“I never thought loving someone could hurt like this. I can’t believe what I have become,” Nobuhle says, running her fingers over the scars on her face. She’s thinking out loud while looking at her reflection in the mirror.
Her thoughts race on: Is Sqiniseko showing me love by beating me all the time? Even if I were to return home what will they say when they see me with all these scars and bruises? They’ll say I dropped out of school in a rush to be a grown up, and these scars are the result. But … if I don’t make a plan to get away from Sqiniseko he will kill me eventually.
She sits on the sofa with her one-year-old son, Sthembiso, on her lap, and wallows in sorrow.
It’s hard holding on to a relationship when love is no longer there. Nobuhle’s life is in danger – yet she has no enemies. She doesn’t have a gram of hatred in her heart. Yet the love of her life, Sqiniseko, has turned into a violent man who beats her and verbally abuses her.
“Your baby formula has run out,” Nobuhle says to Sthembiso, as the child smiles at her. “But I can’t tell your father because he turns into an animal when I tell him that things have run out. But it’s fine, my baby, I’ll boil potatoes and rice for you. I’ll make it extra soft so you can eat.”
This life of beatings has causes Nobuhle lose her judgement – look at her, speaking to Sthembiso as if the child can understand her. But she boils and blends the potatoes and rice into a mash. There is no salt to add flavour. The baby nods off on the sofa while she prepares the meal.
“Wake up and eat, mommy’s big boy,” Nobuhle says as she lifts Sthembiso to her lap. “Oh! What a big, handsome boy you are!” She kisses Sthembiso’s forehead.
The baby beams an innocent smile. Nobuhle feeds him the mash in tiny portions, for he is not really old enough to eat solid foods. She is patient, giving the boy sips of water with each spoonful. He finishes the food, flavourless as it is. Nobuhle gets up to dish more from the pot.
“Open this damn door! Open it right now!” Sqiniseko shouts at the door. You’d swear it was the police banging on a suspect’s door. Nobuhle can hear in his voice that Sqiniseko is drunk again.
“Open the door Nobuhle! Nx! You used to be Nobuhle. Parents give names to children without much thought. How can you name an ugly old thing like you Nobuhle (The beautiful one)? They should have named you Nobubi (The ugly one). Open the door Nobubi!” Sqiniseko says hatefully, then giggles deliriously.
The words sting. Nobuhle can’t believe the same Sqiniseko she fell so madly in love with is saying this to her. The same Sqiniseko who gave her all these scars, the scars that have transformed her into ‘Nobubi’.
“Why are you looking at me like that? Why are your eyes wide like you are seeing a ghost?” Sqiniseko barks at Nobuhle when she opens the door. “Are you angry because I called you ‘Nobubi’? You shouldn’t be angry at the truth since you really have become nobubi. You definitely were not this ugly when I met you. If I had known you’d turn into this beast I’d have chosen someone else to bear me children. Not you!”
Sthembiso cries at the unpleasant commotion in front of him.
“Hush now, daddy’s little lion,” Sqiniseko says and pushes Nobuhle aside. He staggers to the sofa where the baby sits. “Habe! You are eating? What is daddy’s lion eating?” Sqiniseko squints at the dish in front of the child. “Nobuhle!” he shouts. “What on earth is my baby eating? What rubbish is this? Did you eat crap like this when you were his age? Answer me!”
Tell us: Can you reason with a very drunk person? How can you deal with them?