I AM SILENCE (33 pages)
I AM SILENCE
A NOVELETTE BY RICKY NCUKANA
Hey. Welcome to my first tale.
To be direct, this one is simply about violence. I’ve come to learn that miscommunication is the main cause of violence, although sometimes violence can just…happen. Silence is the worst cause. The absence of sound can drive a grown man crazy.
Silence can be chaotic. Apparently, it can also be embodied.
Before I begin, there are things you should know about me. My birth name is not all that important, but trust me, everything else is.
I was a pauciloquent child growing up. Well, my mother would say that I was an erratic toddler until the age of 7 specifically, when I started seeing the world differently. From age 7, I didn’t find the need to make noise to receive attention. I didn’t have to speak to be heard. Sometimes, no one cared about what I had to say. I was always in cliques…the gay cliques, the all-female cliques, the all-boys cliques…no one needed me, or thought that whatever I had to say was important, but for some reason, my presence was always required.
Life was full of colour in my eyes.
I sometimes would focus on oddly specific things. Sometimes I focused too much on the veins of a leaf. The green in trees. The way the sun reflects on water. The sound of pencil on paper. The sound of water hitting the cement. The sound of heels clacking. The smell of wet soil. The smell of petrol/diesel. The way tar turned greyer when it rained.
The way in which people would communicate, verbally and non-verbally. The way some people said their s’s. I found the way men communicate with one another to be fascinating, especially heterosexual men. Some men speak about themselves unknowing how self-absorbed they actually are. Sometimes I couldn’t understand cues and sarcastic jokes when I was unfamiliar with the person’s voice, specifically. I sucked at responding to daps on time.
And, as a kid, I was strangely addicted to hugs, but I grew up to realize that I can’t just hug everyone.
I sometimes spoke to inanimate objects. Sometimes, to imaginary people. If you haven’t figured it out, I was the ‘weird kid’.
I also had specific interests. I grew up with an inexpressible love for music. I would beatbox songs instead of humming them. I’d sing even though I knew I technically couldn’t, so I would create music just to listen to it. It’s been said by my friends that I listened to ‘white-people music’. That just meant I listened to anything outside local music. Music boxes made me cry. I liked the thought of traveling and learning about places I’ve never been to. I loved animals, particularly being able to communicate with them, so the zoo was quite literally my favourite place in the world to be. One of my greatest interests was writing. As a closeted gay kid, I wrote all my secrets and fears on a piece of paper. I had fantasies I wanted no one else to know, but if they ever got out, I hoped it would be bliss.
Somehow, I imagined that if my fantasies ever came true, they would be in my favour.
Sometimes my fantasies came with a load of expectations of the real world. Sometimes I had an unbending need for something and I was never satisfied until I obtained it. Sometimes I loved too hard that it physically hurt. Sometimes I couldn’t understand why people had to ‘walk away’.
I was a college student, almost done with my BA degree.
One thing you should know about me: I had a lot of aspirations. I wanted to critique music one day…like a judge on a famous show or a vlogger on YouTube. I wanted to write novels and adapt them into films. I wanted to write for major companies and win accolades. I wanted to be one of the greatest international writers of all time.
In my late teens, almost every dream of mine was shattered away. In fact, as you read along, you may find out that the first segment of this tale didn’t matter at all.
When I came out as gay to my mother, it was the worst experience of my life. My father wasn’t in the picture, but his response to my coming out wasn’t any different from my mother’s…from my family’s. But interestingly, my mother believed I would change. Christians believe in redemption, so I’ve been told. But above it all, I loved my mother. I believed almost everything she believed. My coming out may also be irrelevant to this story.
Koketso, on the other hand, is the focus of the story. He is the reason why I wrote this in the first place. He was one of my fantasies. I met him during my second year in college. The landlady’s son, who sometimes felt like one of the tenants when he visited, introduced me to him in a simple introductory style. It was around the beginning of the first semester.
“Hey, Ricky…this is Koketso.” The landlady’s son said with his head peeping through my dome’s door. “Koketso…this is Ricky.”
Koketso also peeped his head through my door. “Hi Ricky.”
I remember my reaction quite well. I don’t think I said enough words, but I remember what I felt. I felt small and intimidated, but mostly indifferent. I remember the landlady’s son smiling at me when Koketso left. Probably thought I was ‘flustered’ by how deep Koketso’s voice was. To be fair, Koketso’s most notable trait was his voice before anything else. It exuded masculinity. It filled the entire room without effort.
But, in all honesty, he wasn’t my type at first. Physically, I preferred athletic men and he was exactly that, but everything else about him seemed unlikeable. We all lived in one student house, so I thought that was why I couldn’t find him attractive in the first place. He was almost like a brother, but a distant one. One I didn’t care about at all. In addition, ALL the female tenants didn’t care about him, either. You would think at least one of them would be attracted to a hypermasculine man like him--shredded with muscle--but it was as if they were nauseated by his presence.
I don’t know when specifically, but he and I started spending time together. I found it natural to visit his room sometimes as he did the same. He didn’t speak about general things or things that existed in the present moment. He spoke about specific things: his life, his daily schedule and his priorities. Sometimes he wasn’t aware of how self-absorbed he actually was. But that’s because he exalted his body image way too much. He relied on his physical strengths and abilities, which made me think he thought of himself as superior to other men. He thought he was invincible.
