This Child of Mine: Part Two
This Child of Mine: Part Two
The teacher droned on and on about something I no longer cared about. English period after lunch, what were they thinking? Most of the class was dozing away. At least I was doodling.
“…Siwa? I asked you a question.” Madam Joan was glaring at me. The veins in her forehead were just about to pop.
“Sorry madam, could you please repeat the question?”
She tsked and stomped her way to my desk. She smelled of salt and some tired flowery scent. I did not like it. I couldn’t cover my nose either.
“I asked, what’s the feminine of ‘dog’?”
Before I could answer, she snatched up my book for my classmates to see.
“Look, just look. This rubbish your classmate is drawing.” In the middle of the A3 paper was what looked like the male phallus between two tiny hills. In my defence, I was drawing a volcanic mountain just about to erupt.
“What is this drawing? Class, do you understand what this is?”
Anita was the first to snicker. I was just one week old in my new school, and she was already making my life unbearable. Like today at break-time, she had summoned her group of snooty girls and told me to lift my skirt. I had refused. But no one refused Anita. In one swift movement, she pushed me to the ground and lifted my skirt, exposing my Calvin Klein boxers to the boys playing football next to us.
“Maskini huntha, kiparangoto! Maskini huntha, kiparangoto!” Anita cackled arms akimbo shaking from side to side. Her friends joined in, and to a faraway onlooker, it could have just been teenage girls having fun.
“I’ll tell my mother.” My feeble voice taunted my ears as I tried to get decent again.
“Which mother?” Anita wanted to know. And as usual, I did not tell any teacher, so none came to my rescue.
Madam Joan slapped me with my drawing.
“Get out of my class!” Her whole body was shaking. Vibrating. She was not the first teacher I had elicited this kind of reaction from.
* * *
“Siwa, this is getting out of hand. This is the fifth school you are being expelled from.”
I was quiet.
“What do you want, Siwa?”
I was quiet.
“Siwa, look at me when I’m talking to you.”
I finally looked up through the blurriness in my eyes. Mzee Boni looked almost bent over. He had taken to wearing corduroy jackets and sailor caps in a bid to look younger because he actually took my fashion advice. Yet, now, he just looked old, with his salt and pepper hair peeking from under his hat. It had to be my fault that he was ageing so fast.
“Pole baba for everything.” He laid a tentative hand on my knee. I was not big on touch.
“How do you want me to help you?” I had made the same request time and time again and always backed out. This time, I was sure.
“I want to meet her.”
* * *
She came like all visitors came to the house: loaded with shopping and gifts for the kids and a smile that stretched too tight. I was in my room – a luxury since all the other kids had to share – deciding what to wear. Dress or pants? In four of the schools I had been in, Boni had made special requests to have me either in a dress or a pair of trousers. On most days I chose trousers. I was at a loss today.
One of the kids threw my door wide open and announced my visitor had arrived, pressing me to hurry up before they ate my share of the mandazi. I stood ready to go out and immediately fell back on the bed. I was not ready. My skin felt too hot and clammy. A thick trickle of sweat made its way down my back to my ass crack. A pair of shorts would have to do for today.
They were seated in the main living room where we all gathered during important events, like that day Kamau went with some big NGO people. Kamau was hugely talented. He could drum his way into the stoniest of hearts, and that is what he did. Now, he writes us letters from some cold place in Europe to tell us which concerts he goes to. Today was my turn, only that my brothers and sisters wouldn’t be part of it. Sister Roberta was showing the woman some pictures as they took tea and mandazi. Mzee Boni was just seated, doing nothing, which he never did.
Sister Roberta dropped the album on the table and made a show of clearing the table as Boni stood, fidgeting, unsure of what to do.
“Siwa…” her voice so much like mine pulled my feet towards her. A gentle hand on my shoulder, Boni’s, led me to a chair facing her.
She stretched her hands and made to hold mine. I let her.
“You look so grown up. So beautiful.” She was smiling through her tears and squeezing my fingers a bit too hard. I snatched my hands away.
“Where have you been all this time? Did you know I just had my first period? At fifteen when all my peers started at twelve, huh?”
“You need to…”
“Do you know how confusing it is to have to use the girls’ bathroom today, the boys’ the next day?”
“Siwa…this is…” Boni tried to hold me by the shoulders, but I was shaking too hard. “Don’t…”
“Siwa! I am not your mother!”
“…touch me!” the words clashed, and all action in the room ceased. I was vaguely aware of Sister Roberta shooing the kids away from witnessing my outburst. Boni looked like he had caved in on himself.
“I am sorry, but I am not your mother. I am your mother’s sister, and she left something for you.” In her hand, she held out a white envelope with my name on it.
In slow motion and a blurry haze, I sat on the floor and opened the letter.
My dear Siwa,
If you are reading this, it means you have met Aunt Mishi, possibly the only person allowed to cane your behind when you misbehave. Kidding. If you knew me, you would know I like to joke a lot. You holding this letter means you are ready to meet me only that I am no longer here. I missed you. I missed everything about you but seeing you meant putting you in danger, and so I stopped coming to visit. Your father was getting suspicious, and he is not a good man. What I mean to say is, I loved you. You are my child. My special child. Not an in-between but just my child. I was not brave enough to stand up for you, but the people with you right now are your pillars. They will protect and love you, and I know that by this time, maybe the world will learn to love you just the way you are. But if they don’t, then that’s their loss. You are special. And that’s your superpower. Be brave.
Monica, your mother.
A square black and white photograph of a woman smiling with me fell from the envelope, and for the first time, I wanted Aunt Mishi to hug forever.
Header Illustration: ‘intersex babies killed at birth because they are bad omens’. Credit: Mail & Guardian