It was mid-morning. In the forest on the outskirts of the city, birds
were singing out their merry melodies of thanks giving to their
Creator who gave them such a unique carefree life. This morning I
was in mood for nature’s poetics. How could I be when my heart was
so broken? Twice that day, as I wandered deeper into the forest, I had
thought of hanging myself but the pangs of labour had restrained me
from scrambling up any tree. The dreadful moment had found me
fallen under a Mopani tree whose base was adorned with a variety of
closely-knit undergrowth. The baby had come with no complications
at all but the searing pain and sweating.
Hot tears of fury stung on my eyes as I glared at the nude whimpering
infant lain on the ground. My mind was a whirlpool of emotions:
motherly love pledged by labour pains, distress caused by
hopelessness and hatred born of a man’s brutality. Try as I might, I
still could not believe that Bhekizwe with whom I had been madly in
love to the extent of eloping could really have deserted me in so cruel
a manner. Some weeks earlier Bhekizwe and I had had a heated row
in which he claimed that the pregnancy I had was not his for rumours
had reached him that I was having an affair with our landlord, which
was not true of course. Three days later he had disappeared leaving
behind him two month’s rental arrears. Come month-end, the landlord
had simply evicted me and, in a bid to recover his loss, confiscated
our property -an old squeaky 3/4 bed, a couple of threadbare blankets
and one fairly new, a paraffin stove and culinary utensils of no value
at all. Fearing for my life, I could not go home where my father had
threatened to spear me if ever I dared set a foot. I sought refuge at my
widowed aunt’s place.
Shortly the grapevine had reached me too, revealing Bhekizwe’s
He had gone after his ex-girlfriend who now resides in South Africa,
his best friend Aleck told me. It was then that I realised what a big
fool I had been.
Sometime before the argument of my alleged affair I had come across
a hot baby-come-back letter when I was washing one of his trousers.
It was addressed from South Africa. Upon asking him about the
author of the letter he had calmly replied, “Believe me honey she is
just my ex-girlfriend. We went our separate ways some three years
before I met you. Her behaviour wasn’t the kind of my liking”.
“Why then is she still writing you such kind of letters?” I had asked.
“The truth is she can not bring herself to believe that it is all over
He had paused and held me in one of his embraces, which usually set
my whole body on fire. His sexy eyes melting the essence of my soul
he had continued, “But with you now as the queen of my heart she is
as good as a long dead person. Even if she writes me a million letters
a day we can not get back together again.”
A sizzling hot kiss had turned the whole matter into history, I had
instantly thrown it out of my mind. What really mattered then was
that I had him in my arms.
Little did I know that our union was to be for a short while? How
could Bhekizwe be so ruthless to me after all this waste of time and
my being turned into an outcast of my family? What was I going to
do with this child he had fathered? Was it a gold medal by which the
whole world would recognise me as a champion of foolishness? No! I
was not going to keep a fatherless child. Never.
As my fiery eyes re-focused on the wailing infant a strong nausea
welled from the bottom of my stomach and slowly churned its way
- A painful lump knotted on my throat, I swallowed hard. Suddenly,
as of possessed by some devil, I pounced upon the infant and
grappled its frail neck which was still slippery with blood and after
birth. Clasping my hands, I pressed it hard on the ground bringing the
wails to a choking stop. Kicking and flailing wildly, the infant let out
a succession of tiny nerve wrecking coughs. I closed my eyes
dreading to see it die.
The guttural sounds the infant made sickened me to the core of my
soul, making me which I had some earplugs on. The crackling
crunched on my ears like a dentist’s drill. I clenched my jaws. My
nerves grew taut. Amazingly the devilish strength escaped me as
sudden as it had come. My hands became numb try as I might to
tighten them. Involuntarily, my eyelids flew open. God forbid I
should have gone blind. The infant had become a heart-rending sight,
which only a cannibal could behold without flinching. Its face,
contorted with pain, had turned into a pathetic crimson with every
pore gleaming with sweat. My heart-beat nearly burst my chest open
as an electric shiver shot down my spine threatening to pluck out all
the hairs on my head. I passed out.