As months went by, we were the kind of friends/tenants who shared a burger while inebriated. The kind of friends who dapped and drank beer together. Although, he and I had never had a normal ‘friends’ dynamic. By this I mean we didn’t share one thing in common. Even judging from personality, I was the opposite of who he was. He was upbeat and even listened to upbeat music. I was mostly mellow and I listened to almost pulseless music. He cared about his body image and improving his health. I cared about neither of these things. In fact, I ate more takeaways than anyone else in the student house and I was still the thinnest twig in the house.
I was attracted to men. He was attracted to women.
Later on, especially heading towards my third year, some of his worst traits started to show. How he preferred everyone naturally agreeing to his plans because he didn’t want to admit that his way was better than anyone else’s. How he was so sure of himself that he thought no one could ever defeat him. He acted wiser than everyone, smarter than everyone and the worst part is…everyone knew this about him. Sometimes his ego suffocated everyone. This was all said in silence.
On my third year, Koketso and I moved out of the student house to separate residences.
This is when the unexpected happened.
He continued visiting me. He would move out of different residences because of how dissatisfactory they all were. I happened to find a residence that I was mostly satisfied with. It was also the year I felt free. I started going out more with my friends.
Claire and I were the kind of friends who snuck out of clubs to smoke cigarettes. We shared interests. We always had something to think about when around each other. She liked talking about her family and romantic life. I don’t think she knew she was self-absorbed as well. Nalani and I mostly smoked weed together. But, on the other hand, she and I happened to be the kind of friends who were comfortable in silent moments. We lived together and she blended well with some of my friends.
Koketso criticized me for smoking sometimes. ALL THE TIME, actually. Koketso and I never went out together. We never did anything other than talk in my room or his. That was the dynamic of our friendship. We did, however, share values. We had the same boundaries. We both adored our mothers. We both feared failure. But Koketso found it easy criticizing others, assuming that he ‘only cares’. He was mostly subjective. I found it easy not to be bothered by people’s self-sabotaging habits. I found it easy to give fair judgements. He carried the burden of having to take care of siblings. I have never worked a day in my life for a penny. Although we had differences, we had never fought. EVER. It was as if we knew that was the boundary we both didn’t want to cross.
Claire threw a party at her house later that year. That was the first time I saw Koketso through a different lens. At this point, Claire and Nalani were convinced that I had a crush on him. That’s because, in one of his visits, they both had witnessed how nervous I was before meeting him. But it didn’t dawn on me til I saw him in that grey sweatsuit. It was as if every female was fighting a stare, resisting the urge to look at him. On the other hand, I didn’t like my outfit that day. I could even hide my nervous boner when I hugged him. He came with a friend, who was also one of my housemates. I couldn’t even spend the entire night with them. Not because everyone wanted to be around him, but I was fighting the inevitable feeling. That sweatsuit showed every detail of his athletic body. One girl at the party happened to be interested in him. The girl described him as ‘the epitome of her type’.
And I was surprised that my response was jealousy.
They had spent the rest of the night, during the after-party, snuggled in a blanket talking. I was passed out on a couch after trying to unravel what these new feelings meant. I wanted to be her. I wanted to be snuggled in that blanket. Of course, Koketso would have just asserted that ‘he was straight’. He said that sometimes even when I did non-homosexual things. I even counted how many times he had said that he was straight around me. Don’t ask me how many and why.
I nit-picked her. I compared myself to her. I HATED HER!
But when Koketso and I walked home after the party, I figured it out. I was actually falling for him. I remember how hot the rising sun was that morning. How dry my throat was. How inebriated Koketso was. I told him how I felt about him. But…not directly.
As a gay man, sometimes you have to consider how a hypermasculine straight male might react to you having a crush on them. So I told him indirectly. That I fell for ‘someone’ at the party. That I had become jealous of a girl this particular ‘someone’ had paid attention to for the entire after-party. I gave him clues, essentially. Ridiculously obvious clues. I knew he already knew who I was referring to, which was the point, but he thought he should take the humble approach.
“Hebanna! Who is it? Is it Xhobani?”
Xhobani, his friend, wasn’t even the type of man I would have fallen for. He knew this. When he finally decided to ‘delegate himself’, it couldn’t be more obvious.
“Aww Ricky. You know I love you, right?” Was his response.
He gave me a hug. I hated the pants I wore that day. I couldn’t even hide my boner. Besides, what 20-year-old gets a boner from receiving a hug from their crush? But he noticed and didn’t make a big deal out of it, either. But from that moment onwards, my expectations grew exponentially.
By the way, my friends didn’t take his answer that well.
After that day, I panicked. I thought by telling him how I felt, I had ruined our friendship. He was quiet for a few days before calling again. I didn’t call him all the time, he didn’t either but we checked up on each other every once a month. That’s because I respected how busy he was with his academics. In fact, I respected everything about him. Sometimes I was obsessed with the idea of him that I wanted to tell him everything, but I held my tongue instead. I even did invasive things such as masturbating to his pictures. The fantasies were perpetuated. I was adamantly and unshakably in love with this man! At least, that’s what I thought. I was willing to be distant for as long as he needed me to be until he missed or thought of me. I was willing to do absolutely anything for him! It was almost psychopathic!
But, of course, he was still who he was.
During my third year, I lost an immense amount of weight. He would make it a point that I knew. Sometimes the flusters I’d get when he was about to visit felt violent. That’s because as much as I was falling for him, I was afraid of what he’d nit-pick about me next. I was also afraid that I may be unable to meet his standards. When he showed that side of him, it was easy to convince myself that I could still fall out of love with him. At some point, even the daps and the punches-on-the-arm felt old and outdated. At some point, I thought I was actually falling out of love with him. I thought, finally, maybe I could go back to seeing him as a brother…
Until he kissed me.
HE. KISSED. ME.
