It was a regular day of a toddler except I was a little too excited, enough to forget the consequences of this thrill. We call it in the Setlokwa language- go thakgala thooko (to be over excited). I remember specifically that there was a visitor a year or two older than me and I suspect that intensified the amount of my enthusiasm. 

The drapes of an imaginary stage dropped and there was nothing more than to perform my silliest tricks. Discipline and reason were at the back of my mind. That girl was trouble even my stomach clenched with guilty adrenaline. With a visitor there, I thought that dynamics of how we dealt with things at home would become less dire and more forgiving. I felt that I can become rowdy and untouchable yet hours from then my skin was going to burn with painful sensation.

It’s night time and I haven’t found anything to do but wonder about a dusty stationary Heineken six-pack on top of the fridge. My eyes overlook everything else around our spaza shop but they managed to climb up to where the cans were placed, ages ago. 

I wonder, my brain began. Why aren’t they in the fridge? Maybe nobody cares. They are empty, therefore no one will know. Right? This internal discussion is followed by a deafening silence. Within moments of those thoughts I was already on top of the fridge, my knees balanced at a dangerous angle on it. My grin spread from ear to ear. One of my hands grabbed at one and I pulled until I deemed the effort feeble. My chin jutted out and other thoughts surfaced.

I remembered the movement of fluid clicking against the foil can. I remembered how everything that had liquid important enough was stored in the fridge for rendering. Yes I was thinking it and what was left was the action. My breath caught immediately. My eyes widened by the inevitability of the final action, swept around the spaza lingering at the open space between the frame of the door. I wait for a shadow of a figure to appear. I don’t know if I was holding my breath or stopped breathing altogether. Still nothing happened.

That was my sign. It had to be done! I dropped my gaze as a silly giggle escaped my lips and placed a firmer grip to hold the can in position. My right small hand leaned towards it. My heart beat thrashed at my rib cage as I hear pants from an unexpected presence. I look back up and I see my cousin and brother staring holes at the recently opened can. My eyes well up with tears and I plead silently a voice hiding in my throat. I felt my grasp at this debate failing because they had somewhat figured the worst thing they could do to win. INVOLVE MY DAD!!! 

They give me a knowing glance one filled with promises for their entertainment at my expense. I school my features into confidence but I had already given away my guilt and worst of all, my fear. They weigh their options and in unison, shrieked. Their laughter unyielding to my pleading, shook off my voice. They darted away from the situation making their choice.

I jump off ready to stop them. My thoughts force me to consider what more would convince them and I came up with nothing. It’s no use, I realised. I drop my face to my feet begging for courage. Fear races in my gut and I walk slowly back to whatever it is laid for me.

I don’t allow myself to succumb to fear. I formulate reasons for my actions. If I were convincing to my dad it might result in scolding ONLY. You will be fine something promised but I feared that it was a lie.

Mpho! A loud voice commanded. I woke up with a jolt to answer “Pa Pa” a deliberate gap in the word with sleep still in my voice. It’s just my dad something soothes me as panic stews behind me. I rose from the bunk bed and stood at the passage which seemed strangely short that day. 

He was shirtless and barked at me as my mind fell back into its own conversation. I felt betrayed by my own positivity. Why oh why did I believe that people would cover up for me no matter how small the act was? It’s okay, he’s your da. I was cut short when I caught sight of my dad beckoning me into the toilet with The black extension in his hand. I buy time by apologizing while negotiating in my head. 

What should I do? Who should I trust? Me or my dad? I sense dad’s impatience in his grave face. Oh well. I drag my feet in there, tears leaking out of my eyes. I enter and the dilapidated door of the bathroom closes and I see the gap for escape getting smaller. The darkness of the bathroom lurks distinctively around me. 

The extension cord begins whipping at my flesh and I try to resist the landing of the cable on my body, crying as if it did. I was attempting to distract him with my cries. I feign the need to pee but I glance back and see the mouth of the toilet glaring at me. Immediately after peeing, it begins again. 

I screamed, not giving up. I try for eye contact and my palms open to catch the bites of that black python he hurled at me. My body ducks about trying to avoid the landing of the cable on me. My dad holds my drenched gaze and right there I see the depth of rage. At me? I take the hits in that small space with the first person I came to seek refuge from, chasing me away. Something collapsed in me as I searched in the darkness because I couldn’t let my dad break my heart like this, I was afraid of later hating him. Finally I opted to drink the alcohol from the can I opened instead of the beating. 

I hear snickers from the faces peeking through a slightly open door and I see the expression of triumph written on their faces. I swallow air and raise the glass while trembling at the impatient figure next to me. Half of its contents plummet into my stomach and I decide then that I hate it. I scowl at the glass, my tongue reeling from the bitterness. I became unsure of my next gulp. He grabbed my arm. I protested as more snickers fill the air, in this sad moment. I try drinking and failed my mouth determined not to open. He dismissed me with a few words, I don’t remember.
I felt relief however, humiliation overrode that feeling. I got into my room not caring who saw me because something was taken from me and I felt empty inside. I looked in the mirror and saw my nudity peering through my blue gown. My stranger face had not recovered from the incident. My heart did a double take and my eyes burned ready. I tried to blink back tears because I was proud to have released myself and sadness had no place. But they fell off. I was empty. I was naked.