This story contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.
I am 9 years old and clearing the table of messy plates after dinner with mom, dad and “uncle”. We’ve just said bye to mom and dad as they left for the music concert that begins in 30 minutes. “Uncle” is left to babysit me for the night. We will make popcorn in sunflower oil. Tonight he will let me salt it because I am a good boy and will not put too much salt in it. He will also not tell mom that he let me use the salt cellar. We want to clear the table, make popcorn and sit in front of the black and white TV screen to watch “Enter the Dragon” before it begins at 21h30. We manage all this in time. Even the salting of popcorn under his supervisory eye and the gentle grip of my wrist to make sure I do not make a mess of this delicate process.
We sit on the couch. There’s a blanket. There’s a cold, unfamiliar hand… a forceful, uncaring, grating and unzipping hand. There’s a tear of frenulum. I catch Bruce Lee in the corner of my eye. He can’t save me. “Uncle” is too strong. All. This. Blood.
On my favourite shorts with a coin pocket and a hole in them. “Go and clean yourself! “. “You should be careful with your zip!”.
The bathroom light is too bright. I want darkness. It must swallow me whole. The water in the sink is crystal clear and pure before I cloudy it up with Dettol. The white cotton wool almost disappears in the tainted water. I fish it out. My. Broken. Frenulum. The sting. The fear that grips me when I dip back the cotton ball in the water and it turns a pink lemonade colour.
I remember it all. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault. Ask my favourite shorts. They’re buried under the mango trees in the orchard. Where childhood dreams sway like savannah grass on a breezy day, waiting to be claimed by the boy who grew up too soon and lived in fear of shame. I have to find those dreams and tell them that I didn’t know better. And that we cannot reunite, because I can’t find the boy. He sunk into the television rays that night. Looking for Bruce Lee.
Frank Malaba © 2016