It was after a long exam. He was upbeat again. Sometimes he had this ghost-like appearance when his mind was occupied by a lot of things. It actually hurt me to see him that way. But that day, he was on fire. He was even yelling my name from outside the premises. Because I didn’t expect his visit, I had to run to the toilet to at least wash my face from the afternoon nap I was taking. When I came out of the bathroom, he was standing right in front of me with a smile. He barely smiled! But that day, he was grinning! Unexpectedly, he gave me a huge hug. And right after, before I could say a word, he kissed me.
I didn’t like how spontaneous the kiss felt. Being a gay man, I know how ‘straight’ men can regret kissing other men later on after the ‘high’ has simmered. It would have been excusable if he was actually high. And that’s exactly what happened. After that day, it was as if the kiss never happened after that day.
The way I saw him at the party didn’t last. That’s because despite what my friends thought of him at the party, everyone else still thought of him indifferently. I didn’t even realize how bad it had gotten. I was STILL in love with him and was more hopeful than ever. I had theories after that kiss: that he was closeted and didn’t have any intentions of coming out; that he didn’t conform to labels and didn’t want to label what we were; that he was afraid of commitment. I didn’t even realize how my confidence was lost around him. How my friends never came when he was around. How they rolled their eyes when I spoke more about him, at some point.
He suggested that we live together the following year. Because he was frugal, he saw it as a benefit to share a flat and only pay half the price. It was a fair deal to me as well, even though I could afford a flat of my own. I thought this was also a great idea. It also felt spontaneous, but I was too excited by the idea. That we’d be living together. Exactly what I wanted. Just us…together. ‘Him being mine’. ‘Me being his’. The idea was rejected by my friends, who by that point were noticeably distant, but I convinced them that ‘we were just friends’ and ‘couldn’t be anything more’. A part of myself believed that lie because it wasn’t so far from reality. Another part of me was unbendingly hopeful.
At first, it was the petty things such as the pungent smell of his feet that I noticed. He left a lot of things lying around in his room. Sometimes, when he got too busy, he’d forget to clean his room and make up his bed or even open the windows. I’d sometimes clean his side of the flat with excitement, not minding at all. He had weird concoctions that he presumably thought were healthy. I started to conform to who he was, eventually. I was always on his side, supporting and backing his decisions. Sometimes I allowed myself to be objective enough to not take some things he said personally.
But one particular day, he said something that remained an itch in my brain.
“Mina I’d never date a guy. That’s disgusting.”
By this time, I was alone. I had no friends. That’s because sometimes he’d actively kick them out with his ‘charisma’. That he just ‘needed silence around the house’. Sometimes he wanted dead silence. Even the sound of a fork scraping against a plate triggered him from his room. It was like I was living with a beast. But I was willing to become anything he wanted. After all, he made me feel I was nothing without him at that point. He didn’t have to say it, but ever since we lived together, his obvious intention was to isolate me from everyone. That ‘because he had no friends, I shouldn’t have them either’. Even Xhobani was out of the picture.
But what he said actually replayed in my mind for multiple months. During the course of those months, I had lost even more weight. He was always in his room, fiddling with his books. He was right there, but I couldn’t do anything to grasp his attention. I didn’t know why I cared this much. I didn’t know why I wanted him to like me, but I couldn’t stop myself from yearning for his affection. I wanted him to love-bomb me. Exactly how it felt when he visited me all those months we weren’t living together. My expectations, at this point, were skyrocketing. I was willing to do absolutely anything!
“So.. you said you would never date a guy.” I said as I leaned on his doorframe on his side of the flat while eating morning cereal.
“Mh hm.” He responded as his eyes were still fixated on a book. It was a Kiyosaki book about billionaires. I wasn’t surprised that an entrepreneur like himself had high ambitions. Just surprised that the first thing he did at 8 am in the morning was to read a Kiyosaki book about billionaires.
“Well…what if I was a woman? Would I make a good woman?” I laughed a bit to put an ease to the question.
He paused for a while, then his attention detached from the book entirely. He laughed once, then his face twisted into a thoughtful frown. He looked at me and laughed again, now nodding confidently. “Yeah. I think I would. You’d make an amazing woman, Ricky.”
My eyes widened. I actually expected the opposite from his reaction. I expected contempt and disgust. But instead, he opened a door for me that I didn’t even think was a possibility.
OF COURSE, I HAD TO BECOME A WOMAN!
I wish someone was there to stop me as I searched, all night, for available hospitals that conducting gender reassignment surgery. At some point, I despised the sight of my penis. Sometimes I hated even using it. I even went through my mother’s early adulthood photos. The fashion she wore. The fashion modern-day women wear. I had flusters applying lipstick on, but I believed it was the first step. I had bought feminine clothing in secret. Heels, bras, wigs, make-up, colognes for ‘her’, and even pads. I’d fit them in my room, look myself in the mirror, trying to figure out which looks fit me best.
I did this as I faithfully waited for countless responses from various hospitals around South Africa that consistently rejected me. But after finding the right hospital, by that I mean an illegal hospital in Johannesburg, I had to lie to him. That I was ‘going home for a while’ for a ‘family emergency’.
A month became two. Two became four.
I kept myself at a home in Sandton. I used my ’absent father’s ‘excuse money’ that I saved over the years in varsity to pay for my surgery and the home. I forged signatures. On day 111, I finally removed my penis. On day 199, there were small breast developments. With the consistent intake of hormonal pills, my hips began widening. My arms and legs were still stiff and ‘manly’ as some would say, but by the time I walked in on my final exams, I was a new person.
I was a woman.
