‘The long and winding road that leads to your door… ‘ This song would play in my head as I eagerly walked to my favourite place in the world – my grandparents’ house! How can I resist the abundant love that exists in every corner of their house? Sitting at my pa’s feet while he tells me stories of his youth – I must have heard the same stories millions of times before, but I’ll listen to them a million times more. Hours slip away listening to him, while snacking on warm koeksisters that ma just fried. With them I feel safe. They are my lighthouse; Lavender Hill the dark sea.

Somewhere along the line, I lost my desire to swim. The sea just seems so much darker and scarier than ever before. I do not feel safe to venture out into the sea, not even my lighthouse seems reachable. It must have been the encounter with the sea monster.

Some moments of that day I remember clearly, others I cannot even comprehend. On my way to see Ma and Pa I walked by the tin houses, but something in my bones was telling me to turn back and run home. A woman approached me and asked me for a two rand. I walked on as I told her I had no money. All of a sudden her hands grabbed my clothing and she started swearing at me as she tried to rob me. My legs went numb and my heart was beating so hard it could have sounded like gunshots. No words can describe the terror as I waited for her to snatch the phone my parents had worked so hard for to get me. The angels of God must have carried me away from her, because I do not remember ever running away. I just remember the terror and the tears that followed.

She didn’t know she made my innocence and trust in humanity disappear. She didn’t know she had brought such fear to my heart. She didn’t know she took away my feeling of love for my community.

Now whenever I walk the long road to my grandparents’ house I have flashbacks to that day and feel sick to my stomach. My hands become sweaty because of the layer of fear and tension that hangs in the air – I can almost cut it with a knife. Suddenly everything else around me becomes very visible. Bullets ringing in my ears every day. Children in schools dropping to the floor because gangsters decide past eight in the morning is an appropriate time to go to war. The dirt everywhere that covers the disgusting secrets too nasty to tell. The men undressing the young girls with their eyes. The hungry children all around. The children that grow up too quickly because their parents are busy with other things. The stray cats and dogs with sad eyes. All-in-all, the saddest sight you could ever see. How did I not notice this all before? My eyes must have been blinded by the incredible amount of love and safety from my parents and grandparents. Unfortunately, my eyes had to be opened when I was all alone swimming the deep, dark sea. Everyday incidents eroding my faith in my beloved community.

Lavender Hill used to be magical. I used to run barefoot and play in the street till the sun went to sleep. I was younger then; now I have grown up. I am a stranger in my own community and I have always been. I don’t belong here.