Chapter 3


“You only live once but if you do it right once is enough.” — Mae West 


The following day was just a normal Saturday for me – nothing major.  The only good thing about it was that Koko was home on Saturdays so that meant I could leave Hilda and Masalesa behind and work on my own.  It also meant less hours so I was more than ready to start the day.  I got up and heated the water and got ready.  I collected all my stock and Mama was already done and waiting for me.  The nice part about our house was that every one had their own bedroom – despite us being a little poor.  I heard a car bell ring just outside the gate and I knew that was Malome Joel.  I mean he kind of did me a favour when I realized just how dark it was outside.  It was almost the end of May month so that meant winter was fast approaching.  My mother seemed a lot more eager than I was to leave.


Mama: “Kuka dilo tseo re tswe (pick up those things so that we can leave).”


She didn't even offer to assist me but well I didn't complain.  I was just not allowed to.  Upon approaching the car Malome Joel had about two passengers in the back seat.  The front seat was saved for me as usual.


Malome Joel: (smiling) “Hello Bina Bina.  Today o ntletse le moeng (you have brought me a new passenger).”


Mama: “Thobela (Hello) Joel.  I am headed to town so I thought that I could catch your taxi.”


Malome Joel: (smiling) “It is not a problem Mama.  Come sit next to Bina in the front.  I always reserve the front seat for her.  She is so good at math she helps me with all my checking.”


I was so nervous but my mother seemed to enjoy the attention.  I just imagined what people would say about me; “Bina is so poor that she dated a taxi driver for money or most probably to feed her entire family”.  People already assumed that I had no ambition or that I was just lazy or plain stupid hence I dropped out of school.  I stopped explaining myself to them a long time ago.  Mama was about to take out money to pay Malome Joel but he firmly refused to take her money.


Malome Joel: “Aowa (no) Mama.  Your money is not needed.  O ska wara (don't you worry).”


Mama: (smiling) “If Bina was a lot older and you weren't married I'd have made sure you married her instead.  My brother never told me you were such a good man Joel.  God bless your soul.”


There she went again acting like she just had to sell me to Joel or something.  They were laughing casually and chatting away.  I felt so out of place and I just couldn't wait to get out of there.  Mama got off first thank goodness.  When it was my time to get off I didn't even hesitate.


Malome Joel: “Bina o chaisa nako mang ke go late (what time do you knock off so that I can come fetch you)?”


Bina: (reluctantly) “At 1pm.”


Malome Joel: “Alright I'll see you then.”


I didn't know what to make of it.  I felt so out of place that my mind had wandered around the entire day.  One customer came and I gave them the wrong change simply because I was thinking about the entire situation with Malome Joel.  Mama and Koko were already so fond of him.  What was the meaning behind it all?  I tried not to let it get to me and before I knew it 1 o clock had struck.  I looked around and didn't see Malome Joel anywhere I breathed out a sigh of relief as I packed up.  I was about to take a walk hoping I'd find another taxi along the way when Lo and behold Malome Joel emerged out of nowhere right next to me.


Malome Joel: (smiling) “Hao (goodness) Bina Bina wa ndocha (are you avoiding me)?”


Bina: (nervously) “No why would I do that?”


Malome Joel: “I told you I'd come fetch you.  I never break my promises bjale (so) why are you trying to walk home?”


Bina: “I just wanted some fresh air that's all.”


Malome Joel: “Get in.”


I looked around and there were no passengers in the taxi.  I reluctantly got in and sat right at the edge of the passenger door in the front.


Malome Joel: (frowning) “Bina o shap (are you okay)?”


Bina: (fidgety) “Ja (yes)...”


Malome Joel: “Do I make you uncomfortable?”


I honestly had no idea how to even answer that.


Malome Joel: (frowning) “I get it.  This is about the conversation I had with Koko (granny) isn't it?  You're thinking that because I am married ke batla go go etsa speke saka neh (I want to make you my side piece right)?”


I shook my head while looking down.


Malome Joel: “The truth is Bina I care about you that's all.  I would never take advantage of a young girl like you.  I just have a very soft spot for you.  Besides your uncle would kill me.  Don't ever think of me like that okay?”


I nodded in relief.  That was out of the way; so I guess I was wrong.  Malome Joel didn't want to make me his concubine or anything like that.  I could now be free around him once again.  He started the car and drove off.  He was the one chatting away for a change that day and as usual an hour later I arrived home.


