After Love – Chapter 7 – The Trouble With Faith

For The Previous Chapter of After Love, “What Should Have Been” – Click Here

It’s been three years since I was last here.

Everything looks the same. The sand, the sun. I remember the day we laid Oarabile to rest. I was amazed to see so many people there to celebrate a life that was short lived. He could hardly form sentences yet everyone had so much to say about him and what he meant to them. It felt so fake.

The condolences and smiles, many didn’t want us together as a couple and losing Oarabile was the cement they were happy never dried.

Even though Namisa and I had dated for years, this was the first time our families were really in the same place. We never paid damages for him, scheduling the negotiations was always a problem and so that was the first time our uncle’s met.

He went from being our beacon of hope to someone we mention in memories. His death took everything from me. Her family and mine parted ways, my friends and family distanced themselves from me. Kyle, Tsebo and Nhlanhla didn’t know what to say to me. Then again who was I to judge, I hardly had much to say. I spent most of the day comforting Namisa and doing small talk on her behalf. Now here I was on my own, staring at your tombstone, trying to find words and wondering if you even understood the role I was meant to play in your life.

“Hey OB… It’s me… Your dad. We used to play together. It saddens me to think you are nothing more than a box in the ground, a body that has probably decayed. I don’t know if you heard but you have a little sister now.”

They say the dead should not communicate with the living but I took the whistle of the wind as a sign that he was listening. Maybe he was and maybe I was just that desperate for him to exist somewhere other than my mind. In her healing she gave away all the things we bought Oarabile, so I didn’t have anything to remember him by other than his baby pictures.

I was left with his baby pictures and a deep dislike for Winnie the Pooh. I used to love the cartoon but seeing Winnie on his tombstone made the sight of the teddy bear unbearable.

I was also the one left with all the questions. ‘How did he die?’, ‘Was he ill?’, ‘How is Namisa taking it’, ‘When will you be ready to have another child?’. Namisa got time off school, time off from the world. She had three weeks to rest, and just shut off everything. Her communication was limited to myself and her immediate family. I on the other hand was thrown into the world.

I still had to attend lectures, be social, I had to still be happy for everyone. My mother was falling apart, my cousins were hurt and I had to be there for them all. I had to keep their world together and pretend mine wasn’t falling breaking apart. A man is strong, so the death of my son shouldn’t not have phased me. After all a woman has a natural clock and a man can have a child anytime. A lot of people felt I should have leaned on Namisa but whenever I tried to open up to her, she would burst into tears because I would just bring the pain back for her, so I would put my emotions on hold so that I could comfort her. In the end I realized that their ‘lean on her’ was just their way of saying I should be there for her because this is harder for women than it is for men because they are more connected to he child.

Putting Namisa first, the questions and being forced back into society with no support; I don’t know how I made it through and managed to retain some part of my sanity.

Namisa and society aside, it wasn’t that the questions weren’t valid, it was just that I didn’t have answers myself. She couldn’t tell me what happened. She said something about being at a family friend’s place, that he was fine when she last checked on him and that when she checked again he wasn’t breathing. Some people said maybe her ‘cousin’ rolled over and suffocated him, others suggested he was poisoned and others said it was just God’s will. With all the confusion, an autopsy seemed insensitive. I asked Namisa for one and she asked if I blamed her or her cousin for what happened, that I suspected them of foul play. She brought Oratilwe to me because she didn’t want to leave her with anyone who wasn’t immediate family, I guess a part of her blamed her cousin too.

No one taught me how to parent. They all expected me to just understand. My mother, Namisa’s parents, none of them shared their experience or raising a child or what they learnt. They just felt I should know, maybe because I was once a child. They forgot that they were once children and when I needed guidance, I needed more than “you are a father now”.

Adults think that is enough, in that statement I should understand all my responsibilities and making the right decisions should come naturally. No one said I would be affected more than just financially, more than just my time management would need to change. No one said he would own all of my being or that having a child meant gaining the risk that losing them could crush your soul beyond repair. Everything became about them even things that are not related. No one said you could find yourself at a gravesite talking to yourself.

“I blame God for taking you. Not every couple who wants to, can conceive. He is in control. He lets rapists and murders get to old age but you were a soul without sin and you left us before your first birthday.” I spoke but no wind this time. I wasn’t sure if you disagreed with my sentiments or our heavenly Father silenced your lips.

