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

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