A true story
The rain fell down sporadically, seeping in through tiny holes, awaited by buckets and pans ,blighting Lindiwe’s concentration. Far in the distance she heard the hungry wails of an infant, the drunken assault of a husband to his wife and the Jovial tunes that cranked at full volume at Beeza’s shabeen. Inside the meek one bedroom shack she shared with her Gogo, she could hear her snoring heavily and wondered how she managed to sleep at all, with all the noise that echoed into the night.
The recycled candle was burning out as Lindiwe squinted her eyes against the dim light ,attempting to decipher the poorly hand printed symbols .Math’s was not her strong point and she had only several hours before her final. Fighting fatigue she clambered off the makeshift stool to the gas stove, switching it on. She then went to the water bucket and filled a pot .Once the water had boiled she filled an enamel cup, threw in a recycled tea bag and scurried back to her seat. She assessed her notes morosely, wishing for text books, which may have made life significantly easier, whilst sipping the bitter tea, she’d prepared.
Time elapsed inevitably and soon Lindiwe found herself in the examination hall,fatigued,apprehensive, with a head throbbing miserably. The clock overhead seemed abnormally loud , earsplitting, pencils drumming on wood rhythmically to a swift tempo, the pit patter of feet on cheap vinyl hindered her concentration .She looked at the clock over head and thought she may heave.’ So little time left’ She agonized to herself anxiously.
‘Alright! Pens down.’ bellowed a stern invigilator.
‘Pens down!’ she reiterated in a no nonsense manner. Lindiwe placed her pen down as the invigilator collected the scripts. Surrendering her head into her palms, silently trying to conceal her apprehension. She thought of her Gogo and how proud she was that Lindiwe would be the first one in their family to matriculate and go to varsity but now all her dreams promptly vanished as reality kicked in that she may not make it after all, the fear of failure. She wiped her tears and looked up to see Thuli staring at her from across the hall. She was smiling encouragingly. Thuli was her best friend; she was also Lindiwe’s biggest support system. Lindiwe had dreams of being a writer and going to Varsity, Thuli encouraged her and believed in her, even when she herself didn’t.
Though the two were best friends, they couldn’t have been more different. Where Lindiwe was shy and reserved, Thuli was daring, outgoing and on the wild side. Her father was abusive and her mother feared him. She was a delicate docile creature but converted and concerned about her feral daughter. She was critical of Thuli and felt ashamed of her rebellious daughter at times but loved her nonetheless.
The two walked to the station hand in hand, reminiscing over the past year and for the first time in weeks Lindiwe felt at peace,
‘I can’t believe we’re done with High school!’ Thuli enthused.
‘Hai wena! Don’t get too excited, how’d you know we’ve passed?’
‘Oh Lindie of cause we both know you’ve passed and whether I pass or not I’m not going back’ She laughed.
‘Remember when you were suspended for smuggling jack Daniels into school? Oh my gosh, I thought I would die! You never ratted me out Thuliswe.Your still the best the best friend ever!’ Lindiwe hugged her gently as they waited now for their train.
‘It’s been quite a year,well years, wowI’m gonna miss you’ Tears welled up in her eyes now ‘ What am I gonna do without you?’ mused Thuli emotionally
Linidwe assessed her friend now ‘Make your dreams come true Thul.You’ve always dreamed of being a model. Look at you, you’re beautiful and so tall. I wish I was half as pretty. Thuli smiled at Lindiwe’s sweet words. Sighing now, she looked down at her feet,yeah who knows, but I really am gonna miss you though’. Looking up at her friend now appeared a glint of mischief in her eyes. Lindiwe laughed.
‘What you crazy girl?’
‘Tomorrow’s our matric farewell!’
‘Yes and?” Lindiwe knew Thuli was up to something
‘And so is the after party’ stated Thuli genially
‘No no no! No after party Thul,Gogo won’t allow it, besides Beeza’s gets rough!’ Chided Lindiwe
‘Oh come on, soon you’ll be leaving me anyway. Just do this one last thing for me.Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease’ She pleaded
Lindiwe looked at her friend disheartedly
‘Low blow ’ she said frowning now ‘Fine you win,I’ll go’
Thuli embraced her friend triumphantly as they boarded the train. ‘Besides Siswe might be there’ added Thuli
‘I don’t like him Thul,his not the right guy for you, his a player and you know that. I think-‘
‘Sometimes you annoy me!’ snapped Thuli brusquely ‘No one is good enough for the-‘
‘THULI!’ rebuked Lindiwe indignantly
‘No Lindie just stop being a snob. I like Siswe and I think he likes me. You’ve seen how he looks at me when we’re together‘. ‘Yes and every other girl around.’ Lindiwe stood her ground but felt a hint of remorse for her friend.
