A few summer’s ago, my life changed. I became a prisoner in my own community, spending the next months cooped like a caterpillar in a cement cocoon. The view of my neighborhood, for the subsequent time, took place through thick steel burglar-bars of a claustrophobic, stuffy house. This confinement was not out of choice but out of the wound of feeling unsafe. Outside this cold prison I call my home, is my community, my Kasi; an unforgiving desert. No tree in sight.

Most of the defunct streetlights are used as clotheslines to hang old, dirty pairs of converse. Along the small, dusty streets, matchbox houses align like coffins. So close to each other, you cannot breathe. The smell of the oozing gravy seeping out of the overflowing sewer, fills the air. A decaying bridge that was meant to carry us to safety is now a hazard. Amidst the houses, is a park that is an arena for dealers and addicts, we now call it ‘the prey ground’. So, the kids share a road with zooming taxis and cars, and continue their games before the dust settles. So ignorant to the notion of safety. I have long lost that luxury. All I see are vultures, hyenas, and snakes. In the shadow of these houses are disintegrated metal sheets that house hoodlums.

Welcome to my hood.

The fateful night was warm and lively, a December night. I was walking alone, lost in my thoughts. The street was steep and dark but the occasional passing car defined a few silhouettes. Ahead, there was a stationary vehicle, whose lights beamed like a spotlight upon three figures who appeared to be helping the motorist with directions. I felt safe with the thought that there were other people around. I walked past. The car screeched in pain up the hill, while the three hooded fellows followed close behind.

I naturally walk fast, but I could hear their soles shuffling and pacing close behind. I thought to myself, ‘these guys must be rushing somewhere’. So, I slowed down and shifted, making way for them to pass. They stammered. I took a turn. They took a turn. In that dark road, they pounced, ambushing me; two at my rear while one blocked my way. I heard the malicious clatter from the click of his tool, and then a thunderous echo in the atmosphere. The pungent smell of gun powder filled the air as its residue stung my eyes. I was instantly turned to stone; time slowed, my heart swelled, my mind was blank and my tablet slipped through my sweaty palms. I watched as they scrambled for the tablet and slunk into a nearby bush with their tails between their legs.

For a moment, I was lost in space. A mixed feeling of disgust and vulnerability overcame me. My mind began to make connections where there were none. I then questioned, could this be the feeling the foreigner had before he was necklaced in that ashy street? Could this be the feeling of the child who was bundled among that illegally dumped rubbish? Could this be the pain of the girl who was raped in those bushes? A community is supposed to be a mother’s womb, that protects, warms, molds, but it turned against me. It breastfed me fear, like my perpetrators.

Despite all my torments, I love my community – but do not trust it anymore. I feel unsafe in my community. To escape the violation, I learned to free myself from hate. Karma takes care of everything.

Now, daily I awake to water my olive tree.