by Nikkiesha N. McLeod
All the creatures that linger in the dark waiting for their prey to cross their path. It is the superstition that mothers and fathers talk about. As one of the ways to fear their teenage daughters from the temptation of coming home at dusk.
I never really believed in stupid superstition, that there’s jumbies whose sole purpose is to come out at night and hang around trees, waiting for the living to go pass, so they can follow them into their homes and perform the unspeakable on the living. The only way the living can prevent the jumbie from entering the house is by stepping into the home backwards.
One night, I was walking home late. I felt someone or something was following me, but I thought I was just freaking out because it was really late and I was walking home alone.
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I get home and I enter, but not backwards. I undressed and lay down on my stomach. As I felt sleep coming into my eyes, I also felt someone or something on top of me. No matter how many signals my mind made to my legs and arms to move, they were incapable. I just laid there while there was someone or something on top of me laughing in a bizarre, crazy manner and I heard all sorts of whisperings, but I couldn’t understand what was being said. Eventually, when I realized that I was pinned and it didn’t make any sense to struggle, I closed my eyes and relaxed my mind and started cursing out loud, “Get the fuck off, motherfucker!!” I’m sure that was pleasant for my neighbors to hear at 3:00 in the morning, but it worked. The creature, or whatever it was, left. My power to control my limbs was back. Since that night, I’ve been entering my home backwards.
It was around 9:00pm on a cold winter night, and she was getting home from work. The bus ride was dreary; the bus’ movements were as lethargic as a boat aimlessly drifting on the sea. With the exception of herself, the bus driver and another man sitting in the back, the bus was pretty empty. She and the man sitting in the back got off at the final stop. They were both heading in the same direction. She took off her headphones because the path was dark, and the man was behind her. After years of becoming aware of what it means to be a woman, these things are instinctual.
She and the man were walking up the slope and she heard him say, “Hello.” Without turning back, she says, “Hello,” rolls her eyes because it just seems to her that it’s difficult for men to not say anything to a woman alone. They must say something or the world won’t turn. It’s like, she thought, they are wired to believe that every single woman on the planet is waiting for their personal, “Hello.”
The man was catching up to her footsteps and in response; she made hers more brisk. But the man is relentless, and doesn’t understand why she would want to get away from him. Instead, the man pursues her, his steps harder, until he is walking by her side.
He asks, “What’s your name?” She says, “None of your fucking business,” and proceeds to walk faster; believing that the tone of her answer would diminish what he believes is confidence. But he doesn’t hear the disgust in her voice. He equates this as playing hard to get, an indirect invitation to keep on, keeping. He goes on to say, “I notice that you’re always alone at night. Walking alone at night. Why is it that such a beautiful girl like you should walk alone at night?” She made her strides longer and said, “It’s none of your fucking business if I walk the streets naked!” But the man who believes that he has a right to tell the woman things and to call her names, he doesn’t hear she. And he proceeds to pull her closer to him.
She was really afraid. But she wasn’t paralyzed by fear, and quickly shoved him away. She looked him straight in the eyes with so much contempt and hatred and said, “Get the fuck off me, motherfucker before I fucking kill you.” The man was shocked. He stood back with his mouth open. But she didn’t stop. She came up to him, “I’m going to fucking kick your ass and kill you if you don’t start walking.” She made him walk in front of her, until she got to the coffee shop where she worked. She told the owner what had happened. He, the man, was scared stupid. He came into the shop and proceeded to act like the victim. He told her boss that she was crazy and threatened to kill him. The woman is always hysterical and crazy when she gets mad.
Even though she got away, and her actions to protect herself maybe viewed as heroic, courageous, she is still terrified. For months she will look over her shoulder, thinking he was following her and would eventually find out where she lives. She will walk around with a long piece of iron. She will think about him every time she gets off the bus alone. She will imagine what-ifs. What if he didn’t believe her bluff, what then? From now on, she will walk in the middle of the street, thinking that it is better to be run over by a car than to have to go through this again. She will begin to feel like she was prey for the man, out there, waiting in the dark. Standing around on the corner, looking at her body like it was a piece of meat. She can see his mouth open, drooling like a hyena.
Prey to your unwelcome presence
I walk faster.
My mother’s prayer burning
in my ear, “The night is never yours
near dim corners
We want to say it’s only natural as a lion
gaming, finally devouring the lamb
that men are born jumbies waiting under
night trees. So when I go pass, he is free to follow
my steps to my door. But I’ll never let him in.
I enter my house backwards.
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Nikkiesha N. McLeod is a writer and musician. She was a co-founder for the grassroots feminist zine, OutLaw Sister Riff, a recipient of Howard University’s John J. Wright Award for poetry, a finalist in the Hollin’s Poetry Festival, and a co-award recipient for the City College English Department Adrian Schwartz Award for Women’s Fiction.