Tuesday Shorts: Kintsukuroi – Sibongile Fisher

The fence is a sluggish sign to keep us out. It is split into two faces with a mouth, wide open, in the form of two wooden poles wanting to touch. This mouth we call a gate. The police arrive. They look like biltong and smell of the sun. They are both scrawny and absent minded. My father’s face falls into the hands of their sight and greets them with relief. My father was fortunate to escape his birth place. He is the only one who walks upright. Everyone else in our family is bent someway. He visits at least four times in a year and drags us here with him. I don’t know him as well as I should. He is visible but not present. The policemen circle the remains. They will stand here for a while before asking for something to drink. In the house, a vacant body sways to the music of fear. My aunt is my aunt because time has woven her into our family tree. She is beautiful in a way that says poverty has never touched her face. I am making tea that no one will drink. They will all kiss it until it is cold. The police men thank me in contempt and continue to mince their surroundings. There were three shacks erected in the form of an L, two belonged to tenants and one was a backroom for my two boy cousins. The family house looks misanthropic. The walls inside are painted a deep ocean blue and the windows are the size of my uncle’s face. The three shacks were now a pile of horror. The sun had worked its way into everyone’s patience when the policemen promise to return later.

***

My uncle started a fire and left his family to burn in it. When the policemen return, we find out that it was not an act of arson but that of sacrifice. That there were two other fires reported in the area and they were all related. My uncle and his friends found a new depot in which to mine for gold. Their ngaka had told them that sacrificing a boy child by fire would not only guarantee them riches but that it would protect them and ensure that they never get caught. Hunger has a way of kneading out good sense in a man. The policemen have filed a case for attempted murder. We will not find my uncle for another year.

***

I watch my father try to make sense of it all — bent in some way. I figure that that is how he cries. I stand next to him and listen to his sadness. In the year we find my uncle, we will learn that the boys survived because he intended them to.

Photo : Hazel Fasaha Tobo

Advertisements

Tuesday Shorts: Mary – Sibongile Fisher

Wednesday, 1996

The first time I met Mary, my great grandmother, Anna, had gathered a couple of kids from our neighbourhood. We were all kneeling in our living room around the table that my uncle will break, when I turn twenty. Mary’s face was different from the other kids. It had something I cannot name. And this is why I befriended her.

Sunday, 1996

Our friendship was a home for silence. We both took turns in our shared awkwardness. We would sit for hours drawing figures in the sand. After Sunday school, I would walk her home. Mary never spoke but I always knew what she was thinking. On good Sundays, my great grandmother would give us one rand each and with glee we would pass by the spaza shop for what we call seqhuba beke. We would walk in silence while the jaw breaker swirled in our mouths. Occasionally, we would swap the wet candy and take turns with each other’s joy. On this Sunday, a good Sunday, Mary didn’t pitch for our ritual.

Tuesday, 2005

Mary spoke once on this day. She whispered a secret. The spirit of the world had made its way into her bed. It first appeared on a Saturday when no one was home. Now—it awaited her every night while everyone was asleep. She asked if she could sleep over that night. My great grandmother agreed. The following morning Mary’s face was different

Saturday, 2010

The last time I saw Mary I was twenty years old. My family held Mpho Ea Badimo for my great grandmother. My great aunt brewed the most potent beer ever—it is said to this day. This is how my uncle came to break the table. It was my first time home in three years. It was my first time seeing Mary in five years. This time her face blended with the women cooking in the backyard. Loud—with legs wide open—and tubs of beer at their feet. I joined them. Mary pulled me aside and whispered:

“Kea Gauteng le wena. Bophelo habo’o mona.”

There is no life in the city too, if only she knew. We were all drunk when she pulled me to the side again. This time Mary spoke. She told me of the baby corpses she kept in a shack in her backyard at home. Of the many times she had tried to kill herself. Of the baby growing inside of her. That the baby belonged to the spirit of the world. She apologized for abandoning me. The spirit of the world had made her do it. She began to weep and instead of comforting her I was in the living room in front of the table. My uncle and hers took turns with Mary’s innocence. I managed to tell everyone what was happening to Mary but they were more concerned about the broken table. I left for the city—without Mary.

