By Katiso Thatho, Lesotho
This morning I woke and something felt amiss although I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I wasn’t sure whether it was just my imagination or perhaps something I had eaten the night before didn’t sit well with me. I left my home for school as I had done every other morning and as I locked my door, I saw my neighbour outside. I smiled as I did every other day as I waved hello but much to my surprise she did not wave back. As I looked closer I saw in her eyes a look of fear, the likes of which I had never seen before. Just as I was about to inquire as to what seemed to have been troubling her, she rushed back inside without giving me so much as a glance and hurriedly locked the door behind her. For quite some time I wrecked my brain trying to figure out what I had done to warrant such a response.
I continued my walk to school fearing that I’d be late although by now it had become quite the norm. Pressed for time, I increased the pace at which I was walking and a short ways down the road I encountered a familiar face that seemed to have as shaky a relationship with punctuality as I did. Every morning I’d poke fun at her as she realised just how late she was and she in turn would make some witty comeback about how I’m the last person who should be laughing at her for being late. This would go on until we reached campus and headed our separate ways, truth is I didn’t even know her name. Today however, none of that happened. From the moment we crossed paths she made sure to walk fast enough to remain ahead of me at all times and she too did not seem to want to make even the slightest eye contact with me. One thing did not change though. Out of the blue she began to rummage through the contents of her purse, probably thinking she had forgotten something important since she had left in such a rush all the while maintaining her pace to prevent me from closing the gap between us. Without realising it, she dropped something from her bag. It was an old pen of green ink that was a precious gift to her from her baby sister. I quickly picked it up with the aim of returning to her but as I called out to her in an attempt to hand it over she looked back at me and said, “its fine, I don’t need it anymore.” And she rushed into the distance.
I finally got to class and sat beside Ruth as I had always done. No one even bothered to sit next to her anymore because she had always preserved the seat next to her for me. Every day we’d get hushed at least ten times during a lecture by those who were seated around us because we could never seem to run out of things to talk about but today it was a different story altogether. For all my attempts at making conversation, all she could manage was the occasional nod as she gazed unblinkingly at the white board. At first I thought maybe she wanted to pay attention that day but upon taking a closer look at her notebook I realised she had not written a single word from since the moment I sat beside her. All I saw was her hand trembling as she tried her best to maintain her grip on her pen. After the class I tried talking to her, I missed hearing the sound of her voice and laughter as I told her of my relationship woes or whatever it is we would be talking about. As I got closer she held her books against her chest and wrapped her arms tightly around them as though the tighter she held on the stronger the force field they would create around her to keep me away. I realised that perhaps I should keep my distance and then I saw her loosen her grip ever so gradually the more the distance between us grew.
At lunch time I headed off campus to buy an apple from a street vendor I had grown quite fond of. As per usual, her three year old daughter was playing in the dirt within her mother’s line of sight. The child would usually ask me to play with her and I would reluctantly indulge her in a brief game of tag before buying a snack from her mother and being on my way. Today however, as soon as she saw me little Susan ceased all she had been doing and ran weeping to her mother’s side. As I tried to inquire as to what was the matter, she clung to her mother’s arm for dear life and hid behind her as though she was shielding herself from me. I turned my eyes to the mother and she too looked very frightened, more so for her child than for herself. Not knowing how to react or remedy the situation I handed her the money for an apple and she hesitantly reached out to receive it. I walked away feeling rather confused, not only by Susan and her mother but also everything else that had transpired that day.
I woke up in the morning and realised it had all been just a dream or rather a nightmare to be more precise. I went about my daily routine and when I saw my neighbour she smiled and waved hello but even in her smile I could sense an element of fear. As I walked to school with my companion in tardiness I could detect a hint of resentment in her witty comebacks that I thought had only served as a playful aspect of our daily banter. When I took my seat beside Ruth I could see a bit of unease in her posture and hear an undertone of trepidation in her voice and as I played tag with little Susan I could not help but notice the look of concern in her mother’s eyes. Up until now I have been blind to all these but now word has gotten out and I have heard the news. Being born a man means I was also born a monster. Every woman I encounter can’t help but wonder whether or not I plan to rip from her a piece of her humanity; a piece of soul, things that can never be gotten back once they are lost as many of my fellow brethren have done in many instances. I cannot really blame, after all it’s not like we all come with neon signs that glow red if we have only bad intentions. I sometimes wonder if it would just be easier to steer into the skid and become the monster they think me to be.
Maybe it is in my DNA and there really isn’t much I can really do about it anyway. Maybe then I would be spared the sleepless nights I spend trying to figure out how to win the trust of the people who are so close to my heart. But then again I also wonder what tomorrow holds, perhaps with the rising of a new sun we can choose to seek to understand one another and embrace a brighter tomorrow. If I had the answers on how to solve the problems that plague humanity as a whole I surely would’ve shared them all by now. What I do know is that where there is conflict, fear and understanding, nothing productive will ever emerge. It is only when we realise that we all fundamentally want the same things that we can truly begin to heal and step by step break down old norms that would seek to cause a rift between us as human beings. So once again I shall sleep and maybe when I wake up tomorrow it will be a better day.
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