WRITER’S NOTE...

Sunday Observer - - NEWS -

It’s yet another Sun­day dear read­ers and I would like to warmly wel­come you to yet another is­sue of your fa­vorite youth sec­tion that AS­PIRES to IN­SPIRE young peo­ple to be the best ver­sion of what­ever they AS­PIRE to be.

With De­cem­ber 1 be­ing HIV/AIDS Day, I would like to start by re­mind­ing young peo­ple that HIV/AIDS still ex­ists and that it is in­deed ‘ev­ery­one’s prob­lem’. You may not be in­fected but you are af­fected, so let us make sure that we take proper care of our­selves and fur­ther we shouldn’t stig­ma­tize. Ab­sti­nence is still the best form of pre­ven­tion for us young peo­ple, but if you feel ready men­tally, phys­i­cally and oth­er­wise, please make it a point to use pro­tec­tion. Don’t make a fool­ish de­ci­sion be­cause of the fes­tive vibes, and con­se­quently ruin your fu­ture!

Com­ing back to to­day’s read, we have pho­tog­ra­pher Shaun DeSouza as our main in­ter­view to­day. We have a sit-down with this young man to dis­cuss his love for pho­tog­ra­phy and how it came about. He fur­ther takes us back to his child­hood, and tells us about his pas­sion for pho­tog­ra­phy. Read his story on page 20.

I first saw Shaun in ac­tion dur­ing the Epic Gig, and have met him at a cou­ple of events. I was re­ally im­pressed when I saw the work he had done with Ce­lenhle when I in­ter­viewed him, so I’ve been ea­ger to work with him from then. From this in­ter­view, it’s clear that this young man loves what he does, and is surely des­tined for great things if he con­tin­ues to keep a cool head and lets the work do all the talk­ing.

On this very page, we kick-off the pro­ceed­ings with our youth sto­ries. To­day, we have the sec­ond part of our se­ries ti­tles ‘Wel­come’. On the next page, we have our poem of the week, and Lin­delwe helps us un­der­stand self love on AS­PIRE ed­u­ca­tion.

Till next week, have a blessed read. And let’s con­verse at sbu­sisod­laminitheg@gmail.com.

Cheers

When Tandzile called, Musa put her on speak­er­phone and Andile went into the bath­room, ig­nor­ing the voices bab­bling off the walls as she chat­tered to her child. Af­ter the call, Andile came back and sat next to Musa, a faded wrap­per tied over her breasts.

‘ What are we go­ing to do when Sim­phiwe starts talk­ing?’ she teased him. ‘She’s go­ing to men­tion me one day.’

‘We’ll just have to be more care­ful,’ he an­swered, and kissed her.

They drove around Manzini and Andile sat in the stretch of the back seat with Sim­phiwe, fill­ing her sketch­book with pudgy arms and legs, with a par­tial smile chew­ing around a roasted corn­cob. She built char­coal tod­dlers that walked off her fin­gers and clutched her skirt. Peo­ple kept think­ing that Sim­phiwe was her child — they had the same com­plex­ion, the s a me l a r ge e yes a nd bi g s miles. Some­times Musa cor­rected them and other times he didn’t. He watched Sim­phiwe grow three shades browner, with glow­ing gold un­der­tones. He watched Andile hoist the baby up on her nar­row hip, watched the baby pull at his girl­friend’s braids, and watched them both laugh at him with gor­geous open mouths.

After­wards, af­ter it hap­pened, af­ter the world broke, Andile left with­out pack­ing, straight from the hos­pi­tal, car­ry­ing the leather back­pack that held her sketch­book with her good arm. Musa had bought that bag for her in Mba­bane and the shoe­maker at his gate had re­in­forced it with strong thick thread. She left him a voice note on What­sapp and when he played it, it said some­thing about inevitable con­clu­sions, mostly that she was not go­ing to wait for him to hate her with the kind of force she knew he had boil­ing in him. She was prob­a­bly right, ex­cept that Musa hadn’t reached the stage of hat­ing any­one else yet — he was still on him­self. Sim­phiwe’s di­a­per bag was still in Andile’s bath­room at the guest­house and Musa’s suit­case was still at Florence’s house. He hadn’t been back to ei­ther of those places and he didn’t plan on it.

