Then she cried loudly: ‘Ufile – he is dead . . . Mavusi, your brother Mavusi, is dead!’
Mavusi, Mavusi, Mavusi . . . my hero brother from the days of my childhood. Since he was four years older than me, he must have been nineteen by now. My only blood brother. For God’s sake – what had happened?
Intoni – what? An accident, a murder, a killing disease? What? Finally, my mother wiped her nose and explained it to me:
‘Mavusi had TB for a long time, as we all know. He had it even as a child. But something went wrong with his brain recently. He got more and more confused. He could not speak complete sentences anymore. He could not even find his way home, and ran all the time after papers the wind blew in front of him . . .’ ‘But why did nobody tell me earlier?’ I asked, starting to sob.
At last the terrible truth of my older brother’s death had reached my heart. He was the one who had looked after me when nobody else in my family did. When I was still so small, when he was still so small, he took care of me.
My mother continued: ‘Last night he got a high fever. Gogo gave called the ambulance at about midnight, but nobody came. By this morning, Mavusi was dead. Maybe his lungs gave up, maybe his heart. Maybe both… The funeral will be next Saturday in Graaff Reinet.’
I don’t know why I was always so convinced that one day my brother and I would be reunited again. I had never given up on him, although we’d hardly had any contact since I had left him behind in Gogo’s house a few years back. He was refusing to speak to me then, already. Maybe it was the medication, even then, that made him so changed?
‘I will not go to the funeral . . .’ Siya said, without anybody asking him.
My mother said: ‘We have a relative in Worcester who phoned to say that she will pay for our transport . . . for me and you, Mbu. Will you come?’
I nodded my head. There was no doubt that I would go. I wanted to say goodbye to Mavusi. I wanted to be at my brother’s funeral at all costs.
Yamkela lent me a white shirt, a tie and even a dark-brown jacket. Atie walked with us to the bus station on Friday afternoon, carrying my mom’s bag. The little ones stayed behind with Auntie Nompumelelo and Anam’s father.
I sat sleepless while the bus drove through the night, thinking about the last time I’d travelled this route, coming from the other direction. Would I have the chance to see Mrs Naki again? How would Gogo receive me? Would our father come to the funeral?
When I asked mom about our father coming, she said: ‘He has been told about the funeral by that relative of ours from Worcester… I don’t know whether he will be there.’ The way she said it left no doubt that she did not want to meet him there at all.
Tell us what you think: Do you think Mbu’s father will be at the funeral?