Sbusiso is in his bedroom two days later. He is breathing relief as the pills start to work on the pain in his abdomen. He has taken sick leave from work. He hears a knock on his bedroom door. 

“Come in,” says Sbusiso.

His teenage daughter, Asemahle, peers into the bedroom. “Uncle Muzi is here to see you, Baba.” 

Sbusiso smiles for the first time in a long while. He lifts his head and nods. “Come in, Muzi,” he says.

“How are you feeling, my brother?” Muzi inquires, as he sits on a chair next to Sbusiso’s bed.

“I’m still weak. I think my body is getting used to the pills. I’m tired most of the time.”

“You will get better. As long as you take your medication, you’ll be fine.” 

“The doctor told me the same thing. How is work?”

“We are trying but it is hard without you. You are the best manager our team has ever had.”

“A manager who is sick and losing weight by the day.” Sbusiso lets out a dry cough.

“You will rise from this bed as soon as the pills start working. Don’t you worry.”

After a few seconds of awkward silence, Muzi looks around and comes closer to Sbusiso. “Where is Ntombi?” he whispers.

“Don’t even ask about her. Ever since she found out I was sick she has been avoiding me. She leaves early in the morning and comes back late at night after I have fallen asleep. Asemahle is the one taking care of me, making sure I take my medication, and cooking food.”

“Asemahle has grown up so much. I hate to be the one saying this, but Ntombi has never—”

Sbusiso’s cell phone rings, putting a stop to Muzi’s speech. Muzi stands up, disconnects it from the charger and hands it to Sbusiso. As soon as Sbusiso sees the name ‘Mama’ flashing across the screen, he breaks into a smile.

“Hello, Mama,” he says.

“How are you today, my son?”

“I’m feeling a bit better, Mama. How are you?”

“I am well, my son. I called to ask you to come back home so I can look after you. It’s not a problem for me to look after you. Remember that you lived inside me for nine months, so I can feel when you are not well. Please come home, Sbu, I am begging you.”

“I understand, Mama, but don’t worry about me. Ntombi and your granddaughter Asemahle are looking after me.”

“Fine, Sbu. But you have to consider Asemahle in all of this. It is unfair that she has to take care of you. It’s unhealthy for a child her age to look after sick people. She did the same for MaMkhize before she passed away. She even had to miss school sometimes.”

“I understand, Mama. Let me discuss this with Ntombi first.”

“Fine, my son, I’ll keep calling to see how you are. Get well soon.”

Muzi shakes his head as Sbu hands him his cell phone. Muzi puts the cell phone back on to charge. 

“When does Ntombi ever take care of you, Sbu? Asemahle has to miss school to take care of you because Ntombi is nowhere to be seen.”

“I can’t be telling Mama about the troubles in my marriage,” says Sbu, as he shifts his pillow.

“Come on, Sbu! But it’s fine for your daughter to miss school?”

“No, it’s not right. But I have to put Ntombi in a good light. I can’t speak badly about her to my family.”

“But this is too much, Sbu. You have to really consider going home.”

“I will think about it. But for now I just need some rest.”

“Fine. I’ll be in touch.”

***

Ntombi staggers into the bedroom at 10pm. She is drunk out of her mind.

“What’s the matter, Ntombi? Why all this noise?”

“Leave me alone, Sbusiso! Why aren’t you sleeping? The pills won’t work if don’t sleep.”

“I can’t sleep because I’m thinking,” says Sbusiso.

“Thinking all the time! Thinking even when you are sick? Don’t you ever get tired of thinking?”

“So you do remember that I’m sick?”

“How could I forget with you telling the whole world?” 

“How could you say that, Ntombi?”

“What? It is what you did. Now I’m getting calls from everyone asking me how you are doing,” says Ntombi. She takes off her clothes and leaves them in a bundle on the floor. “Anyway, you said you were thinking. What were you thinking about?”

“Mama called me earlier when you—”

“What did she want?”

“Just stop it, Ntombi! Can’t you let me finish before you speak?”

“What did she want, Sbu?”

“She asked me to come home so she can take care of me.”

“Hawu Sbu! You told her I don’t take care of you?”

“No, my love. You know I’d never do that.”

“Then why is your mother asking you to come home?”

“She is from a generation that didn’t use hospitals that much. They trusted in muti more. Maybe she can help with muti that will make the pills work faster.”

“Your mother likes muti too much. Maybe she put some in your food and that is why you are sick,” says Ntombi. She is snoring as soon as the words leave her mouth.

“What did you say to about Ma, Ntombi?” Sbu is shaking. A bolt of pain shoots across his abdomen, causing him to writhe in bed. He swallows two pain tablets. Within a few minutes he is also snoring.

Tell us: Do you think Sbusiso should go home to his mother?