It was around this time that Atie asked me one evening: ‘What happened to your tata? I mean the real one, your blood father.’ ‘Good question,’ I answered.
The last time I had seen my father I was still a toddler. Mom almost never mentioned him to me, and certainly not in the presence of Siya.
What kind of man was he? Why had he left? Maybe it was all my mother’s fault, with her drinking. Did he also drink? Maybe he just had enough and went to start a nice family somewhere else. But why did he never try to find out about Mavusi or me? I knew that Mavusi also had no clue about our father’s where- abouts.
Somehow, Atie’s question had triggered a lot of fantasies. Most of them were actually good ones: imagine if my father also thought about me sometimes. Maybe he was even missing his son–me–just a little bit. Imagine if he had also been clever at school like me, and had a good job somewhere. He might even live in a proper house…he might be hoping that I would find him one day.
Another week passed before I found the chance to ask my mother about my real father without Siya around.
She grew upset immediately: ‘Haybo… why are you asking me about him? He never paid anything towards his children, so how would I have your father’s details?’
‘But why did he leave us all those years ago and never come back?’ I persisted.
‘How do I know? He just left…he never told me why.’
And then I made her really upset: ‘Was it because you were drinking too much?’
She put her hands on her hips and shouted so that all the neighbours could hear: ‘Who are you to talk to me like that? Did I not always look after you?’
When I did not respond, she added: ‘Go and find your wonderful father yourself!’ And slammed the door.
I thought: yes, that’s exactly what I must do. But how?
As I walked slowly out of the yard, I saw Auntie Nompumelelo peeping out of her doorway, gesturing silently for me to come closer. Auntie Nompumelelo was, in fact, the sister of my mother, a real blood aunt.
‘Mbu,’ she said in a low voice, once I was inside her shack, ‘I have lost track of your father, but I remember that he started a new family some years ago in Gugulethu. One of his sisters also lives in the area. I myself haven’t seen him for years. But I still have his address in Gugs; it’s a road called NY 112. Do you want to give it a try?’
Gugulethu, or Gugs as it is called, is one of the biggest townships around Cape Town, with a few hundred thousand residents. It would not be easy to track my father down in such a place. But Auntie Nompumelelo knew the name of the road at least, although she couldn’t remember the house number. That would certainly help.
My aunt had another surprise for me: ‘You know what, Mbu? I was hoping that you would one day ask about your father. I’ve saved some money for this exact occasion…’
She went to a locked cupboard and opened one of the drawers.
‘Here, Mbu.. .’ she said, handing me a R50 note. ‘This should be enough to catch a minibus taxi to Gugs. Ask the driver how to get to NY 112. ..’
‘Enkos’ kakhulu, Makazi – thank you so much.. .I will find him, I promise you!’
I needed a few days to prepare for my trip and also to wait for the weekend, since I didn’t want to miss school. Every evening, I ended my prayers by asking God to let me find my father. I felt so confident somehow that I would find him. . .and that he would be happy to see me again. He would be proud of me. And maybe I would even stay with him. Maybe my life would change forever.
Three days later, the Easter holidays began. I left on the first day, early in the morning, without telling anybody. Only my aunt knew; nobody else. Not even Yamkela or Atie.
Tell us what you think: Can you relate to Mbu’s story? Would you try to find your father if you had never known him before?