by Allyn Faenza
Sitting in this hot cab is torture. It’s bad enough that the sun never ducks behind the clouds here and the temperature is always nearing ninety, but why can’t this cab driver turn on the air conditioning? Poor Eden is lying down in the back about to vomit once again because of some illness the hospital we were just visiting cannot diagnose due to a combination of staff incompetency and apathy. Here I sit in the front seat on this short drive trying to direct our driver back to campus, so Eden can lie down and rest.
Then it happens.
It is not the first time it has happened here in Ghana, and I hate that it won’t be the last either. I was warned it would happen, because after all, I am exotic here. Uneducated men have seen movies and television shows of women who look like me, who come from America. These men have the expectation that I will act how those actresses, adult film stars, or singers do. They may have even heard stories about American women in Ghana who are give their sex freely and indiscriminately. But mostly, I think they see me as a foreigner, vulnerable with confusion and wide-eyed from the culture shock. I am easy to violate. These men see an opportunity, and they take it.
This cabbie, just like some other men have done, places his hand on my lap and tries to work it under my short skirt. I look in his eyes to see a smile stretch across his face. He is amused by violating me. Does he think he is getting away with something? Does he think this should be a natural position for me or maybe I deserve this? Does he think I want this too? I speak up. Finding the inner strength, I slap his hand away. I say, “Daabe! No! You don’t get to touch me like that!” when I see his smile is transforming into a laugh. “You should be ashamed. You have no right,” I shout. He mumbles something that sounds like a half-hearted apology.
Now I am grabbing the door handle and walking out of the cab with Eden, feeling ashamed by his cheapening touch. I feel alone and scared. I am tainted by this, feeling like a little piece of my self-worth and strength has been taken from me. I should have been smarter. I should have never gotten in that cab. I should have known. I know I am giving him power over me by reevaluating my own actions and cursing myself for sitting in the passenger’s seat instead of the back with Eden, but I feel somehow responsible for letting this happen to me.
I feel powerless. I feel so powerless.
This piece is part of a weekly column about the author’s experiences abroad in Ghana.