Gogo's Journals 1/4

By Drum Digital
19 February 2014

Thando learns how love can turn violent and understands why Gogo wanted her to read her journals.

SEPTEMBER 1962: There was no warning. Ben’s dad had been buried two weeks before. He had died peacefully in his sleep. He left the world in much the same way as he lived in it. He was a nice man, gentle Ben came home from work today with a face like thunder. I have never seen him so angry. I felt his wrath as though it was a dark force in the room with me. He stood hovering in the doorway of the kitchen, glaring at me with those cruel brown eyes – his mother’s eyes. I was standing at the stove mashing butter into the potatoes with Moses on my hip. Moses had been crying on and off the whole day with what turned out to be a summer cold. Frankly, I was exhaustedand I couldn’t wait for Ben to come home to relieve me of Moses. The toddler would down he’d scream his little head off. “They think I’m my father!” Ben threw his briefcase on the table and covered the distance from the door in three angry steps. “Mr Nyeke gave me six Cornish hens for my work.” He gave a harsh laugh. “And Jesse Mhletywa gave me a pig. I’ve spent weeks ensuring the taxman doesn’t take any of his precious landand he rewards me with a pig!” His smile was cold and derisive as he took his wrath out on me. “They don’t mean any harm,” I said, laughing to ease him out of his bad mood. Later we’d laugh about it together and and kind. I miss him very much.

Begin to nod off, but as soon as I put him wonder where we were going to keep a pig and six Cornish hens.

“They are just trying to tell you that you’re one of us now. It’s a compliment really, as it means that they have accepted you.”

“Do you really think I spent years studying in Cape Town to be recompensed with a pig for my efforts?”

“They will settle with you once they get the money,” I said slowly. “By giving you the pigs and the hens they are telling you that we won’t go hungry. These are proud people, Ben – they always settle their debts.”

“My mother was right. She kept telling me I’d live to regret settling here. It’s such a backwater – and when I think what my old schoolmates are earning in Johannesburg and Cape Town . . .”

I played along with him even though his cruel words cut me to the quick. His mother never settled here and rushed back to Cape Town only days after her husband’s funeral. We were all ignorant country bumpkins according to her, and her son had married the worst of them. I forced myself not to get angry. I wasn’t going to allow this vile woman to come between us now. I was relieved she had returned to Cape Town. All I thought of was finding words to soothe him. “Just because your mother never liked it here doesn’t mean you won’t,” I said before turning back to the stove. Moses had gone quiet in my arms. “Why don’t you give it a few months and if you really don’t like it here we can move to Cape Town. I’ll go anywhere you want, love.” “Don’t you ever speak of my mother in that way!” He grabbed hold of my hairand half dragged, half carried me across the kitchen floor. Moses woke up and began to scream at the top of his lungs. My heart was pounding heavily, my breath rasping in my throat. I’d never known him to be this angry. I had to find a way to calm him down. Moses was still yelling in my arms. “I’m sorry,” I said softly, not knowing what I was sorry for. I was trembling with fearand if he hadn’t put his hands out and taken Moses from me I would have dropped him. He was full of remorse afterwards. It was only later that I read that wife-beaters always are. I also learned that they say that they will never do it again, but they always do. At first I tiptoed around his moods, always fooling myself that if I did every-thing just right then he wouldn’t strike out again. But the only person I was fooling was myself. That was the day when my migraine headaches began. I never told anybody how he hurt me. I was too ashamedand he was always sorry afterwards. But that didn’t stop him from lashing out at me whenever the mood struck him.

-by Agnes Kimberley

To be continued...

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