Forgotten Summers

never more than this

Excited, she wrapped a dark brown sarong around her waist and paired it with a matching vest. 37 degrees outside meant it was impossible to wear much else. She yanked on her only thong – a pink lacey thing that cousin Nathi had smuggled her during the Christmas holidays. She had spent an hour wondering how she was supposed to wear it as it sat in between her but cheeks in the most rude manner. The thing rode up her buttcrack and annoyed her to no end, but the smut she and her dorm mates read under the duvets with the lights from the screens of their contraband cellphones after lights out told her that this is what men liked.

They had slowly progressed from stolen kisses behind houses after parties to similarly stolen caresses in corridors or outside each other’s gates. Family friends. Nobody would’ve suspected anything untoward was going on when the phone would ring and he would asked for her after politely thanking her father for the lift home earlier that day.   “Never more than this”, he would whisper, whilst lifting whatever t-shirt she was wearing that day.

She made short work of the one and a half kilometre walk to the dams and giggled as he sauntered up to her, gave her an aggressive kiss, circled her waist as he always did, and pressed her smaller body against his. She imagined one day she would enjoy the exchanges as much as she enjoyed the way his hands felt when they slid into her panties. She grimaced inwardly until the exchange was over. She’d gladly endure this to feel that pleasure. It was the height of summer in her second last year of secondary school  and sun rays were dancing in between the trees, dappling the undergrowth and the well-worn footpaths. Her pulse quickened as they approached ‘their bench’, forcing her to direct extra effort at answering his questions about her day.

The bench was a solitary one, placed there as if for sneaking lovers who had nowhere else to share their secrets. It was positioned in the most confusing manner, facing neither the water nor anything else worth staring at. The shrubs and trees that surrounded the space served as a private enclosure. He gently but emphatically pulled her onto his lap, straddling him, face to face. Her resolve to breathe easy failed. Dismally. If her dark skin could blush, she was sure she would be the colour of the slightly ripe tomatoes weighing down her mother’s plants in the garden. He tugged her head down and kissed her again. She counted in her head as she waited and like clockwork, 22 seconds later, his right hand snaked into the parting which opened over her left thigh and stroked that soft place. Gently at first, then with a strange urgency that he had never exhibited before. He didn’t even notice the pink underwear she had so deliberately donned to impress him. He tilted her back and reached into his tracksuit bottom’s waistband and pulled out his ‘friend’. She had never seen it before and almost fell off his lap at the reveal.

He must have sensed her fear and withdrawal and quickly rubbed her lower back and whispered the familiar “never more than this”.

When she felt the sharp pain she knew what had happened. The fog of confusion and pleasure immediately cleared and she jumped off his lap and battled with the tears and the knife of betrayal slowly twisting in her gut. Her heart. He mumbled what could have been words of remorse or comfort, but she heard nothing through the roaring in her ears. She pulled her underwear into place and as she raised her hand, saw the evidence of her trauma on her fingers. She wiped vigorously on the flimsy material which clothed her as he stood up and righted his trousers.

“You should go home.”

She did. He walked with her in silence until the entrance to the nature reserve and disappeared the way he came. The cars driving past were a blur. The barking dogs which yelped from behind high gates and walls did not register. Even the customary catcalls from the neighbourhood gardeners did not make her skin crawl the way they usually did. The tears had long stopped as she entered the house. The renovators were still busy so she could not shower for at least another hour. She changed panties and wrapped the soiled lace in newspaper and plastic, the way her mother had taught her to wrap her blood every month and deposited it in the outside bin.

As soon as the last visitor had left, she took a tepid shower and checked that she was clean a thousand times before shutting the water off. As she applied Vaseline to her skin, she looked into the mirror, perhaps expecting to see signs of what had happened to her. She saw nothing. Her forehead was still slightly round, made interesting only by her widow’s peak, the only thing her mother had passed on to her. Her black eyes, deeply set, still twinkled with the youth she had felt slip away on that bench. Her teeth were still evenly lined in her mouth and when she smiled, she was still the prettiest girl her father had ever seen.

She stepped into the kitchen and started helping usisi with supper. She played the old radio which sat in the corner next to the bread bin loudly, the way she always did and laughed when usisi cracked some joke about her grandmother’s antics. Like she always did. And the next day, she woke to make breakfast for her siblings, like she always did. She continued with her life that way the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that.