I think the worst part of it all was that I was the one left without faith. They say God doesn’t choose favourites but Namisa healed faster than I did and she said it was because of Him. Three years later and I am still stuck in the mind of a man who refuses to accept that the first person he ever buried was his son.

“I blame GOD”. I cried. “I blame you. I am mad at her for not seeing I was in pain, I am mad at my family for demanding that I be okay but I am mad at you most. I was a good son to you but you took mine from me. I blame you for letting me love him, I blame you for letting him breathe and I blame you for taking him from me without giving me a chance to say goodbye.”

Some would call it blasphemy, I wonder if it makes me a sinner for questioning His choices or more of a believer because like any son, I can admit I feel betrayed by my Father?

My Father took everything from me. My friends didn’t know what to say or how to relate. I was the first to have a child, I was the first to lose a child. They were still processing the former, how would they now comfort me through the latter?

My relationship with my mother suffered. I remember the look on her face when I told her Namisa was pregnant. She was angry, she said things she could never take back and things I am yet to forgive. She had all that anger over something that didn’t last that long.

“I know she misses you too.”, I said with a smile on my face. “She hasn’t asked to see Ora, she wants to wait until she is sure Ora is mine. She doesn’t want another grandchild taken away from her.” I hoped knowing that he couldn’t be replaced would make him smile, that the fact that my mother and I still missed him would give him some sort of comfort and maybe he would forgive us for never visiting.

“I passed by the way. Your father is almost CA. I work at this great accounting firm in the Vaal. I wrote my last exam and I am waiting for my results. I believe I made it. I only saw you on weekends, so I have no choice but to have made it right.

I told you I was mad at God, I am mad at my family and my friends but Oarabile, I am also mad at you. You took away the love of my life. I am sure she told you that we don’t talk much anymore. We didn’t until she told me about your sister. She was in the hospital and she needed blood and… I’m sure she told you all about it. She told me she visits you every chance she gets.”

Namisa was always stronger than me. She hid Oratilwe from me but maybe it’s because I wasn’t as strong as she needed me to be. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I ran to another for comfort and gave them more than I was allowed to give. Vuyo had been my best friend for so long that it made sense to talk to her. We shared everything. She was comfortable enough to tell me when she was on her period and needed me to get her pads and she was the first I told when I found out Namisa was pregnant. I don’t know who took advantage of whom, was it I who was mourning my son or her who had just fought with her partner. We both needed comfort, we just found it in the wrong way. We agreed never to speak about it and the next time we spoke, she and her ex-boyfriend were pregnant and expecting their first child. I was hurt that she hid that she was pregnant from me and I couldn’t think up any reason I told myself that she was still giving me time to recover from losing Oarabile. Maybe she was just protecting Oratilwe from having a weak father in her life. A father who still held on, a father who couldn’t forgive his creator.

I stood there in silence for a few minutes. The sun was setting and I still had so much to say but words would not leave my lips and my heart was just as silent. Being there felt like both an accomplishment and a moment of disappointment. This was the first time I was here but it took me so long to get here. I knew I couldn’t stand there forever and wallow in my thoughts, I still had to drive to Vuyo’s place. She and I hadn’t really spoken since the night Loni moved in and she said she was worried about me, so I said I would pay her a visit before I went home after seeing Oarabile. She didn’t really give me much of a choice. She said she knew I would be a wreck after going to the cemetery and so I promised I would see her before driving home.

God gives and God takes. Losing him taught me that God does things and doesn’t give reasons, I learnt to feel God is unfair and chooses tests for His children based on how well He thinks they will cope. Despite the anger and my feelings, in all this, my biggest struggle was with myself because I still held on to Him. I stopped praying, I stopped spreading His word and going to church was a thing of the past but I knew He was still there, just watching me suffer. Whether He was rooting for me to recover or not, I just knew He was watching with the son He took from me next to him.

God broke me, took all I have and even though I didn’t believe in His love anymore, I still believed in him. I suppose that is the trouble with faith. Some take misfortune as a sign of God’s non-existence but I took it as a sign that He doesn’t love me.

