Liberation after 20 years of war in my head
This is my story, my processing and recognition. I’ve had several triggers in my life that have put me, my will and my views on life. I used to be afraid to write this book about my life. I was more interested in other people’s opinions and will than in my own. My book isn’t suitable for everyone. It is addressed to certain people. I’m writing this book not to convince anybody of anything, but to convince me do it for me and for the people that it will motivate to read how I dealt with my problem and what I did with it and what helped me. Maybe it’ll help someone out there with their own problems or to get better prepared for the strokes of fate in life. I’m not the only one who’s experienced such harsh situations or is experiencing them at this very moment. Many do not dare to tell anyone about their personal strokes of fate. This can have many different reasons, which I can understand, because I myself belonged for a long time to this group. But I do want to encourage these people to confide in someone so as not to have to confront their problems alone. Earlier on I didn’t know how I, on my own, could avert this war in my head with all the deep wounds, losses and injuries and liberate my feelings to help myself out. I didn’t know how I’d ever get back to myself and to regain the joy of life - after a long time of grave abuses during my childhood. I see myself not as an omniscient counselor or anything. I’m not a writer, I’m still world-famous. I’ve only got my story I’d like to tell you. I learned too soon of the cruelty of life and was confronted with adult problems far too early. I had to learn how to handle that. My trust was destroyed too soon, broken by people that I trusted and loved as a child. It wasn’t a childhood you would wish for yourself or for others. I’ve been through this and I learned that I see life through different eyes than most people. I felt extraordinary in my life and today I can understand why. I want to tell my story openly, just the way it went, without any taboos. Without hurting anyone, though. I want to tell my story the way it went, because it helps if it is not embellished, but just described as it was. Sometimes bad things happen in life. Things we don’t have any influence on. You begin to feel lonely, isolated, angry, depressed, cursed, extraordinary. But here, too, I have found that there’s a way to deal with it, if you have the will. It’s not easy. It’s more liberating than living in the hole of dark thoughts, like I did for 20 years. I’ve experienced it and I know what it is like to have a traumatized childhood. I know what it means to be sexually and physically abused. I also know what it’s like to be forced by fate to cope with the challenges of life, such as losing my own sister to murder by a family member or living through a terrible car accident. I never thought it possible to feel free and delivered from the past. Today I say: It is very sad how I looked at life and myself but there were a lot of reasons why I felt life so gray, hopeless and lustless.I grew up in different places in South Africa. In the beginning I lived with my parents and my two siblings in a township called Mdantsane NU14. My father Robert was a self-employed taxi driver and my mother Notiti had various jobs, including working as a cleaning woman, a shoe saleswoman and boat designer. My parents separated when I was two years old. My older sister Zoleka was born in 1975 and my brother Xolisile was born in 1980. As time went by, I learned that I had other siblings from various affairs of my father’s. If I’ve counted right, we’re all in all ten children of different women. I am the youngest child of my parents. My name is Thulani Tomose and I was born on 14 February 1984 in the city of East London in South Africa.
