Trully Romantic: My grandparent’s romantic story for the ages

May 10, 2013 § 2 Comments

Extract from my book, In My Arrogant Opinion

 

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The very first sound I ever made was neither in Xhosa nor English; it was that universal wail all babies make. I cried, at least that’s what I imagine happened. Maybe I cried because I was naked and was feeling a little embarrassed. Or was it because I was aware of how small my penis was and my hands were too short, and my muscles too weak, for me to stretch my hands to hide it? I will never remember. It could be argued that I suffered a premature onslaught of Alzheimer’s, but it’s something all babies share – forgetting where they come from. No memory of their history …

It was a dark and stormy night in April when I was born. I’m not joking. I was born in a hut in the house of my grandfather, Alfred Kaiser Boyce, uSnama, Rhadu, Somadoda, amalandelwa yintombi ithindizeke nobaawunankomo! (S’nama, Rhadu, Somadoda, the ones who get followed by girls saying, ‘marry me even if you have no cows!’). You will be excused for thinking that Alfred Kaiser Boyce was a white man. He was not; he was as Xhosa as they come.

I was born in the small rural village of Dutyini just outside the small town of Mount Ayliff in the Transkei. My grandfather was married to Marhadebe, Victoria Boyce. The story of how they got married is as romantic as any one I have heard. Xhosa men back then were not known for their romance, not that they are now. However, I imagine I am, rather (Hello, ladies). Perhaps I should tell the story of how they got married, very briefly.

Before they got married, my grandfather (Kaiser or K as he was called by everyone in the village) and grandmother had been dating. Kaiser was very popular with the ladies because of his looks, charm, wit and his above-average education. Unlike many young black men in his time, he had gone all the way to Grade 8. A major achievement.

My grandmother, Victoria Mthimkhulu, wasn’t known as the best-looking woman around. But she had the most incredible sprit of any human being I have ever met. My grandfather had four sisters. As anyone with many sisters will know, they always have an opinion about any woman you decide you like. They could never understand his fixation on my grandmother. According to them, he was far superior to her in looks. They even called her ugly. He would respond by saying, ‘Ifigure yakhe!’ (‘What a fine figure she has!’).

He was also taken with her conservatism, politeness, steadfastness, Christian poise and the fact that she could read and write, something uncommon for women in her village at the time. I’ll never forget that when some white came to our distant village once, my grandfather was away and there was only one person who could speak to that person — my grandmother. I was too young and my English nonexistent, so I have no clue what they talked about.

My grandfather didn’t have much money so he wasn’t able to pay her lobola (dowry) right away. While he was chilling, some other fellow, a rich man in the area, paid lobola for my grandmother. Custom dictated then that if your parents had an agreement with another girl’s parents, you were supposed to marry that person, even though you had never dated. It was effectively an arranged marriage. And so it was that my grandmother was married to another man.

Upon hearing the news, Kaiser would have none of it. He hatched a plan immediately. He was in love so there was no chance in hell that some random dude, no matter how much money he had, would beat him to the punch, even if he had already beaten him to the punch.

He sent a message to my grandmother that he planned to take her from her new in-laws. She agreed to the plan only if he promised that he would pay lobola by a certain time.

In a cavalier fashion, within days of my grandmother’s marriage, my grandfather and his friends invaded the new home of his now married lover and took her. She was basically kidnapped (‘waathwalwa’).

Ukuthwalwa was not unheard of then. But to ukuthwala a woman who was already married to another man was something new altogether.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, my grandfather eventually gathered a few cattle and paid lobola for my grandmother and they lived happily until death parted them.

These were the people who raised me for the first ten years of my life. The idea that I could grow up to be anything I wanted to be is something that I observed in them; it’s not something that I would say they taught me.

My mother would come to visit Dutyini from the township of Mdanstane, just outside East London where she worked. I never really knew what to say to her because she was this beautiful woman who I was too scared to touch because I was afraid of making her dirty. She always seemed so out of place and too beautiful to be in the village. Years later, I found out that she would cry every time she left for East London, she found it unbearable that she had to leave her children behind in the rural life while she went back to an easier existence in the township.

My early education happened in this village. The teachers had an inferior education, which meant they transferred inferior knowledge to children who were already disadvantaged by life. One of my classrooms accommodated both the Grade 1s and Grade 2s. There were times when we couldn’t use the classrooms because they were being used for something else.