I remember the excitement of receiving my new certificate. The excitement of writing my new name on the final exam page.
I couldn’t wait for Koketso to meet me. The new me. I had stayed in isolation at a BnB in Bloemfontein for the duration of the exams, waiting for the moment I would finally present myself to him. All I could think about was him. I didn’t care about my mother and brother who had been anticipating my return back to East London. I didn’t care about the emotional support I didn’t receive from my friends. In fact, I was so determined to make sure that the surgery was a success that I lied through my teeth in ‘mandatory therapy’. That I had been ‘feeling misgendered since the day I was 8’. That I ‘felt like I never belonged to my own body’. That ‘it was torture growing up being a boy’.
ALL. FOR. HIM!
And you know what…fantasy became bliss.
“Hey.” Koketso responded worriedly over the phone. “You’ve been ignoring my calls for months. Final exams have already started. Is everything alright?”
“I know. I know. Could you just…come outside, please?”
He jumped out of his desk and almost sprinted to the door.
“Don’t freak out.” I giggled over the phone before dropping it.
I was standing right in front of the door to our flat when the door swung open. It was only when I saw the shock on his face that I thought everything might have been a bad idea. That maybe, he didn’t mean his words. That maybe, after all, he was closeted and I should have waited a little longer.
I was attired in a fashionable black and white cape that showed my growing cleavage, which he instantly noticed. A Marilyn Monroe-esque black weave. Then a black church skirt that almost reached to my knees. Black six-inch heels. A single string of pearls with a black beret. I was the spitting image of my mother in her youthful years. I had covered my arms with gloves and my legs with hoses. I had a small clutch purse in my right hand. I couldn’t be more woman, I thought.
The shock, which lasted for a few awkward seconds, quickly vanished into an excited scream. It was the loudest scream I had ever heard from him. He instantly launched himself on me with a hug. It was also the first time that he held my waist with both his hands and spun me around in the air. No one had ever spun me around. No one ever made me feel that special.
“Ricky…you’re a woman! You’re a brand-new person!” He spoke breathlessly as his eyes wouldn’t stop bulging.
“Well, I go by Jennifer now.” I shyly interjected. “But yes. I am.”
Afterward, I frowned. After seeing the frown, he did the same as well.
“Hey. What’s wrong?”
“My mom. My brother. They don’t know about this. No one does, except you.”
He smiled again, this time more confidently. “Aww! Khululeka, Jenny. She’ll eventually learn to love and accept you. If she’s like me, she’ll instantly notice how beautiful of a woman you are. You’ve always been.”
I sighed. I had almost forgotten the effect of his soothing words. How he was able to make the world right for me by assuring me, again and again, that I had nothing to worry about.
“Come inside. We have a lot to catch up on.”
A lot changed. A lot DRASTICALLY changed. At first, I wasn’t used to his stares when I walked out of my room in my morning gown. In fact, I was also getting used to feminine clothing since the transition had taken place in such a short space of time. The love-bombing returned, now stronger than ever. It was as if his academics didn’t matter anymore. He always found new things for us to do. Things that involved the outdoors.
He took me to a fish tank in Waterfront Mall. He had a strange fascination with koi fish, even believing that they symbolized strength and happiness. He held my hand when we walked together, sometimes doing the cringiest romantic gestures such as tucking a daisy behind my ear. He insisted that every Friday we go for ice cream dates. Sometimes it felt as if we were the only two existent people in the world.
He started noticing things about me, too. My oddly specific focus on things. My special interests. Sometimes he just stared at me in admiration as I wrote books about him. Books I never published.
“I told mom. About me. About you…us.” He walked into my room one night with a frown.
“What do you mean?” I asked, trying not to focus too hard on the last word.
“I told her about our…living arrangement. About you being trans.” He fiddled with his fingers.
The living arrangement was the unnamed relationship we had.
“And?” I sat upright on my bed as he sat next to me.
“She basically told me to go fuck myself. So did my brother. The same applies to you.”
I was supposed to be hurt by those words. After all, it was his mother. His best definition of family was his mother! But something felt odd as I embraced him. I had this unshakable feeling that he was lying. I didn’t know why, but something felt inauthentic about his delivery. Knowing how much he adored his mother, I could only imagine the pain he would have felt if his mother truly rejected him for ‘living’ with a trans woman.
He never even shed a single tear.
What does a sociopath look like? How do they act? Is the way they act or behave themselves always that obvious? How can you ever predict the worst of the worst? The worst thing to ever happen? No one can imagine the unimaginable. I mean, not even the sharpest seismologists were able to predict the most powerful temblor in recorded history!
A month later, after almost an entire year since I had seen my mother and little brother, varsity closed. I was finally done with my degree, only to await my graduation ceremony taking place the following year. Koketso had failed the academic year, but didn’t seem to mind at all. In fact, after the last conversation with his mother, he had become even more unpredictable. There were nights he’d come back drunk. Sometimes he came back to the flat with friends I had never met before.
One particular afternoon caught my attention. It was the rugby game season in South Africa. Different tournaments took place in various stadiums all over the country, as if it was the World Cup season. The weather in Bloemfontein had become scorching hot again. Boys were attired in shorts, flip flops and tight tank tops while girls were attired in mostly short skirts, sandals, beach bras (even though there wasn’t a beach in the entire Free State province) and sunscreen. Because of the severe heatwaves, most people stayed at home while others went to public pool centres.
