By Vuyani Tshabalala-Monyake
Hello, my name is Moratehi. I wish! No, seriously, my name is Lithonako: a curse handed over to me by my mother, by my narrow-minded grandmother. I was born while my migrant father was away, so my mother had to bear the brunt of being fertile enough to conceive a child so quickly after her marriage.
“Rona bana ba Koeneng, mona ba hlaha kamora lilemo ngoetsi e nyetsoe,” my aunts would mutter under their breath whenever my mother passed. I carried this legacy right through my family courtyard into the village playground. I could write a book about the full wrath of this name. The pain of being teased and ridiculed. I thought it would end, but now it’s rearing its ugly head into my happily ever after!
As I lay in bed, the crack of the ceiling is glaring down at me and the breeze from the cracked window is slowly moving the peeling paint on the ceiling. The cracks, on the backdrop of the yellow painted walls, are glaring at me. Piles of yesterday’s clean laundry, now blood-soaked, are strewn on the floor. My lotion is splattered across the floor. This is no castle! This is not the fairytale I signed up for! The snoring beast by my side is definitely not the guy I want to spend the rest of my life with. Every breath he takes spews out fumes from his whiskey. The stillness of the night is broken only by the snoring snare of my would-have-been Prince Charming. I cannot help but think how different my life would have been if I had been given a different name: a more flamboyant, charismatic name – like Moratehi!
Had I been named Moratehi, would Mokoena have had the courage to come charging at me like a raving bull? Would he have thought twice about shoving me against the hard brick wall and banging my head against it? His snarling voice as he howled out my name still rings in my ears. His pathetic snarling voice as he boldly declared: “You cannot even think of running to your sister’s, we are under lock down.” Tears trickle down my cheeks as I relive my nightmare. So distant, yet so fresh in my mind. How can he just sleep like that, knowing full well that he hit me to a pulp just moments ago? How is this even possible?
In the other room, I can hear the shuffles as the kids wake up. Soon they will be in here with their smiles beaming and their eyes wide open. Ready to plan our lock down adventure! How can I tell them that we can’t cook potjie as promised? All because my left side is sore? How will I tell them that I am incapable of gathering the energy to get out of bed? Not only that, how will I tell them that the whiskey-fumes-spewing monster called their father took the last coins saved up for our weekly supplies? It is amazing how he, the self-appointed President of ‘Covid has crippled the economy’, still expects to buy whiskey at lock down prices. Bathong, it costs like 500 Maloti a bottle! We all don’t know where the next meal is coming from!
Enough with the pity party. I must wipe my tears and hide my blood-soaked nightshirt! Let me dash into the shower: the eucalyptus smell from the bath salts shall soak up the negative energy within the room. One day, I shall have the courage to walk away from it all. I do not want them to see me like this. Like I already told this beast that is their father: “My children are going through a pandemic. The last thing they need is to go through the breakup of their family unit!”
I am Lithonako: a mother. I am broken on the inside, all while trying to be strong for my children through a global pandemic! I hope you can hear my cries. Save me. Save my children from this nightmare!