CHAPTER 11: I AM WATCHING YOU
Where I come from, there is a woman in the neighbourhood and she is always poking her nose in the businesses of everyone else. She wants to know everything they do, who they see and even what they eat. At lease for her she most times kept the information to herself and only used it to blackmail us when she needed something, which was often. Bampe had moved into a neighbourhood where such a woman already lived. Quiet and reserved as he was, he had his reasons, hidden skeletons, things no one else knew. He had big secrets. But could he keep all of them hidden with his new neighbour?
It was almost two months and Boza had come around Bampe’s house and slept over often. He wasn’t the only guest that came around. Friends from his and Boza’s circles stopped by. None of his girl friends had come by yet. Mama Queen had seen all of them. She was the neighbourhood watchdog, she saw everything that happened in the gated compound. She had eyes all around her head and there was no way anyone ever entered the gate without her knowing. She had even invested in this job and bought cameras that she installed all around her house, getting a clear view of every house. She had nothing else to do. Being nosey was the only way to keep her busy since her retirement. Her daughter Queen had tried to sign her up for a number of activities with fellow retirees but she had refused since it required moving out of the house. The only place she ever went when she got out of the house was to the fence to report what happened in the compound to her friend Janat across the gate and a few times to buy groceries. Janat was also a retiree. Every time she came to her garden to water her plants or weed, Mama Queen always thought it was an invitation for her to go over to her and report what she had seen with her own natural eyes or the artificial eyes she had set up everywhere.
“Good morning Janat.” Greeted Mama Queen
“Good morning nyabo.” Janat greeted back. It was a Friday mid-morning and Janat was watering her plants and cleaning around her garden as usual. With a very big hat covering her tiny head in it, she hadn’t realized Mama Queen was approaching. She had seemed surprised when she had greeted.
Janat straightened herself up and smiled at Mama Queen. She was also nosey in a way but never as Mama Queen. Mama Queen had taken it to another level. She had a question to ask.
“Did you get new neighbours?”
Mama Queen came closer to the wire fence, leaned on it and said,
“It’s one, but it seems like a whole village of young men.”
Janat nodded in disapproval. Mama Queen then added.
“Just one person stays here but the number of people that have entered that house is like a whole school.”
Janat then came closer to her and said,
“Young people always like to keep in touch.”
“What happened to electronics and social media? My kids couldn’t last a week without contacting their friends on social media.” Added Mama Queen.
“But now that they are all grown up, they meet up in person. I see this with my daughter. She loves to hang out with her friends now than before.” Said Janat.
Mama Queen then whispered something that Janat didn’t properly hear. Janat asked what it was and she repeated,
““There is something wrong with this neigbour though.”
Janat looked at the house and looked back and Mama Queen and asked,
“He seems like a nice young good looking man. What do you think is wrong with him?”
“Maybe it’s not him, or maybe it’s him too.” Mama Queen added
“What do you mean?” asked Janat looking really worryingly interested.
“See, I invited him to my house when he moved in, but he wasn’t interested. He just sipped a cup of tea and rushed back to his house. He never even looked at me. He seemed scared of me, as if I was going to pounce on him and eat him alive.”
Janat looked at Mama Queen almost from head to toe and back at Bampe’s house.
Still whispering, Janat said,
“Maybe you scared him.” Janat looked like she wanted to say something. She couldn’t say what she wanted to say. She then walked away from the fence and back to her watering pot that she had put down a little earlier before she came to the fence. Then she stammered,
“I know you love young men. But I think you need to first let them be comfortable in an area. You don’t just rush to them and you expect them to fall into your bosom.” She put her watering pot back down and returned to the fence once she realized that Mama Queen was eagerly listening for advice. Then she added,
“These are young men, they are looking for younger women. Remember the 16 year old boy that you gave everything and when he got older and got a girlfriend of his age you said he cheated on you and you threw him out? Plus this one is older and can afford to rent such a house on his own. He must have a good job and wouldn’t be looking to make ends meet.”
“I hear they broke up. She found him HIV positive and left him.” Said Mama Queen
“Are you going to take him back? You know he was innocent and negative when you got him.” Said Janat in a deep concerned whisper.
