The Mysterious Old Man

I dreamt about the old man in church. The old man best known for his pointed black hat akin to that of a witch. In the dream, he was seated next to me in church and had not once said a word to me or looked in my direction. At the end of the service, he suddenly made a sharp turn towards me and in a quavering voice, asked for my name. The corners of his watery eyes crinkled. His wrinkles edged deeper as his mouth curved upwards revealing a set of sharp pointed teeth.

I woke up with a start.

It was Sunday morning. I lay in my bed for a minute, trying to make out the meaning of the dream. The old man had always stood out like a sore thumb not only because of his pointed hat and red walking stick, but also because he never seemed to want anything to do with anyone. His personal space was enormous! He always sat alone and made sure there were empty seats all around him. I remember once sitting at one of the empty seats next to him when he walked out of the service, never to return.

Just the previous Sunday, he had asked for my name as we were walking towards the door. I was taken aback, but decided to tell him against my better judgement.

“Pardon?” came his reply. This did not surprise me as many people never get my name the first time.

“Unebelle.” I said, more slowly and louder.

“What?” he croaked.

I was forced to repeat in a much louder voice. I spoke so loudly that everyone in church looked in our direction. Impressive, now everyone knew my name. I tried to walk faster with the hope of nipping the conversation in the bud when he placed his wrinkled hand on my wrist, taking hold of me by curling his crooked fingers around it.

“Where do you stay?”

I blurted out the name of the estate I stay in and frantically struggled to let go of his grip before he could say pardon. When I was finally able to, I quipped something and made myself scarce.

So now you understand why the dream somewhat unsettled me.

The first person I see when I reach church is, you guessed it right, the old man. He doesn’t have his hat on today. I don’t know where he is heading to, but he waves as soon as he sees me. I pretend I haven’t seen him.

I enter the church, and as I go to sit at my favourite spot, I see his hat on the seat next to the one I had planned to take. Already, the dream is coming true. I quickly go to another row.

The service goes on as usual.

And then the pastor interrupts the praise and worship session. He has with him the red walking stick. His eyes look swollen from crying.

He is dead. The old man is dead.


Of Being a Validation Buff


Remember last year when I talked about shameful pride? I had called myself a ‘mass of complicated existence’, proving that my self-despisement was on a whole other level. I had also told you that people around me often told me that I was really harsh on myself. I never knew that my self-criticism was inspired by a fervent thirst for validation.

You know, when you want someone to heap praises on you, you don’t blow your trumpet when they are around. You will come across as an unpleasant braggart and in most cases, people will assume you already know your strengths and hence they will see no need of mentioning them to you. You know what does the trick? Yes, you guessed it right. Perfecting the art of self-condemnation.

My earliest memory of seeking validation in this manner was of making sure people heard me whine about how bad my handwriting was when I was in elementary school, even though I knew it was impressive. I needed someone to dismiss my statement by talking about how excellent my penmanship was. I was never disappointed.

The disapproval of oneself in order to get approval went on and on.

“I’m ugly.”

“No, you’re not. You are very pretty. Have you ever known you have very beautiful eyes?”

“My poker face is just the most hideous.”

“Noooo! I wonder why the prettiest girls never consider themselves beautiful.”

“Aaaargh, this bag disgusts me. It has a very funny design, don’t you think?”

“You know I’ve always loved that bag! Everything about it is perfect. The attention to detail, colour, design…”

But sometimes, things don’t go according to script. You one day meet that sassy character who quips a ‘haven’t you ever known?’ or ‘I can’t believe you are realizing today!’. Like that day when Unebonne told me to cut my toes off when I told her I didn’t like them. Lol. In such situations, I was forced to shut up and maybe go to whine somewhere else. I learnt the hard way that the more self-critical I was, the more unpleasant I became. People grew weary of putting up with me.

Looking for approval put me in a lot of trouble: it made me compromise on my values just to show people I was not “all that”; I got susceptible to being used by others, and I was forced to spend most of my time tending to other people’s needs and had barely any left for myself. I could go on and on.

