I am who I am

2013-07-22 00:00

THE day she was born, she never cried.

“She is not like other children,” the midwife observed. It was only when they bathed her that she released a welcome cry.

“That’s more like it,” the mother said, clearly relieved. She named her Nomvula, meaning rain. Not just any rain, but consistent rain, because of the trials and tribulations she experienced before and during her birth.

Her friends preferred Thunder. For she could strike even boys into submission when they called her names like Miss Hulk. So, Thunder grew up with other children, but everyone thought she was different.

“She doesn’t play with other girls. She is different from the others. She prefers soccer to netball, unlike girls of her age. I don’t think that is normal,” her school teacher whispered to her mother one day at school.

Like other caring mothers, she had to confront her. She was worried about people’s observations and comments.

“I hear you don’t want to play with other girls and prefer boys. They also say you are playing men’s sport. What is wrong with you?”

Her respond was forthright. “That’s who I am mother. I can’t change who I am or what other people think, or what they want me to become. Take me as I am.”

Her mother was taken aback. She was angry, for her daughter had never spoken to her like that. Nomvula had always respected her, since her father had disowned her, saying he could not be part of a shameful family. What would the community say?

That was the last they heard of him.

“You don’t speak to me like that Nomvula. You are my only child and I am your only parent here.”

She reached for a broom shaft, broke it in half in a fit of rage. She walloped Nomvula soundly. Nomvula never cried.

When the assault ceased, Nomvula asked: “Mother, I never stop you from doing what you want because you are my mother and I respect you. But there is one thing that will never change. I am who I am. I never chose it, it was just bestowed on me, just as my father leaving was done to me.”

She paused and continued: “We wanted him to be here, to support us, but he was a coward and he chose otherwise. Mother, I am not a curse nor am I a disgrace. I am your only daughter, Nomvula. So, you have two options — you either take me as I am or I leave. But remember, whatever happens to me or you, I am who I am.”

Her mother cried. Nomvula sobbed too.

“I always wanted you to be like everyone else, but I guess I can never dictate how you feel, or who you associate with,” the mother said apologetically.

Nomvula smiled. Her mother reciprocated.

From then on, they developed an understanding. She was free to be herself, as long as she respected her mother. But the community had other ideas.

People whispered. And soon they started to talk.

“She is a disgrace to our community. What does she think she is? She thinks because she has muscles she is now a bull in this community. She is a disgrace. She has brought hate and calamity to our people. Someone must deal with her and show her who wears the pants in this community. What kind of a relationship doesn’t produce children?”

This was the verdict of the community taken in an isolated tavern while the men shared a tepid, half-quart of beer and a rolled tobacco twist that emitted a suspicious odour.

Together, they sought to cleanse her of the evil that possessed her body.

The last person who saw Nomvula alive was her friend Pretty.

When her body was finally retrieved from the urine-soaked thicket leading to her home, no one could identify her. Her face was smashed beyond recognition. The murder scene was the act of a devil. Huge boulders, weapons of her destruction, could be seen scattered all over the horrific scene. It was a scene dominated by blood and chunks of human flesh.

Her half-dressed torso lay bruised. That was the end of Nomvula’s tale, on a misty day, just like her name. She was despised because she wanted to be herself.

For that they hated her.

It is not a secret that among her aggressors were habitual robbers, pardoned murders, potential child molesters, rapists and consistent women bashers, prostitutes, drug peddlers, unrepentant alcoholics and bragging addicts.

This unholy alliance had sentenced her to a painful end.

Nomvula died because she chose to be herself. She was definitely not a coward. She was brave enough to reveal herself, unlike her murderers who selfishly ended her life in the dead of a rainy night.

• Derick Matsengarwodzi is a freelance journalist.

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