I got out of the car and walked to the door of the house. I looked back and Bonolo was gone. I couldn’t go inside. I didn’t want to see Aunty Resego. I didn’t want her to see me, to know what had happened. I didn’t want her thoughts confirmed: that dreams of all kinds are a waste of time, a sure path to disappointment. A place where bad things happened. And I didn’t want to see Bibi. I didn’t want her tiny flame of hope squashed.
I knew I would need to see them eventually, but right now I needed Poppy.
It was late and the streets of Nokeng were dark since no-one cares about the people there enough to provide streetlights. I thought for a minute that it was dangerous, but then nearly laughed. What could happen? Maybe someone would rape me. No, that had already happened in the back of an expensive BMW. The dangerous places were not always the ones you expected.
I walked and felt nothing. I think something shut off in me in the back seat of that car. I walked and wondered if it was shut off forever. I hoped not. But for now, being numb was good. Being numb was perfect.
At Poppy’s house I knocked on the door. It was past midnight but it didn’t matter at Poppy’s house. If her mother was in, she’d be up drinking. She didn’t sleep, at least not at night.
“What you doing out this time of night?” Poppy’s mother said, looking me over. “Something wrong?”
“Everything’s wrong. Is Poppy up?” I said.
“Maybe. She’s in her room.”
She stepped aside and I went through to the back of the house where Poppy’s room was. I knocked softly on the door. “It’s me,” I whispered.
She opened the door half asleep – until she saw me. “Vi? What happened?”
I sat down on the bed and told her everything. I’d remembered every detail just for her anyway. I told her everything, like I was reading a news report. The description of the car was equal to him forcing his tongue down my throat. The restaurant was equal to him tying my hands. The glass elevator was equal to him putting a knife to my cheek while he raped me. None of it affected me; I was just the narrator, nothing more.
“I can’t believe that fuck did this to you! Who the hell does he think he is? I could kill him with my bare hands.” She took me in her arms and I let her, but I still felt nothing. “Let me get dressed. We need to go to the police.”
“Why?” I asked.
“To report this asshole, what do you think? We need to get to the police and open a case. Then to the hospital to get you checked out. He could have given you AIDS, the asshole.”
Poppy was fuming.
“But what’s the point?”
“What do you mean what’s the point? He needs to go to jail!”
“He’s Bonolo Mpate. He can’t go to jail. Besides, who’ll believe me?”
“Believe you? Of course they’re going to believe you! Look at you. And they’ll test you, they’ll see.”
She got dressed and we headed to the police station near the middle of Nokeng. I followed her mostly because I didn’t know what else to do.
The police station was so bright and noisy. There was a woman there in her nightgown, with a bag of frozen peas on her already swollen eye. An elderly couple sat in the corner holding hands and trying to not touch anything in the grimy place. Two young police officers were trying to get a statement from a very drunk young man in handcuffs.
Poppy pulled me along behind her as she made her way to the desk.
“What can I do for you ladies?” the older police officer asked from the chair where he sat.
“We have a problem.” Poppy looked around at the crowd. “Is there somewhere we can talk in private?”
“We don’t really have any space. You can talk here. It’s fine.”
Exasperated, Poppy said, “This woman was raped. We want to open a case.”
The room became quiet and everyone looked at us. The police officer took out a form. He started asking me questions. Name? Address? Simple things. And then he said, “Do you know the alleged rapist?”
Poppy looked at me. I nodded my head.
“And? Who is it?”
“He’s called Bonolo. Bonolo Mpate.”
The police officer wrote it down. He didn’t seem to know the name, but the people in the police station did. He made me describe the entire night. He kept asking questions.
Did you kiss him?
Did you agree to the date?
Did you really tell him no?
Did you scream?
The small gathering in the police station listened to every word. As they listened they looked at me. They studied my curled hair, my black high-heeled shoes, my mini dress.
I knew it was all a waste of time, but Poppy kept rubbing my back saying, “It will be OK. It will be fine.”
Tell us: What do you think about Vivian having to talk about the case in front of everyone? What could they have done to make it easier?
Need to report a rape or incident of sexual abuse? Read our Sexual Abuse Handbook for practical help and information.