The Trouble With Faith – PDF

Jade Novelist ©️ 2018

After Love – Chapter 3 – This Isn’t Awkward

For The Previous Chapter of After Love, “My Name Is…” – Click Here

And so it began, the ‘Your son got our daughter pregnant’.

Followed by ‘Your daughter hid the child from our son’.

Which led to ‘Your son broke our daughters heart, she was just protecting herself’ and ending off in ‘Well, if she knew what protection was we wouldn’t be here, would we?’.

My mother could never hold her tongue and now we were at war. However the biggest battle she faced today was in her heart, the person she saw as her daughter hid her grandchild from her. Her words expressed her anger, they expressed her sorrow but they couldn’t express the betrayal she felt.

I looked at Namisa, looking back at me, wondering what was going through her mind. Did she feel the guilt I felt? Our families used to get along. Our mothers used to be best friends but now they attend different mass services to avoid one another at church. Before her father passed, he was like a father to me and losing our son broke his heart. Even though Namisa and I had dated for six years, we first met in primary school, so he knew me from childhood and even helped me fill out university application forms. He was sad that his children grew up too soon but happy that we went against our instincts to abort and came clean.

Namisa’s mother, MaKhuzwayo was happy her only child was giving her a grandchild and my mother was more worried about Namisa than she was me. Even though I was her son, she shared Namisa’s fears, that a man’s life moves on after a child but a woman has to adjust. As a single mother, I couldn’t blame her. My father died when I was two years old, one of his mistresses had a jealous boyfriend who would kill for what was his. So my mother had to learn to parent on her own and although she tried to find love with other men after him, it was Namisa’s father who filled the role of a father in my life.

Jabulani Khuzwayo said he would always be there to hold the family together but he joined his grandson a few weeks later and that is when our worlds started to fall apart. Our break up forced everyone to pick a side.

Today, the family he held together was tearing at the seams. The Khuzwayo’s sat on one side of the table and the Motaung’s on the other. It had been two weeks since I found out about Oratilwe and five days since she got discharged from the hospital.

In between the screams and shouts I recalled the conversation with Namisa. “Angelo, I didn’t mean to hide this from you and I’m not sure if you believe me but Oratilwe is your daughter. She is our daughter”. She put her hands on my shoulder as she said those words. We stood over her incubator, the sight of all the tubes broke my heart. The doctors said she would be okay but still I feared I was days away from attending another funeral. I was going through my wardrobe in my mind, looking for a black suit and wondering who I would invite to say goodbye to someone we didn’t even know existed 24 hours ago.

I always felt we messed up the first time. I had just turned 20 and in three months Namisa and I would be the same age again. I don’t know what made it worse, that we had just started university when Namisa got pregnant with our son or how we fought to spend time with him. We recorded everything; Oarabile’s birth, his smile and his cry. We praised him when he crawled and our parents made sure he lacked nothing. It takes a village to raise a child and we were a happy village.

Despite the fact that Namisa and I tried to keep the relationship going for a year after his death, I hadn’t spoken to the other half of my village since his funeral and now here we were sitting face to face to discuss how I abandoned their daughter. In their eyes I got her pregnant, she lost a child and my life moved on.

“Can I go to the bathroom?”

“Ummm… Are we allowed to do that?… Can I go to the bathroom?”. His question broke my concentration and silenced the room.

Namisa laughed, “Yeah, sure Kyle. I’ll show you the way”. She was grateful for the silence. They were discussing how our lives would proceed but we were expected to just sit and listen to whatever decision they made. She got up and led Kyle to the bathroom.

Malume Ntando was not impressed with Kyle, “What is that white boy doing here?”, he asked. As Bab’Khuzwayo’s younger brother, he was the new head of the family. “He should not be here. In fact, what are the women and children doing here? This is a matter for the men.”

My uncles, Tsebo and Nhlanhla agreed with him or at least for a moment they did until their eyes met my mother’s gaze. “This is not a matter for men, it is a family matter involving our children”.  Nokukhanya Jasmine Motaung was a woman many would rather avoid than deal with, her sharp tongue and quick mind made her a dangerous opponent.

“But Khanya, this is not in our culture.”, Lungelo spoke calmly in support of his older brother, “Women are not normally part of this, let alone the children”.

“But hiding children is part of your culture, right?”. My mother responded with no hesitation.