Blue Bulls vs Leopards was the first match of the season. His friends had come over again. I was familiar with them and them with me, at some point. They were a typical bunch of heterosexual men obsessed with hypermasculine sports. Koketso and I had decided that I would leave for East London when the following match would take place in my hometown. In fact, he had already ‘booked’ a room at the Protea Hotel. It was shocking that within a month, Koketso had been able to afford expensive alcohol for his friends and book a room at one of the most luxurious hotels in East London. I didn’t even know people can book rooms a week before. Not so long ago, he wouldn’t have spent a cent on a single piece of candy.
I remember they had added a bench player into the field from the Leopards. I also remember his friends cheering for the new player. I was getting familiar with the unnecessary cheers. In fact, I sat and watched the first game with them. As I’ve said, I admired the way heterosexual men communicated.
A glass bottle shattered, which ended the cheers almost instantly. Everyone turned to Koketso, who had squeezed a bottle of beer in his hand til it broke. His left palm was bleeding. I instantly sprinted to the kitchen and grabbed a napkin to dab his bleeding cut.
“Hey. Are you okay?” I whispered as I knelt at his seated level.
At this point, everyone in the room, including his three friends, was looking at him in shock. He didn’t move. He didn’t instantly look at his bleeding hand. Instead, his eyes were fixated on the screen. It was the first time seeing him like that. It was the first time seeing him that furious.
“Everyone go home.” He said in a low roar.
One of his friends exclaimed. “Ahh, fethu! The game is about to start!”
His eyes detached from the screen and looked at the friend who just spoke. The friend’s eyes widened before realizing that Koketso was being serious. In fact, everyone else, including myself, started to realize how serious he actually was. He didn’t even need to yell for them to get out. Quite frankly, I was glad they left. I didn’t know any of their names anyway. Koketso yanked the napkin from my hand and stood up.
I stood up as well, looking into his eyes in terror. He looked back into mine and I suddenly noticed a pang of shame in his. “I’m sorry. Don’t worry. I just wanted them gone.”
His eyes ascended to the TV screen again before walking to his room and shutting the door. I looked at the screen, trying to search for the trigger that set him off. I noted the player’s t-shirt.
And under his last name was the number 7.
I couldn’t let that tantrum go. I had to find out who he was.
’Bryan Hector, aged 26, is a South African rugby player who plays openside flanker as of 21 November 2021 for the Leopards.’
’Attended Kenilworth High’
‘Was a substitute player for the Leopards until the 2021 Rugby Tournament.’
More results from Google were about his upbringing in Johannesburg. He wasn’t even popular until he became an openside flanker. There was nothing known about him. The only part that raised a red flag was how they were both from the same city. THAT’S IT. I had no idea where Koketso went for high school because we just weren’t the kind of friends to know that about each other. But Bryan was a 26-year-old man and Koketso was only 21. I couldn’t imagine that they were friends in high school. I couldn’t even imagine a nerd like him being friends with someone like Bryan, who seemed like an extroverted clout-chaser in his Instagram posts.
I found no answers.
After that painfully moody week, Koketso had ‘arranged’ a car to drive us to East London. That is, he rented a car for us to drive. I didn’t even know he could drive. After the last conversation with his mother, it was as if he was becoming more of someone I didn’t know. Someone too unfamiliar.
“And you happened to rent a mustang next? What? Did you win a million rands?” I said as I loaded our luggage into the backseat of the car. That’s because the trunk was ‘broken’, for some reason.
Koketso stepped out of the car after igniting the ignition with a relaxed smile. I thought he was finally going to explain. Instead, he walked up to me and I received ANOTHER KISS. OUR SECOND KISS. This time, it didn’t have a calculated distance between our pelvises. It didn’t have restraint or doubt. His large lips masked mine as each peck went deeper into the kiss. I had never been kissed by a man that good! He didn’t stop. I was convinced we were about to have sex on the porch. Sex for the first time! In fact, his right hand descended to my naked thigh and began to caress it. I was ready! I was excited! It was even better than what I fantasized about because it was spontaneous! It was real!
But just when that idea began to excite me, he stopped kissing and gaped his mouth open against mine. He breathed heavily into my open, starving mouth as if he had just given me good, non-penetrative sex. I tried pulling his shirt to my chest so that our foreheads wouldn’t depart. So that we would kiss again. Instead, he unbuckled every knuckle of my finger with his hands until he removed my hands from him as gently as possible. Our foreheads detached and I could feel his sweat detaching from mine. Yes, it was an intense kiss.
“You ready to go? We have an entire weekend.”
I was pissed. But I knew better than to caress his already-inflated ego. I got inside the passenger’s seat as he drove off. I never even got to notice the things I had to quit to satisfy his ego until the 8-hour long drive from Bloemfontein to East London. As he played endless AmaPiano jams on the stereo (if not AmaPiano, Kendrick Lamar), I began to ruminate in silence about the friends I gradually lost because of him, the voluntary loss of my gender identity for him. How I quit smoking for him. How I stopped EVERY bad habit of mine for him. It almost felt inhumane. As if I was voluntarily living up to someone’s standards. And every height he asked me to jump, I did. It was as if I was ready to do absolutely everything to receive his affection. Now that it felt closer than ever, the fantasy becoming reality, a part of me wondered if it was worth losing a sense of identity. A sense of dignity. Pride.
But there I was, still queefing to his sexual advances. It was miserable knowing that in another life, I could have been just who I was for someone who loved me exactly like that. As myself. I could have met someone who wasn’t afraid of commitment. Someone I didn’t have to change and become someone else for. It was a tragedy that the man I had fallen in love with still didn’t call me his girlfriend. It was even more tragic that the fantasies I had surrounding him were becoming less ideal.
In fact, I hated to admit that he wouldn’t have even done the bare minimum for me.