How long it was while I was unconscious I do not know. I only
remember myself being woken by inquisitive twitters of bluebreasted
tit birds, which were hopping on the lower branches of the
undergrowth. My eyes wavered dreamingly on the undergrowth and
tree tops as I tried to ascertain where I was. A throbbing on the side of
my head dizzied my senses, I must have bumped my heard on a stone
or something. When my head cleared my ears caught faint wheezy
gasps -the cause for the tit’s curiosity. The infant was still alive!
Instantly, a replay of the heinous act flicked on in my mind. Fear
gripped me as I realised that had I been caught at it jail was sure
going to be my home for the next couple of years or so. I jerked up.
The tits took flight with shrills. My pulse racing, I glanced all around me.
Upon seeing no one in sight I thanked the good Lord that the forces
of evil had led me to choose such a remote place for their ghoulish
ritual. I picked up the soil and leaf plastered infant. It had cried its
voice out and was then merely gaping its mouth like a long starved
bird-chick. My sweaty hands shaking uncontrollably, I wrapped the
infant with my jersey which I had taken off when the labour pains
raised my temperature. I then tried to bring it up to suckle but the
umbilical cord would not allow the infant’s head to reach my navel.
It was then that compunction overwhelmed me, stripped me naked
with guilt. I found myself not comprehending how the infant had
wronged me for it to be at the mercy of my vengeful wrath. Was it not
my fault that it was born anyway: owing to my pig-headedness, didn’t
I take heed of negative peer pressure and clung on to false promises
of an earthly paradise at the expense of my mother’s advice that I
should abstain from playing around with men too soon if I were to
avoid the worst results of some of their dirty games? Didn’t I allow
myself to be deceived by a valentine’s dinner by candlelight at a city
hotel with Dolly Paton’s “Tomorrow Is Forever” as background
music; and a boxful of gifts -perfumes, cosmetics and fancy lingerie?
What could have the infant which was not even an embryo then done
on my behalf?
The sting of guilt brought with it a fresh surge of anger. Anger
summoned back the devilish spirit of vengeance which, this time
around, chose to feed venom into my mind.
“Why subject yourself to such mental anguish. Bhekizwe discarded
you like a dirty rag now you want to burden yourself with this child
that would forever remind you of him. Just dump it there and go
before someone sees you”.
Choking with renewed rage, I threw the infant on the ground. It fell
with a thud and a muffled whimper.
As I tried to stand up, again the umbilical cord checked my move. I
froze with horror as I watched an extension of my flesh lain on the
ground kicking in slow motion like a cyclist battling against a steep
ascent. I could not stand the idea of ripping the cord from the baby’s
stomach and leaving it dangling from inside me. I could not tear my
soul. Powerless, I feel besides the infant and wept.
Convulsing with sobs, a volley of questions burst fort from my
conscience completely exorcising the fiend from my mind. What
would killing or dumping this baby bring to you?
Are you not, by God’s decree, supposed to be the guardian of this
blessing which some women desperately need to the extent of paying
thousands of dollars for cures or even bogus cures for barrenness;
with some snatching it from other women? What if it is the only seed
you are ever to conceive? All the same, are you going to be able to
live with the guilt and cope up with the fight against the “ingozi”
spirit of the human blood seeking vengeance?
“No!” I found myself shouting eerily as frightful images threatened to
blow my head asunder. My shout startled the infant.
“Hush my baby”, I said to it softly. “No harm shall befall you now.
Nothing is ever going to come between us. With you my girl I shall
need no man, not even a billionaire. Men are heartless cruel beasts.
You shall be souvenir of all the heartache. I have suffered because of
a man I so much loved. I will Christen you Memory”.
Tears streaming down my cheeks, I upturned the front of my skirt to
make a pouch in which I carefully placed the infant. I stood up
abruptly and fled the place without looking back as if it was Sodom
and Gomorrah to which if I looked back I would instantly become a
pillar of salt. My mind was made up. I was going to join my aunt in
vegetable vending at the city market so as to raise money for the
upkeep of my daughter. How could I fail to care for only one child
when my aunt has been able to pay rent, raise and educate a family of
five with money from vegetable vending.