The room went quiet again.

MaKhuzwayo stood up and called to her friend, “Jasmine”.

My mother looked at her, “Yes, Nomthandazo.”

“Come. Let’s go to the living room. I want to show you this new dress I bought yesterday morning when we got here”. She held out her hand, uncertain if my mother would take it. MaKhuzwayo was the total opposite of my mother. She preferred to avoid conflict and always tried to calm the situation down. I was surprised when I saw her in the room when we arrived and I thought she would excuse herself after greetings had been exchanged but a big part of me felt she stayed because she missed her friend, her sister. They stood staring awkwardly at one under until he walked back into the room.

“So what did I miss? Is it going to be a goat or cow?”, Kyle always had bad timing but today his timing was at its worst.

My uncle Tsebo burst into laughter and Nhlanhla put his hand on his forehead. Malume Ntando clicked his tongue, he was annoyed and his words only echoed his mood. “What are you doing here? What do you want here?”.

“Well. I’m dating this girl and I want to marry her, so I’m trying to understand as much about your culture as possible.” He knew he put his foot in it, after the last word his face cringed. I admit even I was a little offended, we were meeting to discuss my daughters future and Kyle had his own agenda. I needed moral support and he was using us as guinea pigs.

Malume Ntando stood to say something but my mother rushed in, grabbing MaKhuzwayo’s hand and then Kyle’s. “Noma… Friend… That dress. I would love to see it. Come on Kyle, maybe you’ll find something for Jessica.”. She led the way laughing.

Namisa stood up and walked towards me, “Angelo, can I talk to you?”, she whispered. I had nothing to say. I tried to justify her in my mind and always fell short of feeling like I deserved this. I stood up and started to make my way to the front door with Namisa shortly behind. As I reached for the door handle, I heard Malume Ntando shout out, “Don’t make a third one”. Her face turned red, she always found him embarrassing. If he wasn’t drinking, he was busy chasing a new skirt.

I stood on the patio and stared at the street. This was the second time I had been to her family home. It had lost everything that made it feel welcoming.

“So what’s her name?”, she asked.

“What are you talking about?”, I knew playing dumb wouldn’t work but what right did she have to information about my life?

“I know you.”, she said. “Since we exchanged numbers I can see your Whatsapp statuses, I know how you post when you are in love. So what’s her name?”.

“Lonwabo. Her name is Lonwabo”.

She smiled, “Lonwabo, that is a beautiful name. Have you told her about us?”

“Us?”. I asked surprised.

“I mean Oratilwe and I. Not… Ummm… I am talking about Oratilwe and I”. Her words came out almost like a stutter. “Angelo, I know no words will ever excuse what I did but I was figuring things out.”

‘Figuring things out’, would I be able to accept that? Was that reason enough? I lost 2 years of my daughter’s life and her reason was that she was figuring things out. “Well, have you figured them out now?”, I asked.

She shook her head and I let out a sigh.

She moved closer, “I am happy that you could find love again. I have been thinking what you said that day at the restaurant. I didn’t know that I was hurting you. I really thought everything was okay. I hope you will forgive me some day”.

Her lips were moving and she said the things I waited a long time to hear but there was no emotion in it. It sounded like she was saying what she thought I wanted to hear and if she couldn’t be honest, one of us had to lay it all on the table. “Namisa, I want to unlearn all the bad habits loving you taught me. You made me feel small for wanting to have a career, every opportunity I had to be greater, you feared it was an excuse for me to leave you behind. Our relationship was toxic and I learnt to be comfortable in that.”

“Toxic???”, she exclaimed. “No, not toxic, we had our issues but we weren’t toxic. I made you happy. You were happy. I did the best I could, so I deserved a man who would keep his promises.”

“And I deserved to be in my daughter’s life but I guess we don’t always get what we deserve do we now Namisa?”. I was annoyed. I was so annoyed. Here I was telling her that we had so much to work through and all she cared about was what she deserved. She was the victim again.

“We played pretend, I acted like the things you did didn’t hurt. When I spoke and you didn’t listen or when you apologized and your ‘I’m sorry’ carried more weight than mine. I would need to beg you for forgiveness and you’d question my love for you if I didn’t forgive you immediately. You had to…”

“That’s not true”, she interrupted, “We were fine. After he died, we were fine. We still laughed together, we still spoke”.

