Mother moved to the door so fast; it was as if her feet did not reach the ground. I was sure that she was leaving me. I thought about how I could try to commit suicide again. Maybe I could steal pills from the hospital, and take lots of them. But I forgot that thought when she closed the door, to come and sit next to me again.

“Never ever do that to me again,” she said pointing her finger at me. “Do you hear me, Thobani?”

I nodded.

“You are a coward, my child. Do you know why you tried to kill yourself?”

I tried to answer that question but she cut me short.

“I wonder what you were going to say when you arrived in the world of the dead? What would you say you died for? What would you say?”

She came closer to me and held my hand. I was not comfortable. I felt like the Bible was confronting me. Mother made me believe in the love of God, a love, she always told me, that did not discriminate. A love that was timeless and tireless.

It made me think of the portrait of Jesus hanging on the wall at home, with the words, ‘JESUS LOVES EVERYONE’. Now, I also felt like one of the group that was loved by Jesus, and believed in these words for the first time.

But inside I knew that this happiness would not last.

In my village I was expected to be another kind of person. The people would think I was a joke if they heard about my feelings. They would not love me like Jesus, and would not sympathise with me like my mother did.

After being discharged from the hospital I avoided people. I avoided my friends, especially Lizo. I would stay at home, day and night. At school I did not leave my classroom. I became a loner. It was as if my secret was written on my forehead, so I had to hide myself.

Fearing suicide, my mother decided that I should go and stay with my aunt in Cape Town the following year. She said I needed to get some happiness, as a child should, and not have this miserable life I was living.

I wanted to go. My mother said I was not happy because of where I was. In my sleep I would dream of Cape Town, a place I had never been to. It was as if the year would never end.

My mother loved me. She was completely different from my father. When my father was still around, I don’t remember any day the sun would set without me having marks and scratches on my body, or without him having told me that I was weak. I believed that he hated me, and I would sometimes think that he was not my father.

* * * * *

One day, as I was sitting at home, my friends paid me a surprise visit. Lizo was there โˆ’ the only person I wanted to see. I saw by the way they were carrying their sticks that they were going to attend a youth’s gathering: umtshotsho. They begged me to go with them. I couldnโ€™t remember ever having been to umtshotsho before.

“Boy, you wouldn’t believe it! We heard the sound of a pennywhistle while we were still in the fields. It seems as if the party is hot in Mthwaku,” said my friend, Bonile. They begged me to go with them. I refused, saying I didn’t have a fighting stick. Lizo quickly gave me one, umnquma โˆ’ the one he never loaned to anyone. This lifted my spirit, and so I agreed with no further doubts.

By the time we reached Mthwaku village I was soaked with sweat, because we had run all the way from Maxelegwini village. My heart pounded faster when I saw a truck carrying other boys to the umtshotsho. I watched from the hill top. It was like a war zone. I felt like turning back, but Lizo’s smile gave me strength to follow.

I was enjoying myself, singing and dancing as a group with one rhythm, then I don’t know what happened, but the festivities of umtshotsho suddenly vanished into thin air. Instead I heard the beating sound of fighting sticks.

When I was looking for a place to hide, I discovered that there was one boy who had been eyeing me for a fight. He ran up and first hit me on the neck, and then on the head. I hit the ground in no time. While still on the ground, I heard a roar, which sounded like that of a lion. It was Lizo approaching the boy who was hitting me. He hit him mercilessly and I felt sorry for the guy, to the point of wanting to beg Lizo to stop. He let him go as soon as he played dead.

“Are you alright, Thobani?” Lizo asked, carefully helping me up. “You are injured. Let me take you home,” he said when he saw the big lump on my head that was growing by the minute.

He slowly walked with me, as I was limping, going back to the Maxelegwini village. He supported me in his arms, resting every now and then. Being in his arms made me feel different; I couldn’t feel pain any more. His touch made all the difference. I was overjoyed. The only thing left was to find a way to tell him how I felt. But I controlled myself. Was it possible that he was feeling something for me, or was it just friendship? I asked myself. Only our hearts could tell.

* * *

Tell us what you think: Does Lizo love Thobani the way Thobani loves him?