Lost Rose Restaurant, Durban – January 2012

Tonight my internet date is Monde. And tonight I shall be Duduzile. I never give away my real name on first dates. It’s safer that way.

It was my friend Pamela who persuaded me to start internet dating. She told me: “Life is not something that you can live in isolation.” Sometimes I wonder why I am friends with Pamela. She always has a trick up her sleeve. And she is very talkative. She can persuade anyone to do anything.

Oh, here comes my date. Not bad! Tall, good looking, and wearing a clean, new pair of chinos and a Polo shirt. So he takes care of himself, I think as we greet and he sits down. We order drinks and then he gives me that ‘you have my undivided attention’ look as he asks the question I have come to dread.

“So, tell me about yourself. I would like to know everything.” He flashes me a smile.

I hate this question. Where do you start? How do you answer? It always feels more like an interview than a date. The last guy who asked me this question I left sitting at a table full of delicious food, wondering about the answer.

But tonight, for once, I’ll tell the truth about me. Will he be able to handle it, I wonder. Does he know that he has probably bitten off more than he can chew?

“OK,” I smile at him. “I’ll let you know every bit about me. I hope you have patience because it’s a long story.”

“Don’t worry about me – Monde is my birth name. It means patience. They gave me the name knowing I could do just this. Sit and listen patiently,” he chuckles.

OK Monde, I shall soon see how accepting you are of me, I think. This story I am about to tell him will show me. Probably, either it will make him sad, or it will scare him off.

“You say you have all the time in the world. Well, chief of the time,” I tease him, “here is what you should know about me…”

Butterworth – 2002

I grew up behind high walls, in a cream coloured house. On top of these walls was barbed wire. The gate was made of steel and was very strong. My last contact with the outside world each day was on my way home after school.

When I was small I thought the reason we had such high walls and a steel gate was to prevent thieves and unwelcome visitors entering. But then I learned that they were there to block my contact with the outside world. My parents were over-protective, and that made me very lonely. They did not allow any friends to come and visit me, in case they might tempt me to stray from God’s path. My father told me that he was protecting me from the sins other kids committed.

You see, my father was a Reverend of the AmaHebhere congregation. The church was strict. My father was strict. The AmaHebhere stick to the Ten Commandments God gave to Moses.

My father’s wishes were my mother’s commands. I believe even today they still behave like that. If things had not changed dramatically I would be at home right now.

It is so hard to be a Reverend’s child, believe me. I had never fallen in love or even kissed a boy like my classmates had. But when I was eighteen things changed. My parents did not know at once, but as time went by they saw the signs.

I still remember clearly the day I began to stray away from the Commandments of Moses. Even though my parents kept me shut away behind walls, I still attended school. At school no-one from the congregation was watching me. I was free to do whatever I wanted to do. In my Matric year, at eighteen, my body was that of a young woman’s and I had feelings which the AmaHebhere would say were against God’s will.

They were feelings of love and desire for one boy in particular. Thobekile. I longed to tell him of my feelings, but the punishment for breaking both my parent’s, and the church’s, laws were ever-present in my mind. I was not allowed to be in love or date at all.

But one day in a Maths class I saw a piece of paper folded neatly on top of my desk. How it landed there I don’t know, even to this day. I was curious. I unfolded the paper and read.

Nonkonzo, may I see you at one o’clock under the coral tree? Thobekile.

I was shocked. I quickly folded the paper up again and put it in my pocket. What if Thobekile wanted us to be in love, to date? What was I going to do? What would my parents do if they found out that I had been sitting alone with a boy, under a tree?

However, I turned to look behind me, and my eyes met Thobekile’s. He smiled. That smile made me weak at the knees. In that moment I fell in love. But my love was forbidden. I could not be in love with him when it went against all the church rules.

Oh God, if you are really there please show me the way I prayed, as I tried to concentrate on my classwork. But my heart could not rest. Eventually I became dizzy from all the rushing emotions and thought I would faint. I excused myself from the classroom. I needed fresh air and to splash cold water on my face.

In the girls’ toilets I was rereading the letter when I felt a warm hand on my back.

Yintoni ngawe, Church Girl?” (What’s up, Church Girl?) a soft voice asked.


Tell us what you think: Who is with Nonkonzo? Should she meet Thobekile under the tree?