Today, 2010

I am at Mary’s funeral.

Who celebrates the rest – Baeletsi Tsatsi

“Good Morning class,” Ms Mpitsi greeted the grade 8 C’s. She was the youngest teacher at Fundani High School and she taught history. A lot of her friends often asked why she teaches history out of the many subjects she could teach. Some could not even understand why she chose teaching out of the many options that are available in this day and age. But she always said that “I have made it my responsibility to make sure that generations that follow after me know the history and not only that of our country but that of the world. And not to only know it but to understand and love it”.

Ms Mpitsi was a very cool teacher and the learners spent their lunch break discussing her outfits. She was up to date with the latest fashion trends and she had a very strong opinion about the world and current affairs of the country. She was never shy to share her opinion with her learners; she encouraged them to know what is happening around them, to read and to never take things at surface value.

“As we all know,” she said to start the lesson, “July is Mandela Month which is usually highlighted with Mandela day, where people get to honor the father of our nation by dedicating 67 minutes of their day to doing something good for fellow South Africans.”
Ms Mpitsi continued to tell the learners that an organization will be coming to their school to paint 3 of their history classes in celebration of Mandela Day but before she could continue to tell the learners how they could participate, there was uproar amongst the learners.

“Remember, it is important to have an opinion, but it is impossible to talk over each other,” Ms Mpitsi reminded the grade 8’s the golden rule. Unlike the other teachers she had very minimal rules. As long as your work was done and neat, she was happy.

The learners could play music through their earphones while completing their class works, they could chew gum, suck on lollies as long as your work is done and neat, she would always emphasize. And as a result, most learners loved the history class and always looked forward to it.

“Yes Zama”, she said to one of the quiet learner. Sometimes she was amazed at Zama’s perspective on things but she was always impressed with her reasoning.
“Maam,” Zama started. Her stuttering voice was the main reason she preferred to keep quiet in classes, “Why do we only celebrate Tata Mandela as our hero? What about the other heroes we have learned about in our history books?”

“Yes!” the class cheered in agreement with Zama.

“We will take all the questions and then have a discussion at the end in attempt to answer them,” Ms Mpitsi said. The learners loved the discussions, one of the learners said they made him feel like they are part of a panel that changes the world.

“What celebrations are put in place to honor other heroes?” asked Tebogo, the cool kid of the school. Outside the history class he was the guy every girl wanted, the way he switched into a young revolutionary when he got to the history class always surprised Ms Mpitsi.

Masego, the school poet and head of the debate team asked, “If the organization comes to paint three classes, what about the rest of the school?”

“Ok, I think we have enough questions to start our discussion. You have all raised and asked very important points and I think you have the ability to make suggestions as answers to the questions” Ms Mpitsi said. She always told the other teachers that the secret to successful learners and impressive results is to complement the learners on the work they have done. That encourages them to do more.

The class discussions were always led by the learners, Ms Mpitsi will only come in if the chaos was unbearable. After accumulating the questions, the learners would elect a committee made up of a scribe, who would stand by the chalk board and try to write as many of the learners’ opinions, a chairperson who will select who speaks next, and a jury of three people who will choose one of the suggested solutions ad give reasons. Every learners wanted to be a part of the jury, they had the true power.
The chairperson opened the discussion by asking Katlego to speak and he highlighted that South Africa has more than 12 heroes, so maybe each month can be dedicated to a hero. Another learner said that if more heroes are celebrated then more classes can be painted and more good deeds can be done. The discussion went on and Ms Mpitsi sat at the corner beaming like a proud parent. She was impressed with her learners’ suggestions and as the bell rang she decided to tell them a surprise she had been burning to share with them the whole week.

