By Ayeza wa‘ Kagyenyi, South Africa:
Order in Class!
Mrs Radebe was standing at the front of the class. We hadn't noticed her walk in, as usual, nor had we noticed the other students enter class. Gossip is one captivating aspect to life. We always want to know what is happening with others, usually, not the good news. It is the scandalous, humiliating, de-humanising stories we want to hear. And Aya loved to tell.
School day ended and at some point along the path, everyone turned to the directions of their respective “homes”.
The conversation between the two men behind whom I walked in the morning came to mind. The details, the laughter, and the sense of accomplishment they seemed to feel. They enjoyed themselves for sure. Then Aya's pieces of gossip, but especially the one about a Gogo that had been raped, came to mind. I wondered whether the men were speaking about that same Gogo, but then I quickly discarded the thought. It would be preposterous; that the two men might have raped a Gogo, God forbid! I had heard Gogo say that life had taken a strange turn compared to back then when she was growing up.
At first I was perplexed that Gogo was not in her usual spot outside. I always found her outside. But then Gogo had also been “off” lately; spending more time inside the shack. She mumbled a lot to herself. It was always inaudible. Lately, Gogo was not the Gogo that I knew.
Lost in thought, I set about taking clothes off the line. They had been there from the night before. There was a cup just outside the door to the shack. Things seemed to be unusually out of place on the outside but Gogo was quite organised. I picked up the cup, clean laundry in hand and opened the shack door. Gogo was fast asleep on her small bed. She looked so peaceful. She really did look so peaceful. I would feel bad if I interrupted that. She hadn't looked at peace since that Sunday morning when she cursed the ancestors and had blood on her dress.
So I let her sleep, and set about making supper. I made her favourite hoping to cheer her up when she woke up. Pap and Tripe; I made it exactly as she preferred – frying the onions and tomatoes together first, and adding some medium Rajah spice, a pinch of salt (too much of it would hike her blood pressure) and finally the morogo and bring to a boil, leaving them to slowly cook until ready. Gogo taught me how to make Pap, always insisting that it needed to simmer for a while otherwise it would not be fully cooked.
Gogo was still not awake. Strange, I'd say.
It was getting dark outside and so I did the usual: shut the door and secured the lock. There was no television which meant my pastime would be spent on homework, and some more study if it was exam time. For now though, Gogo needed to wake up for supper.
I went to her bed and watched her peaceful sleep. I really did not want to interrupt that peace. She seemed to be in a calm place – in that moment, the cursing of ancestors, the sadness that had taken over her demeanour, the dark cloud of emptiness all seemed non-existent – how I wished I could have her this peaceful always.
Her chest was not moving up and down. Her nostrils did not open wider and retract breathing in and out as usual. She was just so so so peaceful. Perhaps I should let her sleep – she needed this one uninterrupted sleep.
I return to the food, served a plateful and had a quiet supper – alone. After cleaning my plate and covering the food to ensure it was safe from the invasion of ants, I proceeded to my mattress next to Gogo's bed and slept.
It must have been the sweetest sleep I have ever had. Dawn arrive unhurriedly. Gogo was still in bed, looking just as peaceful as when I went to sleep. I decided to make a dash for the bath room and prepare for school. Back from the bath room, I saw that Gogo was still asleep and in the same position. Something did not seem right. Something was definitely not right. I rushed to her bedside, and touched her – no movement. No response!
I began to shake her, harder, faster, violently.
Something catches my eye – right next to her pillow. There was an empty packet of rat poison. There was also a glass with a little water in it.
Oh Gogo!! Gogo!!!! Gogo!!!! Wake up, Gogo! Waaaake up, Gogo!!!
… Slowly, Aya's story…the two men on my way to school…the blood on Gogo's dress begin to make sense.
Gogo! Gogo! Gogo!!!! Wake up, Gogo! O God! Gogo, Wake up!!!!!
My name is Ayanda, Gogo Sibongile's grandchild. Gogo is an unaccounted and unnamed statistic. But I know, and I will not forget.