Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here.
I have a fear of home invasions. All forms of it: burglaries, armed robbery, break-ins. The crux of that fear is having an unwelcome stranger in my house.
It was just a few minutes past 2 a.m. when I woke up to stare at my phone’s too-bright screen. The date was May 24, 2023. I heard a soft click, and the door to my room opened slowly. I was confused, and at first, I thought, “I didn’t close it properly. A breeze must have happened.”
But the door didn’t stop opening. The slice of light from the hallway kept widening. It was now clear that someone was on the other end of the door, and they were opening it slowly, trying to make sure they wouldn’t wake me. My flatmates usually knock first.
“Who the fuck is that?” I yelled before I realised I was angry or afraid. The door immediately stopped moving. I jumped out of bed — it takes a few seconds because I sleep naked and have to wear a robe — and chased after them, but they were gone by the time I got there.
Outside my door, there was a lingering whiff of body odour in the hallway. In the living room, the balcony door was open. My flatmates and I live on the first floor, so this person climbed the railing to get into our apartment.
I didn’t know until daylight, but they left a handprint on the wall right by the balcony door.
I slammed the balcony sliding door closed, almost losing my little finger. Then I walked back to my room and stood at the door, trembling. All I could think was, “There was someone in this house. There was someone in our house.” I stood there for a while before I heard someone yelling from the next house. The person must’ve climbed the fence to get into the next compound. When I finally stopped shaking, I went inside, locked the door and texted my flatmates.
I lay in bed, staring at my door, half expecting it to open for a stranger to come in and attack me. I couldn’t sleep until 4:56 a.m.
Now, look. I’m well aware of how careless we were. The balcony has three doors: a burglary-proof door, a sliding net door and a sliding glass door. They were all closed, but none were locked; entry was easy. And my neighbour was robbed the previous month, possibly by the same person.
The following day, I bought the strongest padlock I could find and permanently locked the burglary-proof gate. When I spoke to some neighbours, they told me the security guard in the next compound had seen him jumping the fence. He’d taken my neighbour’s make-up purse, which he’d dumped in the next house. Then he apparently came back that same night and tried to rob some other neighbours.
I couldn’t sleep properly for days, so I packed my shit and went to a friend’s house until I felt ready to return home.
One early morning in late June, a few weeks later, I heard the soft click of the door again. I opened my eyes and saw a blurry image of someone standing at the door. Before I could fully process my thoughts or the pounding of my heart, I yelled at them, “WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?” As the person rushed toward me, saying, “It’s me,” I realised it was a friend who had come over for a few days, not an intruder. It felt like the whole thing had happened again for a few seconds. Only this time, they actually got into my room to attack me.
As my friend comforted me, and I tried to calm my heart, I started laughing because it was too funny. Would I always be afraid of the sound of my door? I’d been so angry that they’d come back, but what did I think my fearful anger was going to do, scare them away? It did before, so maybe it has some power.
I check all the doors before I go to bed now, but every time I open my door and hear the soft click, I get a flashback that makes me shake my head. Don’t go to bed without locking your doors, people.