There is one thing someone told me that changed my life. She said, “Before you leave the house, make sure you validate yourself. You won’t get validation out there, at least not for free.”


Honey-laced Words

“Salespeople have two PhDs. One in manipulation, and another one in extortion,” I muttered under my breath as I left the small boutique armed with an ugly top reminiscent of a pirate’s canvas doublet. Despite the fact that 1. I did not like it, in fact, I detested it fervently and 2. the boutique owner had not forced me to buy it at gunpoint, I bought it. I willingly took out money from my purse and gave it to her. Heck, I did not even bargain!

The main thing that took me to town that day was to meet Unebonne for lunch. Being a stickler for time, I had arrived quite early. Because I did not want to look like a girl who had been stood up by her boyfriend, a desperate attention seeker or a clueless idle girl (you know how wild people’s imaginations can get), I decided to buy time by popping into one of the boutiques and seeing what it had to offer. I would maybe try out some of the clothes and then pretend to not like any. Haha. That was a huge mistake. I suspect the boutique owner has super powers because I got plunged into a state of euphoria as soon as our eyes met. Once she opened her mouth, euphoria morphed into utopia. Her words intoxicated me. The place ceased to be a small boutique and became a wondrous world where all clothes were embellished with diamond, gold and rubies. I became a robot and she became my master. She cleverly keyed in commands into my system and I foolishly executed them to the utmost perfection.

I did not know that the mighty hand of reality was waiting for me outside the boutique, or rather, the wondrous world. As I stepped out smiling sheepishly without a care in the world, it slapped me. Really hard.

“Mwahahahahahaha (insert an evil witch’s laugh)!” I swear I heard something like that from the boutique. That served to sober me up. Painfully.

Cognitive dissonance (buyer’s remorse) set in. And you know what’s worse than that? Finding out that I had spent all my money, lunch money and fare back home. Unebonne’s call notifying me of her arrival gave me mighty chills. I had to tell her that my money was stolen on my way to town, just to save face. Luckily, she had enough money so she foot the bill. She even gave me fare. Bless her!

I told her the truth however after a year or so, and we really laughed about it. She told me of how she was once convinced to buy some movies but on reaching home, she found out that they were exercise videos.

“It was as if the seller was very much bothered by my weight,” she remarked to more laughter. “Truth be told though, I have been making use of them. I’ve been leading a more active lifestyle thanks to them. It’s  true when they say all things work together for good, lol!”

Do salespeople dip their toungues in honey every morning, so that each word they speak becomes honey-laced? I need to know. And what makes some people more susceptible to manipulation and extortion (this is a really strong word, I realize) than others? After thinking about it, I concluded fear of disappointing others to be the cause. I always find myself thinking about people’s welfare. They need to make a living, where will they get their rent from if people like me and you don’t buy their products? I ask myself. Well, there is nothing wrong with being concerned about others. Problem comes in when you help them at your detriment. If you buy something you really don’t need just for their sake, then there is a problem.


It has come to my attention that Imposter syndrome (also known as imposter phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the imposter experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

I had thought that a person who has the imposter syndrom is one who leads a double life. and that the concept (the name) is a figment of my own imagination when I wrote this. Turns out it is something completely different. Hmm, kinda reminds me of a time when I thought I had the ability to compose songs. I sang them to people and all they had to say was, “I’ve heard that tune somewhere.”


Learning To Be Gentle

via Daily Prompt: Casual

I don’t regret a lot of things, but this one eh! It haunts me to this day. I had hinted in this post that I have ever turned down a very interesting someone only for me to regret bitterly. Well, here’s the juice!

On the evening of the first day of February last year (Yes, I still remember the date. This should show you the extent of my regret) after a day out with friends, a guy on a bicycle approached me. I had just alighted from a matatu (a public service vehicle) and I was walking towards home, soaked in mirth because I had had a really good time.

