1. The bed feels eerily tiny when I’m sleeping next to my mother. I have mastered the art of sleeping ngecala ekoneni because you make one wrong move and she gets up. “Kwenzekani?” her shouting song back to the land of the living.
2. It’s Tuesday and Vuyisa’s day to cook – read: another “soccer practice” has been invented in lieu. Mama says “I don’t care whose turn it is to cook, niyayazi mna nditya ngo 6”. Which is to say: know your role and place in the world. While his gender doesn’t constrain and bind him, yours does.
3. Ngu December which means uBrenda is blasting from every yard in your neighbourhood. You form your first mgalelo so you can buy Christmas snacks to celebrate with your friends. Your two piece suit is lemon. Slick, freshly relaxed hair zithe ncaa kuni nonke. Even uNdoza with her receding, or rather, barely there hair can conjure a straight back. The men in the neighbourhood look at you all like fresh meat. Your widening thighs and forming breasts be the main course they’re eyeing. Be the invitation to shoulder and thigh brushes from men who can no longer stand you calling them “tata or bhuti”. Be your crowning into womanhood in this land so violent. How it cracks and crushes your forming shells from cradle to woman. In this land, your harassment is a signal that you have indeed arrived.
4. The five of us make this four room feel like a matchbox. We’re shoeboxed into our existence, bound to each other by these walls if by nothing else. The space between head and foot be the distance from kitchen to toilet. Beds pile on top of each other as do our bodies. We breathe each other in and out. Fighting each other if for nothing else, then the space to breathe freely. And fully. And outside of each other. The air is thick with love mingled with resentment. Knots of despair and despise brewing and bubbling in our chests. Because poverty will do that. It sucks the air in the room, leaving no space to settle all the love and simultaneously create room for all we each are to exist here. So we fight each other, for each other. For ourselves and our breath.
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