59. The drought season had left us hungry and penniless…(A.Dube)5 min read

The drought season had left us hungry and penniless. Each day I would painfully watch as my mother listened to the weather forecast on the radio. I would see the glint of hope in her dark-chocolate coloured  eyes flicker like a candle in the dark – but the weather never changed. During the darkest hour of the night, the walls of our house would incessantlywhisper four words. “We need more money.” My mind would roam all the intricately woven pathways of my brain whilst looking for a solution but could never find one that was good enough to stop the depressing murmurs from infiltrating past my walls of optimism.

As the heat rose, my father’s temper seemed to rise as well. Months went by as I watched my mother’s once full youthful cheeks collapse into her high cheek bones. They seemed to be simmering with emotions with every glance they exchanged but none was ready to express their thoughts to the other. The tension grew until its presence could be felt like a bad omen looming over our family homestead. 

One summer morning I woke up to find my mother’s tear-stained eyes set on me. She rocked herself back and forth like a traumatised child whilst shaking her head in denial and disbelief. Worried, I asked her what the problem was but to no avail. Her eyes just grew wider and more pools of tears welled at the bottom of her eyelids. After what felt like centuries of silence, she muttered, “Get ready. You have a visitor.”

I did as I was told in an attempt to please my mother. I stepped into the living room only to find an eccentric middle aged stranger with a greying beard who was wearing expensive cologne  which choked my lungs. Beside him lay a gold encrusted wooden staff with a sculpted ivory top. He flashed me an eccentric smile. “Bhoki, this is my daughter. She’s the one who’s waiting for her O’ level results- the one you came to see.” I politely greeted him from the door and stayed there waiting to be dismissed only to see my father dismissing himself! Mr. Bhoki commanded me to stand and began examining me, nodding here and there whilst asking me questions about my home life. I remained quiet but most of all I felt vulnerable. After he was done, he picked up his staff and sauntered out. My eyes followed until he had driven away.
I proceeded to bath for the second time that day in an attempt to wash away the disgusting film that had psychologically formed on the surface of my skin. My mother genuinely asked me if I was alright and I instinctively told her that I was. I remember laying awake in my bed each night, raking my brain for reasons why I might have been brought into this predicament I was in. I encountered familiar feelings of sadness and anger along the way. I searched each and every one of my convoluted mental roadways but found myself at cross roads. Fortunately, months passed by and I never saw him again…until one hot January afternoon.

“Here are your things, boss,” I heard that unforgettable voice say. My insides involuntarily shuddered in utter disgust. My father burst into my room and hurriedly packed my belongings into a small duffel bag. He knelt down and looked me square in the eyes. He assured me that Mr. Bhoki was my saviour and that he was to take care of us provided that I lived with him. Before I could express my opinion, I was pushed into the car’s leather seat. My mother stood in the background, tears continuously streaming down her face. She wore a grim and terrified expression on her face and could not bring herself to wave goodbye.

My life afterwards was lonely as I had to be there for Mr. Bhoki as his care giver. For years, I hated my mother for not fighting for my rights and I inevitably became bitter. I was an unwanted object which was sold to a thrift shop. However, Mr. Bhoki kept his promise to my father since I worked diligently around his house. I thank the heavens for keeping me safe in that foreign place. Perhaps it was because of how I would religiously meditate as I looked up at the ceiling, drawing complex mind maps on the white canvas which had a few brown blotches from leaks from the geyser. Or was it just luck? Nonetheless, I was grateful.

When I turned twenty-one, I received news that my mother had passed away from a terrible case of malaria. I visited home for the first time in years. I had blossomed into a seasoned young lady with plenty of emotional scars but a beautiful smile which masked them – a façade, if you will. My relatives mourned upon my arrival. They showered me with hugs and comforted me. On the last day of the funeral, my dreaded father hobbled towards me with a biscuit tin in his hands. He solemnly handed it to me whilst profusely apologising for my loss. I opened the tin and found letters amongst my mother’s jewellery. I read my mother’s letters of anticipation at the thought of my arrival, of anger when I misbehaved but most of all, my mother’s letters of regret about how she let her little angel slip away from her but how I always had remained in her heart. She narrated the battles she had to fight in order to stop the arrangement but, of course, she had failed. That night I lay down on a straw mat outside and looked at the stars. I peacefully floated along a new mental way which is where I met a stranger who preached forgiveness. After years of battling with bitter emotions of betrayal and anger, all of them vanished as soon as I found forgiveness and ever since then, my life truly changed for the better.