Tales of an African Childhood: Story 2.The one with the mentally ill twins.

So once upon a neighbourhood.The one I grew up in.The same one.The hood hood.Deep down in Bulawayo.

I think was in grade 1 or 2,still Opposite our house lived a single mother. “Single” because growing up I never saw any man enter her small gate or anything of that sort.Come to think of it,she was the only one who ever seemed to leave and enter her home.No relatives visited.She just seemed to be cruising on her own. But we knew,everyone in the hood knew she had 2 kids,who were handicapped and so spent most of their lives enslaved to their wheelchairs.

She worked at a local school where I attended as well,but she did not teach the “normal kids”,she was assigned to what I grew up knowing as “the special class” where most students,like her kids, were more or less dumped.

She fascinated me.Her poise.Her silence that somewhat exhumed rage.She never spoke to anyone.Everytime she opened her small gate,if I happened to be outside,I’d always peep through the wall to see what she was wearing.Sometimes if I were outside I would greet,just to hear her voice but it was the always same “Yebo siyaphila”, I am fine, she mostly uttered without even looking at me. I don’t know if it was her true character,or if perhaps it was a defence mechanism designed to protect her from hood stigma.

To make matters worse,her house looked haunted,I’m not even exaggerating.There were fruit trees everywhere that gave the house a dense look,and probably worsened our fear for her and her children. She never let her children out.Not even for air,or the sun.They were always locked up.When she went out,she locked them in.Which made me wonder how they survived.With the kids being more or less helpless in that condition,what if something bad happened in her absence,what if they needed to use the toilet,what if more serious a fire started?In hindsight it pains me to think that they probably would have died inside there helplessly. But anyway…

This is just meant to show how savage children can be.I just remembered one cold day. My friends and I sat outside (when I say my friends I mean children who lived in the same block as mine which were MaSeven,Rejoice,Mpho,Wendy and a bunch of other stock characters). On that surprisingly cold and cloudy day we sat by my pavement just enjoying the wind and the cold,playing some games and at some point we got hungry.

In all of the neighbourhood, the house of the twins,the house opposite mine was the only house we had never penetrated or entered just for our own good.The only time we did was maybe when we were sent to borrow some salt or sugar,whatever,you know how the story goes right? Yes but we hadn’t really toured the yard and I guess the fact that the Lady owner of it was intimidating made it more daring.And usually when a person was like this we usually referred to them as a “witch” or something cause it wasn’t normal for us children to fear.But that was just a hood thing anyway,I mean every Sunday she left for church but we chose to act like we didn’t see that.The thought of her being a witch was more exciting.It lured us to try even harder to know her

So we are sitting by the flowers, bored out of our minds,hungry as well,non of us wanted to go back inside our homes for we knew we would not be allowed back outside. Ma Seven and the other dominant characters in the block decided we raid this house,this untouchable house.We were a bit worried but I knew the woman was not in the house,and I being her stalker, knew her Saturday schedule (she usually left the house after lunch and returned right during dusk).So we had as much time as we needed,well not really but yeah.

Our plan was set.Get inside the house, take the fruits, and leave.What could go wrong?

So yes we used the small gate I knew was never locked (she only did at night). Like a gust of wind we rushed into the unsuspecting homestead.So first what we did was shake the fruits trees (peach) so that the weaker ones would fall off first. Each of us holding onto a part of the tree’s trunk,depending on one’s height,would begin to shake shake shake until fruits did not fall anymore. So as this was happening leaves would fall as well, damaging the well swept yard,but we didn’t care,a hungry kid is a senseless kid. After shaking all the trees we couldn’t even step on the ground without stepping on a fruit. We tried putting the fruits between our shirts and pockets but the fruits were too much. And that was when an idea was brought to fruition; we needed plastic bags.

But where would we get them from?If we go back to our houses it would have looked suspicious.So we decided to now enter the house in whose yard we were in and try and look for plastic bags for “our” fruits. (Can you imagine a murderer coming into your home without a weapon,going into your kitchen getting a knife and stabbing you by it,this was exactly that).

One of us had to stay by the gate and a few of us into the house.And I being the one who knew this house better,got to join the plastic bag team.It wasn’t really a Mission Impossible task,for the back kitchen door wasn’t locked. This woman didn’t lock the doors?In hindsight that was just weird. But anyway…we ransacked the kitchen until we got plastic bags.The curiosity got the better of us,some kids began to enter rooms we didn’t intend to.But we did anyway…dirty as we were,leaving our dusty footprints on her red shiny floor (such disrespect).We went to the living room where we saw the two twins sitting on their wheelchairs, saliva drooling from their cheeks,watching TV. They were aware that they had some company.They did smile but could not utter a single word. None of us felt anything then,but now I do.

As kids we didn’t understand why another child had to be different from us ,or why,why were some born fit and healthy and some had to be enslaved by crutches and wheelchairs.I guess that was why we did not resent these twins.What made it weird was why they were never allowed outside. This woman judged herself. She pitied herself.And that wasn’t the way.I mean we had Wendy.She was just like the twins but just not on the wheelchair.We got along fine with her.Kids do not see what grown people do.That’s why we even did normal things with Wendy and never made her feel different.

It seems like I can’t really get the message but heaven knows I’m trying to say something.

But anyway… We left the house, filled up our plastic bags with peaches.We did not even bother to pick up the leaves,after all it would have been to no avail because our footprints were allover the yard.She would definitely know we were there. So we went back to my pavement,shared the fruits amongst ourselves and began feasting.

We sat there until the woman returned holding plastic bags of food,ironic huh? She entered her yard, still didn’t say a word although we knew she knew what we had done.


3 thoughts on “Tales of an African Childhood: Story 2.The one with the mentally ill twins.

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