13807105504_f183ba5113_zWhat went wrong, you don’t know.

When what went wrong went wrong, you don’t know either. But after pinching yourself ten times to ascertain that you are wide awake you know for sure that something went very, very wrong, commencing maybe an hour or less before your arrival.

Who is to blame for what went wrong, you can only guess.

If history is anything to go by, if it truly repeats itself like they say it does, if it can be used to determine the future as accurately as they say, then truth is the person being punished for what you still do not know is not to blame for what went wrong.

Upon your arrival, you stood by the front door and flirted with the evening breeze. It flung your petite silver dress and exposed your black La Senza underwear. It sweetly caressed your thighs. You imagined your mother wearing that pair of chocolate heels, skinny blue jeans, and chocolate blouse you helped her select at Foschini a week ago in anticipation of this very evening.

You fished out your old house key and inserted it into the keyhole, psyching yourself to yell ‘Mummy I’m home’ before turning the key and letting yourself into your mother’s living room.

You imagined her hugging and kissing you on the lips while crooning ‘my baby’ like she always does, making you feel like you were five. In your mind’s eye, you saw her excitedly dragging you to her debonair new lover, smiling nervously at the prospect of meeting a potential stepdaughter.

These heart-melting images were having a Zumba session in your mind. You were giddy. So when you cat-walked into your mother’s house on your silver-heeled black stilettos,  you did not expect to witness what you witnessed, neither did you expect to put an end to what you put an end to.

Nothing in this whole wide world could have prepared you for it. I repeat, nothing in this whole wide world, especially after all these years, could have prepared your for what still has you literally shaking right now.

So what exactly did you see? That which you shudder to ponder, that which makes you recoil and stiffen as the wave of nausea envelopes you while nippily mutating itself into a ball of raging fire. Yes, when you flung the mahogany door wide open and mindfully closed it behind you, your eyes landed on an unimaginable familiarity. She was sprawled on the living room rug. Lifeless she lay, while his size twelve Pinocchio-nosed Bronx shoe crushed her face. As if preparing dough to bake Setswana muffins he kneaded his foot, repeatedly squashing and stamping her face into the ground. This savage act continued for another three seconds while you stood numb, perplexed and disgusted at the very sight of it.

“Stop it!” you thundered, signalling the record-breaking typhoon that had formed within you.

You raced towards him, grabbed him by the foot you wished to break and pushed his surprised ass into the nearby bookshelf. To your pleasure, its contents whacked him like unannounced oversized hailstones on a sunny day. After your mother’s feeble whisper, “I am alright,” and after making sure that except for the shoe print that traced itself on her face like a cheap tattoo she was not physically broken, you turned to the abuser.

You grabbed a few books that had fallen off the bookshelf and with all your strength hit him with them and grinned at every hint of pain you inflicted. You got him thinking the demon of anger had got a hold on you. Forceful and unrelenting ire he distinctly saw in you and it punctured his balls.

“You son of a bitch, why fight someone who is not even fighting back! You filthy disgusting… aaarg!” You ran out of words of contempt to say to your mother’s evidently violent new lover but your hands impulsively took over. The sight of the stunned man did not evoke feelings of sympathy in you but the very sight of him brought out the wounded tigress in you. Stitched lacerations of old cracked open and your heart pumped vengeance-infested blood to your head. You grabbed a wooden chair and vehemently threw it at him. It crashed into his ribcage, making him spit his breath.

“Are you trying to kill me?” He seemed dazed.

“No, just simply implementing the ‘an eye for an eye’ principle,” you responded, crazed.

“I am sorry I lost it, okay. It’s just that she was being disrespectful.” He mumbled the ridiculous excuse that made your temperature rise.

“Disrespectful? What is she, your child? Nothing justifies you trouncing my mother, you abusive jerk. Didn’t your father teach you how to treat a woman right? Oh let me guess, he was an abusive skunk too,” you screamed, picking up and throwing a wine glass with its barely-sipped expensive contents at him. The liquid slapped his face, and its sticky fermented beads rolled down his cheeks, making him appear as if crying. The glass itself caught him on his chauvinistic mouth, cracking his lower lip, leaving it bleeding only to meet its functional end on the concrete tiled floor.

“Aah, what the…?” he winced, examining his minor injury. “Look, I don’t know what came over me…” he was blethering when you cut him short.

“Oh you are in luck, because I do, it’s the same thing that came over every man that has ever laid a hand on my mother and every other victim out there, you murderer,” you said, hurling hard-cover after hard-cover towards him.

