Even on the day it rains, and the nights are grey I stand here and wait. Every day I stand here and wait. My mother tells me that he is not coming back but I choose to ignore her. I tell myself that she is jealous because he is going to come back for me. When my father left, he looked me in the eyes and said “I’m going to come back.” He squeezed my hand and left. It’s been three months and he is still not back.
Yesterday at school we held a prayer for Matshidiso’s father. This is common in our village. Fathers leave and when they come back we pray that God welcomes them into heaven, for they come back dead. Sometimes, when I’m not waiting I sit in his jacket and soak up his scent and remember the days my father sat me on his lap and told me the stories about how his father left when he was three and came back as a corpse. I remember the sadness in his eyes and I remind myself that he will never leave his son like his father left him. But my mother keeps telling me that he is gone for good.
After five months I notice that my mother’s belly is growing big. I show it to her and say “See? He is going to come back, he has a baby on the way.” She says nothing and looks down.
Most of the fathers leave for the cities to seek better employment. My mother once told me that some don’t bother to seek better employment, they just chase bitches that have deadly diseases, it was confusing because I’ve never seen any man in our village chase a dog around and my father had told me that a bitch is a female dog. My father always said the system is the cause of everything. I never understood what the system was or who it was, but it was ok, for although I didn’t understand I loved the sound of my father’s voice and the passion that burned in his eyes when his mouth spit terminology after terminology. Conspiracies. Sanctions. Superiority. Colonize. Decolonize.
It’s been a year since my father left. And my mother’s son doesn’t look like me. When I was growing up, people in the village used to pinch my cheeks and say that I look just like my father as if his intentions were to deny me. Tebatso is his name. I have never seen his father but I know he is the reason mine left.
Last night I stayed up listening to my mother’s son crying and I wondered if his father is the system.
I’m officially a man, me and my mother’s son came back from the mountain two Saturdays back, the village held a celebration for us and we really felt like men. I sat back and watched the celebrations and promised myself that I will one day find out why the men of our village abandon their children, I promised myself to find the real reason why people up and leave.
Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo