|Scared black man.
This is based on real events…
Bashir jutted out of bed!
He stilled himself and listened.
There it was again! There was no mistaking the sharp grating noise of someone trying to open his gate. His instinct was to jump out of bed and confront the person, but common sense (mixed with a healthy dose of fear) prevented him from doing so. He tip-toed to his window instead. Heart in mouth, he raised the curtain slightly.
Four men. All holding sticks and machetes. Not too burly, but with those weapons, they looked like giants.
Bashir turned back. In the darkness of his room, he couldn’t really see much but he was acutely aware of the sleeping form of Aisha – his fiancée – who had come over for a sleep-over. His heart leaped into his mouth. What would they do to her? He couldn’t bear to picture it…them…over her…holding her down…NO! Now he knew real fear!
‘Who is there?!’ His father shouted.
Like most Muslim Northerners, Bashir lived in the same compound as his family; living in a separate apartment to give his family space, but close enough to protect them if the need arose. The need had risen!
‘Who is there I said?’ His father hollered at the intruders.
‘Your Father!‘ One of the men hollered. ‘You in for it!’
At that, Aisha jumped out of bed.
‘Go down baby.’ Bashir whispered before drawing up air into his lungs for a good ole scream. His sisters beat him to the punch.
‘Thieves! Thieves! Thieves!’
Bashir quickly joined in the shouts as Aisha dove straight for the tiles. Though all the men were heading to the main house, one turned towards Bashir’s apartment, with his upraised machete.
Bashir ran to the spot beneath his clothes hanger and coiled up in a ball, not knowing if the assailant had any fire power. He didn’t make the slightest sound, though the thumping of his heart was deafening. He hoped it wouldn’t give his location away to his assailant.
The robber opened the window of his sitting room and flashed his torchlight.
‘No one is here.’ he shouted to his colleagues. He tried the bedroom window but it was firmly bolted from within.
All the while, Bashir’s sisters, mother and father kept shouting that there were thieves in the house. The shouts reached a crescendo when neighbors in other compounds joined in the screams.
Bashir got up and started towards the curtain again, only to be plumped down by Aisha.
‘Don’t go there baby!’ She whispered hoarsely, her fear palpable.
He pried her off him, trying very hard not to be rough.
‘I just need to find out if they are still here.’
Aisha wouldn’t listen to anything. She kept pulling him down when he tried to get up, refusing to let him put himself in harm’s way.
Bashir’s phone rang.
There was that moment of frozen silence just before Aisha grabbed the device in a fear-frenzy, trying all her best to end the call. Bashir grabbed the phone from her hand and answered it. The look Aisha gave him (as reflected by the soft glow of the phone) could have quelled a lesser man. He turned away from her and…
‘Hello?’ he all but croaked.
Aisha was beyond livid. How could he receive a call in the middle of a robbery? She wanted to slap the sense into him, but she was powerless to do anything.
‘Did they enter your house too?’ he asked the caller, whom Aisha was really beginning to loathe.
Bashir listened a bit.
‘Okay…I think they have gone but please, keep calling the police men.’
He listened again.
‘Okay. Thanks man. I owe you one.‘ he said as he ended the call.
This time, he got up and went to the curtain. He looked through and couldn’t find anyone. He stood at different angles, using the moon’s guide to search the length and breadth of the compound. Still no one. He knew that it would be fallacy to think they had gone. He remained in his room and listened for any foot falls. There were none.
Bashir went back to Aisha. He touched her and felt her jump a bit.
‘It is okay baby. I think they are gone.’
‘How can you know that?’
‘I don’t. But I’ve checked all around and I can’t seem to find them. They cannot afford to still be around, especially with the community shouts for help. The police have got to be on their way soon. So…let’s hope for the best.’
Aisha was still skeptical, but she allowed herself to be pulled into his arms as he pulled her into bed. As they laid together, they could both hear their hearts thumping in their respective cages and that seemed to pull them closer. They held each other, urging the other to sleep but not dispelling the adrenaline fast enough to allow that. They were scared, but they at least had each other.
The ruckus outside jolted Bashir from his sleep.
He heard a slight scuffle. Aisha was up like a lightning bolt. She had not slept, listening for the slightest sound and worrying to no end.
It seemed like the robbers had returned with reinforcements.
The gate was kicked in and five men in the Nigerian army uniform bust into the house. One quickly went into the recesses of the compound, while the others placed themselves strategically around. Though Aisha couldn’t see all that, she quickly went to the floor.
One of the men bellowed. Aisha started praying. She felt like this was going to be her last day on earth. It wasn’t surprising when no one responded. One of the men went up the stairs and banged the door.
Bashir had already made up his mind that he wasn’t going to respond when he heard his father open the door. He quickly went to his own door and opened it. He had to protect his father, especially as he was not sure that they were truly soldiers.
His father and all his sisters came out. The soldiers started questioning them. They responded to the questions. Bashir only came out of the shadows and joined in the conversation when he saw that the soldiers’ guns were all pointed away from his family. After about ten minutes of the questioning, they circled the perimeter and carried out their own investigation and left as soon as they were done.
Bashir came back to the room and saw Aisha shaking. He gathered her in his arm as he tried to comfort her.
‘I thought they were fake soldiers or worse, members of the Boko Haram sect.’ she said as she buried her head in his chest.
‘I thought so too.’
He kept rocking her until she finally slept off. As sleep started pulling him into her vortex, he couldn’t help but ponder on the fact that it took an hour for any assistance to come: an hour where a more sophisticated team (like the Boko Haram sect) could have raped, abducted, plundered or killed his entire family and even his entire neighborhood. His last thought before he succumbed to sleep was how a coordinated robbery session could have been carried out in a town that was under curfew because of the issues of insurgency. Was the curfew really ensuring the protection of citizens or turning them into sitting ducks?
He slept off.
In the morning, it was revealed that the robbers couldn’t have been less than 20-strong. Some of them were armed with fire power and others with sticks and machetes. They had gained entrance into most of the houses by claiming they were drug law enforcement agents carrying out security searches. They hadn’t hurt anyone, though they held a boy at gun point so they could access the main house and threatened to have a girl raped by a member who was infected with HIV. They stole laptops, phones, other electronics, food stuff and in one instance, cuff links and shoes. They kept telling every house they robbed that the economy was hard and that they just wanted to get by. If Bashir’s family had not shouted, they could have continued their operation and afterwards, disappeared into thin air.
In their words, they were average dudes who just wanted to get by. What kind of nation has her citizens under curfew and is still unable to check petty theft and armed robbery? What sort of evil minds cook up stories of being drug law enforcement agents just so that they can wreak havoc? Why is the response to distress calls so slow and in most cases, highly ineffective?
Bashir knew he could have died that night. That thought, above all, haunted him all through the next day. That was the beginning of his insomnia.