Monday, March 22, 2010

My Name Is Dubekile

(First published in the Sunday News in 2009)

My name is Dubekile. I am 9 years old, doing Grade 5. I would like to tell you about my father. My father is an old man with grey hair. He was born in 1978. I saw his date of birth on his ID the other day when I was searching his wallet for R50. He had said he did not have the money, but in the morning I had seen him at the bottle store braaing meat when I was flying kites with my friends. My father was also holding a bottle of beer, and he was laughing with his friends. In the afternoon he came home staggering, took off his trousers in the kitchen and immediately went to sleep in the bedroom. He was wearing an old jogger short underneath. Mother was not home, she had gone in the morning to town where she sells juice cards which she buys for US$1 and sells for 15. When father had gone to sleep, I searched his pockets and took his wallet, which I opened and saw his ID, but he had no money, but only a condom inside. That is when I saw his ID. 1978. I needed the R50 because the headmaster said if anybody who does not have it must not come to school on Monday. The money is not for school fees. It is for paying our teachers salaries. The headmaster says we must pay their salaries now since the government does not want to pay them. I want to pay my teacher because he educates me, but my father does not want to. He says it is not his duty, he says he is not the one who is employing the teachers. He also says when he was at school there was no such thing as paying teachers education was for free and why this nonsense now. Sometimes I do not like my father. He is making us suffer. Sometimes we go the whole day without eating anything at home, but if you go the bottle store, there you find him drinking beer with his friends. And they will be laughing too. I do not remember the last time I laughed, not because I do not like laughing, but because I have no reason to laugh, what with this hunger and anger that fills my heart everyday. Yes I am also angry. And I am also scared too, because my anger sometimes just comes without any provocation. Father is angry too. He is always shouting at me and mother, and when he is drunk it is even worse, because he sometimes beats me. He is always saying ‘do you think money grows on trees?’ The other day when he said that, just after he had also insulted mother for not cooking for him when there was not even any food in the house to cook, I asked him wena mdala do you think money grows at the bottle store? and that is when he said I must go away from his house, and then he went to sleep. I did not go away because the house is not his. We are lodgers, and the house belongs to Mr Skhulu, who works for the city council. Mr Skhulu has another house in Nkulumane, and another in Pumula South. Anyway, it was in the afternoon, and I knew that in the late afternoon when father woke up, he would be sober and sorry looking and he would be pretending that nothing happened, and life will go on as usual. Sometimes I pity him. My father. Deep down I know that he is a harmless old man born in 1978 who is only confused by always being broke. Mother the other day told him that they must go together to town together because she knows a man who burn DVD’s and sells them eGodini terminus who is looking for an assistant, and father said if mother is having an affair with this man, he is going to ‘burn’ her also and sell her for a scud, then off he went to the bottle store, carrying an empty bottle of beer. Later I saw him laughing and carrying a quart at the braai stand. This man amazes me sometimes. How can somebody who is failing to pay the R50 for my education refuse employment when he is offered one? And the money for the beer. How come he can afford it when at home he is a total failure financially? Sometimes I wonder, is there something that he is doing that mother and me are not aware of? Or maybe uyaloya and he can make money but that money is only for buying beer and braai and if he used it for something else, it would disappear? But still, I will continue searching his wallet when he comes in drunk, maybe I can get the R50 my teacher wants…

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