“No, he cheated on me. I was hurt.” Answered Mama Queen.
“Mama Queen, you can’t be serious. You were also sleeping with your estranged husband and your plumber at the time. And I know for sure that your plumber has fixed a good number of pipes in this village.” Janat was feeling sorry for the kid. She however didn’t wanna pursue that story any longer. She wanted to get the new story as it was unfolding and so she asked,
“So about your new neighbour, do you like him too or you just wanted to blow off the steam?”
Mama Queen felt insulted by Janat’s last statement. Her face had frowned a bit at the mention of the men she had slept with, the men she had probably given the scary virus. She had separated with her husband after he caught her with a workmate in bed, red handed. She had moved out of her marital home and stayed in that house before she retired. She had bought the house and settled in and had sexual relations with almost every man that stared at her legs or bums. She even started luring a number of teen boys, younger than her own children who had already married and had children of their own. She contracted HIV from one of her encounters and that’s when she had become wild. Her friend Janat, who had lost her husband to the disease and herself was on the pill, (ARVs), had advised Mama Queen to start taking drugs as soon as she suspected she was positive. She had taken her to a hospital after she had got ill. When she had got better, that’s when she had found the young 16 year old high school boy. Janat had never known at first that the young boy had been her lover. She had been made to believe that he was a nephew who had come to stay with her auntie. By the time anyone knew what relationship the two had, it had already been too late. Mama Queen remembered all that in a flash and realized she never needed to force anything on anyone, she said,
“Well, I guess I rushed.” She caught her breath and then added,
“I didn’t even like him that much, you know.” For a second, Janat wasn’t sure who she was talking about, the neigbour or the young boy? But Mama Queen’s appetite for men was high and she said,
“Have you seen his friend that frequently comes around?”
Janat nodded her head and replied,
“Maybe he is the one I saw. I don’t know them.” She also paused briefly and as if to remember, she asked,
“So you think because he didn’t like you, something was wrong with him?”
“No. No. Not that.” Answered Mama Queen. She started whispering again.
“There is a man I saw and I think I have seen him somewhere in the papers.”
Janat couldn’t understand why that would worry Mama Queen. She then asked,
“Is he a celebrity or some politician?”
“No.” answered Mama Queen. While looking back at Bampe’s house and whispering, she quickly added,
“Well, do you remember the Red Pepper you gave me about four months ago?”
“Yes. Was he in that?” asked Janat
“Yes, on the front page.” Added Mama “Queen. Wait, what?” asked Janat
“If he is the one we cannot let such people stay in our neigbourhood. I am going to look for the newspaper and ascertain that he was the one.” Said Mama Queen.
“Eh!” said Janat. She even clapped her hands and added,
“Oh Lord God.”
“You see these people can make the whole village rot in a second. We have to cut off a sick finger to stop the whole hand from the disease.” Said Mama Queen. She quickly added,
“Well, let me first get the newspaper and I prove he is the one.”
Janat returned to her watering can, picked it and to stop this conversation, she quickly excused herself,
“Oh I left a pot on fire. I gotta go.” She said as she walked back to her house.
“Okay. See you later.” Mama Queen bade her goodbye but she was already far away to even hear what she said and then she added,
“Bitch,” she spat on the ground, put on a manufactured smile and walked back to her house to continue with her spy work.
Bampe had seen the two women on the fence through the window from inside his house. He had not gone to work that day as he had received a month’s leave from work which every staff member at his work apart from the cleaning, kitchen and security was entitled to. He was planning to go on safari the following week on Tuesday, but Boza had asked him to wait until Friday so he and Kangye could join him. He had agreed and the three were going to go and tour tourist attractions in western Uganda.
Bampe had woken up late and getting his breakfast ready before he went to town for some shopping. That’s when she watched the two women talking while looking at his house. He couldn’t make out what they were saying or if they were talking about him. He continued with preparing breakfast and peeped in the window once and again to see if they were still there. He wasn’t sure either if they knew he was still inside the house. But it was for sure that one of them, Mama Queen knew.