Diaries of a day drinker

*pours more vodka and adjusts the fan*

Happy New Year everybody! Yes, it’s early. The reason for this is that I spend every new year’s eve in church. I don’t know what I will do with myself the one year I don’t make it to Africa (read Zimbabwe) for the holidays. If this ever happens, please can someone strap a whistle and my address to my person? I can guarantee that I will be comatose by the time I am required to make my way home.

As I write this I am sipping on vodka and coke. I’m usually a wine drinker however, Africa makes it unreasonable for my pocket to sustain my preference of  the red stuff and they don’t have my nice bottles. So I buy vodka and lace everything with it.My Mazoe (I cannot explain this to you. You must experience it), my coke, my tea.. There isn’t much to do at my house over the holidays. Our helper is away so I am the helper. I use the strong stuff as both motivation and reward (I’m a good master). Also, I have a curfew here. You know, the usual African girl child curfew that stipulates that any youth that possesses a vagina must be within the gates of the homestead by 6pm or sunset (whichever occurs first). The vodka helps pass the time.

The vodka (bless the Russians) is also an amazing thought stimulant. This year has been a roller coaster for me and because I am such a lovely individual,  I shall share what few pearls of wisdom I have gathered. In truth, these are truths my mother should have shared with me but we’re black and we don’t believe we should share important things with our children until they are married. (except ‘stay in school, don’t have sex and booze is bad’)

A few months ago I fell for a boy whilst I was busy minding my own business. I swear I wasn’t looking. (ain’t that always the way) The boy expressed his desire to chill but was crystal clear about his commitment issues but I fell anyway (because I’m a girl and if you pay me enough attention I will plan our wedding). Chile, when a man says he doesn’t want a relationship or is a fuckboy or likes dressing up in his grandmother’s pantihose, BELIEVE HIM. DO NOT FOR A SECOND think that because he’s hitched himself to your particular brand of female that you can change any of that. And even if you do fall please #thuglife your way through the mess. Play the Backstreet Boys at home whilst you guzzle the wine but be Beyonce pretending to be single when you leave the house in your 5  inch heels.

The trouble with blurred lines and uncertainty in romantic situations is ambiguity. Are we a thing or not? Does he really not mind that I’m a raging alcoholic who hates the gym? Did he enjoy my cooking or was that a ploy to make sure I put out? Where in defined relationships there is security and you can ask these questions and trip when he gives the wrong answer (yes, there is always a right answer), in blurred lines situations, you don’t ever know where the boundary lies.

Know yourself enough to know whether this is a person with whom you can handle uncertainty or one that needs to know that you are high maintenance woman who likes holding hands in public. And then be honest with both yourself and him about what you want. If it doesn’t work out, you can always visit your mother and clean her house for two weeks whilst perpetually tipsy.

*pours more vodka and adjusts the fan*

Another thing women are never told enough is that we don’t come with ‘sell by’ dates. Be single. Be married. Be divorced. Be a mother. I am surrounded by women in each of these situations who haven’t hit thirty and FYI, they are currently QUEENING. SLAYING. Living the heck out of their lives. My plus one is almost always a woman I love. And I refuse to apologise for being 25 and slaving away to prepare my future (whether there is a fabulous man pouring my wine and letting me help him take his empire to dizzying heights or not). Love yourself so hard that the absence of a partner is not a vacuum, but more room for your wine.

Always carry condoms. Having been raised in a Christian home, sex and condoms are taboo subjects unless euphemisms are being used to describe how cousin Thandi’s belly got big. Thandi most likely got pregnant because her person didn’t have condom and was surprised when she accused him of hiding her period. Men don’t get pregnant and can walk away when you do. Buy the damn things and stay ready. Do not be sold dreams about team skin-to-skin or team pull-out. Do not allow your aunts to tell you that carrying condoms makes you a penis hungry slut. The world is already on team men-run-the-world, they don’t have to run your womb too.

Finally, dear black girl, scrub your knees. With a stone. Our mothers have always taken pride in our dirty knees because it means we can polish the life out of wooden tiles and future husband will appreciate this. Mandela did not die so you cant wear a mini-skirt and be proud of your knees. Shine that floor and exfoliate like you are being paid for it.

Much love and hopes for mini-skirt summers

The Empress

 

 

 

 

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