A home invasion leaves a Western-educated Kenyan expat questioning her life abroad. A real life story of terror behind the walls.
It’s almost midnight. Today marks 52 years of Uganda’s independence from the British. I have just arrived home from drinks with some new friends – a Ghanaian, a Turk, a Lebanese, a Ugandan, a Kenyan with Australian education and myself a Kenyan with American education. Naturally, the conversation was politically heated.
They all have to be at work tomorrow. I don’t. I smile at the thought. It has been an easy workday off site at the Country Club and I have a long weekend to look forward to. Dad is coming to visit tomorrow. There’s a big soccer game on Saturday. I can’t wait. I smile. So many smiles – probably because I am also a little tipsy.
My housemate Alex is already asleep. I try to be quiet. This is a new apartment, we just moved in a month ago. I have a bed now. Everything still smells like fresh wood. I don’t bother with the lights; my room is quite small. I’ve mastered my way around it. I undress, vaguely attempt to remove my makeup, yawn, pull the covers and fall into a deep slumber.
Suddenly, I open eyes.
Usually I am met with daylight and the picture of my dad with his arm around me – our coordinated outfits, the family cheekbones, how proud he was of me on that day, how proud we both were of my technology-challenged mother who managed to work the camera…I can’t decide what my favorite part of that picture is.
But tonight is different. There’s a man here. He’s dressed in a vest and pants, and the outline of his egg-shaped head replaces my family picture. His back is slightly arched. One hand clutches a flashlight. I follow his gaze to the corner of my room. My lamp. No, not the lamp, I love that lamp. Why is he trying to take that? I mean it’s nice but not very valuable. Or perhaps he thinks there are valuables in the chest beneath it. He’ll be disappointed; only creased laundry. I hope my housekeeper is feeling better on Monday so she can iron them.
Something’s not right. I’m now awake. A loud scream suddenly escapes my throat. I’ve startled him. He turns around and shines his light directly on my face. I’m blinded. I can’t make out any of his facial features. He’s just a shadow.
Panic. I open my lungs again…
Me: “Alex, there’s someone in our house.”
The shadow has a voice. He speaks English with a Ugandan accent.
Shadow: “You need to keep quiet.”
My brain: “You need to get the fuck out of my room.”
No words; just another short scream. He raises his fist and is now at the foot of my bed. Oh my god, he’s going to hit me. I clench my fists – fight.
I pull myself out of bed.
His mind has changed. He’s gone. Where? I follow.
The main door is wide open. There is a key in the keyhole. How did that get there?
I’m at the landing. No sight of him. Should I go down the stairs? No. Stop. There could be more shadows waiting. I listen. No sound; just me breathing heavily. My heartbeat is on overdrive. I’m in shock.
I walk back into the house.
Alex: “Abagi, are you ok?”
It’s 4am. It’s like a dream. The balcony door is slightly open. He must have come in that way.
Alex’s right tennis shoe lies wrapped in a kitchen towel and is propping open my bedroom door. What a precautious shadow. The shoe – his accomplice. If only shoes could talk.
Mike’s room. Mike is away on business. The shadow was definitely in there. He opened Mike’s drawer. Oh dear. The money. $850. Mike sent me an email just this morning to put it away. I stashed it in his notebook.
It’s still there.
I look around. There was some loose change on the desk. That’s gone. It wasn’t very much. There was a phone on the floor. That’s gone. Everything else seems in place.
Back to my room. My laptop. It is sitting on the chest. I never place it there. Now it all makes sense – my chest of laundry, my chest of gold. I’m still shaken. I can’t believe the shadow was in my bedroom; my sacred resting place.
Alex: “Well, thank goodness you were wearing clothes.”
I look down at myself. That hadn’t even occurred to me. Sleeping shorts and an oversized shirt. I manage a faint smile. I see myself in the hallway mirror; burgundy lipstick still intact from dinner. Alex makes tea. We sit on the patio. The night is still. We hear the thud of a nightclub still raging, celebrating Independence.
It’s almost 4:30am. Two girls sipping tea in silence.
My mind races. When is dad coming? When is Mike coming home? Who should we call? Helpless.
We wait for daylight.
It’s 7:30am. I ring my neighbor’s doorbell. No answer. I look outside. There’s an Indian guy still dressed in pajamas. He must be the new guy in the flat downstairs. They just moved in a couple of days ago. I remember being irritated that they’d parked in my parking spot. Philip, that’s his name. He looks perplexed.
2 laptops, a hard drive, a watch, $500. Taken. It must have been a planned neighborhood hit. So much for independence.