So this guy cycled fast and caught up with me. He said hi and proceeded to tell me that we had been in the same matatu two days before and he had tried talking to me but it seemed I could’t hear him. I did not have any recollection of someone talking to me so I apologized to him and let him know that I did not ignore him intentionally. All this time he was cycling beside me and I was walking quite fast because I was running late (read trying to rid myself of this somewhat creepy guy). Since no meaningful conversation could be birthed in that state of affairs, he begged me to give him five minutes so that he could tell me what he really wanted to say.

“I’m really pressed for time,” I told him, “but it’s okay. Just five minutes.”

We stood at the sidewalk and he begun by asking for my name. I don’t usually give my name that easily to people but this one, for some reason, seemed genuine so I saw no reason to hold back.

“Unebelle, girls fear many things: spiders, frogs, snakes, chameleons, you name it. What do you fear?”

“Uhm,” I hesitated, visibly shaken by this strange start. “I’d say snakes.”

“That feeling that is evoked upon seeing a snake, is it the same one you get when you see someone who has been bitten for a snake?”

“No, those are two very different feelings.”

“And can you describe the feeling you get when you see a snake without using the word fear, scared, afraid or any other synonyms?”

Was this guy conducting a survey on fear? I racked my brains but I couldn’t find a word strong enough to describe fear.

“No, I can’t think of a suitable word.”

“Sorry for the many questions but this is the last. Because you fear snakes, do you make sure you have a stick with you all the time because you never know when you’ll come across one?”

“No, of course not! That’s being paranoid!”

“Well, same here. When I go out of the house every evening with this bicycle of mine, I don’t go with the intention of looking for beautiful girls, or finding a girlfriend. I simply go out for a ride. But then, I have seen you for the last three days and every time I see you I get this feeling in my heart that I cannot describe.”

I looked at him incredulously.

“Anyway,” he continued, “since you are in a hurry, could you please give me your number so that we plan on how we’ll meet some other day?”

“No, not today.” I had switched to my attitude mode.

“I know what you are thinking. Trust me, I don’t believe in having conversations over the phone. I prefer we meet in person. I just want your number so that we can organize for another meeting.”

“No, I said no. Some other time.”

“Please,” his tone had changed to that of desperation.

“NO!” I was unrelenting.

“Okay then, take my number then you’ll hit me up when you feel like it.”

“No, I am not going to. I told you I will give you my number next time we meet. Please. I am in a hurry. Now if you will excuse me.”

I made as if to walk away. You should have seen his face. He was visibly dejected and heartbroken. However, nothing stirred within me. Who was I to care? Seeing that his efforts didn’t bear any fruits, he told me that it had been a pleasure to meet me, bade me goodbye and then he rode off.

After a day or two it hit me. That was one very intelligent person. Very few people put that amount of effort in wooing a girl. He was definitely someone very intriguing and we would have clicked, not necessarily relationship-wise. I passed up that chance. I very rudely passed it up. I had dismissed him casually and here I was being stung (not casually) by the very sharp spikes of regret. Regret has no mercy.

I never saw him again. Serves me right huh? You know, it takes a lot for a guy to approach a girl, and the last thing he wants to get is a rude dismissal. We as girls need to be gentle. Take it from someone who learnt that the hard way. 🙂

Burn Those Bridges

He said, “If my legacy is to throw myself in the path of a bullet to save your life, then so be it.”

So I demolished the wall I had built and undertook the tedious task of building bridges. I kept a keen eye on the weak links that connected us, taking extra care that they do not break. Only for him to burn the bridges. Only for him to cut the links.

“But why would you do that?” I was downcast.

“Come on here. Look me in the eye. You misunderstood me.”

“I thought you said you would take a bullet for me! You clearly don’t give a hoot about me. Your actions prove that.”

He sighed and took a deep breath. “I care about…”

“No, you don’t!” I cut him off fiercely.

“What if I told you that burning the bridges that you are struggling to build goes to show that I really care about you? That slashing the links that once connected us shows I have nothing but the purest of intentions? Because boo, I don’t want to string you along.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I care about you when I choose not to pretend that I care about you in that special way. That would be taking your heart and tossing it in the mud. I don’t want to lead you on, only for you to be disappointed in the end. Your heart is too precious. That’s the bullet I chose to take, being brave enough to hurt your feelings now and hence protecting you from much greater pain in the future. Believe it or not, I have saved your life.”

