He is nervous about talking to me. He doesn’t want to use his real name because it wouldn’t do him well to be a source of curiosity to his family and friends.
However, he fascinates me, because unlike other men who talk gaily about their sexual escapades with the domestic help in their teenage years, Muli, 32, is not bragging about it.
He stands tall and sinewy and moves with an air of a man uninterested in much other than his craft. He is known in Kenya’s artistic circles for his creative pursuits.
Muli is sharing a story that he has never repeated to his mother, though he might have told a girlfriend or two. He speaks in a gravelly tone in fluent English, and sometimes, switches to Kiswahili when he hits emotional notes.
“I was in Standard Two when my mother brought home a new house help called Lydiah. She was nice enough; soft-spoken and didn’t punish us at all. We liked her,” he says.
Muli was the first of three children, and with working parents, during the school holidays, they were left to their own devices.
“The first time it happened was the day she came into our bedroom. It was in the afternoon and we were supposed to be napping. It was something my mum insisted on.
“My brother and sister were asleep. She began fondling my private parts then just as abruptly, left,” he says.
“Though I was only eight, I felt that what she was doing was wrong, but I also felt that I couldn’t possibly voice it to my parents.”
As months went on, so did Lydia’s intensity increase.
“At first it was just the touching then one day she came into our room, shook me awake and said she wanted to show me something. She led me to her room. Touched me for a while then lay down and slipped the penis in her.”
How did he feel through all this? I prod. He skips a beat before responding as though digging through his mental archives.
“I was very confused. I did not understand what was going on. I had not been told what inappropriate touch was. I got an erection, and I remember feeling some sense of guilt.”
He toyed with confiding in his mother, but was afraid that she would think he did something wrong.
“Mum was very strict and I wasn’t in the habit of telling her everything anyway.”
Lydiah eventually left, but the actions lingered on Muli’s mind.
Does he feel that the pre-teen Muli was emotionally affected by the experience? I ask.
“I think I did get a little withdrawn, and when puberty hit and we learnt a little more about sex in school, it finally dawned on me what had happened. I also began sleeping around.”
And while many would think that the experience, especially for a man, is not as scarring, Muli explains that it leaves you with wounds, and you may need years of therapy to understand how deep they are.
“To date, I distrust women. Whenever a lady is interested in me, I always wonder what it is she actually wants from me. And sometimes I am not kind about it. I do not know how to build relationships, and even when it is going good, somehow I end up sabotaging it,” he says with a note of defeat in his voice.
While he views women as evil creatures whose only interest in him is sex, largely from his childhood experience, his dating experiences haven’t helped matters. And two years ago, he opted for a vasectomy after his then lied that she was pregnant.
“When I told a friend about the vasectomy, he was shocked and said it was a bit too drastic, and that I was treating symptoms without treating the illness. He convinced me to go see a therapist, which would be my fifth attempt at seeing one.”
He has however forgiven Lydiah.
“If I had seen her before therapy, I would probably have killed her. But now I would tell her, ‘You ruined a life and now someone’s manhood is scarred because of it. 24 years later, and parts of me still find it hard to relate with women. I forgive you, but that does not mean I will forget.”
* Names have been changed to protect identity