After Love – Chapter 9 — Graduation

For The Previous Chapter of After Love, “Sibling Rivalry” – Click Here

“I know I’m late, I’m sorry”. I said as I parked the car, quickly rolling up the window and looking at Namisa.

 

“You haven’t changed”, she said, “Always work first. You did the same with Oarabile”.

 

I didn’t need her reminding me that I missed a lot of his life. I want to blame the situation, I was student and working towards being a man who would provide for him but truth is, I only saw him on weekends and when it was time for exams I could go a month without going home so that I could concentrate and the responsibility fell on her to bring Oarabile to me.

 

She looked over to the passenger seat and frowned, I could tell she wanted to ask but held her tongue.

 

“Lonwabo had an emergency. One of her pupil’s parents called her and she had to rush to assist. So today it will be just you, Ora and I but she will do her best to join us later”.

 

Namisa sighed, “Birds of a feather I guess… It’s just a shame, Ora was really excited to see her.”

 

Sometimes I wonder if she is naturally sarcastic or wilfully sharp-tongued but in all the years of dating her, I learnt not to engage her in every comment.

 

“I’m ready to go. Where is my princess?”, I asked.

 

“Did you finally buy a car seat? I was hoping we could use your car. I don’t feel like driving”, she responded.

 

I was glad I bought the car seat, so she could finally stop nagging me but I had already made them wait an hour for me, so saying no to her request would have led to an argument. All I wanted to do was stare at Oratilwe the whole day. The last thing I anticipated was having to work on my day off but when the boss says he needs a report done, you get it done. I tried to work as meticulously as possible, so I wouldn’t be called back in today or tomorrow when I would be spending the day with Ora. It was my weekend with her.

 

We agreed that the three of us would take leave on Friday, go to the different crèches and not only see the premises but also see how the teachers interact with the students. Lonwabo was supposed to handle the talks on curriculum and with her not being present, the responsibility fell on me. We knew she was just in crèche but the plan was to keep her in one school for as long as possible. In my mother’s pursuit to giving me a quality education, I changed schools almost every year. Whichever school she felt was the best she would send me to that school, I even went to boarding school at some point but she didn’t like the distance and made me move back home. Eventually I got a scholarship and they were in charge of which school I went to but all I learnt from that was I wanted stability. I wanted Oratilwe to never have to make friends and lose them but rather to get a sense of home that I didn’t get.

 

Even though Lonwabo wasn’t going to be there, she gave me pointers on what questions to ask and I promised her I would report everything back to her.

 

Turns out as a man, I knew which university I wanted my daughter to attend because I knew how expensive studying can be and so I saved for that but I never put thought into what impact the crèche she went to would have on her.

 

We visited different schools, laughed at uniforms and batted our eyes at a few costs. All in all it was a good day. After all the evaluations were done we drove back to my place.

 

Lonwabo was yet to come home. Namisa and I agreed that it would be wise if she waited for Lonwabo to get home before she left, so we could discuss all the schools and try make a decision together.

 

She was in charge of keeping Oratilwe busy while I got dinner started.

 

“You know… You never cooked for me while we were dating, I wonder if you are any good. When it came to where to eat out, you knew your stuff but cooking… You never did, except breakfast. You make an amazing omelette.”

 

I looked at her and laughed, “If I want to afford to send Ora to any of those crèches then I need to cut costs and cooking meals instead of take-out is one of the ways to save. The tuition at those schools could feed a small family.”

 

“A small family?”, she giggled hard enough to almost sound like a laugh.

 

I forgot the way her face would light up when she was happy. Thinking about it, today was the first time the three of us were actually together like a real family.

 

“What?… Why are you staring at me?”, she asked while playing with her hair.

 

“Nothing. I am just thinking about today. I never tell you this but you are a great mother to our daughter.”

 

“Really? I am?”, she said jokingly, “Then I should be the one to pick the school right Baba ka Ora?”.

 

“Nope.”, I said, “If you pick the school then she’ll end up at that school you liked… What was it called again… The one with the purple uniform.”

 

“That was a great school. It was a black school and they taught Xhosa and Zulu. Oratilwe would have loved it there.”

 

I wondered if that was her deciding factor and why it mattered whether her child went to a black school or white school. I understand the fear of a black parent, sending their child to a school where their child may experience racism and I could tell her that racism exists in the world and not only in certain schools but I’m sure she already knew that.

 

“Maybe if we take the possibility of racism into account, the school has some merit but what do languages have to do with it Namisa?”

 

“I want my daughter to learn about her culture Angelo.”

 

“And why wouldn’t she learn that at any other school? How does going to a black school teach her culture?”, I asked.

 

“It will teach her how to fit in with people of her colour or are you saying white schools are better than black schools?”

 

“I never said that. Don’t put words in my mouth”, I said.

 

“You didn’t deny it either”, she remarked. “Predominantly white schools have been proven to lack the ability to accommodate South African black languages in their curriculums however are able to include Afrikaans. Therefore this results in idea that there are languages that are more significant than others hence decreasing the agency of learning African language by black pupils.”