“Ok, 8C,” Ms Mpitsi called out, “The jury will announce their decision at the start of the next class, for now I have something to share. As part of my Mandela Day celebration, I have managed to get the principal to allow me to treat all the Grade 8’s to a day at the museum. To learn more about the history of our country”, Ms Mpitsi said to a class that was now cheering as she handed out indemnity forms for parents to sign.

“Where are my friends now?” she asked herself as the last learner walked out of the class, waving her indemnity form with joy.

Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo

POEM: date night in the city centre – Nkateko Masinga

we are painting the city black tonight
– not red
if we paint it red they will say we asked for the bloodshed
that we offered our bodies as a sacrifice
but these are mourning clothes disguised as skin
and those of us still living
will hold hands and be the walls of the city
and those who can’t stand will sit and be its pillars
and those who can’t sit will lie down and be its pavement
and by morning
(through our mourning)
we will have rebuilt the city

and if we could levitate
we would be the sky too
but if we stay out late enough
we will blend into the night
and the stars will come out
saying we can make a wish

but we don’t make wishes anymore
we only pray
and i am praying for life

i am praying for another chance
to have a date night in the city centre
and make it home alive

Let’s Talk Text: Nkateko Masinga

I met Nkateko through my Facebook timeline. She was being tagged in pictures, mentioned in statuses and being called my best by poet, Busisiwe Mahlangu. We finally made it to the coveted stage, being Facebook friends. And I witnessed the poet’s magic on my own time line, not through some passive magic transmitter or whatever.

Nkateko wears many hats, recently wearing the hat of actress and I thought it necessary to chat to her about her third poetry chapbook and navigating different spaces amongst many things.

Here we go,

1. You and Busisiwe Mahlangu are very close and open about your friendship and support for each other’s career, how important it is to have someone in your corner, both as a poet and as human being?
When Busi and I met for the first time, she had read my first book and I had watched some of her performances online, so it was a case of mutually screaming ‘Oh my word! I love you so much!’ and we have been inseparable since then. With her I can truly be myself – she sees me beyond the stage, sees the things I try to hide. As poets we try to be authentic in the stories we tell but there are things we unwittingly shy away from and it spills over into our work because we only write and perform up to the point where we feel comfortable, never beyond that. With Busi I have all these difficult painful conversations and it helps me to heal and I believe it has made me a better writer. Having her in my life has taught me that it is okay to be vulnerable.
The poetry space can be very harmful – especially slam poetry because it is so competitive and often unforgiving. In such spaces, it is important to have people in your corner when the applause dies down. Busi has won several poetry slams but she is still gentle and compassionate, which shows me that slam poetry doesn’t have to be this dog-eat-dog industry where we don’t care for each others’ hearts.

2. Self-publishing has taken a rise during the past few years, how important it is for this to be happening?
So important! Self-publishing allows us to tell stories that would otherwise never see the light of day. I believe that traditional publishing has its place, but if your story doesn’t fit their narrative then your manuscript will get rejected and lot of writers lose confidence in their stories because of this. It is wonderful and exciting that we have alternatives. Going the route of self-publishing gave me the opportunity to tell my story on my own terms and it warmed my heart to see how well ‘The Sin In My Blackness’ was received in 2015. That book truly gave me the confidence to keep writing. When I started my company, NSUKU Publishing Consultancy, I had gathered a lot of information from my successes and challenges as an independent author and I am honoured to be assisting other authors to bring their own stories to life.

3. Medicine ranks high in the career chain, whereas being an artist is looked down on. How do you navigate both spaces?
Anton Chekhov said it best: ‘Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other.’
Haha! Jokes aside, medicine and art are very closely intertwined in my life because I was in medical school when I started taking my poetry career seriously. I realised then that I couldn’t allow the pursuit of the ‘Dr’ title to take over my entire life when I was given so many other talents. For years I did not have to separate the two from each other because I had fewer responsibilities as a student and could write whenever I had free time. Now I am at a point in my life where I feel the need to choose one over the other and it is very difficult because they co-existed so peacefully before whereas now, in order to be successful in one I need to dedicate most of my time to it.

