Never did I think that the one person that I had dedicated my life to,
for happy days and sad ones, would ever lay his hands on me. Only,
I thought, he would do so to caress me and keep me safe, warm and
loved. But no, his intentions were to bruise me, hurt and devalue my
being and for long he did succeed. I got beaten up almost every day of
my life for small, stupid and selfish reasons. Reasons that even a ten year
old would not dare to believe. But because he was the provider and so, I
thought, I would never succeed without Thabo, I stayed there for years.
I remember that one day when he came back from work he beat me up
so badly with the suitcase he was carrying that my entire body felt numb.
For what? Because he had to knock twice instead of once before I could
open the door.
Immediately after that he told me that he was coming back and that I
should prepare a meal for him. I was so badly hurt, I was wondering why
I let a five-lettered-named man overpower me. I mean, I am Cynthia,
I have seven letters to my name, which is two more than him. “The
things I said to empower myself”. Anyway, that made me tick because I
knew that seven is a very powerful number and of great importance. On
the seventh day God rested after creating his masterpieces, and so forth.
These things are things that I used to tell myself. One might think they
are stupid but they are the ones that slowly but surely boosted the little
bit of confidence I had.
The moment I took out the pots a silly thought came to my mind, but
it made me aware that I also had my own sort of power. So I decided to
follow it. I went to the bathroom, opened the toilet seat and drew water
from the toilet. It went straight into the pots. Then I started cooking with
joy in my heart plus a feeling of power. My intentions were never to harm
Thabo’s health or anything; I just felt that I also had power. I was not
feeling any numbness anymore, but power, just power. I cooked like I’d
never cooked before. I made a salad that just popped in my mind. I fried
the chicken and spiced it like I had never spiced it before. The vegetables,
mmm, were such a pleasure to the eye. I’m sure the neighbours could
hear and smell what I was cooking and probably thought that Thabo
and I had fixed things. Then he came back, with such pride. I took out
a loaf of bread, sliced and buttered it and made a cup of tea. I dished
up for him and I ate the bread while he ate the delicious meal cooked
by his wife. Observing that I was having bread instead, he said, “That is
how real women live, with bread and tea and their husbands with meat, I
guess you are not so dumb after all”. I smiled, knowing exactly how that
meal was prepared and the power that I had in my hands.
I continued cooking for him every day in the very same manner, going to
the bathroom, opening the toilet seat and drawing water from there to
cook. I actually started enjoying cooking and, for the mere fact that I was
preparing delicious meals around that time, I got fewer beatings. But the
point is that they were still there. That Sunday, I felt like going to church
and it was no surprise that Thabo wanted to walk me to the gate, “So
that I would not look at other men”. At the gate seeing the priest, Father
Mthethwa, passing by, Thabo greeted him, “Yes, small boy”. And the
priest just greeted him back appropriately and continued walking. I sang
like I had never sang before on that Sunday. It was probably because of
the little power I felt around that time. For some reason, that very same
day they wanted volunteers to cook for the next Friday’s meeting, and so
forth. I laughed to myself, thinking of how I prepared meals back at my
house and how someone enjoys them dearly. I decided to join, “since I
had become a good cook these days” and was enjoying it. I actually went
home fulfilled that day.
After church, I went straight home because I did not want Father
Mthethwa to ask me anything about the way Thabo had greeted him.
Arriving home I knew what I had to do. Cook. Amazingly, it felt so
wrong for me to draw water from the toilet. The thought felt disturbing.
I cooked but with clean water and although that meant that I was letting
go of my power over Thabo I still felt good about cooking. So this time
I dished up for both of us as the food was clean. But I got a beating for
I forgot that my meal was bread and tea. The week commenced like it
usually did, with me getting my punishment every now and then. We
cooked on Friday, when Father Mthethwa gave us a proposal. He was
given a catering tender and was looking to hire individuals who were not
working to be in charge. I joined, which meant that I was now employed.
Arriving home I told Thabo and got a beating for that.
The next morning I had to ask for money from my husband so that I
could take a taxi to our catering venue. He kicked, slapped and punched
me badly. I was crying and the more I cried the more he kicked. He
told me that I should go and sleep with Father Mthethwa since he was
making me ask for money from my husband in order to see him. He
punched me like I was a punching bag, swore at me and left for work.
I lay there crying and told myself that I did not need him, I could take
myself there. I took my apron and walked, walked and walked. Luckily,
one of the members of the church passed me on the way and helped
me there. Everything went well but when I got home I found my bags
waiting for me at the gate. I picked them up and went slowly with my
heart in my hands to the house. When I opened the door I just heard
“Foetsek! Go back to that Father of yours”. I turned immediately, fearing
for my life, took my bags and walked and walked and walked. I had no
idea where I was going but kept on taking a break to relax a little. While
I was relaxing I starting thinking about my life and started crying my
heart out. I felt lost and hopeless. A young man passed by, recognised
me from church and asked me what was wrong. He took me in his car
to Father Mthethwa’s home. I was not ready to talk but they gave me a
back room to sleep in.
In the morning, Father asked me if I still wanted to join them in the
catering project and I insisted “Yes”. We arrived there and I behaved
normally and enjoyed preparing the meals. Every day went by like this
but every night I cried myself to sleep. I would wake up the next day
and go and cook with the other women, and immediately when I got my
hands on the pots I felt a sense of relief. Unaware, I was slowly opening
up to the women I was working with, especially when I was chopping
and peeling. At the end of the month, I had revealed all I had kept inside
and was ready to succeed as the best cook ever. I was missing Thabo, but
I took it one step at a time. But I thank him, because it was through him
that I discovered that the pot is my best friend.