 

Namisa’s words had me rolling my eyes. She loved culture and always felt it was her most defining feature. I admired that about her, the way she could speak about herself and where she came from and I wanted to give the same to Oratilwe but at what cost? Would I sacrifice my child going to a school that I felt would give her a great education in favour of one that had the option to teach her an African language.

 

“So you are blaming schools for children not wanting to learn about their heritage? What is the purpose of sending your child to school? If you are sending them to have a career and get an education then isn’t your argument flawed if your emphasis is on learning black languages and using them as a guise to absorb culture?

 

If you take into account the fact that languages can boost a career or allow opportunities overseas. Would you want our daughter to learn a language like Zulu that can’t be used in any country except South Africa, whereas a language like Portuguese is spoken in 10 different countries?”

 

I saw her place her hand on her hip and I knew an argument was coming.

 

“Angelo, do you then disregard the fact that your child is human, that she needs a sense of belonging and being rooted. Do belittle culture just because we aim for her to have a career oriented. In a case whereby your child has aspirations to be a musician or poet that uses their home language to express themselves do we then tell the child that no you can’t do that because it’s not globally recognized?”

 

I shook my head. “No, our daughter can be whatever she wants to be but other than becoming a poet or an artist, where would learning an African language take her? I want my daughter to go further than I did, even if that means she goes to live somewhere far away like Germany.”

 

I wanted to understand where she was coming from but I couldn’t. Maybe she wanted our daughter to learn to communicate better or maybe I didn’t value culture enough but no matter what she was saying, I just could not agree with it.

 

“She needs to be cultured, can we at least agree on that?”, she said with her tone slightly raised. “Going to a school where she can learn a language close to home will keep her cultured and give her a sense of pride. She will be spending around eight hours at the school or crèche and the one you liked had about two black teachers. She is going to come home speaking a language she can’t use, what is the point in that? You learn more about any topic or subject when you get a chance to study it. For example Zulu, you learn about the customs that are involved in that particular culture it is interpreted and understood. She will learn diversity at that school.”

 

“What? So you expect the school to teach her culture?”. I asked. “There’s a difference between expecting a child to be raised by a school and expecting a child to be exposed to a place that is accommodating and doesn’t plant a seed to make a child feel belittled or less significant than another. You want her to learn an African language basically because it is a nice skill to have and you want the school to take over our responsibility. If you can predict the future and our daughter wants to be a poet or maybe a language teacher then I can agree to send her to a school solely on that.”

 

“Angelo, if she won’t learn it at school then how will she be taught culture? Where will she learn it?”

 

“Here… With us… She will learn culture here. You and I are from different cultures ourselves. So do we now force her to take on English and two other subjects so that she can get both cultures or one culture takes preference over another?”

 

“No Angelo. That’s not what I am saying.”

 

She could see my blood was boiling despite me trying to keep my cool. We kept on going back and forth, arguing and moving closer to one another. Stating her case and me arguing mine.

 

“Angelo. Namisa”, Lonwabo yelled. “What’s that smell? If two could stop flirting from a moment, you’d see the pot is on fire.” She ran to the kitchen to turn off the stove.

 

Namisa and I got so caught up in our argument I forgot I was cooking and didn’t even hear Lonwabo come in. Slowly we backed away from one another. Namisa looking a little embarrassed and picking up Oratilwe from the mat.

 

“Come on Princess, let mommy take you to the bathroom and make sure that you nappy isn’t wet. If you’ll excuse me guys”.

 

She took her leave and left Lonwabo and I standing in the corridor, staring at one another. She looked at me and shook her head.

 

“I had a really long day”, she said, “And I am too tired for this. I don’t want an explanation. I just hope you know what you are doing.”

 

She said her peace and went upstairs. I thought today was supposed to be about Oratilwe, it baffled me how I was the bad guy once again.

 

Graduation – PDF

Jade Novelist ©️ 2019

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

The feminist in me,

can’t relate to the woman in you.

But I think it’s due to my lack of understanding,

I thought your road towards empowerment was for upliftment

Not knowing that the price you’d pay would be my opinion.

Somewhere between hello and goodbye,

I disagreed with you and you saw me as enemy

I don’t know if it was when I said a man can love and be faithful,

that not every father is absent by choice

Or maybe it was when I spewed that I believe in gender equality but setting your salary was beyond me

Because like you I’m still applying for jobs and getting turned down for no experience

If I had no dick, would my truths get preference?

But I digress,

I’m getting attuned to the feminist in me not relating to the woman in you.

So I never know what to say other than sorry for their actions,

and I forgive you for your mindset.

It’s sad that anything contradictory is seen as an attack on your womanhood

and now we use tragedies as ammunition when the sexes battle.

You’re slowly drifting from who you said you’d be and I’m running out of ways to be more than a mere obstacle to you.

Jade Novelist ©️ 2018

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