Bina: (smiling) “Dankie Malome Joel.  O nthositse (You have helped me a lot).”


I was about to get off but he stopped me.


Malome Joel: “Wait.  Can I have your number?  I mean I just want to contact you and have your number in case you have an emergency or something.”


I felt so embarrassed.


Bina: (discomposed) “I don't have a phone.”


Malome Joel: “Okay no problem.  I'll see you on Monday.”


Bina: (faint smile) “Sharp.”


I got into the house and found Koko had already made food for my siblings.  I wasted no time; as I put my basket down and freshened up then I left the house to go see my friend Selaelo before I was given another chore to do.  I found her mother outside sipping wine in a mug.  She always did that because apparently her husband hated seeing her drink.


Bina: (smiling) “Thobela Mma (Hello Ma).  Le kae na (How are you)?”


Selaelo's Mom: (smiling) “Hi Bina.  Re gona ra lena (I'm alright thanks and you)?”


Bina: “I'm okay.  Is my friend home?”


Selaelo's Mom: “Yes she is.  You can go in.”


I was about to enter when she stopped me.


Selaelo's Mom: “Bina ke fela ke go rapedisa ngwana mma (I'm praying for you my dear).  You have the entire world on your shoulders at your age.  I wish for you to just get your matric one day.”


She just always had a way of being randomly deep.  I smiled faintly I mean if only she knew that was my dream as well.  I knocked and entered the house.  The family knew me so I wasn't a stranger.  Selaelo was the only child yet there were rumours about her father having other children outside of marriage yet the mother still stayed.  I could never understand why but I was most probably too young to understand other people's problems.  I had problems of my own.  She was a teacher while the husband was a mine worker so he would hardly be home so it was always her and her mother.  They were so close and I just envied that relationship because my mother and grandmother were just never transparent.  I couldn't ever recall a conversation where they had prepared me for life – ever.  So how was I to even start a conversation about them with Malome Joel and what they actually thought about him?  I mean I once even tried to engage in a meaningful conversation with my grandmother about a book I once read Things Fall Apart by Chinue Achebe.  I mean that book really spoke to me and I was only 14 at the time.  I could honestly relate to it but as usual she rendered it rubbish and told me that reading would not feed us – yet my brothers were afforded the opportunity to go to school.  I wondered if Hilda would be expected to handle the household like me one day or if she would be able to go to school.  My mother's siblings were also like that; she being the first born herself had to go work so that she could look after her own siblings and they managed to go to school.  My mother never went back to get her matric while her siblings had nice life problems.  They were all educated to some extent while she wasn't.  


Eight children later they treat her like trash while my grandmother didn't say anything to reprimand them.  They hardly helped us with any food or money yet my mother sacrificed her entire life for them to be where they were.  My cousins were all well off and had nice clothes and I never liked it when they came to visit for the holidays.  They were just condescending and they would always flash their gadgets and nice clothes in our faces.  They hated the fact that I was rather intelligent so they would always talk about school and going to University soon just to spite me.  Anyway I found Selaelo on her bed browsing through a magazine.  She was excited to see me as we hardly ever got the chance to even bond.  She was literally my only friend and she never judged me whatsoever.


Selaelo: (excitedly) “Mogwera (friend)!  Kgale ke sa go bone (I haven't seen you in a while) man!”


She gave me a warm hug.


Selaelo: “How are you?”


Bina: “I've had better days wena (you)?”


Selaelo: “Ke shap (I'm okay).  What is wrong?”


Bina: (sigh) “Ag life fela (just life) chomi (friend).  Tell me about you.  How was school this week and what did I miss?”


Selaelo: “Ag school is school man.  M'am Mashaba says she misses you.  She is hoping that you come back to school one day.”


Bina: “Ja I also miss school as well.”


Selaelo: “What about night school mogwera (friend)?  I mean you could always attend evening classes.”


If only she knew just how tired I got after each day.  It wasn't easy.


Bina: “Maybe in a year or so.  I mean I'm turning 17 soon and once I turn 19 Lesiba and Matome would be in University giving me some time to bounce back.  They are a year apart but you know they started school at the same time.”


Selaelo: “Hmm I still hope you consider it one day.”


Bina: “Ja.  Anyway I wanted to talk to you about something.”


