Tv Tv, rogue rogue!
Tv Tv, rogue rogue!
This is a common song sung around many neighborhoods in Liberia.
Thieves are called rogues in Liberia and it’s common to hear shouts of “rogue rogue rogue” at night in many communities in Liberia. Once someone is pointed out as a rogue, everyone in the neighborhood starts to chase that person until caught. Back before “the war”, once a rogue was caught by the neighbors, they were beaten a bit and then turned over to the police. These days, post war Liberia reacts differently. We have “mob justice”, so once caught, immediate action or justice is meted out to the alleged “rogue”. Death on the spot by beating of the crowd.
My first encounter with a rogue was probably in 1987 and I was probably around eight years old.
At the time, my step father’s sister had come to live with us along with her 3 kids. She had a baby and two other kids about my age.
In the beginning, I was happy to have other kids my age to talk and play with in the house, but after a very short time, I got frustrated because her daughter thought it was within her rights to take my clothes and shoes and wear them without asking. Imagine, even my nice church clothes! I resented this and when I told my ma, she smiled and said “learn to share I will buy you a new one”. I didn’t want to share so I got a tiny lock and place it on my valise.
I also didn’t like all three of them sleeping in my room because I had to give up my bed to my aunt and sleep on a flat mattress on the floor with her two older kids while she slept on the bed with her baby. Plus, my aunt liked taking many sips of “cane juice”, a very potent alcohol made from the fermented wine of sugar cane and afterwards fall into a very deep sleep, often snoring very loudly.
We lived in a community that was sort of congested and the end of one house was the beginning of another. The concrete fence surrounding our yard served as the back wall to the family that lived next door to us and many times it was easy to overhear conversations taking place in their yard. In fact, my bedroom window was directly facing their back door so I heard lots from them all day when I was in my room.
So this was probably the reason why I was able to hear the sounds from next door and then the shout “ rogue rogue rogue!!”
I opened my eyes in the darkness but didn’t get up from the mattress on the floor. I wasn’t sure if I had heard right. After a few seconds or minutes, I heard a sound in the room.
At first I thought it was one of my aunt Lawoe’s kids moving around the room so I didn’t call out.
Again I heard a sound in the room and this time, it sounded like the zipper on the valise so I assumed it was aunty Lawoe’s daughter once again going into my things while we slept, so I got up slowly and moved towards the room’s light switch to catch her “red handed”.
So imagine my surprise when I turned the light on and saw a man sitting on the bed, sweating profusely and going through my suitcase!
Somehow I knew instinctively not to yell or cause noise and surprisingly, didn’t feel any fear.
The man turned to me, eyes wide and without a word placed his hands to his lips signaling not to say anything. “shhh!!”
He was sitting at the edge of the bed right next to my aunt’s leg and gestured me to come closer to him. I hesitated for a second and then moved towards him and sat close to where my aunt’s leg was. I noticed he was not very dark skinned and of light skinned complexion, kind of fat and sweating a lot. He wore no shirt. I wondered how he could sweat so much when it was raining and cold outside.
In a hushed voice He asked “where your ma keeps her money?”
I paused for a second and said “I don’t know oh”
“Where she got her handbag?”
All this time, I am seated next to my aunt’s leg and slyly pinching her hard so she could wake up. She didn’t budge.
“I don’t know where she keeps her handbag, she ain’t got no money.” Another harder pinch, on her thigh this time. Still, not a twitch from her.
He turns back to the valise and starts throwing clothes all out frantically. I don’t want him taking any of my nice clothes so I tell him “ That’s my valise there oh, no money inside, her clothes bag on that side” and pointed to my aunt’s shabby looking bag on the other side of the room.
He looks at me briefly and gets up to go to her bag. While his back is turned, I make my hand into a fist and knock my aunt hard on her leg. She doesn’t move.
By now, the man is bending over her bag going through her things, throwing her clothes on the floor.
I hear another loud shout from next door “Rogue! Rogue! Rogue!” and then I noticed that the man stopped and looked towards the window and the house next door. I hear more noise from the house like they are coming outside into their yard and more noise from other neighbors also who are also sounding the Rogue! Rogue alarm.
He looks at the bag he is rumbling through and back at the window. Then he looks at me with a slight frown on his face and again asks “Where your ma handbag?”
For the first time since I woke and saw this strange man in my room, I felt a chill creep up my spine and regretted not initially raising alarm.
I draw even closer to my aunt who seems to be dead to this world and back at him and say “I don’t know”.
I hear my mother’s room door opening down the hall and hear her call out to my aunt “Lawoe?”
The man takes another look at me and leaps out through the window which he had apparently entered through. I noticed that he had twisted the protective steel bars, thus making space to enter and depart.
Soon as he leaves, I give a hard slap to my aunt’s leg. So hard that I feel a sharp sting in my palm and then run to the room door and call out to my ma.
“Mama! Rogue Rogue was in my room!”
She enters the room takes a sweeping look at the scatters clothes, bent steel bars and yells “Rogue Rogue Rogue”.
Aunty Lawoe finally stirs from her sleep and her two older kids jump up, sleepily rubbing their eyes.
My ma goes to the window and looks out and looks back at me.
“Did he hurt you? Did he touch you?”
“No mama. He only asked me for aunty lawoe’s bag and I told him I didn’t know where it was.”
“Yes mama. He didn’t hurt me.”
She hugs me to herself and I feel her body shaking. Mine starts to shake too. My step father enters the room and takes in the scene. He looks disgustedly at his sister who is still struggling to wake up and pats me on the head.
“Nu ma Brenda. Nu ma.” Sorry Brenda. Sorry.
For days after the rogue incident, I was treated with extra care and given extra treats. New clothes were bought, new shoes too. My ma told all of our family members how brave I had been to try to wake my aunt after I saw the rogue in the room and how I reacted to the whole situation. I was a hero!
I have always wondered what ever became of that rogue and what kind of person he was. He obviously wasn’t a bad man since he didn’t harm me or anyone in the room that night.
He only wanted my auntie’s purse.
I also often wondered if the situation would have turned out differently had I shouted “rogue rogue rogue!” would I be telling this tale twenty plus odd years later?