They say that these early years are what make us who we are. If those years made me who I am, I am grateful for them. By the time I was ten, I was a certified delinquent. I had already quit smoking weed and moved on to other things. I guess what I’m saying is that it is a miracle that I have written this book. And I want to thank everyone who has played a part in my life.

You sold out, not Mandela!

July 18, 2012 § 29 Comments

Originally appeared on my news24.com column on 2012-01-13 08:00

People like to say that Nelson Mandela is a sell-out. That he sold black people down the river. That he lived a cushy life in prison. That he turned soft in prison and decided to sell out. That he alone is to blame for the fact that black people are still talking about economic freedom today.

Saying that he sold out demonstrates a lot of people’s ignorance when it comes to the history of the ANC and the negotiation process. By claiming that he “sold out”, this crowd indirectly suggests that there was no ANC without him; that Mandela, in a miracle to rival the virgin birth, singlehandedly negotiated a free and democratic South Africa by himself. According to this heretical thinking, in the beginning was Mandela and the ANC. Through him all things were negotiated; without him, nothing that was negotiated was negotiated. These haters of Nelson Mandela do not realise that they have turned the man from a him into a Him. God. He is no God. As he said on the day of his release, “I am your servant, I am not your messiah and I am not your saviour.”

Often, those who want to raise him to the level of deity always praise him alone as though there were no other people involved in the peaceful transition. Even Mandela himself has said: “I must not be isolated from the collective who are responsible for the success.”

What about those who blame Mandela for the negotiations? Perhaps a history lesson is in order. Thabo Mbeki led the negotiations for the ANC and his deputy was Jacob Zuma. According to Mark Gevisser’s biography, Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred, in the first week of August 1991, while Nelson Mandela was in Cuba, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma were in Cambridge, Cyril Ramaphosa convened the ANC’s National Working Committee (NWC) while the trio were out of the country. In that meeting, Zuma was replaced as head of ANC intelligence by Terror Lekota, “and Mbeki had been replaced as head of negotiations, by Ramaphosa himself”.

Mandela was livid upon hearing that Ramaphosa had Zuma and Mbeki replaced whilst the three of them were outside the country. Joe Slovo had lobbied hard to have Mbeki replaced by Ramaphosa as head of the negotiations team because he believed that “he was going to sell us out”.

If people want to blame someone then, they should blame Joe Slovo’s pick, Ramaphosa. But that would be just as outlandish and insanely ridiculous as blaming Mandela for the lack of economic freedom. How can we start blaming one man? No one worked in isolation. All decisions were made by the ANC’s executive. Only lazy thinking people will blame any single individual for the way things turned out. Blame the ruling party if you want to blame someone – but they had very limited choices.

“When you negotiate, you must be prepared to compromise.” Nelson Mandela.

There are some who say that he was a creation of the ANC. It is true that he was. The prisoners in Robben Island decided that he would be the one to represent their plight. In a PBS interview, Walter Sisulu said that Mandela was the best man to handle the situation.
Sisulu spoke about how the prison warders made the prisoners run when they were working at the quarry. According to Sisulu, one day, Mandela made a decision; it meant a great deal to all the prisoners when he suggested to them that they move slower than they ever had. That changed the situation because the warders didn’t know what to do. All of a sudden, the warders could no longer give them orders; they had to negotiate with them to get things done. That was the moment all the prisoners recognised his leadership.

It was for this reason that the ANC in exile decided to make him the face of the struggle against oppression. On the “creation of the Mandela myth”, Joe Matthews said: “I was one of those who worked out the policy.”

The people who knew him, like Oliver Tambo, held him in high esteem. Adelaide Tambo, Oliver’s wife, spoke about how her husband spoke about Mandela, “When Chief Luthuli was still president of the ANC, Nelson had made a speech – that speech sometimes appears on television…. And Oliver said to me, ‘This is the president of South Africa.’”

If people like Walter Sisulu, who knew Mdiba better than any of us ever will, can speak so glowingly about him, who are we to say some of the things we say about him? If Oliver Tambo, the most revered man in the ANC, could point to Nelson Mandela while Chief Albert Luthuli was still president of the ANC, and call him the president of South Africa who are we to say some of the things we say about him? On Christmas day in exile, Oliver Tambo would leave an empty chair at the head of the table. He would say that chair was for the president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela and the other prisoners on Robben Island.

If we want to talk about selling out, then we should be honest. The only people who have sold out is us. The bravest thing we do is open our mouths and blame them while we enjoy the freedom they fought for. They played their part; now fix what you’re complaining about.