I shook my head, “I made jokes because the awkward silence was too much for me. I had to make conversation, if I didn’t call or text you wouldn’t make an effort and then you would be upset and say that I got too busy for you. You were mourning our son. I was mourning our relationship. I couldn’t deal with you noticing me anymore. I wanted to be seen. Talking to someone who doesn’t listen is the same as being invisible. Our relationship was toxic. You acknowledged that I was using words but they never reached your heart. You only remember the painful words. You could always tell me how I made you feel but could never acknowledge how you made me feel. You stopped being the person I was in love with.”

“I can change”. She moved closer and put her hand on mine, “I can change. I can do better. Don’t we owe it to Ora to do better”. I couldn’t believe it. She was using our daughter. I moved away. Being near her was making me sick.

I felt the phone in my pocket start to vibrate. I looked at her and she understand she needed to give me some space. “Hey Loni… Yeah… We will be spending another night in Durban. My mother wants to go visit her sister. So you only need to fetch me at the airport tomorrow. Okay… Bye… I love… you”. I don’t know what made the call more awkward. This was the first time that I had ever said I love someone else in front of the mother of my child who I once thought was the love of my life but this was also the first time I had ever told Loni I love her.

Namisa and I just sat outside quiet, occasionally looking at one another with nothing to say. Just silence. 15 minutes of silence until Kyle came to get us, it was lunch time and he was excited to try African food. We went in and said grace, we knew this was a short break before the conflict would start again. At least this time, we would argue over Ora’s future on full stomachs. Namisa went to sit in her corner and I sat in mine. If we had anything more to say to one another, it would remain unsaid for today, we were parents again, we had bigger priorities.

This Isn’t Awkward – PDF

Jade Novelist ©️ 2018

After Love – Chapter 1 – Hello Again

“Did you love her?”, the words rang clear over the sound of glasses hitting tables and forks meeting plates.

I didn’t think she would start with that; no ‘Hello’ or ‘How are you?’.

I got there first, I picked a table in the corner so we could have some privacy and if she yelled it would be muffled by the noise from the kitchen. It had been nearly three years since we last shared the same space, let alone looked in one another’s direction.

My nerves normally got the best of me but this time curiosity won the fight and I needed to know why she called.

I was about to order my drink when she walked up to me, her glare scared the waitress off. “Hi, I’m Thembi and I will be your waitress today, would you like to hear any of our Spur specials or can I get you something to drink?”.

She shook her head gently then sat down. Thembi could tell it wasn’t a date and excused herself in the most polite way she could think of, “Would you like 5 more minutes to decide? Sure”. We sat in silence with seconds feeling like hours, taking turns to look at our phones or stare at anyone who walked past the entrance. She let out a sigh and then led with her question. I knew better than to make her wait but I didn’t have enough time to plan my response and “I didn’t love her, I loved how she made me feel” slipped out.

“How did I make you feel?” she asked. This time I paused, I wouldn’t rush it and say something she would find fault with. “She looked at me like I had worth, you just noticed that I was there”.

“That wasn’t what I asked”, she quickly responded.

“You made me feel alone”. She sat and stared at me, her response was the look of disbelief on her face. She never took to my pain well. Whenever I was hurting or not okay, she saw it as a test of strength. Maybe I was at fault for feeling like I always needed to be strong or that my character made it seem like I could handle anything but the problem this time was that I never expected to feel this kind of pain.

“You were alone Angelo? You were the one alone? We had just buried our son and while we were mourning you found comfort in your mistress, I was alone. You… You were happy”. The sarcasm in her voice was a reminder of why communication was our biggest struggle. She couldn’t acknowledge anything other than “I love you” or “Yes, whatever you want” but this time I wasn’t hung up on making her happy but saying what I have been keeping in.

“I was in pain. Pain you chose to ignore. I needed someone who didn’t make their pain feel more important than mine and while I was finding ways to deal with the pain, I hurt you and I am sorry for that. I apologized for it and you said you forgave me. I thought you forgave me”. It came out. It was my truth, I just wasn’t sure if it was enough for her but it was my truth.

