Escape – Chapter 6
Eventually, Vus’umuzi returns to work. He makes sure that he returns with food every evening to feed his prisoners. He keeps doing this for days, ignoring people, especially Catherine, whenever their paths cross. It disgusts him to see himself reflected in his son but he will heal his son, he tells himself, he will not let him live like he has done.
“You are getting better, I can tell,” says Vus’umuzi, one evening, to his son. They are sitting in the lounge.
“But Baba, I no longer feel gay,” says Zethembe, “Can’t I go out?”
“I will decide that,” says Vus’umuzi.
“But Vusi, he’s a child. He has a right to go to school and even play!” shouts Zandile from her bedroom.
“Shut up!” demands Vus’umuzi.
Vus’umuzi’s phone vibrates on the small coffee table. It is Sphiwe. He’s sent him multiple ‘please call me backs’, but Vus’umuzi’s been caught with his family affairs and work. He’s gotten so bitter that he’s grown to be ugly with the smear of frown and grimness on his face. He looks at the phone again and ignores it.
“Eat your bread, son!” says Vus’umuzi, realising that Zethembe is staring at his phone.
Zandile comes out of her bedroom, leaning and balancing on the walls, walking to the lounge. She’s also grown to be thin with stress. She falls to her knees.
“Ma!” screams the boy. He rushes to his mother on the floor.
“It’s OK, Zethembe,” says Zandile, groping the boy’s face. “Vusi, aren’t you ashamed?! Does all of this make sense to you?” shouts Zandile.
Vus’umuzi’s phone vibrates again. The last time he called Sphiwe was the day they last met at KFC. This time, Vus’umuzi turns it off.
In the afternoon, around 13:00, a white Toyota Quantum stops at the taxi stop. Its door slides open and Sphiwe jumps out clutching a backpack. A few men nod with a smile while others climb into the taxi.
He stands there for a while, looking around, wondering where he should go. A boy bumps into him, and he uses this chance.
“Excuse me,” says Sphiwe to the boy.
“I’m so sorry, I wasn’t looking,” says the boy, keeping his face to the ground.
Sphiwe walks closer and says, “No, no, it’s OK. Could you help me?”
“Help you?’ asks the boy, licking his dry lips, “With what?”
Sphiwe leans forward and asks, “Where can I find the Tembe house?”
The boy’s eyes widen, “You mean Zethembe’s father?”
Sphiwe squints his eyes and says, “Y-e-s.”
“Ohw! My best friend lives there…or used to, I don’t know,” says the boy. “Can I show you?”
Sphiwe nods firmly, “Yes, please.”
“This way…I’m Thato, anyways. Are you Zethembe’s uncle?” asks Thato, the boy.
They take a few long turns and go uphill. “Yes, I am…his uncle,” says Sphiwe softly.
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