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Rage of ages

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By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

What do we call that age?

It is not of innocence, because there was not much of innocent things done through it. Also, it could not be an age of mistakes, because to explore is not to make a mistake. Neither was it an age of sin, for what is sin when a young person is acting as per their nature-designated age?

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It was just a moment, and age, of living. And growing. And questioning. And fearing death – of one’s parents. And convincing oneself that you’re ugly – and unwanted.

In that age, any little drop of attention becomes a downpour. A storm. A mistaken identity case, when accompanied by a generous smile, becomes a moment of un-assumed familiarity. A wish of a moment that just passed to should have had stayed for far too long.

They met in that age – for her.

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I have ever been a boy, might still be a boy just in a grown-up man’s body pretending to fit in, so I do not have the actual experience of being a girl in her teenage years. But, if it is anything like being a boy, it is a vulnerable period.

He was, also, a teenager. But, stumbling out of that horrible period in weeks’ time. So, he was older. But, not like that old. Just slightly.

And, he had lived life. Or, he had been a teenager of repute. Those guys who, amongst the boys, brag about trying weed, then seeing humans with two heads, and talking to Jah-Jah. No, they do not just say Jah because that would not accord the Most High with the due respect.

When he started smiling at her, she felt seen. Flattered. And loved.

Unlike now, she did not wait for a certainty of him making a move. Then, frustrate him for a few weeks before cascading into a pool of uncertain hugs in public, then fondling in private. Or, shaking hands during the day then groping in the thick of night.

He was, anyway, the first guy that spoke with her with a tenderness. And, the first she ever felt a liking for.

They took off like a whirlwind. Actually, she was swept off by a whirlwind. Him being that force.

“My family was religious; I was also religious. I was a virgin with no knowledge of sin. With a fear of sin.”

In weeks, she could not say the same. The religion just became a distended lapel on the family jacket she wore. Fading, and conspicuous.

Then, the troubles started when her mother found out that she had known, what they called, the ways of a family – or something like that.

“She just disowned me.”

They could talk, and relate, but not at that mother-daughter level. Rather, at that corona patient and society level: with mistrust, a pretend kindness and a huge deep fear of holding on to an anticipated loss that seems imminent with each 7 pm bulletin that announces figures of the dead from epicentre countries.

And, when that day she was violated, she cried in his arms and wiped her tears carefully before going home where she used that fake smile as a cosmetic for a haggard face mirroring a soul in distress.

He must have also been doing drugs. Or, he must have had just been a psychopath.

Because, that day he just said he was going away for a few minutes. He wanted to get something from the shops. And, no! They could not go together. He would be back.

Unlike me, and perhaps you, he did not have a bedroom in his parents’ house at this age. He had his own small place that should have had been a boys’ quarter (these days they are mostly called servants’ quarters and I wonder which is more offensive) in the compound. Safely distant from the main house. Quiet and isolated from everything. Some sort of an island in a stream.

She stayed there waiting for him when a gentleman pushed the door open.

Their eyes locked briefly.

“He is not here, he has gone to the shops. I am just a friend…”

She feared he was perhaps an uncle, or even just a father figure very eldest brother, and did not want any drama.

She does not recall whether it was a smile, or a lighting of the face after an epiphany moment, but that face certainly had a character of its own.

Rape is violent. And triggering. Often conjures conflicting thoughts. That, perhaps, one should just call it out and then move on – you know, just like a tired employee who addresses management, then announces they are leaving, and drop the mic in a watch-me fashion? Or, maybe, one should show it so as to remind your numbed sensibilities why this matter, why you must pay attention and why you should not do it or joke about it or just avoid it.

But, I will go with the former – for now.

He reappeared after everything and the rapist had taken a safe distance away.

“He found me crying.”

There was not that shock then ‘babe, what’s up?’ moment before eventually pulling out an Okapi to go round looking for the monster.

He just shrugged, embraced her, and told her that bad things happen also to good people – especially to good people, actually.

He did not bother asking after the guy. How he looked, what he wore or anything. He closed that chapter like that. As if he was putting out a marijuana joint because parents were approaching.

It took her days to realise that the two were actually friends. That nobody, with the intention of stealing, had ended up in that place and found a fearful young lady whom he had taken advantage of.

“What I had thought was a crime rape, was actually a repayment of a loan he owed to that man.”

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