4. I can safely say we’re experiencing some level of political turmoil in South Africa, would you fit the words from Betrayal “In Africa it is better to say goodbye (even if you choke) than to stay and watch your flesh burn? as a means of moving forward?
For a long time, I have grappled with the idea of leaving home in order to ‘save’ myself. I have seen how Africans living in the diaspora can write about the continent with such optimism while those of us who are here are simply living on hope. I wanted to have that ‘diasporic homecoming love for Africa’ that I wrote about in my poem ‘The Visitors.’ Now that opportunities to go overseas have opened up, I see how much turmoil the entire world is in and that life in another country might look better in light of our current situation here at home but that might not be the case. Also, for whom does life get better after we leave? What happens to those we leave behind?

5. What are some of the lesson your first and second book taught to you that you implemented in your third, While the World was Burning?
‘The Sin In My Blackness’ and ‘A War Within The Blood’ both taught me to be brave and to always write from a place of honesty because there is always someone who can relate, even to our ugliest truths. While The World Was Burning’ is also the closing of a chapter for me. I wanted to write three books in three years and it is done. At the same time, it is the beginning of a new chapter because I am not going to stop writing anytime soon.

FIVE Current Things

1. What are you reading?
I am reading short stories that have previously won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Right now I am reading ‘The Sweet Sop’ by Ingrid Persaud.

2. What are you eating?
I am knee-deep in a pasta phase. So whenever I go out these days, I order pasta. Right now I am far away from pasta places so I am eating a bacon-and-avo sandwich, another current obsession of mine actually.

3. What are you learning?
I am learning to say no. To choose my health over the obligation to constantly give of myself at the expense of my wellbeing.

4. What are you doing?
I am proofreading a book called ‘The Will To Live – A Way To Survive’ by Nolundi Luthuli. It is due to be published later this year.

5. What are you listening to?
So many things! Poetry podcasts on Badilisha Poetry X-Change, music (I am in a J. Cole phase), voicenotes from my loves.

Follow Nkateko on SOCIAL Media on the following handles.
IG: @nkateko_masingaFacebook: Enkay Masinga
Twitter: @Nkati_M

Let’s Talk Text: DITABA

September is the literacy month and boy can you feel it. One book fair after the other. I spent the better half of my weekend in Newtown attending The South African Book Fair. Which was well attended by authors, publishers, aspiring writers and book lovers of all kinds. I sat on a panel with Sibongile Fisher, the winner of the of the 2016 Short Story Day Africa prize for short fiction and Busang Senne, blogger, journalist and writer chaired by FunDza’s content developer Ros Haden, talking about innovative reading and writing with youth.

The programme was made up of talks of various topics ranging from queer rights to getting published and I attended a few. My highlights being Getting Published during which, Niq Mhlongo said that getting published requires patience, something that young writers don’t have.
Here are some of the quotes from the South African Book Fair.

*
On Sunday I read Home and Holes from Brittle Paper, written by Eric Atie. The piece highlighted the extent to which women make sacrifices in marriages. Read it here.
*
Story Bosso

Nal’ibali’s multilingual storytelling talent search is back. Storytellers of all ages can enter and this year’s focus is on African folktales. To enter, click here.
*

Friday Magic
This week’s story The bus that we missed is written by Malefu Mahloane. After reading this story, you will believe them when they tell you that everything happens for a reason.

I’ll be talking text with Nkateko Masinga on Thursday, watch out for the interview.

Baeletsi Tsatsi

The bus that we missed – Malefu Mahloane

My uncle says it would not have happened if he hadn’t been driving at a speed of 140km/h on a 100 km/h limit road. I remember that morning every waking day, the day when my uncle and I missed the 05:40 a.m. bus to work. It was a Monday morning in the chilly winter. We usually get up at 04:45 a.m. to prepare, first my uncle wakes up and heats up enough water for the both of us. It takes about 16 minutes for the water to get heated and within those 16 minutes, he lights the heater to warm up his room. Once the water is heated he brings the heater to my room and goes on to bath. It is a perfect arrangement. Although we both start bathing at the same time, I find that I only finish +/- 10 minutes later than him. This frustrates him, you will hear him muttering insults beneath his breath out of frustration, but instead of lashing out at me, he will kindly ask me to please watch the time. No matter how much I try this is the one thing that I do that dissatisfies my uncle – I cannot keep proper time.