The dark side of my childhood
That’s how the war started in my head. My father decided one day to throw my mother and her three children out of the house. That’s how I got it from my mother, because I was just a two-year-old child when they split up. My mother went with me and my older brother and sister, Zoleka and Xolisile, to my maternal grandmother in the village of Kwelerha Nokhala. My grandmother was a wonderful woman. She would have given the shirt off her back to support my mother and us. Mommy had to be unexpectedly alone with her three children without a husband, go back to the village and live there without getting any financial support from our father. My mother is my idol. Strong and at the same time very sensitive, and a woman who I’ve never met the equal of in my 32 years of life. She’s a unique woman, not because she’s my mother, but because she’s a woman I admire. Maybe she inherited her strength from my grandmother, who in 1962 had decided, after two unfortunate relationships, to raise her four children alone. She never wanted a man by her side again and she kept her word and was happy with her spiritual life. The years passed and my mother worked in the city as a cleaning lady with a light-skinned family in East London. At that time in South Africa dark-skinned and light-skinned were still extremely segregated. She was lucky to get a job with a family who was very nice to her. Later she got a better job at a water-skiing company called Kola-Ski and was very satisfied there. My father came to my grandmother in the course of time and wanted to take me and my brother and sister to his house. But Mother refused to let him, agreeing that my father could only take us for the weekend. I was a little girl then and I don’t remember it. There are two or three pictures of me as a kid that I got to see. My father decided not to return us to our mother, as discussed. My mother finally took us away by the force and threat of my uncle Maboy. Since then my mother has forbidden me to deal with my father. She later met a new man: Markus. In the beginning it felt very strange with him, because we weren’t used to seeing light-skinned men. The only light-skinned man was Mores, who ran our village shop. Markus was the first light-skinned person whom I met at close range and got close to. I spoke no English at the time, only my mother tongue, Xhosa. Markus tried hard to learn our language and be able to express himself. He communicated well with us since he had learnt a little Xhosa from one of his employees in South Africa. Everybody was amazed with his wonderful nature. Markus and my mother were very much in love. Markus originally came from Switzerland and had lived several years in South Africa. He already had a childless marriage behind him. He accepted us as his own children. Markus wanted to go back to Switzerland and take my mother with him. My mother refused to go with him at first, but my grandmother promised her she’d take good care of me and my siblings, as she had always done. So my mommy went to Switzerland in 1990, a few months before my sixth birthday. But she arranged for domestic help for my grandmother, who was ill. She got diabetes, thrombosis and old wounds and could not stand for long and run. The housemaid was older than my mother. We called her Qhini. That was her tribal name. The elderly loved to address someone with this name in my Xhosa tribal language. Qhini was great to us and Grandma. She was very warm-hearted to all people. She was illiterate, as well as my grandmother and my mother, too. Mommy and Markus came back after six months and brought so many great things with them. Dresses and, of course, sweets that we normally ate very rarely, because they were very expensive. It was wonderful seeing my mommy again and to have her with us. She took us to the beach 15 km away. It was a beautiful summer day. The whole family was together. We barbecued, listened to loud music and we kids danced. The grown-ups were drinking and talking and had fun as well as us kids did. Even as a child I loved dancing passionately. In the evening we drove together with different cars from Mommy’s friends back to the village. Unfortunately, soon came the day Mommy and Markus went on vacation for four weeks and back to Switzerland. They got married there in 1990. There was no one present from Mommy’s family or her friends, because we couldn’t afford a trip to Switzerland. Back then, no one from our family in the village had a telephone, so you could only make phone calls in the city in a public phone booth. The city is located 15 km away from our village. Back then, no one in my family owned a car. It was too expensive to take a taxi into town just to make a phone call. And so we only saw Mommy once a year in that time. Mommy had to pay for everything - for her own three children and my aunt Nokuku’s five children, my mother’s youngest sister. Of course, she also paid for our grandmother and Qhini and another cousin, Neli. Grandma only got a small pension, which my aunt Nozintombi helped herself to. She left almost nothing for my grandma. My mother also sent money to support us. My aunt didn’t give us any of it but she bought a bag of semolina and Amasi (natural yoghurt from fermented milk), Umngqusho, beans, a little sugar, oil and salt, and sent someone to bring it to us. Sometimes there were also chicken feet from the chickens she sold in the village. My grandmother sometimes earned a little money with her natural healing. But the money was not enough and it also didn’t come daily so that Grandmother could manage. In addition, she offered her services with passion, to help other