‘Okay fine, I’ll butt out, okay?’ Thuli smiled at her now.
The train drew to a halt and the passengers made for their leave. At the station Lindiwe and Thuli found themselves hustled by a several young men. The girls recognized them as taxi guards. They ignored the wolf whistles ,vulgar comments and continued on hastily, when one of the men ran after them and grasped Thuli inappropriately on her behind.
‘LEAVE ME YOU PIG’ she bellowed
‘Oh you like this’ retorted the brute.
‘Leave us alone!’ pleaded Lindiwe
‘Ha, you dress for attention but won’t take it. Look how short your skirts are’
Thuli hauled him off and kicked him in the shin. The thug collapsed to his knees in agony as the girls fled. When they were finally out of sight they burst into a fit of giggles .
‘Yoh! I ‘ve never been more scared in my life’ Exclaimed Lindiwe
‘Oh my gosh- did - you- see how I kicked him’ Thuli exclaimed between breaths, hyperventilating.
‘It’s not right you know. Whether we wear short skirts or not, men have no right to harass us. It’s a free country and we have the right to dress as we please.’ Expressed Lindiwe vehemently.
‘Yes, well men are dogs’ chomma , they want what they can’t have’
‘Yep,I second that,kinda like Siswe’ Stated Lindiwe in mock horror .They burst out laughing once more and finally split on the corner of their block.
At home, Lindiwe’s Gogo awaited her arrival. She was met at the door by delicious aroma of tripe and trotters.
‘mmmm Gogo,what you making?’ She asked curiously, her stomach grumbled in hunger.
‘How was your paper?’ asked her probing Gogo in their native Zulu.
‘It was okay I guess’ Gogo gave her a reprimanding look.
‘Okay fine. I was overwhelmed but it will be okay’.
‘I’m proud of you Lindie and I’ll be even more proud if you pass and get that bursary’
Lindiwe smiled insincerely as she changed out of her school attire. The pressure was paramount and she struggled to contain her anxiety. She decided to go visit Thuli and clear her head.
From outside Thuli’s shack she heard a commotion. She could hear Thuli’s mothers frantic voice, pleading desperately whilst Thuli and her step father quarreled relentlessly
‘Shut up you Bitch!’Shouted her drunken belligerent step father.
‘When I get home I expect a cooked meal you lazy-‘he persisted
‘Leave her alone!’ argued Thuli indignantly. Her voice broke as she pleaded despairingly.
‘Ma ,lets go ! We could go to aunt Agnes, please, his gonna kill you’
‘Go, now Thul, just leave, I’ll handle-‘ she suddenly fell silent. Lindiwe let herself in and saw Thuli’s stepfather choking her mother, even as Thuli tried to fight him off her.
‘I’m calling the police’ Lindiwe shouted from the door. Panicked now and fearful Thuli’s stepfather withdrew his grip .Gasping for breath, Thuli’s mother collapsed to the floor and wept into her daughters’ neck.
‘Next time you stay out of our business.’ Warned her drunken assailant to Lindiwe as he stormed out, making his way back to the shabeen, he’d come from. Thuli put her mother to bed, then went for a walk with Lindiwe.
‘I thought he was gonna kill her this time’ she stated despondently, looking down at her old sturdy school shoes. She was still in her uniform.
‘Why doesn’t she leave him?’ asked a perplexed Lindiwe
‘She won’t leave him. She believes he beats her because he loves her and she loves him, well at least that’s what she says. ‘She came to a halt and looked up at Lindiwe ‘I hate him! ‘.She exclaimed disdainfully ‘And I’ll kill him if he touches-‘she paused now and looked away again.
‘Thuli what? What is it?’ Lindiwe Knew Thuli was hiding something. ‘Hey lets go see if Siswe’s at the game shack.’ Her beautiful smile returned and Lindiwe couldn’t help but give in .At the game shack Lindiwe watched as Thuli outrageously threw herself at Siswe
. She sat in the corner chatting to Miriam, a friend from school as the two played a game of pool. Thuli conspicuously used her body as a weapon, bending this way and that way, to get Siswe’s attention. Siswe however either didn’t notice or didn’t care. He had eyes only for Lindiwe and thought Thuli could help him get closer to her.
‘Hey Thuli, could you come here for a sec’ he asked valiantly. Thuli came around the pool table eagerly.
‘Yes? ‘She inquired fervently
‘Uhm do you think Lindiwe would play a round with me?’ he tried nervously .Thuli’s heart sank.
‘NO! Miss Goody goody doesn’t play.’ She voiced insolently. ‘And besides ‘she laughed cynically now ‘She’s too good for you’.