They have set a task for us. It is to make things increasingly perfect. As Mandela put it, “Freedom can never be taken for granted. Each generation must safeguard it and extend it. Your parents and elders sacrificed much so that you should have freedom without suffering what they did. Use this precious right to ensure that the darkness of the past never returns.”

You are a coward*

June 24, 2012 § 2 Comments

*originally appeared on my News24.com column, 2010-09-28 08:10

 

You know what you want. You know what to do to get it. Yet you don’t do that which will make you who you want to be. Why is it that you know what to do in order to get to where you want to be but don’t do it? What is it about the human condition that creates this self-destructive monster, which eats away at your dreams one excuse at a time? What is it that causes you to be comfortable with it? It can only be said that you are a big wimpy coward. Too afraid of your own success. Too afraid of knowing what you’ll be like if you succeed.

It is cowardice that causes you to blame someone else or something else. It is cowardice that makes you point fingers. So Khaya, in a sea of cowards you are the biggest one. Don’t just point one finger at yourself as the rest point at the world, let them all point at you and look within the inner coward, Mr Good Reasons, Mr Excuses, Mr This Is Why It Can’t Be Done, Mr This Is Why I Can’t Do it. How about just being Mr Just Do It?

What is it about cowardice that you find so much more attractive than courage? Surely failure should be the ugliest girl in the club? Why go to the ugliest girl in the room when I know that I want the prettiest girl? Why do you friend-zone success when you know that you want to be more than friends?

Maybe success and achieving one’s goals is as frightening as failure. It is also possible that we are so accustomed to seeing failure and mediocrity that we accept second best – and have come to believe that is the standard. We don’t mind being the co-star instead of the star; winning bronze instead of gold. The acceptance of second best has become too commonplace. We see it everywhere; second rate everything, even second rate second rates.

The reason for this is that we are too good at having great reasons as to why we can’t do what we should do, what we must do in order to shine and be our better selves. Our reasons for not doing are often of sound logic and make sense, but at the end of the day, reasons are just a good name we give to excuses.

The greatest excuse of all: “What will people think of me if I decide to pursue this dream that I have?” The tragedy is that people won’t think anything of you if you don’t. Yet they will think the world of you when you succeed and make it. There is no failing. The only failing is not trying. Who cares if you don’t make it? At least you would have tried and given it the shot you have.

Courage is not in the big things we achieve. Courage lives in the small decisions. Courage is not in the running in order to lose weight, it’s in the decision to wake up 30 minutes earlier, put on your shoes and start running.

You could dismiss this as Oprah pop psychology or you could really look at yourself and ask yourself some tough questions about why you are still where you are when you know where you could be. Maybe this is Oprah pop psychology but Oprah has titanic achievements so I’m not about to dismiss it.

What if you stopped saying “if”?
What if
And if only

What if you never say “what if” except to ignite your imagination?
What if you turned your “what if” into action?
What if you act and not stop at “what if”?

What if you became great instead of imagining it?
What if someone acts on your “what ifs”?
Act on your “what ifs” before someone else does.

So Khaya, are you going to be a coward, or are you going to make a lot of small courageous decisions?

The Underbelly of South African racism

May 8, 2012 § 19 Comments

*originally appeared in the Cape Times on 07 April 2012

The ugly face of racism reared its enormous head again in South Africa on the Twitter social network platform in the shape of Jessica Leandra, who has now been stripped of her 2011 FHM model of the year by FHM. In case you haven’t heard about the incident, she wrote a tweet the following tweet and I quote, “Just, well took on a an arrogant and disrespectful k***** inside Spar. Should have punched him, should have.”

What is shocking is the fact that she wrote the “K” word. What is worse is that it demonstrates that it is terminology that she probably uses in private if she can so freely use it on such a public platform. It was no accident. Some may even blame her youth by saying that she is 20. When I was 20 or younger, I never racially abused anyone. All that I would have done is make the typical jokes about whites can’t dance and blacks can’t swim. And it ends there.

I was surprised that a young person who grew up after apartheid had ended could have such thoughts to begin with. She had also written a tweet earlier, which said, again I quote, “Highlight of my weekend? Almost punching a petrol assistant. No tolerance for rude African monkeys.”

Years ago, while I was working on an anti-racism advertising campaign, I spoke to a psychologist who worked for the Human Rights Commission at the time and said something to me that still stuck with me today. He said that in research, it has been shown that South Africans are the only people in the world who will share their racist views or biases with a complete stranger and assume that the stranger will share the same view as them.