On that chilly Monday morning I was a proper 18 minutes late. We ran from our house up to the bus stop but two blocks away from the stop, we saw the 05:40 bus leave the stop. We watched it as we mourned with regrets under heavy breath. I could not even look at my uncle because it was entirely my fault that we had missed the bus. I should have just picked clothes to wear the night before instead of changing outfits 4 times that morning.

So we starred at the bare bus stop, all our fellow commuters were gone, it would just be the two of us now – standing by the side of the cold tar road without the luxury of squeezing in between other people to hide ourselves from the breeze. The wind whipped us from all sides and we were silent the entire time. That’s how I knew that my uncle really was mad at me because he usually a motormouth. Other commuters will tell that, “John? He always has something to say that man – always something to complain about. That guy is never happy with anything, he can even complain about you while you’re there in front of him, but he’ll be using 3rd person expressions to refer to you.”

There I was, a girl who made her uncle late standing 1 meter away from him, starring down, waiting to catch the first glimpse of the next bus when eventually, I could see its green and orange lights. It was the 06:00 a.m. bus and the nice thing about it as we discovered, is that unlike the 05:40 bus that collects people from 9 stops around the town, this particular one only stopped at 3 locations. Ah! I was happy that we would not be far behind time after all. My uncle was still very quiet and he covered his nose with his hood. He could not be all chitty-chatty because we were with a different squad of commuters. He then uncovered his nose and like a man who had just regained his freedom; he took a deep breath. Like, being quiet for too long suffocates him. “Hell, just look at black people – already taking snuff so early in the morning. Don’t you know that it is unlawful to smoke in public? Jesses!” He said about an old lady who was sniffing tobacco three seats in front of us. By the way my uncle is a health care servant, so he knows the rules of public health. If he was a policeman, I am sure he’d arrest people everywhere he goes because he’s very observant of public misconduct. In our usual transport, there are always people supporting his complaints, even though it is not the same people all the time. However, no one seconded or refuted his lament this time. I never bother to pile up or offer an alternative view to his complaints because child, will he shut you down! After a couple of breaths noticing that no one was open for dialogue he reverted to what he normally thinks are internal conversations but mistakenly utters out loudly, “I don’t know why I just don’t take my own car to work. People behave like these busses belong to their ancestors.” He then covered his nose again.

This particular bus was a single coach and it was already full by the time we reached the second last stop, but the driver allowed more and more people to hop on. The passage way of the bus was occupied with young school boys and girls, old ladies and timers. Close to us stood an old man in his Transnet overalls, my uncle poked the gentleman who was sitting in front of us and asked him if he would not get up and give the old man the seat. The man looked at him once, frowned with disgust and faced forward again. “Hey man, I’m talking to you. Young men these days!? You are such a disgrace. Just because you are wearing some white shirt and a blazer to work you think you are better than an old man. Yikes!” He continued, but still not a single word from the gentleman. People in this bus were peculiarly quiet, even the old man who my uncle was speaking for did not say a word or show any form of sentimental expression.

Our drive went on and on until we reached the last stop and then the bus drove off to N8 – the road that has taken more lives than the apartheid government did in one year. Nevertheless, the bus driver went on at a speed of 120 km/hr on a 100 km/hr road. It was then that some of the voices started to emerge; people saying, “Step on it driver!” “Driver of the year!” “We will be in the city in no time with you my brother!” Following these cheers, the driver accelerated some more. My uncle was now starting to look around at these voices and smiling since everyone looked happy at last. You could tell that he wanted to be a part of this bus’s culture so he also added on, “Step on it man, it is not yours! Do you all remember that song that we used to sing back in the 80s when we were coming back from school trips? How did it go again?” Some of the old souls laughed at this and one man from the back sang it out, “E gate Joe! Ga se ya gago Joe!” Yes, that was the song. More people joined the chorus and the singing went on and on until we reached the crossroads of the next town where we were met with a road block.