‘Hey what’s the deal, I thought you two were like friends or something’ he emphasized indignantly. His bruised ego evident
‘I’m bored’ mused Thuli satisfied with his pathetic response. She placed the pool stick back on the pool board and made her way to Lindiwe in the corner.
‘What’s wrong?’ Lindiwe watched the muted altercation.
‘Nothing, I’m ready to leave, it’s late and we have our prom tomorrow ‘. She couldn’t meet Lindiwe’s eyes fuelled by antagonism.
The two walked home in silence. Lindiwe sensed that Thuli was angry at her; she didn’t want to add fuel to a burning fire, so she didn’t pry. They split on the corner of their block, where Thuli screamed ‘LINDIE, LINDIE! BYE MY FRIEND, I LOVE YOU!’ .Quite capriciously, thought Lindiwe who smiled at her friend lovingly and screamed ‘I LOVE YOU MORE!’ back.
Thuli didn’t go back home. She circled the block contemplating her life. Which suddenly looked desolate and unpromising? She wanted out. To put an end to it all; the poverty, abuse, the poisonous hatred, that consumed her bitter existence, the rejection and insecurities. There was so much agony, day after day .She felt alone and insignificant.
Looking out into the night which hung heavy with smoke that lingered above the dreary township, the tangent smell of burnt
waste polluting her nostrils, evaded her. Immersed in her childish reflection, an emotional bias which limited her rationality, she suddenly became aware of what she must do and with a heavy anguished heart, set off to liberate her depleted soul.
Lindiwe rose at dawn. The most anticipated day of the year had finally arrived; her prom. Lindiwe and Thuli had decided to go together unaccompanied by dates. They both had beautiful gowns made by Lindiwe’s aunt Gloria and were to be driven by Gloria’s husband Eddy, who drove a modest but well kept Mazda five.
Lindiwe consumed her pap, fastidiously, washed herself in the basin and rushed over to Thuli’s.Where she was met at the door by Thuli’s mother, who looked haggard and spent as per usual.
‘Where’s Thuli?’ she asked perplexed .Lindiwe was equally confused and it showed.
‘She never came home last night’ .Emphasized Thuli’s mother.
‘But I saw her, turn the corner, she was heading straight home.’
‘No I waited up for her, she never returned.’
A scream broke out from behind the shack. Lindiwe froze with trepidation, frightened and reluctant to investigate the scream .Thuli’s mother callously pushed Lindiwe out of her way and hastened to the back of the shack. Lindiwe ran to her aid, when she heard her broken cries. There she found Thuli’s purple, lifeless body dangling from a pole .Wire draped firmly around her neck, she had hung herself. Thuli was dead.
‘GET HER DOWN! GET HER DOWN! GET MY BABY DOWN PLEASE’ she pleaded inconsolably. Lindiwe wept silently for her best friend.
‘Mrs Dwane,it’s too late she’s gone. We can’t fiddle with what could possibly be a crime scene’ Expressed a neighbor that worked for law enforcement. Thuli’s mother eyed her with contempt.
‘She is my daughter! You let them take her down this instant!’ she demanded acrimoniously. By now just about the entire neighborhood was gathered around the scene. It was pandemonium and youngsters recorded it on their mobiles.
When the police finally arrived, Thuli was still left dangling from the taunting wire. She was purple and almost unrecognizable by now. When her step father woke from his drunken stupor, he made a scene. His wife looked at him coldly, went inside and came back shortly after, her arms overflowing with his clothing. She chucked at him violently.
‘You Barsted ,this is all your fault. ‘She voiced disdainfully, her voice breaking, her eyes flowing with unshed tears. ‘Leave and never- never ever return. Or I’ll kill you myself’ and with that she spat at his feet. He was furious that she could humiliate him infront of all these people, people that knew and respected him. He decided to discipline her, taking his fist to her face for the last time. The neighbours intervened angrily but were stopped by the police, who gladly arrested him.
Lindiwe and her Gogo, made their way home tearfully. Mrs Dwane was still being questioned by the police. They were silent as they grieved for Thuli. Lindiwe remembered her best friend’s last words
‘LINDIE!LINDIE!I LOVE YOU MY FRIEND!’. And she wept silently into her pillow.
Thuli had finally got what she wanted, her mother had left her stepfather and as it would turn out two weeks later, the two had both passed matric.But Thuli was gone, even before she heard truly lived.
Teen suicide is a crippling epidemic in South Africa.Thuliswe’s case is just one of many. Teenagers are not equipped and mature enough to make life altering decisions .Making a decision based on ones present emotional temperament could be fatal.
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