people and not to make money, like she used to say to me. A little change or even just a thank you to my grandmother was perfectly sufficient. Time passed and I was six years old. My birthday wasn’t celebrated, but that wasn’t bad for me. I was looking forward to school. When I went to the first class, I was not accompanied by an adult. Just my cousins who also lived with my grandmother and my brother and sister, who were already attending high school were by my side. I was very happy that day. The first day at school was great. We introduced ourselves and got instructions, which I, of course, couldn’t keep as a whole. I was the youngest in my class, but I knew everyone from my village. I was dying to get close to my teacher’s desk and watch everything she did. She let me sit next to her on the first day and said that this was an exception. The next day, I’d have to go back to my seat. It wasn’t customary of her because she had a reputation at school and in the village for being very strict. At that time, teachers were allowed to use wooden sticks and hit the palms or fingertips of the students when they did not obey the teacher’s instructions, were too late to school, didn’t do their homework, were cheeky, did not participate hard enough in lessons, or the like. The teachers were in charge at school. But also outside of the school, in the presence of teachers or other adults, one had to obey, whether you knew them or not. Shortly before lunch, I slept at the table in front of my teacher. She let me sleep and my cousin fetched me and we went home to my grandmother. I told her everything and she and Qhini were happy with me. I enjoyed school and I always had good grades. I was hard working and proud of my good grades. Grandmother praised us all and motivated us to continue in school, when we didn’t feel like it anymore. She used to ask what we’d do with the money when we grow up. Sometimes I wanted to be a doctor, sometimes become a lawyer. She used to joke with us when we didn’t feel like doing chores and said, we’d have to study hard and pay attention when at school to become what we wanted. That seemed pretty good to me because I wanted to be something when I was big, so I could help my family members and give back to them, as they didn’t have much themselves. There was love and harmony with my grandmother and I felt comfortable, although sometimes I missed my mother. Then Mommy came back to visit us with her husband, Markus. My mother was happy and it was good to see her again and to have her with me. Unfortunately, this time they also left after four weeks, because they both had to work again. One day, my cousin Lindeka and I were going home from school when a white station wagon stopped. Next to Am Tax sat my father. I recognized him, since he and I looked very much alike. He said, “Molo Ntombam.” (Hello, my daughter) He didn’t get out of the car either, which was fine with me. I didn’t know how to act. On the one hand, I was very happy to see my father, to talk to him for a moment, even though I knew that my grandmother and my aunt Nozintombi, who I also worked with and lived for a while, didn’t approve of him. I’d have to go, or I’d get in trouble if anyone found out. He gave me and my cousin Lindeka two rand each. Back then it was a lot of pocket money if you didn’t have your own. He wanted to give us a lift in his taxi, but I turned him down because I was afraid that we might get seen by someone. So he went on in his station wagon and we walked to Grandma’s house. When we arrived, we told her and she wasn’t thrilled. My grandmother told me again that she didn’t want me to go out with my dad. I talked to him on the street once. She also asked me not to take anything else from him. I was sad and I didn’t understand it. Of course I didn’t let my grandmother see that since I was afraid of her reaction. I was disappointed because I was hoping for something when I told her about my encounter with my father. I was trying to understand what kind of problem they had with my father, because no one explained it to me. They only said that I shouldn’t talk to him. After all, we were allowed to keep the money we took from my father, and we were allowed to buy with it what we wanted. There was candy for everyone and everything was fine again. My dad used to take his combi-taxi to our house from time to time to drop off passengers. I saw his cab sometimes while I was out playing and it made me sad that I couldn’t talk to him, but I didn’t let anyone know I cared.All I ever heard was bad things about my father but I couldn’t see it myself. I wished so badly that I could talk to him. One day I was walking through the woods with my cousin Lindeka. Lindeka was like my sister; we liked each other and were the same age. Again my father drove beside us and spoke to us. He greeted us and acted very friendly as always. My heart opened and I was very happy to see him, but I also knew I wasn’t supposed to talk to him. I told him that he shouldn’t talk to me again in the future because otherwise I’d really get in trouble. He still gave us a pack of bananas and a pack of apples. I took it, thanked him and hugged him. I gave him a kiss and he kissed me goodbye for the last time. At least, I thought so. My feelings fluctuated between joy and fear of my grandmother and especially in front of my Aunt Nozintombi and their reaction when they found out that I had talked to my father and accepted the fruit. So we went home and I told my grandmother about it and who gave me the fruit. She was very upset and threatened to beat the crap out of me the next time I took something from him. I was even sadder than the