“No. I said what I knew you wanted to hear. How do you forgive someone who finds new ways to hurt you while you are struggling to heal? I told you I still loved you and that only had meaning for you after she was done with you. When she was done, it was my bed you ran to and because I needed to feel something other than the pain, I let you in”.

“Namisa, I am not justifying what I did to you, I am telling you what happened. Someone else had to deal with the problem you chose to ignore. You chose to overlook that I wasn’t okay because you needed me to be there for you. You needed me to be perfect, she wanted all the broken pieces. So she took them, so I could be who you needed”.

I could see the anger building in her eyes but before she could let out a slew of insults, she was interrupted. “Hi guys, is everything okay? Would you like to order now”, Thembi arrived with her best smile on. She could feel the tension but she knew she had a job to do and that Namisa wanted her gone. “I will have a passion fruit and lemonade, he will have an Appletizer please. No ice for both of us”, she said. Thembi looked at me for approval, I nodded but she looked on for a second longer, almost as if she was waiting for a hint or sign from me asking for help to escape or if this was really okay.

Old habits die hard. As Thembi walked away, we once again sat in silence. She seemed upset she still knew what my favourite drink was. After dating for six years, we had been on enough dates to know what the other likes. I wasn’t sure if she was upset or rather embarrassed. She was quiet when Thembi returned and asked what we would like to eat. I felt the need to make her feel like she wasn’t alone in this, that the memories were still clear in my mind, so I ordered on her behalf. A steak fillet with extra onion rings for her and a full portion of ribs for myself.

“I love you. Those were your words”, she whispered. “You said them first Angelo, you broke down my walls. How could you have done that to me? To us? I admit that I could have done more, been there more but did I deserve that pain? I haven’t been able to let anyone else in since you left”, she continued. She looked down at her plate. Took a deep breath and asked, “Do you regret it?”.

I had never thought of it or asked myself that question. “Do I regret it?” I asked, “Is that why you are here? Are you here for closure?”. She shook her head. “If not closure, then why are you here Namisa?”.

“Angelo, the truth is I just wanted us to talk”, she said calmly. Her body language and demeanour had changed. Her face had a serious expression. “We need to talk about everything that occurred between us and what happened afterwards because …”.

Before she could finish the thought, her phone rang.

She stared at it for a moment, contemplating whether to answer or not. “Sorry Angelo, it’s my grandmother. She has been texting me all day. Her calling means it must be something serious, if you will excuse me”. She stood up and went to the bathroom. I sat playing with my food, while waiting for her. I couldn’t understand the purpose of our meeting, if all she wanted to do was rehash the past then this served no purpose, we had both moved on. She got a new job, moved out of the Vaal and I had just started working.

“Angelo, I am sorry. I have to go”, she said out of breath as she rushed to take her handbag. “I am sorry, I have to go”.

“Wait. What? Is everything okay Namisa?”, I asked a little concerned.

“Yes”, she responded. “It’s just something I need to deal with at home. I will call you and we can meet some other time. I am so sorry. I have to go”.

Her phone rang again.

“Hello. Yes, this is Namisa Khuzwayo speaking. Yes, Oratilwe is my daughter. Yes… Yes… My grandmother just called me. I am on my way to the hospital right now”. She took her car keys and rushed out without giving me a second look.

At first I thought she was rude but I understood that it was a family emergency and that her daughter needed her. I called Thembi over and told her to pack away the food and bring the bill. I drove home. Poured myself a drink, thinking of our past together and how we always thought that our love would last forever.

It hurt to think that her life had moved on without me. Namisa and I both wanted to have children. We both wanted to big family and now she had Oratilwe, a name we chose for the daughter we would have one day.

“Hi. Angelo. I know it’s late and I am sorry I had to leave like that. Oratilwe was in an accident and I am currently in the hospital. She keeps crying saying she wants you. So if you have time, please come. Her full name is Oratilwe Jasmie Khuzwayo.”, I read the text a few times confused as to why would her daughter want to see me. I felt my heart begin to race the moment I realized that her middle name was the same as my mother’s. She had my mother’s name. Without a second thought I texted her back asking for her location, I needed to go, I needed to see for myself, I had to know if what she was trying to tell me earlier was that she was pregnant when our relationship ended.

Hello Again – PDF

Jade Novelist ©️ 2018