No, Gogo!

2013-10-31 00:00

THE sounds of rural animals awake me. (I am, after all, not used to them.) Daylight pours mercilessly into the open bedroom. I sit and stare blankly at the ceiling and remember my fate for the day.

I realise that the dreaded day has dawned. Gogo is cleaning my intestines out today — using a concoction of freshly picked aloe leaves, water and an alcohol-based household cleaner that smells like old, rusty nails.

She has to put the mixture in with a pipe, through the anus. I imagine the excruciating pain that I’m to experience. My blood freezes. They do this practice in the rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal, and now that I’m here, my dad says: “Why not share the pain?”

I get up tentatively and as my feet meet the cold tiles, my twin sister Monica wakes up too. She asks where I’m off to, and I tell her the bathroom as I’m feeling the slightest bit nauseous in my nervousness.

“Don’t tell Gogo that,” she warns. “It will only give her more reason to cleanse us.”

“I won’t, I promise.” I step out into the lounge and head on out of the door to the bathroom, situated inconveniently by the gate. Instinctively, I turn around to look over my shoulder as I walk. There, staring out from the balcony into the open, brownish-green fields stands Gogo. I tiptoe discreetly towards the loo, trying not to attract her attention. It’s actually as if my efforts are in vain, because the next thing I know, I hear her shouting my name and telling me to go and fetch fresh aloe leaves, straight from the stem. I turn around and respond: “Yebo, Gogo.”

“And fetch the basin from the kitchen!” I hear her stern-but-old voice call. I now sprint to the bathroom, finish what I need to do and step out in search of aloe leaves. I get small ones on purpose, so that the juices aren’t strong. My cousin calls me for breakfast and I hurry up to the house. I place the aloes outside so that every time I look up from my plate, I don’t see my feared fate. I find my pleasure, and relief, in food — good food.

“Niyabona-ke? This is why you need ukuchatha. Look at all the junk you’re eating!” Gogo exclaims, gesturing towards the food. “Don’t bath after you’ve eaten. Just go straight down to the toilets when you’re done.” She turns to look at me: “Where’s the aloe and the basin?”

“The aloe’s outside, but the basin is in the kitchen. I’ll take it just now.” I glance outside for a while, wishing I could just escape from this horror of a nightmare.

“Right!” I hear her say. “Masihambe.” She goes to her room and comes out with a five-litre bottle, in which there used to be juice, with a pipe attached to the end. I stand up looking miserable, and fetch the plastic basin. I morosely and bare-footedly walked there with the weapons of destruction. She tells us to strip to our knickers.

The sun beats down and this only makes my mood worse. I watch Gogo remorsefully as she takes her cauldron and mixes all the ingredients for her ethnic potion. Wickedly, she smiles as she sees that her magic potion is turning out brilliantly, and asks the daunting question: “Who’s going first?” Naturally, no one volunteers. My little brother has found something that has caught his attention, so he’s out of the question. I turn slightly to my little sister who’s chewing her nails vigorously. She’s obviously nervous, too. Finally, I look over to Monica. I don’t know how, but I know she’s telepathically telling me that she’s not going to go first. I don’t want to argue, so I say to Gogo:

“Me.” I bite my lip in regret. What am I doing?

“Woza-ke,” Gogo says, patting her lap gently, trying to entice me so that I can sprawl over it. The trick, I think, is to relax. She gestures once more that I sit on her, I think because she sees me hesitate. I go to her and lie down. I feel faint with nervousness. I hear her fiddle with the mixture and put it into the bottle.

“Three, two …”

“Waahn!” I screech. I feel something squelching in my stomach. Desperately, I wiggle myself out of Gogo’s grasp. “No, Gogo! No!” I run to the bathroom to alleviate myself from the pain. As I quietly sit in bliss (away from Gogo’s weaponries), I get disturbed by a knock on the door. Unfortunately, I come to realise exactly why: “Brandy, Gogo says you have to do it again.”

• We will be publishing stories by the finalists in our True Stories of KZN 2013 competition in the next few months, before announcing the winners in the last week of November.

BRANDY Zulu is 14 and in Grade 8 at GHS. “I love cooking, laughing, friends, school and life,” she writes. “I have four (four!) other siblings, including my twin sister Monica. Overall, I’m a happy and optimistic person, and try to make the best laugh out of everything. I would describe my mind as an unstoppable train of positive and creative thoughts that sometimes go off the rails. I’d like to thank my English teacher, Mrs A. Harley, for her encouragement.”

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