Tagged: Dakin

Thula Baba

I am stuck in the birth canal, inside my mother. All that Doctor Kaizer can see is a tiny patch of my head; pink and blonde. Everything else is swollen folds of red skin stretched into circles and covered in blood, mucus, discharge, remnants of broken water.

My tiny eyes are still shut. Forced shut by being pressed up against the walls of the tunnel everyone is trying to get me out of. So I don’t see the “vanity screens” wheeled around my mother in the labor room, with faded lime cloth scrunched onto the upper and lower rods of a shiny silver frame. Or the hospital-issue, light blue sheet tented over her lower body, her legs stirruped in icy metal holds. Don’t see the white-uniformed nurse handing polished steel tools to the doctor. Or the steel kidney bowl that holds these scalpels, surgical scissors and the glossy new clamp that will grip my umbilical chord when I am finally born. Don’t see my dad holding my mom’s hand but unable to look anywhere near me, or where I’m coming from. Continue reading

Starting a high school chapter

My mom is a person of perfection. She is elegant and tall and made from obedience. She is also made to be obeyed. Throughout my primary school years she insisted on piano lessons, extra-mural activities and academic achievement. In the shadow of her pointed finger and clanking gold bangles I spent half an hour before school practicing my scales and every weekday afternoon struggling to perfect things like chess and hurdles and my twelve times table. Then things shifted: One ordinary afternoon her car revved up our farm’s driveway and brought with it its usual fume of panic and “have-I-done-all-my-chores?” But when she pulled open the glass sliding door and stepped into the kitchen, I knew that today the first question wouldn’t be, “Is all your homework done?” Something significant had happened. Her eyes were alive in a new way; not tired or frustrated from the daily rub of farming and expectations. Instead bright and excited, relieved. And in her hand she held up a big, white envelope. Continue reading

About

When I read magazines I always open at the back page and read forwards. I can’t eat a bowl of ice cream without first mushing it into a thick, icy paste and pretending that it’s a double-thick milkshake. Sundays are for planning the week ahead and Mondays are for tracking my expenses of the week before. I often forget to feed Possibility, my goldfish; Hope, his companion, died two weeks ago. My plants go unwatered for days and then drown in the love of being watered every hour. I like watching the water drain into the dishes under their pots. In my heavy party days I also liked seeing how dark my urine would be on Monday mornings. Somehow seeing the polluted ochre stream leaving syrupy tannins in the toilet bowl gave me a sense of power and control. Or it just pointed to how fucked up I managed to get that weekend. In those days Sundays weren’t for planning.

Making a cup of coffee is the first thing I have to do every morning—filling my percolator with water, grinding coffee beans, spooning the fine brown powder into the cone, snapping the switch and waiting for the aroma to welcome my senses has become my mandatory morning meditation. I re-read emails just before and immediately after clicking Send. For some reason I only find mistakes on that second read. My work emails are eye-stabbing-ly boring. They all open in the same way: “Hi,” new paragraph, “I trust that everything is well” or “So good to see you the other day” or “Great job with those templates” when I’d rather they dared to break the mold and inject more of non-work-me into the correspondence. Sometimes I just wanted to write “I think the way we do things is pretty screwed up.” Daniel, a kindred spirit, brother and mentor, writes wonderful emails: “Dahling, if you feel energizing little quivers running up and down your spine, just know where they are coming from—with SO much love and fabulousness from Mama Afrika,” or “I have so many email addresses for you dahling, but wherever you are, you are in our thoughts” or “I hate Skyping. You have to do hair and make-up.” No need for a “Hi” or new paragraphs. Just his voice in my ear while I’m reading.

I don’t reply immediately to emails or texts or Facebook messages, even when they’re open, right there on my laptop or phone. Rather, I close them and carry on my day, making a mental note to reply later. Often I forget to. Saying “So nice to see you” and “You look great” is empty and pointless, most of the time. Unless you mean it. I used to make decisions on a point system. Then I moved to Pro and Con columns. Now I make them on a gut feel and in a split second, even though they sometimes take days or months to be acted on. This is a decision: writing and sharing, in a no-holds-barred kinda way. Maybe it’s a literary photograph album of my life. Maybe one of my mind. Maybe neither, just words on a page that you bring your own story to.

I write because it’s the one place I can break the mould and feel like I’ve done a good job doing so. A meme that’s also a musing. Where I don’t have to conjure an online personality, just copy and paste from my notebook. Also, I’m better at putting words into deliberate sentences on a blank page than making them mean exactly what I want them to, right in a moment; delayed release where things can make sense (after much editing, snipping, trimming, replacing). Then I feel said. And that feels oftentimes better than feeling heard.

I share these sentences because they don’t know how not to be. At least not yet. Maybe one day I’ll wonder why I posted paragraphs with such abandon. For now I’ll just ponder why I prefer to read magazines from the back forwards.

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