs at me and chides me, so I do.
There we are, me totally uncomfortable and Kole hovering with the pretense of pictures….Then the touches start?
I start protesting then. But I still don’t leave.
Maybe a part of me didn’t want to accept what was happening. Or I was hesitant to believe that a guy I had considered harmless had sinister plans for me.
While my inner debate waged, things on the outside escalated pretty quickly.
Kole, tired with my meagre struggles (did I mention he’s like 6ft tall and muscled?), simply picked me up effortlessly and dropped me on his lap.
Yep! it just got real.
Have you ever seen a jack in the box toy? See the way the thingy inside springs up when you open the box. Well, that was how Zainab popped up off that lap, my friend. I quickly found myself at the door, pulling at the lock, trying to get it open and escape.
For the few minutes that I battled that door and couldn’t get it to open, I cannot describe the fear I felt. I was frantic, clawing at that door, threatening him to open or I would scream the house down. He eventually did (after trying unsuccessfully to get me to calm down).
Dude now wanted to see me off… TF! You dey mad ni?!
I was like….”Get away from me!”
I jumped on the first bike I saw and got the heck out of there. But I didn’t relax until I was in my house with my door locked.
He called several times to apologize but that association was so over!
What alarmed me most, was that if anything had happened, it would have been my fault.
My fault for leaving my house to go to his.
My fault for agreeing to hang out.
My fault for trusting.
My fault, my fault, my fault.
I would have never forgiven myself. And that hatred would have ruined me.
I made a decision that day to never visit guys at their homes unless we are involved. No matter how close we are and I have a lot of male friends, I never go to their homes. Never again.
I had been planning to write this story for a while but never could get around to it. But last week, a close colleague got raped in circumstances eerily close to mine. Someone she trusted implicitly asked her to come over to know where he lives (they have been friends for almost a year), then the bastard proceeded to hold her down, punched her thighs, choked her and raped her repeatedly.
It made me see how this could so easily have been me. I figure if people read this, women will take precautions to protect themselves and men will warn their sisters and wives and girlfriends to do same.
This little I can give, I will.
May Allah protect us from the evil doings of fellowmen.
Don't just read this, share to save someone
Written by Zainab Haruna