Though he did everything to block your attacks –except lay a hand on you, an event in which you were convinced you would have killed him had he tried– you hit him with this and that for all the times you failed to stand up for your mother. One hardcover smack was for your mother and your infant cries that still echo in your brain when you remember the abuse your mother had to endure from men. You then took off your stilettos and tossed one towards him with all your might for the time when the three-year-old you was almost trampled to death by the shirtless man who chased your mother all around the house, jumping on and off the bed you lay, hitting her all night long for God knew what. The last of the pair was for the bastard who thought he could do whatever he wanted because he had paid eight cows worth of dowry for your mother’s hand in marriage and adopted you in the process.

The one that gambled his salary, tore his clothes into pieces and beat himself up to make it look like he had been mugged after which he would walk home, then three houses away from his compound he would start howling like a dog signalling the death of a Chief. When the perfect-cover-up did not work on his smart wife he would beat her for having brains and for seeing past the senseless act while neighbours looked on; it was a barbaric norm for men to butcher their women in those days. The noxious mean beat-your-wife-and-blame-it-on-witchcraft gambler who did not understand how his self-employed wife could make enough money to pay his daughter’s school fees, buy food and even have enough change left to buy herself a dress and him a pair of takkies.

You are buying me shoes from money you receive from your boyfriends, his coarse voice boomed within you as you showered, with bile, the man who drew the cork off your two-decade bitterness accrual. Books, books, more books you threw at him and barraged him with wordless insults. He was obviously shocked at your reaction but in your anger you translated that as ‘you can’t hurt me, you silly weak thing’, the way you always felt when that father of yours did what he knew best. So to prove you could hurt him you grabbed the vase and threw it at him but he dodged it and it broke into pieces when it hit the floor. That infuriated you even more because you had loved that vase so you grabbed two bronze summer deco balls and hit him with them screaming, ‘fight back, you bastard’.

“Stop, stop it,” your mother’s faint voice pleaded as she awoke from her beaten stupor. “Leave him, let him go, Kitso,” she said. Though you heard her words, they didn’t relay enough meaning and command to make you behave differently. So you threw more things and then topped it up with punches and kicks at full force, all of which he did his level best to dodge but one always found its way to his fleshy regions.

“Stop it Kitso,” your mother’s voice rang with resolute conviction the second time around. The man took advantage of this, though slightly bleeding and limping; he swept past you and aimed for the door.

“Don’t come back,” you shouted out fiercely while the glass you sent careening towards him mated with the back of his head.

“Mama,” you crooned and crouched next to her, happy she was alright.

***

Pregnant with sadness, you are. Your head weighs tons elongating your neck beyond its spring. Beyond the clouded skull your eyes hide while lightning continuously tears through your temple.

Why an intelligent, loyal and hardworking woman such as your mother has the worst luck with men beats you.

The floor upon which both of you are sprawled is cold despite the rug. Nothing has changed though the man departed at the speed of lightning almost twenty minutes ago. One quick scan at the rampaged house confirms that all had been real. Warm tears slide from your eyes at the painful truth, a painful repetition of history. You long to dip your freezing body in them. You hold yourself tight and inch back like a defensive chongololo. You dread to open your eyes again. You hold them tightly closed.

For a few minutes you toy with the idea that all is well. In your mind’s hopeful eye you see yourself inserting the key into the key hole, turning it and pushing the door slightly open to let your petite figure into your childhood house. Once in, you see your mother sashaying towards you; glass of wine in hand she hugs and kisses you as usual before her debonair boyfriend shows up.

“Hello, you must be Kitso, your mother has told me all about you. She is a proud mother, and now I see why,” you imagine him saying while tenderly shaking your hand before lugging you into his warm, good scented chest for an unexpected fatherly hug.

“Thank you, I have heard a lot about you too,” you say, somehow feeling like you have just mouthed a cliché. You mentally kick yourself for this while he pours you a glass of champagne. The three of you toast to finally meeting, to a happy future. You silently toast to your mother finally finding happiness after so many years of kissing-dating-goodbye, a thing she did to protect you and herself. The woman really had bad luck with men whom, for some weird reason, she always made feel inadequate. Your mother came from a poor background but she schooled herself, worked as a maid when she had to, started a small business, and the list of developments and wealth she acquired thereafter goes on and on.