Selaelo: “Yes?”


Bina: (sigh) “Eish (oh)

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well I don't know if I am overreacting or what.”


Selaelo: “Keng mogwera (what is it friend)?  You're scaring me.”


Bina: “No man.  It's just that Malome Joel is awfully nice to me nowadays.  I mean he has always been nice but now he is just being extra you know what I mean?”


Selaelo: (frowning) “Did he do something to you?”


Bina: “No well not really.  I mean he waits for me every day after I am done at the mall and he even saves a seat for me in his taxi mo pele (in the front).  He bought me Chicken Lickin' just the other day and he even asked Koko for permission to fetch me in the morning from now on.  I was so uncomfortable and he must have noticed because he said to me that just because he is married does not mean that he wants me as his side piece.  I don't know if I should be worried or not.”


Selaelo: “Hayi (No) friend.  I heard a few stories about him.  I mean word out there is that Joel is into young girls.  You do know that his wife can't bear children right?”


I had no idea.


Bina: “Aowa (No)...”


Selaelo: “He is a good guy in the eyes of everyone in the community hence your family also like him.  I mean he just flashes money and everyone adores him.  Just make sure he doesn't cross the line with you.  I want to see you prosper and leave bitches like Gladys speechless.  I don't want you to be another statistic.”


She was right I just had to be careful.  She didn't elaborate on the entire story about Malome Joel and younger girls but I guess it was also a rumour she heard.  


Bina: “I hear you chomi (friend).”


Selaelo: “Good now tell me what book you have been reading today.”


I smiled as I told her about the book I had read that week and we chatted away.  At about 5pm I went back home and did all my chores.  I went to bed and it was an end to just another day in the life of Bina Makwetla.  The following day was Church day.  We were not going to be fed Sunday lunch if we decided to miss church.  That was the rule in my grandmother's house so we just had to do it – whether we liked it or not.  We got up early and I had to bath Masalesa and Hunadi while Mama helped the rest.  Lesiba Matome and Pebetse were teenagers so they could do pretty much everything for themselves.  My grandmother only helped herself as usual.  Whenever my mother used to ask her why she didn't assist her she would tell her that she had her fair share in raising her own children and that she didn't send my mother to go and have so many children yet when a woman didn't have a lot of children they were ridiculed.  So my mother stopped asking my grandmother for any assistance.  She only helped whenever she felt like it.  And so we were ready and good to go after breakfast.  The Makwetla family were on their way to church.  We were about to walk as usual and just then Malome Joel was approaching us.  He was becoming a bit of a nuisance if you had asked me.


Malome Joel: (smiling) “Thobela ba ga Makwetla (hello the Makwetla family).  A na le siame (are you okay)? My wife and I are on our way to church so I was hoping to give you a lift as well since we're all headed to the same place.”


Thank goodness he wasn't alone.  It was the very first time I got to be so close to the wife.  She was so beautiful a little dark skinned but she looked like a model.  She was a bit tall and had the most beautiful skin I had ever come across.  I was very light – almost pale like my mother yet one could never really see the beauty of my skin since I was always working in the sun.


Koko: (smiling) “Rea leboga (thank you) Joel.”


They wasted no time and got in and Malome Joel was smiling at me as usual.  I ignored that I didn't want his wife to have her own ideas about me.  I couldn't even get what Selaelo said to me about him being into younger girls out of my mind.  From then onwards I noticed the strangest things about him and every offer would make me feel as if indeed it was true and that I was next on the list.


Malome Joel: “Koko (granny) Mma (mama) le sa mo gopola mogatshaka Portia akere (you still remember my wife Portia right)?”


Mama: (smiling) “Ee (yes) re ka mo lebala bjang Mma sebotsana (how can we forget such a pretty face)?”


Portia smiled and greeted us all.  She was so sweet; that made me wonder why on earth they didn't have children.  I didn't want to ask it was just inappropriate.


Portia: (smiling) “Mma (mom) your children are so beautiful.  Indeed you were blessed with a big family.  Some of us wish we could just have one.  I'd truly be grateful.”


Koko: “Ah go no swana (it's all the same).  Go thusa eng (What does it help) having so many children but no money?”


My grandmother just had a tendency of shaming my mother – even in the midst of people.  She also loved the bottle so I knew she had probably drank one or two before we left.


