The first time I got arrested, I was seven. They came to our house in their white Santana, asking for me and my mother. I hid behind the chimney protrusion outside our house, eyes shut so hard because I believed if I couldn’t see them then they couldn’t see me.
I heard mum telling them that she did not where I was but they led her away anyway. Then they came back for me. With their bionic eyes they fished me out from behind the chimney. I did not fight them, although my legs felt rubbery and I couldn’t walk on my own. But they carried me to their car, dangerously parked in the middle of the road.
One of them had a gun, at the very sight of it, my bladder almost gave. But the look my mama gave me stopped me from disgracing myself. But it did not stop the silent tears rolling down my cheeks.
The car smelt of urine and unwashed bodies. All the windows were closed. The man with the gun poked my mama in the ribs and told her to sit up straight.
“Eh, medem what do you think this is? A limo? Sit up straight,”
The one who had carried me to the car chuckled at this and wiped his brow of sweat with the palm of his hand. He looked at his mate and together they sat there watching my mother. Giving her looks I did not understand. I understand them now.
They are the looks you get when from a man when you walk by. They are the glints of appreciation when a man looks at the crest above your breast, they are the looks a man gives you when he sees you in a short coat standing at the corner of the street.
The second time I was arrested, I was 19. The officers came up to us and I tried to talk myself out of the situation. I was not afraid.
“Where to sisters?”
“The club over there we’ll just be on our wa...”
“You don walk away when I am talking to you, stand still,” his baton stayed me, stabbing into my belly. I wondered if it was legal.
“There's a party we are..."
“Shut up and give me your I.Ds”
None of us had them. The female officer stepped forward right into my face. I moved back and she followed. I took another step backward and came up against a wall.
“Were all the clothes shops that sell skirts shut?” she spat into my face. I looked at her puzzled.
“All of you dressed up like sluts, with your buttocks raised in the air and your breasts spilling out of your tops.” I did not know then that because I went to the local university, I was automatically labelled a prostitute.
“Officer Jenet, let us book them for prostitution, all four them.”
We were booked for prostitution.
Our cell smelt of urine and dried faeces. I couldn’t see it but it swirled around us. In every breath we took and every breeze that caressed my face.
We got one phone call to get raise bail.
I called my boyfriend; I had been waiting for him when we got arrested.
“Hello babe, it’s me.”
“V, where are you I’ve been waiting an hour for you,”
“I’m at the station love, I got arrested, me and the girls,”
He let out a drunken giggle, or maybe it was the weed, “For what?”
He let out a loud hoot and started laughing in earnest, “So if you at the station, what you calling me for? Call me when you get out.”
“No babe listen, I need bail, you need to come and get me,”
“Ah no babe, I am not coming, no, no the cops don’t like me, no babe call me when you get out,”
He hung up then. That was grounds enough for a break up but we lasted another month.
We finally got bail, a fourth year student who had been eyeing me all night paid, for that I gave him my number.
I guess it had been a night of prostitution after all.