After an 8-hour drive to East London, we settled at Protea Hotel in Quigney. As much as I was born and raised in the city, I would have never imagined myself walking into the premises without paying a single cent. But then again, I didn’t question a lot of things.
The room was even more luxurious than I expected. It was on the second-top floor. The sight of the beach from the room’s view made me shed a tear. The couches looked like wool dipped in gold. Even the rug on the floor looked like the richest polyester I had ever seen. I began worrying when I saw the bedroom, the en-suite.
“Are you sure we can pay for this?”
His hands massaged my intensely shrugged shoulders. “I can. You won’t have to.”
My eyebrow furrowed at him. “Really?”
He snorted before silently jumping on the bed. He laid on his back, keeping his torso slightly upright with both his elbows on the bed. “Really.”
He just laid there, looking directly into my eyes with a relaxed smile. My eyes continued to scan around the room. The white curtains, white bedding, white side lamp, the brown dresser opposite the bed, white closet, translucent shower, and the white tiles on the floor. The one ant that didn’t die during fumigation.
I detached my eyes from the floor and looked up at him. He crawled on the bed, towards me. “Where did you go?”
I shook my head dismissively. “I’m just thinking about mom and my brother.”
I sat on the bed, facing the dresser’s mirror. Through the mirror, I watched him near to me, slowly caressing my shoulders, down to my arms with those large hands that I had longed for months to be touched by. He descended his lips to the back of my head, breathing heavily with his eyes closed. “Everything will be fine, Jenny. I’ll drive you home before sundown.”
“Will you wait for me? I don’t think I’ll be staying long.” I was having those violent flusters again.
He sighed, seeing that his seduction wasn’t distracting me from worrying. He gently wrapped his one arm around my neck and looked into the mirror. Through the mirror, we shared eye contact as he neared his lips directly to my ear. “You know what I always say…hope for the best…”
“…expect the worst.” I sighed.
“How about you join me in bed? We have an hour before sundown.” His lips descended to the back of my neck, where he planted a few pecks.
An irrevocable smile formed on my face. As he saw this, he jumped off the bed and stood exactly in front of me. His one finger lifted my chin up as he looked down at me with a teasing smirk.
In a split second, he lifted my body with his two hands from the edge to the center of the bed. The jump made my heart pound violently against my chest. I did not know what to expect. He was the first man I was going to have sex with after my surgery. But the nerves never compared to the amount of excitement I had. I could feel the excitement in my throat. I was finally going to have sex with Koketso Thobatsi. I would have never thought!
He spread my legs open before getting in between them while subtly taking off his own belt. He didn’t break eye contact. In fact, his eyes were relaxed and confident. I imagined mine were bulged and nervous. All I could think of was how the previous kiss felt. How GOOD it felt. The thought played in my head at the moment. The thought made me wetter by the second. I never even got to notice how attractive his facial beard had become until that second. How it complemented his hypermasculinity. It certainly looked good on top of my face.
He hovered for a while, humping our genitals together. He locked his hands with mine and would hold and release them in frotting motion (sliding them together). I could never explain the way he hovered. The way in which he built anticipation. The way his deep breaths and the way his hot breath touched my skin made me feel. It was as if everything that I had fantasized about was absolutely identical to what happened.
The weight of his body over mine. The patience.
Our lips finally touched. My arms wrapped around his neck as his big lips stole my every breath. I couldn’t take full breaths in between the kisses, but I absolutely loved it. I wanted to close my eyes, yet I wanted to watch him kiss me. I wanted to engrave it in my memory. My legs wrapped around his waist as he thrusted even deeper. He then descended his lips to my chin, where he used his tongue to lick me all the way to my neck. I wanted to moan, but I was too prideful. I would have never imagined that he would have used his tongue. It was even better than I expected!
All of a sudden, he stopped. My eyes widened at him. I was furious. How long was he going to play this game?
“Jenny, I didn’t buy condo…-”
Before he could finish, I pulled him back into a kiss, which happened to excite him. His kiss had become more passionate. More aggressive. More driven! Even his touch was getting rougher. I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! His breathing had intensified. So did mine. I took off his black tank top as he took off my blouse, then my top. In a second, I took off my own bra. His lips salivated as he saw my breasts. They weren’t the biggest breasts in the world, but I understood that I was everything he physically wanted. He kicked off his jeans as I unzipped my skirt. My breathing intensified when I saw his naked torso. He had growing chest hair; he was 21 after all. He kissed me again. It was as if he was actively sucking my soul. It wasn’t a traditionally rhythmic kiss either. It was sloppy and intense. AND I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT.
He seemingly loved how I was becoming less shy during the foreplay. He allowed me, with grace, to caress his buttocks through his boxer. Every gay man would know the fantasy of wanting to hold at least one straight male’s buttocks. Seeing that this gratified me, he took off his boxers. I didn’t want to look at his penis. I had never fantasized about it, actually. My naked hands touched his naked buttocks. He allowed me to not only touch, but caress and separate. In the meantime, he stripped off my final garment…my underwear.
We were both naked. Finally!
The flusters intensified as I felt his erect penis just outside my genitals. His hand descended to my vagina and began rubbing gently.
“Hey.” He stopped again. “Are you enjoying this? I mean…you’re new to this whole thing. What if I can’t make you cum?”
My eyes rolled. “My surgeon tested my clitoris after my clitoroplasty. It works, Koketso.”
He sighed in relief. “You can tell me if I’m doing something wrong, alright?”
WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT? Koketso being thoughtful and selfless during sex? I would have never imagined.
He shook his head again. “Wait…how were you able to afford all this?”
