Thursday, July 7, 2022

A young girl’s walk through life’s disasters

My name is Naledi and this is a true life story.

My mother and father’s romance happened sometime in the late 60’s and led to their legal union in the late 70’s in Namibia. We came to settle in Botswana in 1983, after my mother quite handsomely inherited livestock, money and fancy materials, like cutlery they just don’t make anymore. Our lives and my story as I remember it unravelled in the Kgalagadi, settling in then an extremely remote dusty little village with one thin strip for a main road, Khuis.

Here, my mother ever industrious and enterprising, owned and ran a shop and butchery which she stocked with foods and goods form Kuruman, South Africa. We lived in what the village came to call ‘town’. Ours was the only big modern house in the entire village.

My father was this big, strong man whom I used to contentedly just love sitting next to and, at times, squeezed his blackheads as one of my pastimes. He possessed a passion for horse-racing, which I suppose served him and us well if only for a while.

So with mother busy running business, exporting bones and skin to South Africa, father with his horses and construction company was the pretty me, with the best dresses and shoes money could buy. I was the ‘beauty queen for consecutive years until the age of 9.

I basked in the glory and the celebration of wearing the crown, blindly refusing to see the cracks that were forming in my family. I remember mother asking me not to enter the beauty pageant one year to give others a chance at winning and I replied, “Why don’t you close your shops so you could give others a chance to be business owners too?”

Strutting around the village females flashing his wallet, which he must’ve thought was a fountain, caught up with Father’s when his turf went dry. Within a couple of months, we had lost everything we ever had. There was no money so business packed; we packed. I watched helplessly as my family disintegrated and hate, unhappiness, bitterness and, eventually, the feeling of abandonment set in.

I met the first boy who was to walk with me and take me on a road of many discoveries. I was 14 years old. Real life, I gather, was always headed my way but he was there at the gateway… besides Peter of course.

He was 20 years old. He told me that not only do I keep walking to school every day, I have to be an excellent scholar, nothing less would do. I listened to him. With him I went to every club there was in Gaborone, drank every kind of alcohol I could get my hands on and I got my daily food from his parent’s house.

He became my companion, friend, father and all. Two years later he became my lover, finally budging in to my long standing offer, to give him my body in return for his baffling generosity. Everything changed after he took me up on the offer. He went to university and always had his room packed with university girls. Girls who made a mockery of me and he joined them. I only let go when one day after school, I saw him through the window in bed with a girl “doing it”.

Back to just being Peter and I who, by the way, is the estranged son of my oldest sister Sandy, our landlord an elderly man who took it upon himself to sometimes bring us food let us stay on for quite some time rent- free.

Wandering about on weekends, sometimes my feet would carry me in the direction of my father’s girlfriend’s house which was in the same neighbourhood in Tlokweng. I lingered, slowly passing along the fence hoping to catch his attention; his burrow hid him so well I never caught so much as a glimpse of him.

The landlord’s son, Sekoloti, who gradually accompanied his father all the time, plainly drooled over me. The old man must have eventually felt the hole in his pocket to want the rent money and whatever his son said to him I’ll never know but he seized the opportunity to gratify his sexual pleasures in exchange for a roof over our heads. So he had me and a pervert he was.

I walked an insane distance, practically from one end of town to the other every day, through the seasons and barely with shoes on. I was, of course, partly motivated by the free food school offered and in part because I was intelligent and loved the mental stimulation of the classroom.

I was a member of the school drama club, which, maybe, provided some outlet for my emotional being. Junior school finished and I passed with flying colours. Unaware of the subtle change that had occurred in me, I went on to Gaborone Senior School excited and chuffed because at least Mary had bought the school uniform and it was a new beginning but hardly weeks into it I fainted at the morning school assembly. I was pregnant.

My mother had left me and left a note that began ‘keep the fire burning’. I’d never felt so lost, so helpless like I felt at 16 years old.

Where were the people whose prerogative it was to protect, guide and love me?
But this was only the beginning…not the end.

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