And then it dawned on me:

It is better to be flat-out rejected than to be strung along.

The Imposter Syndrom

A lot of you have asked me how I’m holding up after the incident. I am doing very well! In fact, I forgave him and moved on so fast because why would I waste my time crying when the guy has probably forgotten about it and is looking for new prey?

Also, that right there is a blatant lie. Did I mention that the guy is my classmate? I was therefore resigned to the fact that I was going to see him almost every single weekday of the semester. The sight of him was enough to make me relive that night. And to think that he would have the guts to come to me and say hi! As our eyes met, I felt the aplopletic beast within me break the shackles and chains that constrained it. Indeed, I felt like giving the hideous guy a slap that would dislocate his jaw. It took a great deal of self control keep me rooted to the spot and instead give a high pitched ‘I’m fine.’

Every night my pillow got drenched in tears. I was hurting. How easy it is to rid one of their sunshine! However one can only be angry and hurt for so long. After a long struggle, I actually began to see the good side of what had happened. Yes, you heard me right. I was progressing, baby step by baby step. I am very thankful to my friends. They listened to me and never once did they made comments such as, “But you are the one who took yourself to the slaughter house!”, “That is nothing, there are many people out there who are going through far much worse and do you hear them complaining?”

This incident got me thinking about something I dub the Imposter Syndrom. How many times have we trusted people only for us to be disappointed? How many times have we been thown off balance because the people we thought we knew very well turn out to be completely different proving that we didn’t know anything about them at all? We have all been victims of imposters at one time or another.

Here’s the catch, at one time or another, we too have been imposters. Maybe we still have the imposter syndrom. We are different things to different people, we live double lives. Because of that, we lose ourselves. We are not sure of who we are and what we stand for. One day, the different worlds we live in will collide and the effects will be disastrous. It’s time for us to maintain a consistent identity. Even in the most difficult of circumstances, be you. 🙂


The Night That Was

1.00 a.m.

I wake up with a start to find him in my bed. A wave of anger and frustration grips me. I find myself hurtling unprintable words.

“You – ! What the – are you thinking! -! -!But you promised! You told me you’d let me sleep in peace! That you would treat me like a sister! That we would sleep on seperate beds the whole night! What in the world has gotten into you! I… I…” my voice breaks.

Much to my indignation, he laughs. Viciously. Ferociously. His is the quintessential evil laugh, the one that pierces through your being and extricates the little self esteem that’s clinging desperately onto you. His laugh serves to continuously remind you that you are stupid.

“Look here missy, I’m not, I’m not…” He laughs again. So hard that he’s grappling for air. After what seems like eternity, he speaks again.

“I’m not gay. Surely you wouldn’t expect a normal guy like me to survive a whole night with a girl in the same room and not pounce on her?”

How it started

I was the proverbial cow that dragged itself to the slaughter house. The guy’s desperate pleas to seek one one-on-one audience stirred compassion in me and I had to accord him that privilege. It was one of those boring weekends and I was sick and tired of my own company, so why not take a few minutes to try to know more about a new friend and listen to what he has to tell me? He also seemed interested to learn how to play chess and I offered to teach him. 

So at 8.00pm, chess board in tow, we went to his friend’s house. I texted a pal and told her of my whereabouts. I would not spend the night, I would leave by 9.30pm, I told her.

Agreeing to meet him was stupid, I agree. But what is being stupid? Is it choosing to trust people? Is it having a good heart and being willing to give people a benefit of doubt? And when people betray your trust, is it their fault that they don’t have good hearts, or is it your fault that you were stupid enough to trust them? 

9.30 p.m.

After more than an hour of extremely boring small talk, I want to leave. I glance at the chess board, lying untouched. The guy wasn’t even interested in chess after all! I shake my head internally.

“Hey, it’s been nice to speak to you. However, my time here is up and I need to leave,” I tell him, trying hard as I can to hide my boredom.

