It started when I was at the university. I think in my third year. There was this laundry guy who came to the hall to collect people’s dirty laundry. He’ll then take them away to their laundry, wash, iron and return them to get paid. He would be walking down the corridors early mornings and screaming, “The laundry man is here, bring out your dirty clothes.” My roommates patronized him but I never did. One morning he knocked on our door and I came out. I told him, “Your customers are not here today. They went out last night and didn’t come back.”
He stood there looking at me while licking his lips. I looked at myself just in case I was exposed somehow. I wasn’t. He told me, “You can also become a customer. Try me today and you’ll always use me.”
I didn’t use him not because I didn’t like his service. I simply didn’t have the money to pay for his services every weekend. I told him I didn’t have money and he told me to still bring my clothes. “Are you going to do it for free?” I asked. He answered, “For someone like you, I’ll do it for free.”
“For someone like me? How?” I thought to myself yet went in and brought out my laundry. I screamed, “I don’t have money oooo. Don’t come and say I should pay ooo because I don’t have kobo.” He laughed while packaging my laundry into his big collector’s bag. He walked away and returned my things early the next morning. He didn’t take anything except my number. He said he would like to call me the next time before he comes so he didn’t have to knock on my door. I gave him my number and that very day, this guy sent me a voice note proposing to me.
He didn’t even know my name so he called me Aunty. He couldn’t write his message because he couldn’t speak English. I don’t think he’d ever been to school. “Aunty, since I saw you I can’t sleep. Your beautiful face is all I see when I close my eyes. Please, can you be my girlfriend? Don’t think I’m a laundry boy so I have nothing. I don’t mind giving you all my money because I love you and…”
I couldn’t get to the end of the voice note. I sent him one, warning him never to say that to me again. Then I blocked him. I thought that would make him stop but he didn’t. He told my roommates about it. Anytime he came around, he came knocking and asking to see my face. Because of me, he was washing for my roommates for free so they’ll convince me to say yes to his proposal. My roommates found it funny but I didn’t. I warned them not to entertain him in my name. It was like an obsession. He even asked for my photos from one of my roommates. I reported him to the security and they stopped him from coming into our hall of residence.
I had a boyfriend then. I told him about it and he laughed at me. I had dated him for about two years but this guy at some point started giving me space. He wouldn’t answer my calls or come to visit like he used to. He had no explanation for his behaviour apart from needing space. I gave him space and the space consumed us. We couldn’t mend so we went our separate ways.
After him, no man approached me again until I completed school and started my national service. At my place of work, the cleaner there fell in love with me. I was the first person to go to work so I met him each morning cleaning the offices. I’ll greet him and he’ll answer with a grin. One day I came to work and saw a sealed white envelope on my table. He was around doing his work. I opened the envelope and it was a letter with my name on it.
After reading it, I saw the name Edu underneath. I didn’t know any Edu in our office so I was wondering who it could be that he didn’t have the courage to say it to my face. This cleaner walked up to me before I could put the letter down and said, “That’s from me. I hope you won’t look at the way I am now and say no. I’ve attended school. I’m doing this because there’s no job.”
When some calibre of people keep approaching you for a date, sometimes you have to look at yourself and ask what you did to make it so easy for them to approach you. I asked him, “What made you think you’re the kind of guy I’ll love to date? You think I’m your mate? You think all I deserve in life is a guy like you? Do I look like someone in your space?” He was smiling, so determined to make me see him in a different light than a cleaner. I could even be older than him.
When my supervisor came, I asked him where they got the cleaner from and he told me his mother was the one doing the cleaning but she fell sick so she brought her son to take over. I didn’t want him to lose his job, thinking it was his means of taking care of his sick mother. A few days later, he sent another letter. One day I was on a trotro going home when he also came to board the trotro. He sat ahead of me so when the mate was collecting the fares he paid mine for me. I told the mate to refund his money and take mine but the mate didn’t. I didn’t want to create a scene so I kept quiet. When I alighted he did too. He said, “I want to go and see where you live so I can come and visit you one day.”
The following day I reported him and he got the sack. It wasn’t easy for me but that was the only way to get him off my back. Even after he’d been sacked, anytime I picked a trotro, I scanned the faces of the passengers to be sure he wasn’t already in. I told my parents about it and they found it funny so they laughed at me. I didn’t see it funny at all. I started reflecting on what was wrong in my life and what I could do better not to attract such people into my life.
I stayed home for two years after my national service before I had a job. All through those periods, I never had a man walk up to me to propose to me. I didn’t think so much about it because I didn’t have a job but sometimes I got worried. I lost my last relationship when I was in school and since then nothing has happened in my life.
When I started work, it became a prayer topic for me to meet a man sooner. If I was going to get married, I needed to land the man while I was still young so we could study each other, start dating and later talk about marriage.
I was at my desk one afternoon when the security lady brought me coconut juice packaged in a poly bag with the flesh of the coconut. I asked who it was coming from and she pointed at the street in front of our office. She said, “The guy selling coconut there said I should give it to you.” I looked through the glass and saw him seated there looking in my direction through the glass. I told the security lady, “I’m not the one who ordered it. Ask him very well and send to it the rightful owner.” She came back again saying it was mine. I went out to the seller to be sure. He nodded. “It’s for you. A gift.”
I bought from him the day before but I didn’t think that should warrant a free one the next day. I took it but didn’t eat it. The next day, he sent another one. I was outside when it was given to me. The guy who brought it said his boss said he should bring it to me. I looked at him from across the road and he waved cheerfully. I walked to his end and told him I didn’t need to drink coconut juice every day so he should stop sending it. Less than a week later, he was in front of the office waiting for me. “Ahuh, what’s your problem?” I asked.” He answered, “Can I see you when you close today? There’s something I want to tell you.” I said, “Go on and say it. After work, I can’t wait.” He said, “Then give me your number so I call you and we discuss it.”
Right from his facial expressions, I knew what he was about. I walked away leaving him there. I tried so hard not to cry but somehow tears found their way through my eyes.
I called my mom; “This thing is no longer funny. I believe there’s something wrong somewhere. This one is a coconut seller in front of my office. Nooo, something is wrong somewhere.” On a normal day, my mom would have laughed at me but this one didn’t make her laugh. She said, “We need to do something about it but where do we start from?”
As I write this, my mom is out there speaking to pastors and asking for directions. My dad thinks it’s a curse that needs to be broken. He even asked if I had ever sought the help of a fetish to help me land a man. “You mean for-boys? How would I do that? For what?” He’s also interceding for me while I lay here thinking through my past life and asking what might have gone wrong.
Is it normal? Not once and not twice. From a laundry boy to an office cleaner and now a coconut seller? I don’t fault them for seeing something in me that they like. Love is like that. Infatuation can also work like that. Usually, you admire things you can’t have and you move on but these people don’t move on. They get the courage to come to me believing they stand a chance.
What about me makes it easier for them to come forward but makes it hard for the calibre of men I want to approach me? I’m getting scared about the future. I won’t be surprised if one day a madman chase after me singing out loud his proposal. I need answers but where do I get them?