I spent the next couple of days in what can only be described as a fog. I was there. I was alive. But I was definitely not thinking clearly. Everything was blurry. Fuzzy. I couldn’t concentrate on any of the mundane day to day things that needed to be done. The kids needed to be fed… I’m sure they were, I mean they’re still alive today right? They needed to be dressed, I remember seeing them walking around in clothes and then at night in pajamas but I have no idea how they got from one to the other. Diapers were changed, but I can’t for the life of me remember by whom. Life just happened. I apparently didn’t need to be 100% present for the world to keep on turning. E would be leaving in a few days back for work in Canada, and I just had to make it until then.
I did my best to avoid any talk of what happened on Sunday. His various family members came to visit, and I stayed in my room. I left the house with the kids to visit neighbors at every opportunity possible. Basically, if there was an chance to be away from E, I jumped at it.
Of course he apologized profusely, and constantly. But it wasn’t something I wanted to hear at the time. I told him it was fine, and that I was done with it, but it was more that I was done talking about it and didn’t want to discuss it anymore, than the fact that I had forgiven him in that moment.
No I didn’t feel comfortable around him. No I didn’t want him in my bed at night. No I didn’t want him touching me.
But on the other hand, I was trying to lessen the uneasiness in Little E’s eyes. I wanted him to feel like everything was OK and that there was nothing wrong. I wanted him to be comfortable and happy. I didn’t want him to be scared every time he heard E enter the room… Like I was deep down.
I only had to survive the next 3 days until this man was gone. If I could get through it, then I would have some space to clear my head and think.
Unfortunately, the 3 days weren’t smooth sailing. Ha story of my life. I’m drawing a blank about the correct terminology but, a council of sorts was called regarding E’s behavior. The local elders and the Chief all gathered at my house one morning and discussed (in Kiswahili, no less) the circumstances that had occurred on Sunday. I had no input in the conversation that was centered around me.
In fact, as a white woman I wasn’t even allowed to take part in the conversation. I was relegated outside to the kitchen with the kids who interpreted as much as they could for me as they ran back and forth to keep me informed. But the jest of it, was that what E had done was bad, and he shouldn’t do it again… No shit Sherlock. At the end I remember they called me in and asked me if I agreed and I straight up told them I had no idea what they said, and it was rude of them to talk about me, without me, in a language I don’t fully understand, without invitation. And that they were welcome to leave my house now. I was done with people thinking they could discuss my life and somehow think talking about it would solve all my issues. Because trust me, it was NOT helping. So that was the end of that council.
Once E left Kenya for work near the end of the week, I immediately felt the change in the house. Our farm boy and I had many conversations about how he thought E was a “bad man” and he didn’t want to work for us any more. I asked him to stay with us until E came back since I didn’t know anyone else available/capable/trustworthy and I couldn’t handle the farm on my own. He agreed to stay. For now.
My in-laws were constantly dropping by “just to visit.” Mmmhmm, sure. I’ve been living here for how many years, and now all of a sudden you want to come over and see how the kids and I are doing? Screw off. My father-in-law literally came over everyday, 5 days straight on his way back from town with a yogurt for Little E, or raw beef for the dogs. He would boss my farm boy around and annoy my house girl. He’d only stay for about 10-15 minutes but it became the most frustrating part of my day. Especially when I could go for months without seeing him previously. Just how I liked it.
My neighbors were constantly at my house, just because. A few of the pre-teen boys skipped school for a couple days and I would see them around the yard helping my farm boy until I had a discussion with them about the importance of school. They told me they just wanted to help me out because they felt bad about what had happened. I told them I truly appreciated it, but school was much more important and they could come hang out after.
My house girl finally quit after being harassed by my father-in-law so much. Apparently she wasn’t doing well enough according to his standard. I had no one to help now. So my neighbors would come by every day to help me with the basics. Now don’t get me wrong, I’d gotten pretty good at life in the village, but it takes two for sure. If I needed to cook something, I had to first gather wood, and start a fire out in the kitchen on the dirt floor between 3 carefully placed stones that would hold up the pot over a fire I had to build. If I wanted to shower, same process, but I also had to haul the water from the well. The clothes all had to be hand washed, so that meant hauling water every day, and then hanging them up to dry. We had no electricity so groceries had to be bought everyday fresh, since there was no fridge to store anything, so that meant at least a 3 Km walk one way for anything. Dust was everywhere, so the floor had to be swept and washed daily. Not to mention the kids and the basics of keeping them alive. It was a two person job for sure. And now since my father-in-law had felt the need to stick his nose in, I was a (wo)man down. I wasn’t pleased.
One day I just needed to get away from the house and all the bustle. I decided to take Little E to pre-school in town instead of him taking his normal bus (Yeah they start pre-school at 3 years old there). I wanted some quiet time away from everyone who was trying to help. I hadn’t had free time completely to myself to process that Sunday yet. There had just been to many people in and out of my house, too many fake apologies, too many people saying “just forgive him.” All I needed was myself and my mind, unencumbered by other peoples perspectives and unhelpful advice. Thinking they knew what was best for me, but not knowing me. So I asked a neighbor to watch Z for a bit while I took Little E took school and did some grocery shopping and we were on our way.
After I dropped Little E off at school, I walked. Plain and simple. I walked. The entire length of Kakamega and back. I made a pros and cons list in my head about leaving vs. staying with E and all the ramifications. I thought through every step that would have to happen in either circumstance. Which one would be more beneficial for myself and the kids.
Was I strong enough for either situation?
Was I capable of leaving him? Would I be able to be a single mom? I never had a chance to finish my teaching degree, since I got pregnant with Little E, and E’s refugee denial. Plus since then, we’d been flying back and forth between countries since E couldn’t decide what was what… I had no home to go back to. I had no job. What I did have though, were two kids whose lives I was responsible for. Two children who didn’t choose this man. Two kids who deserved all the best life had to give them, and that wasn’t happening if I stayed here with E.
So, by the time I had made my way from one end of town and back, I had decided. I had made the choice to leave E. I called my mom right there on the street and told her. I asked if the kids and I could stay with my parents when we got back into the country. I needed to tell someone right away or I felt like I wouldn’t follow through and I needed to be held accountable for this choice. After my mom said of course we could stay with them, I hung up the phone and headed to the house E and I had built from scratch, brick by home-made brick. That I had paid for 100% from my pocket since he just played rugby and farmed. And hatched the plan to get out of the country.
When I opened my laptop to search for flights, I noticed the date.
It was Valentines Day, 2014.
The day I gave myself the most loving gift anyone ever has. The decision to leave an abusive marriage.
-The Clash/Should I Stay Or Should I Go-