It was Monday morning and I’d woken up to a new day with memories of the weekend still murmuring. After the great jol at Nathi’s place, the sun shone with the promise of something indefinable.

The door was flung open aggressively, shattering my peace of mind … It was my mother.

“You’re still sleeping, you’re still sleeping! So help me Lord! What’s wrong with this boy … All he does is eat, sleep and bring good-for-nothing girls into my house. Ye wena Tebuza, who’s going to clean my house while you sleep through the day? Wake up, you lazy boy. You’re too old for this. Wake up marn!” my mother said, throwing off the bundled sheet and blanket that had comfortably caressed my body, so I was left in my ragged old underwear.

I turned to face her. “Can’t a man have some peace in this house? Everything, everywhere is biting, burning, cutting and bruising. Where’s the love, where’s the love for goodness’s sake?” I should’ve zipped my mouth shut, and taken the jabs with the sharp, strong chin of a seasoned warrior, before the beating ensued.

“That’s your problem. You think you know better than everyone, yet you know nothing. You think you’re better than the jobs you keep getting that are for ‘non-graduates’. Yet you’re constantly fed by me under my roof. You’re very ungrateful and arrogant. And if you think you’re the man of the house, shem forget it. I buried my husband long ago and you’re not half the man that he was. You’re so useless, lazy and entitled. Wake up and go clean the house, or go find yourself another place to live!” my mother went on, her diatribe unhinged, her hands firmly on her big hips.

With my tail tucked between my legs, I accepted defeat. Because it’s easier to keep quiet than to negotiate for peace with the fairer sex.

I proceeded to clean the house. It was a tedious drag – the mop swivelled around and the broom paced to and fro. I felt like I was symbolically erasing my awful existence. From my cold clutch, dust weaved about and then settled.

“Tebuza, what’s this? You’re such an animal! What’s this?” my teenage sister asked, with a sternly stuck-out arm holding aloft a half-full juice six-pack.

“What kind of man are you to drink the kids’ lunch juice? Why are you like this? Ma, he’s done it again. Please come talk to your son before I do something wrong. Ahhh, urgh!” she shrieked, and bashed the remaining pack against the floor, where it gushed and splattered like paint thrown onto one of Kgosi’s abstract canvases.

It was a competition to see who could deliberately scar my masculinity the most. The dart Olympics of who could truly hit the bullseye. And the prize was my dignity.

“Stand like a man, and don’t run off when things get heated up! Ye wena Tebuza. Come back here!” my mother said, fuming, and ready for a further scuffle.

I laughed as I dropped the broom and dashed to the safety of the streets, where I truly felt home, where I belonged.


Tell us: Do you think that Tebuza’s mother has a point in her criticism of Tebuza or is she being too harsh?