We learned that there had been an accident between a bus and a VW Polo. The Polo driver had lost her life instantly and 14 of the 134 bus commuters were severely injured and the rest were in an okay state, including the driver. This was the 05:40 and the woman who was driving the Polo was a girl from down the road on our street. She was recently divorced after being married for 6 months to a 40 year old soldier, who apparently found out that she had allegedly used a false pregnancy to get him to marry her. Reports said that she was drunk and others said the bus driver was driving at high speed.

My uncle says, he wonders why the drivers of this bus company are always rushing to because 89% of accidents on the N8 involve buses. He says, “These drivers – you wonder why they are rushing to because they are already on their jobs. We the commuters are not in any hurry, that’s why we take buses at the times that won’t affect our work schedules. No man, it is a tradition of theirs, you can tell.” He said this to the father of the girl that evening when all neighbours went to offer their condolences. I looked at him with disgust. To think that he was one of the people who were encouraging the other driver to accelerate. But that’s my uncle, they will tell you, he complains about everything even when he’s had a hand in it. I wonder if he saw it, though. I still wonder if he sees that the bus that we missed was to some extend a blessing in disguise.

Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo

DEJAVU – Boipelo Maetla

“I could stay like this forever, with your lips between mine I would never get tired of clenching my fingers between yours, reluctantly pushing away when you want to slide my earlobes between your teeth. I love your kind of pain, whips and chains are heaven enveloped in sadistic objects. Your scent cripples me, I love kisses and I love yours more, I love how silence holds the hands of time firmly at you-and-I-will-never-part o’clock and I really feel like caramel fudge and wine right now, but I will have you first, build up my appetite”, a note left on the bed read. He took it into his hands and crushed it. Why would her confidence put him off, the very element that drew her to him in the first place? Suddenly no woman was going to be vocal about anything in his bedroom, in his house. Her purpose was to be given and to receive. Indeed he had returned a whole different man.

Continue reading

He counted – Baeletsi Tsatsi

It’s 2008. A biting winter and a lonely heart. Beige is the colour of the season and you wear yours with olive. Last night I told my friend about how ready I am to try again and I wake up to convince myself that I am ready to try again.

The dress, faun, is already laid out, the brown shoes are out and I’m not wearing lipstick. Nude. At 18:03 I’m half dressed, shoes and lingerie, standing in front of the mirror wondering what to do my hair. At 18:05 I still haven’t figured it out and I wish “I wasn’t my hair”. At 18:06 it’s up in a bun and I slip my dress on, grab my bag and I’m out for the 18:45 date. What an awkward time, I had thought when he first told me. And at 18:39 I spot him sitting in the corner at a two seater table, he waves and I think, corner? Great. Two seater? Hmmm. I love a four seater.

I wave and walk towards him, I’m no longer thinking two seater. A song threatening to seduce me plays in the background. He stands up to greet me, I steal a look at my watch, it’s 18:42 and I’m thinking why am I doing this? Wait, why am I 3 minutes early? But with only two seats, I don’t wait for him to pull my chair and I hang my bag on my chair and shake his hand. With that done, we stare at each other for about 1 full minute, I counted with my pulse. It was regular. He takes out his hand to shake mine again and he shows me to sit. Good. Now what? Within 30 seconds he has asked me if want anything to drink. I order a gin and tonic and he orders a gin and tonic. Ok. What now? I shuffle around in my bag for a while, but its awkward and clumsy and too crammed, but I go on about that for another 8 seconds. Still with a regular pulse and I stop. He is on his phone and he also stops. Our drinks are coming and I think, yes, we will talk about drinks. And I’ll do the thing girls do, slip my straw into your drink and steal a sip. But then I think, oh, he ordered a gin and tonic? Why did I order a gin and tonic? I don’t even like it. I should have ordered a Long Island. Soon, I’m thinking, why am I exploding my mind during people?