What this shows then is that large sections of South Africans still hold racial biases hidden behind concerns of crime, when the real issue is actually racism. Six years ago, when I first moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg, I stayed in a B&B in my first month in the big city. I met two American women who had been traveling around the world for a year. They had been in South Africa for a few weeks and told me that they had not met a single black person staying at a B&B, all the black people they had met worked at B&Bs.

They also found it strange that when they drove in the Transkei a white man told them that if they happen to hit a black person, they should not stop to help because “These people will rob you.” They were shocked that the person saw nothing wrong with what he said. They were equally surprised that he just shared these views assuming that they would thank him.

Of course this is not meant to point fingers. What it is meant to point out is that maybe South Africans are still racially charged but are in denial about it. It also makes us wonder how many of these conversations happen in private. How many people sit around their backyards talking about k*****s?

Maybe Jessica is a symptom of something simmering underneath the surface. Perhaps there are still those in our society who believe that blacks don’t fully belong and do not deserve to be treated as equals. That they have not earned their place in society nor the positions that they may hold. There is a denial of the realities. That it is still a white world and that the black person must remember that he deserves to be treated as a lesser being and remind him of his inferiority.

People may want to keep appearances and deny that they may hold these views, but the reality is that these kinds of scenes are acted out everyday in the country, some in more subtle ways than others. Perhaps we ought to applaud Jessica for exposing the under bellies of South African racism hidden behind the veil of false politeness. 

The day I picked up a prostitute by accident

July 5, 2011 § 5 Comments

It was by accident I promise. I know there are many skeptical people out there who will chose not to believe this. It’s all true, I swear on Speedy’s Towel*. This one time (not at band camp), in Rondebosch Cape Town, my friend and I were on our way to church with two other friends in the car. It was dusk, and with it night things were starting to emerge. We’d happen to pick up one of these night things by accident.

As we drove it started to rain as it tends to during Cape Town winters. After all, if the weather didn’t change it wouldn’t be the weather. And Cape Town wouldn’t be Cape Town without the predictably unpredictable weather.

As the raindrops started trickling down I noticed a lovely young lady along the side of the road and my heart went out to her. After all, it was raining. And it was cold. And she was hot. And just maybe since we were going to church, maybe she needed Jesus too. As the good Christian I was back then, I turned to my friend who was driving and said, “Guys, don’t you think we should give her a lift. It’s raining and she looks like she’s getting cold and it’s getting late.” We were all in a generous mood because it was a Sunday and we were on our way to church. After all, What Would Jesus Do?

There was agreement in the car that we should give her lift. We stopped, I wound down my window and said, “Do you want a ride?” She gave me a slightly puzzled look. Looking back, it all makes sense now. She must have been confused by the library of Bibles in the car and the “ride” we were offering. She looked at the four of us for a bit too long, maybe three seconds before jumped in. She was quiet for a few seconds inside the car. I found it a little strange that she wasn’t telling us where she was going. And so I asked her where she was going in a bid to strike conversation.
“Excuse me?” She said.
“Where are you going,” I repeated.
She was quiet for about a two seconds. I think it was at that point that she realized that she was not going to be part of a kinky adventure with four strangers. Then she said, “I’m working!” My friend pulled over a little too quickly. I had no idea what she meant so I said, “Where do you work?” “I work here,” she said. The car stopped and she got out of the car.

She shut the door. I noticed that my friends were stifling laughter. As soon as we drove off they all laughed. I didn’t. I felt left out. “Guys, what am I missing here?” They continued to laugh. Eventually one of the buggers told me, “She’s a prostitute!” They laughed. “How do you know?” I asked. She said she works here Khaya, they said to me. I have my moments. I can be slow. I also laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. I laughed last, so I laughed the hardest.

Anyhow, Jesus didn’t mind hanging out with prostitutes either.

*apologies to Speedy’s Towel. This is the last time I say anyhting about it. I promise. Sort of.

‘Black man, you’re on your own’*

June 23, 2010 § 5 Comments

I wrote a blog that lamented the fact that 91% of the CEOs of some 295 companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are white last week, and boy did I get called names. I was called a racist amongst other things. To be honest I didn’t want to carry on writing about that subject on this column, but the interest and emotion that it seemed to provoke in people left me with no choice but to tackle the subject even further. The subject of race and economics, that is.

What I have come to realise is that it is almost impossible to address the issue of race without being labelled a racist. It does not matter how reasonable one is being on the subject – a clear sign that we have not healed as a nation and it will take some time before any healing takes place. We are divided, often along racial lines; where racial lines are closing class lines emerge. The topics that people have around their dinner tables and braai stands reinforce the “us and them” attitudes. Some politicians prefer it that way, keeping us divided because this gives them power over us. They tell us to fear those people, not to trust them, not in so many words but the clues are there.