I groaned. “I’ve been saving since my first year, Koketso. I didn’t like using my dad’s money, so I saved it. Why are we even talking?”
“Because it’s good to build anticipation before penetration.” He smirked again.
He was right. I COULDN’T WAIT. I also didn’t know what to expect. Pure pain, pure pleasure, or both. But when it got in, it ABSOLUTELY hurt. I could feel its width and length in my vaginal walls. I could feel its warmth. Its rigidity.
I released a moan. He groaned as well. He began thrusting, which caused even more pain. I couldn’t stop wincing. The pain was paralyzing. It was torture at first. How this instrument went back and forth and ached more, even when he thrusted as slowly as he could. He couldn’t go any slower, that I understood, otherwise his penis would have just…turned off. But he didn’t stop. Some things he did, such as kissing my forehead and wrapping his hands around my head as he thrusted deeper, actually helped with keeping my genitals moist and keeping me calm and distracted.
When his groan turned to a moan, it was as if it never hurt. I wanted to milk the moan out of him again. I never thought I’d ever hear him moan. It actually excited me even more. I pushed his waist back and forth, signalling that he should go faster. He locked eyes with me again and smiled. The pace increased and suddenly, I only experienced pleasure. In my fantasies, I always imagined him being on top. Him sweating on top. Him groaning and moaning on top. HE DID EXACTLY THAT. His thrusts became faster until I heard his scrotum flapping on my skin.
I wouldn’t stop moaning. He wouldn’t stop moaning.
His big arms wrapped around my head protectively as his thrusts became even more violent. They say you always know when a man is about to ejaculate. His body got hotter and sweatier. His hand rubbed violently against my clitoris. Repetitively and rhythmically. The pounding became louder, more aggressive. It was as if his masculinity had shown its truest colours. I LOVED IT!
I couldn’t believe it, but he and I reached orgasm exactly at the same time. My legs wouldn’t stop shaking. His body wouldn’t stop convulsing. He released stuttered moans as I screamed from the top of my lungs.
“AAAH! FUCK!” He cried.
He never pulled out. I didn’t mind. I actually didn’t care. I had decided from that moment that I didn’t want to ever let go of that man. He was my man! I thought this as he hyperventilated defeatedly on top of me. I held his face with both my hands, looking into his weak eyes. My legs were still wrapped around him. I didn’t want to ever let him go. I didn’t want the moment to end.
I gave him a few pecks on his lips. He only gaped his mouth while taking deep breaths.
I whispered. “That was the best thing to ever happen to me.”
He scoffed to himself before pulling out. “It’s sundown. We’ve got to get going.”
He jumped off the bed and walked into the bathroom. And, I don’t know, everything felt wrong again. It felt as if the moment had taken place only in my head. But then again, what did I expect from him?
Pillowtalk? Him talking explicitly about his feelings? Ha-ha!
After taking a shower, alone, I reattired myself again and reapplied my makeup. My hands were trembling. This time, he didn’t even bother to say words of affirmation. He just rested on the bed and watched rugby on the big screen across the room. The truth is, despite Koketso being my first trans experience, I was only penetrated once as a cisgender. By a man I met at a party. A man I absolutely hated for no reason afterward. But I didn’t fear that I would hate Koketso. Before anything, he and I were friends.
We were, right? After sex, what were we? After all the kisses, what were we?
Judging from his dismissiveness after the moment, I could only assume we were just nothing.
We drove out of the hotel and drove for almost 30 minutes to Fort Grey which was situated on the outskirts of the city, exactly by the airport. Because Fort Grey was a small village, the mustang instantly caught the eye of every pedestrian. I was becoming nervous again. In fact, my teeth were chattering. This time, he held my free hand with his. He looked at me without a smile and continued driving into the village. When we finally parked outside my mother’s yard, he killed the ignition.
Without words, he kissed the back of my hand. It was a long peck.
“I love you.”
In that order. He said those words…in that order. I didn’t want to push it. I smiled with my eyes before stepping out of the car without a response. I listened to the sound of my heels clacking against the gravel road leading to the big gate. I opened the gate, which caught Blue’s attention, our pitbull. She aggressively barked for a while.
“Blues, it’s me.” I whispered nervously, which made her stop instantly.
Even she had to take time to notice me. Before I could knock, Andy, my 11-year-old brother opened the door.
I stuttered. “H-hey b-boy.”
He froze instantly. When a smile grew on his face, he burst into laughter. “Yhoo! Kutheni wanxiba njenge ntombazana?”
Okay, maybe I should have expected my little brother to ask why I was dressed like a girl.
My eyes rolled before responding. “Because I am a girl, Andy. Is mom in?”
“Uh-huh.” He continued laughing in disbelief.
I hissed at him as I walked inside, trying to hold my tears from falling. It was still the same old house I called home. The orange carpet on the floor. The un-ceilinged zinc roof. The massive kitchen leading to the lounge, where my mother was. The couches were old, but that’s because my mother resisted change more than necessary.
She turned her head to me. Her eyes instantly widened. She sat upright as her eyes widened even further. Andy returned to the lounge, holding back a giggle.
“Haybo, Ricky. What is this?”
“Mama, this is me. My name is Jennifer now, not Ricky.”
“Jesu Krestu!” She put both her hands on her head. “Kanti this is what you are doing kula Bloemfontein? I send you to school only to come back looking like a clown?!”
“Mama, this is why I couldn’t get back to your calls. I’m so sorry.”
