Girls to women

A *Tumisang Lesole story


I was brought up by my grandma in a big-ish house, my aunt and her kids lived with us. Every now and then there’d be relatives coming to stay with us briefly and for long periods, most of them were from the Free State. All my family is from that side.

My sister came to live with us when I was 5 I think or it could have been when she was 5. We had an ok relationship, we’d fight every now and then but we had an ok relationship. The last physical fight we had was when I was 14, she kicked my ass and I vowed (secretly) that I’d never fight with her again. I have always been protective of my sister, she is smaller than all of us (me and the cousins and them).

Crying black girl

At some point in our lives there was a man who was my grandmother’s relative who came to stay with us. He was a “traditional healer, my mother was there too but I’m not sure if she was staying with us or if she was visiting. This traditional healer did all sorts of terrifying things but because the grownups told us it should be done we listened. I didn’t like him.

You see I grew up looking like this, the shape I am now, small waist, big ass, crazy thighs, etc. it’s just my face everyone had a problem with. My sister is much prettier but was always thinner and it seemed then that people (family too) had a problem with her bony structure but loved her face. I don’t remember defending her on this one, I had my own problems.

Now back to the healer, I don’t know why they needed him or why he chose that time to come visit but he was a man on a mission. He’d never “consult” us as a group, we’d be called into a room one after the other. I’d seen how uncomfortable my aunt would be when it was her turn, she and my mother would tell each other “you go first, etc”. he’d make them and us take off our clothes and then smear some ointment that smells really bad on us but like I said this wasn’t a group of us, one by one.

He’d call me and sis together sometimes and put this thing on us, at night, it glowed in the dark. I had a problem with the way he’d touch my privates as he smeared this thing that smelled like old oil. He’d get to my clit and his hand stayed and he’d have this smirk on his face that I just didn’t get. It’s like he was assuring us that it was ok but it didn’t feel ok. He tried to penetrate me once but I had my thighs so tight he simply couldn’t.

I remember he was wearing a blanket, it covered his back, it was grey. I was already in bed, he told my mother to call me and she sent me to him. I knew somehow that this man was being sexual with me and I was not having it, he was very old ok and I was scared of him. He tried but it didn’t happen. He came all over my skirt though, cleaned me up and sent me back to bed.

Fast forward to the present, I was in a taxi one day and this guy sitting next to me had that exact same smell. I threw up, in the taxi, some woman asked if I was pregnant, I said “maybe”. I have been thinking about it since then, I can’t get it off my mind. I wonder if my mom and aunt experienced what I did, why they allowed that man to be alone with us.

Crying woman and child

A question that haunts me right now: did he try the same with my sister? Did he succeed? Could it be the reason that my sister is struggling with memory like I am? I’m not going to ask her for obvious reasons, she’s already too damn fragile. Plus that’s just me, I’d rather she tell me if she remembers.

My sister is going through a divorce and it’s rough on her. She’s been seeing a shrink who recently asked her to give details of her childhood. She asked for my help and all I could remember is all she could. I don’t know her whereabouts from when she was born until she started school in the same primary school as me, she doesn’t remember either. If you look up at the beginning of this “letter” you’ll notice there isn’t much said about our family, we don’t remember much. I struggle daily (especially lately) to remember things, even people’s names or events and experiences – good or bad.

I will get help when I’m ready but I’m not sure what she’s protecting herself from by not remembering and I’m not sure if I won’t finish her by bringing that up. By the way she’s my reason for breathing still. I’ve gone through suicidal episodes and I’ve stopped myself just thinking what it’d do to her. I’m 33 she is 30 and we’re going through some crazy shit separately. I don’t know how to fix her or me…

By: *Tumisang Lesole 


*Not her real name