“I will never set my foot atumtshotsho celebrations again,” I said when Lizo and I were sitting in my room. The sun had already set. I was in real pain now. I felt bad for saying that, thinking of how Lizo must be feeling, having taken me there.

“You’re bluffing. Tomorrow I am going there with you again,” he said, smiling at me. He took out black powder and a knife from his pocket; I was shocked.

“What’s this ash for?” I asked. I had noticed the knife, but was afraid to ask about it.

“This is not ash, but umhlabelo,” he said laughing. “Bend.”

I bent my head, and he made sure he was in a position to treat the lump. He carefully cut the lump, and spread the traditional powder over it. I started bleeding. I was in pain, but my trust in Lizo made it feel better.

“This will never happen again while I’m around. You won’t be touched even by a fly.”

I just trusted his words because of the courage he had shown. Inside I told myself that he would protect me, even in difficult situations. When I thought about this I felt myself becoming weak and unable to control what I was feeling inside; I no longer could control the feeling of love for Lizo.

“You have a big heart, and you are also humble,” I said, taking his hand and rolling it into a fist. “The size of your heart matches that of your fist.” I then took that fist and put it on his chest, feeling his heartbeat, which excited me. I no longer was afraid of looking him straight in the eye, no longer wary of his heavy royal eyes. I tried by all means not to come close to him. Coming close to him would cause something I would not be able to control. So, I tried to remind myself of my uncle’s story, told to me by my mother.

Uncle Zamile was someone I had only heard of and I didn’t have a clear picture of him in my mind. He died when I was still a three-year-old toddler. There was nothing much I could tell about him, but his story had something to do with my mother accepting me. My uncle was like me. When I had asked my mother why she accepted my sexuality, she told me this story.

“It was while we were still not sure about the modern things. When we heard about this we mocked him, showing him how disgusted we were with what he was doing.” She looked at me with regretful eyes. “The only mistake he made was writing a letter declaring his love for Thobile, the man he loved. But the letter was received by Thobile’s girlfriend, who showed it to her friends, ridiculing him, until the news reached Thobile. He publicly attacked Zamile, hitting him hard. Then the next morning, Zamile was found hanging, dead.”

I saw that my mother felt guilty about that. My suspicions were confirmed when she said, “When I lost my brother, I vowed that nothing like this would ever happen again. I resented those who led him to his death,” she said. I knew she counted herself amongst those who pushed her brother into committing suicide.

As I looked at Lizo, my lips were yearning to touch his. I reminded myself of this story again and again, but what I was feeling was beyond my reasoning. I would be a fool to kiss him. I already knew what he would do: punch me with his fist. That would be the end of our friendship. Maybe I would end up committing suicide, and be successful this time.

What I didn’t want was for Lizo to hate me. I wanted him to love me.

I was shaking so much that I could feel the bed shaking too. I could feel the sweat dripping from my armpits. I thought… but could not reason.

Then, thinking I was dreaming, I felt Lizo’s lips against mine.

* * *

Tell us what you think: Why won’t Lizo and Thobani tell others about their relationship?