Unfortunately the viciousness of the men she dated grew in the same manner from strength to strength until she decided she was done with men. In this sense, you imagine yourself toasting to this one man that has changed the cause of history. If only thoughts were truths, you would all be headed to Liban restaurant for dinner and would proceed upstairs to Sky Lounge were the twosome and you would sip on whiskey in candle light, under the stars in the ‘posh-subterranean-hideout-up-in-the-skies’. You smile at these thoughts but they quickly vanish and are replaced by anger when your mother reaches out for your hand and kisses it three times. You know the kisses represent the words I-Love-you, this gesture makes you cry.

What went wrong, you wonder, taking us back to the opening sentence of this account.

“What went wrong Mama?” You ask your mother the question you had prayed you would never ask her again. What happened, everything seemed to be going so well and you had never been happier? You ask, dabbing tears off your face.

“His brother,” your mother says amidst an exasperated sigh.

“What?” you say, wondering how the brother fits into the story.

“He thought I hooked up with his brother behind his back, as if I would do that in ‘his front’,” she says and laughs at her own joke.

“That’s crazy, what gave him that impression, unless of course his brother is way cuter in comparison?” You also try to lighten up the conversation.

“Well, remember when I said we were driving up to his parents’ farm for a family gathering, his brother and a whole bunch of other people were there but his brother and I just clicked you know. Nothing sexual or romantic, just as friends, but as you can guess Clement didn’t like it. He kept his mouth shut until today.”

“I see,” you respond while your brain tries to wrap itself around this innocent piece of news. “So what led to the violence and an end of something that seemed to be good until now?”

“Him telling me not to go golfing with his brother next weekend though I had already agreed to go. Me saying he can’t tell me what to do and him saying that my going against his will would only be a confirmation that there is something brewing between me and his brother, me telling him I am not a child and that he would have to learn to trust me and him saying that was what all the women who had fallen for his brother or his brother had stolen from him said and he wasn’t having it this time around etcetera-etcetera,” she sighs as if exhausted by the very effort of talking.

“I’m sorry,” you say while reaching out for her hand and kissing it three times. “But why Mama?” You feel the conversation you never had presenting itself. “Why don’t you ever fight back, all those men and not once have you fought back. Why?”

The answer is a long time coming and you fear you may have crossed your African cultural boundaries.

“Because of you,” she says finally to your relief, but the answer is a bit troubling.

“I have never asked you not to fight back.”

“Not that, I just never wanted to die at the hands of a man and leave you in this crazy world without a parent, a mother to call your own,” she says.

“Sounds sweet but it’s a bit silly.”

“Try having a child and all the silly things somehow will make sense.” She makes you wonder how it would have been growing up without a mother. You brain refuses to wrap itself around that very thought. It’s unthinkable really. Even worse is the thought of her being there one minute and being snatched away by death at the hands of a man the next minute.

“You are right. I am sorry.”

“Don’t be. I am just grateful that you have better luck with men than I do. If there is one prayer that God has answered in my lifetime it’s that you experience real love. But if a man ever even raises his voice at you, ever threatens you in any way, it doesn’t matter what time it is or where you are just call and I will come get you. Just come home, you hear me,” your mother says with sudden fervour.

“I will do that under one condition Mama,” you say, taking a leap of faith.

“Anything for you my baby,” she murmurs.

“See someone. I’m thinking a psychologist, I will pay.” You bite your lower lip and your heart momentarily stops beating.

She does not respond. You watch her intently. Her fingers twitch, a sign that she is nervous. After what seems to be a lifetime she exhales heavily. “You know a man could beat you so thoroughly you would fit under that couch,” she says pointing at the ten centimetre gap between the couch and the floor and you both burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of the idea.

“I’m serious though.” She wears a serious tone and sits up. “But if you think talking to someone would help me while protecting you in a way I will do it,” she agrees to your relief. You sit up and embrace her.

“Thanks, needn’t worry though. You should have seen me in action tonight, I can protect myself. I swear that man will never lay a finger on another woman again.”

“Haha,” your mother laughs. “Believe it or not, I watched it all. Pretended to be out, it comes naturally with years of practice,” she winks and you both burst out laughing though pain pulls at the strings of your heart. Nevertheless, you are thankful that even after all the ordeals your mother has not lost her sense of humour.

 

********************

Post image Noodlect via Flickr

About the Author:

Portrait - TshipaSharon Tshipa is a Media Practitioner and co-founder of the Botswana Society for Human Development (BSHD) NGO based in Gaborone, Botswana. She has stories published in Deyu African, StoryMondo, The African Street Writer, The Kalahari Review, and Running Out of Ink online publications. Her Short Story titled ‘Like Little Ones Do’ won her a 2013 Kola Magazine Award in Nigeria. Tshipa is also a CACEAfrica 2014 and 2015 Writivism Writivist.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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