So now he was at Lavu­misa and now he had this child­hood kitchen where he kept bread on top of the fridge in a black poly­thene bag, Musa tapped an egg on the edge of the fry­ing pan and it ra­di­ated faults.

Be­fore the world broke, Sim­phiwe had eyes like white oil, a mouth like cramped petals, and fat legs. Mu­nachi was hold­ing her in the back seat, clap­ping her lit­tle feet to­gether; her chin nes­tled in the gen­tle cloud of baby hair. When the lorry’s brakes gave out, Musa glimpsed the bulk of it ca­reen­ing wildly to­wards them from the cor­ner of his eye and he twisted his steer­ing wheel in a use­less re­flex. Ev­ery­thing webbed into blunt pieces and Andile screamed. Those sounds kept fol­low­ing him now, weeks later, even when he tried to ig­nore them. The crunch of an eggshell as he stuffed it into the over­flow­ing rub­bish bin was the crack of an arm.

His breath had been scat­tered since the ac­ci­dent, as if his lungs saw no point in ex­er­tion, not af­ter the weight of Sim­phiwe’s head had lolled against his chest, heavy and in­ert as he ran into the hos­pi­tal. The first nurses asked about seat­belts as they bus­ied their hands on her body, but he had noth­ing to give them. What was there to say with this mouth? That he only in­sisted on belts and car seats in Amer­ica, where the cars passed safety in­spec­tions and pulled past each other smoothly, but that here, where the mo­tor­cy­cles bent madly through the traf­fic, where cars died in their lanes and buses tanked nose-first into gap­ing pot­holes, this was the place where he had de­cided it was fine if the seat­belt was off? That he had al­lowed his child to sprawl on his back­seat freely, un­re­strained, his sec­ond mis­take, as if it was a playpen? No, there was noth­ing to say. So he re­mained si­lent as they took Sim­phiwe, as they led Andile away, his girl­friend cradling her arm like it was re­deemable glass.

Musa had been lucky, only a cut to his head, mild whiplash to his neck, a ring­ing headache that they said was noth­ing, some bruis­ing. They let him hold Sim­phiwe again when they were fin­ished. The doc­tor was ex­plain­ing some­thing about in­ter­nal in­juries but his baby just looked asleep, the col­or­ful plas­tic bub­bles in her hair catch­ing the light against their seams. Her skin was grey, so far away from her alive golden brown. He looked down at her eye­lashes, del­i­cate black­ness against the full­ness of her cheek, and then he rested his hand on the mar­ble of her chest, just to make sure. The doc­tor was still talk­ing when Musa cov­ered the baby’s face again with the white cloth they had brought her to him in and handed her back, then turned and walked out of the hos­pi­tal. The staff let him go, see­ing the grief steam­ing off him, but they thought he would come back. Janet had thought the same thing — that he would re­turn with their daugh­ter.

‘Bring my baby back,’ she had told him be­fore he en­tered the taxi for the air­port, fear thick like tar in her voice. She had never been to Nige­ria. She was Amer­i­can, thirty-seven, and their daugh­ter was her only child. Musa had loved her and mar­ried her, bought a house and had a baby with her.

He met Andile at a film screen­ing where she was stand­ing be­hind a pil­lar to hide from the crowd, char­coal smudged on her fin­gers as she sketched them. He even told Janet about her that night, be­fore the af­fair started; noth­ing much, just that he’d met this amaz­ing artist who did beau­ti­ful things with bod­ies on pa­per. They were putting the baby down and Janet had smiled at him. ‘That’s nice,’ she said. ‘We should buy some of her work. It’s good to sup­port young artists.’

Af­ter the ac­ci­dent, when Musa called Janet from out­side the hos­pi­tal, he lied about the seat belt and told her that Sim­phiwe had been sit­ting in Florence’s lap, locked in. He told her what the doc­tors had said, about the in­juries, about ev­ery­thing they’d tried.