“But why? You can spend the night here. We’ll sleep on seperate beds.”

“You’re the one who told me that you’ll let me leave, remember?”

“I have really enjoyed my time with you and I don’t want to let you go.”

“I really want to leave, please.” I’m getting impatient.

Our argument continues in the same vein. I’ve lost the number of times I’ve told him that I have to leave. He even has the nerve to tell me that he loves me so much, he wouldn’t want to let me go. Apparently, my safety has become a matter of top priority to  him. At this rate, I would rather my things get stolen by thieves on the way to my place than spend the night with him.

11.00 p.m.

I’ve talked myself hoarse. This guy is not getting tired of arguing! I open the door and exit the house. Seeing my determination to leave, he has no choice but to leave as well to escort me. He takes forever to wear his shoes. He then accompanies me to the gate of the estate. There are around four dogs that keep an eye on us.

An obstacle that I had not forseen awaits us. The gate is locked! The guy maintains that he has no key. There is no sign of a watchman nearby. No wonder he was so keen on arguing with me! He wanted to buy time as he knew that the gate to the estate is usually locked at a certain time. What a -!

I have no choice but to get back to the house. I am exasperated. We sleep on seperate beds and I pray hard that I survive the night. 

4.00 a.m.

I am tired. Tired because I have been running from one bed to another since 1.00 a.m. The guy won’t leave me alone. He keeps following me. I have told him several times that I don’t want us to have sex but he wouldn’t listen. I get annoyed and leave the house once more. I’m determined to get the watchman to open the gate and leave this place.

I reach the gate and the dogs start barking fiercely. There is no way I can leave. I have no choice but to turn back, half-expecting the dogs to follow me, maybe rip me apart. They don’t. 

I have to swallow my pride and go back to the house. He opens, with an air of triumph. I foolishly hope that nothing would happen.

I make a mistake of lying on the bed and within seconds he is all over me. I turn him over with a strength alien to me and the bed collapses under our weight.

“Why have you broken the bed?” He is furious. “Get out! Leave!”

I am more than happy to leave the house. I am even happier that the bed is broken. He has some explaining to do to his friend. This is the price you pay for coercing someone into sleeping with you.

I sit on a verandah outside someone else’s house. I hope they don’t wake up and accuse me of being a thief. I can’t wait for daylight so that I can leave this dungeon. 

5.30 a.m.

I see a familiar tall muscular figure of a guy approaching me. Now what does he want this time?

“Unebelle, I’m really sorry. I’m not usually like this. I’ve never done this to anyone. Come, your safety comes above all else. I promise I won’t disturb you this time. Please forgive me.”

He picks my bag. I follow him to his house. He tells me not to sit on the broken bed. I seat on the other bed instead. He joins me.

“Unebelle, may I ask, are you a virgin?” he asks. 

“That doesn’t matter. Just know I’m one of those girls who don’t take sex very lightly.”

“But we would have used protection! I always make sure I use protection.”

“And that may have protected me against pregnancy and all, but what about my emotions? Do you think that protection would have prevented me from having feelings of regret? Or unnecessary emotional baggage? What about the feeling of attachment?”


“Lemme tell you why I don’t take sex very lightly. When two people have sex, it’s not all about the physical. Their souls become one. Think of paper. When you stick two pieces of paper together with glue, and you try to seperate them, some of the paper from the first piece will be on the second piece and vice versa. Now think of someone who has sex with several people. Think of their soul.”

“You know what, you’re right. When two people have sex, they become one.”

I’m surprised. Is this the same guy who was trying to rape me?

He continues, “Unebelle, I have a problem. I never see girls as just friends. There’s no way a girl would hug me and smile at me and expect me not to expect more from her…”

“Then you have a warped world view! To you women are nothing more than sources of pleasure. That’s sick! You need to change that! You need to learn how to control your emotions, don’t let them control you!”

Or maybe men are wired differently. Maybe they don’t think the same way we ladies do. I don’t know. 

Thankfully daylight is finally here. I leave the place. I vow never to get myself in such a situation again.