I am currently reading Doris Kearns Goodwins biography on Lincoln, Team of Rivals. (Be warned, it’s a thick book, rivalling the Bible but remarkably shorter than Gaddaffi’s speech at the United Nations last year.) At a point when America was deeply divided over the slavery issue with the South refusing to free its slaves, Lincoln made his “A House Divided” speech during his Senatorial race (which he lost). In 1858, two years later he would be propelled to the presidency on an anti-slavery platform.

He said a house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved. I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Incidentally Lincoln made that speech on June 16, albeit a different year, 1858.

A divided South Africa on the economic front cannot stand. Take a look at our neighbours up north – Zimbabwe. They were split racially and economically. A politician exploited the divisions. If the private sector does not mend the economic divisions, some politician will widen them. In the end the corporate world will lose what it thought it was protecting.

We find ourselves divided when it comes to the economic front. Some white people feel that they are being robbed of their right to make money. Others feel that they are no longer wanted nor needed in South Africa because of the colour of their skin. What they fail to understand is that there are black people who feel that this freedom is worthless because they still have nothing. They still see white people prosperous while they get poorer and poorer. Each side sees themselves as worse than the other. Each side paints itself as a greater victim than the other. Some scream reverse racism while others scream economic apartheid.

The truth is there are no victims. There are many who expect manna from heaven. There will be no such thing. People were on their own during apartheid, or if you wish, the desert years. There was no manna then, there will be none now. In the words of the great Steve Biko, “Black man, you are on your own”.

We have to make things happen for ourselves, study, work and above all, make a way where there is none; that is what every celebrated captain of industry has done. To borrow and to use his words as my own, White man, you are also on your own. South Africans, you are all on your own.

Taking individual responsibility is the only thing that will end these divisions. Entitlement will widen them. South Africans, you are on your own. If we are to be a great nation we have to realise that the path to greatness is not achieved through excuses.

*originally appeared on News24 http://www.news24.com/Columnists/Khaya-Dlanga/Black-man-youre-on-your-own-20100309

Love them anyway

February 22, 2010 § 5 Comments

Human nature is a fascinating thing. Beautiful and dirty, strong yet fragile. It engages in the futility of failure and the ecstasy of success. At times we watch what we think is successful only fail – what we deemed a failure succeed. In our pursuit for immediate success and/or glory we fail to look at the marathon that is life. Life counts success only at the end.

We praise those who agree with us and vilify those who do not. We laugh at someone else to feel better about ourselves and ask others to join in, for if others join in, then that justifies, verifies and adds moral weight to the rightness of the morality to “laugh at”. This of course is all good until it is our turn to be laughed at, then all moral justifications we used suddenly do not apply to us. Then people are being cruel, petty and jealous. The truth is some people will find a reason to dislike you even if there isn’t one. To paraphrase Mzwakhe Mbuli, “Love them, anyway.”

This is all part of being human. Most of the time when given a choice to be our better selves we fall into the easy trap of falling into our worse selves because, let’s face it, it is far easier to be unkind than it is to be kind. It is easier to be weak than it is to be strong.  This is the reason we chose cruelty over kindness, judging people before we have come to know them. This is the reason people try bring themselves up by bringing others down, in the end, this pulls them down – it is all weakness. Weakness is part of the human condition. I am guilty of it too. We all are. It takes strength to allow oneself to be “touched…by the better angels of our nature,” to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln.

Whatever your fellow man is like, whatever his weakness, however he tries to bring himself up by putting you down, love him anyway.

My suitcase: Truth is indeed stranger than fiction

November 23, 2009 § 4 Comments

I don’t keep my skeletons in a closet, I keep them in a suitcase. It’s much easier to flee with a suitcase in hand when the authorities come. This way you can run away with your evidence. This is why I prefer suitcases.