‘Baby, I’m so sorry,’ he said. ‘Oh God, I’m so sorry. We lost her.’

Janet had made a low tearing sound that seared through the con­nec­tion and sliced into him.

‘Please,’ he whis­pered, ‘for­give me,’ but she cut the line. When he tried back, she didn’t pick up un­til the fourth time and even then he couldn’t hear any words, just harsh wild weep­ing. He called her mother and told her about the ac­ci­dent.

‘Mom, you have to get to Janet,’ he added. ‘Right now, please, I don’t know what she’s go­ing to do. You have to get to her.’

His mother- in- law had slipped straight into rage. ‘How could you let this hap­pen? I told Janet not to let you take her; she should never have let you take her!’

‘ Mom, please —’ He was when she hung up on him.

The light was still gone when Musa slid his eggs from the pan to a scratched plate edged in blue flow­ers. He sat washed in can­dle­light, with his face in his hands, a thick slice of bread made yel­low with mar­garine sit­ting next to the eggs. He kept mak­ing meals even though he’d barely eaten in weeks. He felt hol­lowed out, ex­actly how he wanted. Af­ter the ac­ci­dent, he’d booked a ho­tel room so he wouldn’t have to face the fam­ily or any re­minders — those were the worst part, the weeds of mem­ory push­ing up to tor­ment him.Like the car, like the un­opened packet of multi-col­ored bendy straws he found after­wards un­der the pas­sen­ger seat, the one that he’d picked up at Sho­prite, so that Sim­phiwe could drink her milk. He’d been look­ing through the car at the me­chanic shop by a petrol sta­tion when he found the straws, and he’d sat heav­ily in­side the buck­led door, hold­ing a hand­ful of rain­bow plas­tic as fumes and mad- cry­ing ness roared around his head. It was never go­ing to stop. The day af­ter he got to Lavu­misa, while shav­ing, he re­mem­bered her eyes and his hand trem­bled, the ra­zor break­ing his skin. He stood in front of his re­flec­tion as thin red trick­led down his throat, his pulse a limp­ing foot­step. It was never go­ing to stop.

Musa wanted to run some more, to fol­low his child’s body back to Amer­ica, where her mother had in­sisted she be buried, no mat­ter how much it cost. Janet had been ask­ing him, over and over, how quickly he could book a flight back so they could be to­gether, so they could grieve to­gether. The ar­range­ments took time — there were of­fi­cials to bribe and some of his fam­ily was ar­gu­ing that Sim­phiwe should be buried in Swazi­land. He over­ruled them and sent his daugh­ter home. The day be­fore his own flight, Janet called him. ‘I know,’ she said, as soon as he picked up. Her voice was dif­fer­ent. ‘You know what?’

‘Florence told me Musa. I know who you were with when the ac­ci­dent hap­pened.’

His heart cramped. He was go­ing to lose her. He could hear it. ‘No, Janet, let me ex­plain —’ ‘You don’t need to,’ she in­ter­rupted, her words brit­tle. ‘I don’t want to hear a sin­gle word that comes out of your mouth.’

‘Please, Janet, I’m com­ing home to­mor­row.’ His fin­gers sweated against the glass of the phone. ‘We can talk then. Please baby, I can ’

‘I’m just call­ing to tell you — don’t ever come back here. I don’t want to see your face ever again. Musa, I swear to God. I’ll sue you to hell and back if you set foot in this coun­try. Stay there with that girl of yours and let me bury my child.’

The line cut off like a dropped blade and Musa felt his chest die all over again.

He bent in half and fought for air, press­ing his phone to his fore­head as panic shook him. He tried call­ing her again and again and each time, her phone wouldn’t even ring. Af­ter the eleventh try, he called Florence. She didn’t pick up ei­ther. Musa then left the ho­tel and took a taxi to the air­port. He moved like a miss­ing per­son, get­ting ready to board a bus and call­ing a Brook­lyn num­ber whilst in it.

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