last time and cried secretly. Nobody noticed, and I pretended nothing happened. A week went by. Then I saw his combi-taxi on the road again and ran away from him. He had noticed me and shouted my name. But I didn’t react and neither looked back. It went like that a few more times, until I didn’t see him any more in our village. Time passed. My grandmother became very ill and had to be taken to the hospital. She was in a diabetic coma for three months and had to stay in the hospital. My sister and I had to go and stay at my Aunt Nozintombi’s. My brother went to my father but ran away from him and came to my aunt, back to the village. My aunt was very strict and scolded me a lot and I was afraid of her, but we had to stay with her. I got used to it quickly and it wasn’t that bad, I thought, living with her. When my sister was 18 years old, she was in love with a neighbor boy and he was in love with her. They wanted to see each other, but no one should know except for me and my cousins, Aphiwe and Neli. We had a secret word for it-Unquntsuza. We used it when the couple was sneaking out or in during the night. Then, I quietly opened the door for them. My cousin didn’t notice and her parents - my aunt and uncle - didn’t squeal. She knew I could keep a secret, so she confided in me. My sister had one night overslept with him the next day and missed school the day after. Of course, my aunt noticed, because in the morning she wasn’t home. When my sister finally got home, she tried to find an excuse why she hadn’t gone to school. Unfortunately, my aunt had seen my sister from the house of Sicelo, her boyfriend from the neighboring house and how they kissed. She already had impatiently waited for my sister’s arrival and left without asking with the stick in her hand. We couldn’t warn her. My aunt waited for her at the door . She hit her for so long that she had to be taken to the hospital for her wounds to be treated. My sister went to my father in the end and finished her last year of school in the village. My father drove them daily to the school of the village Mdantsane and picked her up again. My sister still didn’t come to my aunt to visit us, even though her school was not a long way from us. My aunt told me that my sister had decided to live with my father, that this was her will. I was sad to hear she wasn’t to live with us anymore but I understood her. One day I was in bed, asleep. The room was so dark you couldn’t see anything. I slept in a double bed with my two cousins, Aphiwe, the first daughter of my aunt Nozintombi, and Lindeka, the daughter of my other aunt, Nokuku. Both slept in one direction and me in the other one. I slept in a worn out dress because I didn’t have pyjamas. I was ripped out of a deep sleep when I felt a cold hand gently caressing my buttocks. I thought nothing of it at the moment, turned a bit and quickly fell asleep again. The next night, I felt that caress again on my buttocks. I turned around and I could see someone who hadn’t been there when I went to bed. It was my cousin Songezo. I just slipped away and then he went back to his own room and fell asleep again. At that time I was already eight years old. I awoke again when that same night I felt Songezo, who was two years older than me, with his penis on my buttocks. He moved back and forth. I knew it wasn’t okay and his penis shouldn’t be there. I lay frozen on the edge of the bed and did not move. I was paralyzed. He had, while I was asleep, pushed up my dress and my underpants a little bit without me even noticing. I still heard his breath behind me and felt him rubbing against me faster and faster. Suddenly he stopped and I felt something wet and warm dripping on my buttock cleft. I was still motionless and said nothing. I felt him get up very carefully and leave the room sneakily. I cautiously touched something wet. It was a disgusting, slimy fluid running down my buttock cleft to my vagina. I didn’t know it was sperm at the time, because I wasn’t enlightened by anyone, but I knew that his penis didn’t belong near my genitals and cleft buttocks. I couldn’t fall asleep again and cried silently until morning, when everyone got up as usual. I was the only one with swollen eyes this morning. I was ashamed of myself. My cousin Lindeka asked me if everything was all right. “Why do you have swollen eyes and you’re so weird?” she asked me. I said it was all right, I just had a bad night’s sleep last night. My cousin was present and he pretended as if nothing had happened and even sought my eye contact, but I couldn’t return it. I was disgusted with him. That’s when I missed my grandmother the most. Only she could have helped me. I developed a hatred for Songezo like I’d never known before. What bothered me the most was that he pretended nothing had happened. He laughed and was content and normal as always. I was devastated internally and thought only: My cousin? That can’t be! I was thinking a lot that day, but I dared not to tell anyone what he’d done. I was thinking if I didn’t tell anyone, I’d forget it someday. But I’m afraid that wasn’t the case. It kept me busy, and I talked with no one about it. Not even with Lindeka, whom I most trusted. That same night, I asked Lindeka to lie in the same direction with me. She looked at me and asked what was different today? I said I felt better when she was next to me, because last night I had this bad dream. She laughed and agreed. Nothing happened that night. I also stayed awake consciously for a long time and listened to see whether he would come again. My aunt and uncle slept together. in a different house than we kids. I went through a lot of my secret to tell.