When I woke up, my father was leaning against her bed. The door was open, and the hurricane lamp that was left burning in the hallway through the night, lit up part of the room. I could not see him clearly, and I wish I never had. The bed was behind the shadow of the door. He smelt drunk. He tried to hide his drinking from us because he was ashamed of it. I saw him holding my mother’s wrist and whispering. It was the first time I had seen him touch her like that. Suddenly he straightened, then leaned forward and hit her. He started whispering again, more loudly this time.
‘You’re trying to keep me out. Because of him! What good is he anyway? Oh my mother, why do you want to annoy me?’
My mother tried to hush him, and I saw her hand reach out for his face. He brushed her hand away and leaned back.
‘Why do you have to bring him here?’ he asked in a voice I did not know, appealing to her. ‘You’re trying to keep me out . . . for that dirty little murderer. What do you take me for, you snivelling bitch?’
He struck her again, and again, grunting heavily. And again. He struggled onto the bed and pulled away the kanga she was wearing around her. My mother did not struggle and did not speak. She groaned, it seemed involuntarily, every now and again. I shut my eyes tightly and I heard his body moving on top of her. I heard him groaning and muttering, his voice coming thick and muffled off the bed. My grandmother’s door opened. My father paused, head raised as if waiting for her approach. Then he chuckled.
‘Come and see, my old woman,’ he called. ‘Come and watch me killing her.’
Then he began again, whispering and muttering, and fucking her. After a while there was silence. I heard him sobbing. I heard him lifting himself up, and through my tears I saw him leaning over me. Get out, he said. I struggled on all fours out of the room. My grandmother was standing outside in the hallway. I started to crawl towards her, feeling weak and feeble from the fever. Slowly she turned and went to her room and closed the door behind her. I heard the bolt gently slide home. I spent the night curled up outside my grandmother’s door.
I could only feel terror and loathing for the world they had brought me into.