“I hope I didn’t keep you waiting,” I say.

“Why were you three minutes early?” He asks, not serious also not cool. Just something. Before I get lost in the glory of mystery, 3 minutes flashes in my mind. He counted? I take a sip of my drink and I do the thing girls do, even though I hadn’t wanted to do it.

He smiles the smile that says “You also counted”.

Back at my place I sit on my couch, a mug of chamomile steeping on the coaster on the table. I have been chanting “I’m not going back there” long enough and I do it while thinking “What if it grows?” What if the thing that made my father attracted to my mother grows on me and I’ll also attract the same kind man, at I’ll be so severe with me that with all my knowledge I’ll stay and claim to be loved? What if I have children and it grows on them. Do I come from a generation of cursed people?

Hate. Love. What if the thing you feel for someone only grows. Grows and never dies.

Before I told my friend I had told myself that I should try again because I will never know unless I try.

I’m a love child, or so my mother thought. I’m yet to meet someone who has clear visions of something that happened when they were only 7 and a half months old. Because I remember my father beating my mother into a pulp in my nursing room. I sat quietly in my crib, looking intently at the blood that I wiped from my forehead, my mother’s blood. My father storms out and comes back after a while, he strokes my mother’s bruises and pulls her closer, the monster that lives inside him is gone and he whispers sweetly into her ear “I love you” and my mother sighs as if she had though that his love for her was no more.

At 8 months my grandmother comes to take me. We drive for long and arrive at a house with only two bedrooms and it is in there that I first hear the word hospital. I stay here until I’m 8 months 3 and a half weeks, my mother comes to get me and we drive back, from my chair I try to steal a look at her arm. It is broken. That is why I’ll only drive an automatic car. You can drive it with only one arm.

I’m turning a year old and everyone is here to celebrate at my Mickey Mouse themed party, my mother doesn’t know that I love ben 10. After the party, just as my uncle’s car is pulling out of the drive way, my mother picks me up for my bath, my father tells her to put me down and he slaps her across the face. She stands there, shocked. The people who came to my party sang the birthday song for 3 minutes 8 seconds, he says as he storms out. My mother picks me up and heads towards the bathroom for my bath. Sometimes, he does it because he pays for everything, sometimes he just does it. It’s like he can’t help it, he just does it. At five, I hear him tell my mother that she is uneducated. My mother has a degree in journalism and has never practised since she met my father. At 10 he tells her that she is nothing and at 15 he tells her that he did her a favour by loving her.

At 28, I’m a PhD candidate, I’m someone and I’m definitely educated. My mother is still with my father and because of that, I’ve stopped talking to them. But I have a fear of falling in love.

He counted? He shouldn’t have. I take a sip of my drink and make up a lousy excuse, take my bag and prepare to stand up, he holds my hand and signs for me sit down. I continue standing and he flashes me a smile that says “Should I make you sit down?” A waitress passes, he lets go of my arm and says, “Don’t make that mistake. My father has cursed me.”

My father is a mathematician. A very manipulative man. He used to count how long it took for my mother to make him a cup of tea and if the number was uneven he would blame her. After dinner he would count how long it took my mother to clear the plates and if the number was even he would blame her. He also used to count how long it took for my mother to put me to sleep and if the number was a decimal he would blame my mother. He never knew his father and his mother raised him in resentment. He worked very hard for everything he had and everyone had to know. He wanted a son he would love dearly, but after giving birth to me my mother fell down the stairs, and something inside of her shifted and now she is barren.

When I met the guy from the cult, he looked at me the way my father used to look at my mother when he picked her up from the blood soaked floor, so gentle. Until one day he asked me to make him coffee at his place, and he counted, then I knew, it grows.

The things our parents are made of, grows on us and it will continue to grow.

📷Hazel Fasaha Tobo