Portia: “Aowa (No) Koko children are a blessing from God.  God would never give you children you can't take care of.  Am I right Joel?”


Malome Joel: (smiling) “Yes my love.  You are absolutely right.”


Koko just clicked her tongue leaving my mother embarrassed.  I felt horrible for her I just wanted to dig a hole and just stay in it.  Portia was very nice she made conversation with us while Mama just remained quiet.  We were finally at church and just when I thought we would dodge Malome Joel and his wife Portia they followed us and sat right next to us.  Portia really seemed drawn to children so she put Masalesa on her lap and had Hunadi right next to her.  Malome Joel wasn't bothered he also seemed to be going to church just because his wife made it a requirement in their marriage.  Other than that he wasn't fazed and looked absolutely bored.  The choir started to sing and they usually took about thirty minutes of our time.  Church was nice but it was a  bit of a chore because it would last quite some time – from 9am until 1pm from there we were forced to make small talk with other members of the congregation.  Koko was right next to me and she took a piece of bubblegum to ease the smell of alcohol from her breath.  Thirty minutes later the pastor started with his sermon.


Moruti: “Bagaetso (My people) today is a very special day just like any other.  It is special not because of any occasion but because we are here and alive.  That is reason enough to celebrate.”


Congregation: “Amen.”


Moruti: “I'd like to take a moment and talk to you all about generational curses.  A lot of us know of it but how many of us are actually doing something about it?  And please don't get me wrong; I am not talking about those curses you have to go to a sangoma or prophet to heal and get rid of but I am talking about the power of the tongue as well as the power to destroy one's soul.  Many of you are not even aware how much power you hold within you.  Proverbs 18:21 says; “Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruits.”  


How many of you can actually raise your hands and say that no one in your family has ever told you something so hurtful that til today it is so hard to forget and possibly even forgive?   Mothers how many of you can actually tell me right here right now that you have never cursed your own children?  A lot of you curse your children more especially even before you die.  Those who enjoy saying; “A ka se lokelwe ke selo santse ke phela (Nothing in his / her life will ever come right for as long as I live).  Le direla eng sona seo (Why do such a thing)?  Then you wonder why so many of you are swarming in poverty it is because you are consumed with so much hatred.  If your fellow sibling does not want to give you money you say; “Re tla bona o tla fella kae (we will see where they end up).  You even go as far as passing on that horrible tendency unto your children's children.  Pelo e mpe ga e nyakege bagaeso (an evil heart is unwanted my people).”


Congregation: “Amen.”


They were acting like they were listening but I knew that a lot of them were just not bothered.  They weren't ready to go on a journey of being humble and nice to their children any time soon.


Moruti: “Proverbs 15:1 says; “A soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Why do you think that a lot of your children don't get along?  Why do you think that a lot of them don't even bother visiting you or even sending you any money?  A lot of you hardly even see some of your grandchildren – it is because of your tongues!  Leleme (the tongue)!”


Congregation: “Yes!”


Moruti: “Now tell me; do you think that a lot of you are where you are right now because God doesn't love you?  Because God favours those who have cursed you?!  No!  I say no!  Matthew 12: 36 – 37 says; “I tell you on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak for by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.” I say to you today bagaeso (my people) guard your tongues and watch what you say.  A lot of people today are suffering because they struggle to get past their parents' vile and atrocious words!  Proverbs 12:18 says; “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”  Now you cannot tell me that you don't know how to fix anything you have done wrong!  Bagaeso (my people) the same way God forgives us is the same way he encourages us to forgive and ask for forgiveness.  How will you inherit the kingdom of God if you do not want to soften your heart?  Le re le batswadi ba ba right (you claim to be good parents) with good parenting skills yet you push your children straight into depression!  Curses are not the end of you!  For God plans everything and when He says yes nobody can say no!  So many have bewitched and killed family because they were even more successful than them or their own children!  I say unto you – you can defeat any curse!  Lamentations 3: 25 – 26 says; “The Lord is good to those who wait for him to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”


I felt chills down my spine because it felt as if Moruti (pastor) was talking straight to me.  I had just read that verse two days prior.


Moruti: “Now when you leave this church today leave with a different mindset.  No one changes overnight but put the past in the past and make sure that you change your ways and live a life God intended for you.  Money is not everything but your actions as a parent can either scar or build your children.”

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