1981. Two young people. Newly eloped. Scared beyond their wits.
It is a cool September evening. There is a gentle breeze flirting shamelessly with the pomegranate trees heavy laden with fruit. For some out of turn reason, there’s a steady, light drizzle quenching the thirsty asbestos roof. The young man in this blossomed relationship is running around with feet beating the concrete floor faster than a hummingbird could dream of flap his wings.
The walls of those Luveve Township houses are thin enough for the neighbours to
Hear his voice steadily pour out of him like custard. “Are you sure this time?” Should we ask Shakes to call an ambulance? “Yes!!!” The young woman gasps. “Call an ambulance!” She is the complexion of a grain fed egg yolk and her cheeks are that of nectarines. A glow of sweat is on her brow. He bolts out of the room with sprinter-like agility.
The floodgates of her womb gush open. A minute of silence…
It is now punctuated by the heavier raindrops plummeting onto the corrugated asbestos roof.
She is alone at this point. But only for the time, it takes her lover to go next door to use the dial-up telephone to call the Ambulance.
Fear, love, uncertainty, joy and great anticipation weave into an invisible rope that grips her so she cannot yell for the father of this miracle in her womb that is proclaiming its imminent arrival.
She grips her belly. Looks towards the door like an expectant puppy.
The shuffle of feet. Door squeaks open. It’s Marjorie, Shakes’ wife. She has an enamel bowl of cool water with drops of eucalyptus oil.
“The baby is coming. I think my waters just broke”. Silence. A nod. “Okay. Let us wait for the Ambulance”.
A rub of cool water with a cloth dipped in the enamel bowl on the young mother-to-be’s forehead.
A sharp scream suddenly escapes her throat, “Call Allen! Now! This baby is ready to come! Where is the ambulance?”
“It is on the way, Sihle!”, pants Allen as he pushes his way through the doorway with the force of a sumo wrestler.
“Are you okay? Do you think you can hold on? It shouldn’t take them much longer!”, Allen glances at his digital Casio watch. One would doubt if he actually reads the time at this point! “I want them here now! This baby is not waiting!”, screams his young wife.
At this very moment, there is a flicker of neon red spurts of light bouncing off every visible surface. “Nampo sebefikile! They’re here!”, Marjorie sighs. The metallic squeak of Bedford CF2 ambulance doors is heard. A stretcher clicks onto its rickety wheels that complain upon contact with the township gravel. There is a knock on the door.
Allen helps Sihle upright while Marjorie holds her sarong in place to protect her dignity which is now of very flimsy interest to the mother in labour.
Allen insists on sitting in the back of the ambulance with his precious wife. He is there every step of the way. Although on the outside he exudes calmness, the kamikaze butterflies in his stomach are making him feel queasy. He can’t wait to meet this little creature that has made his wife crave the strangest meal combinations and crazy demands of ice cream, custard and jelly in the middle of the night. He certainly won’t miss watching her eat termite soil off the silver oak trees in the neighbourhood. The nurse told them this was a normal response to lack of iron in the body. But still… He won’t miss that part.
From the time they arrive at Luveve Clinic, at 20h33 until 02h03 the next morning, on Monday 7 September 1981, there is screaming and cussing of the undignified kind as the expectant mother pushes out the big-headed offspring into the world! Hlalani Frank Malaba is born. The world will never be the same for these two young lovers. He will challenge everything they know about love, family and sexual orientation. He will show them that the world is a beautiful place and redefine what culture is through his evolution right in front of their eyes. He will slowly become a man carving his own space in the world with much opposition from extended family and strangers alike. The one thing he will achieve most importantly will be to make his family proud through his resilience, strong will and unwavering strength as he finds his space in the sun.
Frank Malaba © 2017