When I lived in Cape Town, a friend of mine used to keep his condoms in his suitcase because he was too embarrassed to keep them anywhere near where his elderly cleaning lady would see them. From what he told me I gathered that she was too old to be the same age as his mother, but too young to be his grandmother’s age. She was that age in African culture that doesn’t permit you to tell her what to do, even though she works for you. I digress, as usual. I blame this on my short attention spa…

Mine, the suitcase that is, has a far more interesting story than condom storage. It had been stolen or lost and I found it under the most unbelievable circumstances — worthy of an episode of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

The suitcase in question was my mother’s pride and joy. She was proud of a lot of things she had, but this suitcase was rarely used. It was used on special occasions, for special trips, much like the special cups, plates and cutlery that only ever saw the light of day when there were super-special visitors. When I left Mdantsane (a township just outside East London, famous for producing boxing champions, the likes of Welcome Ncitha, Bungu and others) many years ago to go study advertising in the bustling metropolis of Cape Town in the Western Cape, she gave it to me. There was no need to lecture me to look after it because I knew how she loved it.

Cut to two years later when I had to leave it in my church for safe keeping until I could find new accommodation.

One day, after many months I went back to the church to collect it from storage. It was not there. The rapture perhaps? I wondered. I was assured that no rapture had taken place. No one knew where it was. It had mysteriously vanished in the Bermuda Triangle of the church. I assumed it had either been stolen or had disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle of Christian generosity – with other people’s stuff. I figured someone saw a suitcase filled with clothes and decided to give it away. My heart sank. What would I tell my mother? I was not worried about the clothes. I was worried about the suitcase.

For the next year, whenever I went home my mother would ask me where it was. I would tell her it was in Cape Town, of course I never told her I didn’t know where in Cape Town. I think she knew something had happened to it.

It was a dark, stormy Saturday night. Seriously. It was a dark and stormy night the day before I found it under the most unbelievable circumstances, Steven Spielberg couldn’t come up with a story line like this. It was dark, because that tends to happen at night. Stormy though is not something that happens that often at night. The winds howled, branches snapped off trees, dogs whimpered in the unusual weather. Little did I know that when I woke up the next day I would find my long-lost suitcase.

As I was getting ready for church that Sunday morning I got an SMS informing myself along with all the members of my church that there would be no service that morning. There had been a tornado that had ripped people’s homes apart in Manenberg and Gugulethu. It was our duty as members of the church to help people move their belongings and give clothes to those who had lost everything. And so, I went to my wardrobe and put on my Sunday worst. I could foresee a lot of physical labour ahead. Off I went for my Christian duties.

To cut a long narrative short, after moving furniture and rubble from four affected homes I was summoned to a fifth house. It was in this house where I would find the long-lost suitcase. Perhaps I should narrate this part in the present tense.

I step into the typical township four-roomed RDP house with a sense of purpose, if not a little tired from the manual labour I had just endured. The first thing I see in this humble home, which had been humbled even further by nature’s unforgiving force, are three broken bricks on a dented wet stove. Where the roof used to be is a blue innocent sky, pleading not guilty. My eye sees something familiar in the bedroom. It is a bedspread. It looks remarkably like the one I used to have. What are the chances, I think to myself. But, right next to the bed is my mother’s suitcase. It is soaking from last night’s rain. I say nothing. I help move various items out of the house to an unscathed neighbour’s house. My mind starts working.

Dilemma. What do I do? These people have just lost their house, what do I do. I summon some courage and ask to speak to the owner of the house. Her face looks like it has aged in the hours after the tornado even though I’ve never seen her. As I speak to her she almost doesn’t even see me. All I see are the many questions on her numb face. Where am I going to sleep? Where will my children sleep? How am I going to repair my house? She turns to look at me with her heart-broken eyes. As I begin to speak to her I can feel my eyes well a little. How do I tell her I want the suitcase after she has just lost everything? I tell her that the duvet is mine and so are sheets and so is the brown suitcase. She looks at me, for the first time, she sees me. “My son got that suitcase and what’s in the suitcase,” she says.

I tell her calmly that it is my mother’s suitcase, I don’t mean anything bad by it. Her eyes accuse me of accusing her son of being a thief. Her son walks in. He is wearing my clothes. I don’t know how you got it and I don’t want to know, it is not something we can discuss now. I tell her she can keep everything all I want is the suitcase. She says fine, prove it’s yours. She is a tough woman even under these circumstances. I open a secret compartment within the case and extract photos of me and my family. She looks at me sheepishly and gives her son a look only a disapproving mother can give. I unpack whatever is in the suitcase and I take it with me. Guilt-ridden but at least I had my mother’s suitcase.

My mother still doesn’t know that it took a tornado for me to find her suitcase. I keep it in the closet now. It is the skeleton in my closet. I guess not any more now that it’s a blog.

Khaya, the greatest man that ever lived

October 6, 2008 § 3 Comments

Stoooooopid video I made to the Chariots of Fire Soundtrack

September 15, 2008 § Leave a comment

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