“If I had known, I wouldn’t have called!” She shook her head as she stood up and walk to me. With a scowl, she stared for a while before disappearing into the passage leading to the bedrooms. Because my mother would use corporal punishment when I was younger, I could only assume that she was going to get a leather belt. Andy knew this as well. My heart began beating more vigorously. I didn’t know what to expect.
“Baleka!” Andy whispered with widened eyes.
“I’m not going to run, Andy! This is my home. There’s nowhere else I can go!” I yelled.
He shook his head before disappearing into his room. As I waited anxiously, I could hear my mother gabbling furiously on the other side of the house. On the table situated at the centre of the room, there were picture-frames of me as a child. I picked one of the frames and held it in my hands delicately. I still remembered the day. I was 7 and I had cried all morning because my father had promised to pick me up for the weekend. My mother, to make me feel better, took me to the zoo. I took a picture with a stork. The radiant smile on my face. The innocence in my eyes. I almost missed it. But then again, what was done was done. I could never become that boy again. The kind of boy who made himself a clown to cure his mother’s pain of everlasting depression. The kind of boy who waited on the porch all morning for my neglectful father to give me the attention he deserved as a child. I was not a child anymore. I was a grown person…
A grown woman.
Before I could admire the photo even longer, it was suddenly snatched from my hands and thrown on the floor. The frame shattered into pieces. My mother then grabbed me by the back of my neck and pushed me towards the door.
“MAMA WENZANI?! MAMA, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!! MAMA STOP!”
I couldn’t stop screaming. I wouldn’t stop begging. I ran back to the house, only to be dragged out again. Her teeth were gritting with rage. Her eyes were wide open. Red and dark. She returned with every single luggage I had at home and threw it on me. My face was soaked in tears. I tried pushing myself in again as she threw the last luggage out.
This time, she literally kicked me out using her foot. I lost my balance and my face hit the pavement.
“ANDINA MNTANA OYI DEVIL WORSHIPPER MNA! HAMBO’TSHA KWAHELE!”
She slammed her door shut and locked.
“MAMA, I’M NOT A DEVIL WORSHIPPER! PLEASE! MAMA, PLEASE! OPEN UP, MAMA!”
It was useless. I knew my mother very well. Her rage was unbending. Her rage could only dissolve into a grudge. I didn’t need my luggage anyway. But I happened to collect some of my old diaries and walked out of the yard. I was a mess. I never liked being seen as a mess, especially by Koketso. I wanted to hide, but he was quite literally the only family I had left.
I entered through the passenger’s side and shut the door. I didn’t look at him. I couldn’t.
I then shot a glance at him. “What do you think happened, Koketso? Take a wild FUCKING guess!”
He turned his head to the windscreen as I did the same. We both sat in the car in dumbfounded silence. I could hear the steel squeaking from Koketso squeezing the steering wheel. He laughed, almost silently, to himself. He then sucked air through his clenched teeth in an oddly maniacal way. He reached into the cubby hole and took out a capsule container with pills. He swallowed about two and grunted. Even I was afraid of his reaction.
“I knew this was going to happen. I came prepared.” He looked at me with a maniacal grin.
“Koketso, you’re talking like a mad man. What are you talking about?”
“Stay in the car.”
He looked into my eyes. I had never seen him like that. It was as if every strange, new look he had was even stranger than the last. “Stay in the car, Jennifer. I’ll be right back.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Don’t worry. Nothing bad.”
My eyes rolled. I sometimes forgot how he thought everyone would fall for his charisma. I slouched on my seat and sighed as he stepped out of the car. He went to the trunk of the car and opened it without difficulty.
“I thought he said the trunk didn’t work.” I whispered to myself as I watched him through the rear-view mirror.
He took out a large bottle, about 25 litres, and closed the trunk again. He pressed his keys and the car automatically locked. Again, I rolled my eyes. Sometimes it was just unbelievable how pig-headed he could be. How he relied on his physical strengths and appeal to get what he wanted. Did he think my Christian mother could be appeased with…what? 25 litres of alcohol? That’s even worse than begging!
He got inside the yard with the bottle. I laughed again to myself at this idea. I pick-pocketed myself for my phone, only to remember that I had left it at the hotel. I groaned again.
Instead, Koketso did the unexpected. He poured the bottle around the house. I could see this from the backseat of the car. I could feel my stomach boiling as I tried to interpret what was about to happen.
Did he know that my phone was back at the hotel?
After pouring what I assumed was now paraffin, I began to believe he was about to do the unexpected.
“KOKETSO!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!” I screamed from the car as my breath became heavier. I tried kicking every window. Instead, my heels broke.
He took out a box of matches and lit one. He threw it on the house and fire instantly swelled around. He poured more on the door and the windows as the fire grew even bigger. I could hear the crackle of the fire from the car. I could imagine Andy’s screams as if we were together inside the burning house. I imagined the terror in my mother’s eyes as she realized there was no escape.
The house folded on itself as the wood attached to the roof collapsed within the house.
I screamed til my voice croaked. I didn’t stop screaming. Yet, there was also the insanity that Koketso, the nerdy boy I knew from varsity, burned my mother’s house down with her and my brother in it. It wasn’t even something anyone would have premeditated. IT WAS SIMPLY INSANE!
And, with a simple move, he threw a large brick at Blues’ head, which made her stop barking immediately.
After a while, he ran back into the car. He looked at me once and whispered with tears in his eyes. “I’m so sorry, Jennifer.”
He ignited the ignition and sped off. We were out of the village in less than a minute. I was frozen the entire time. I thought I would have killed him when he returned to the car, but then I also realized that I was an accomplice to arson.
I was too broken to shed more tears. I knew that not even a million tears could bring my family back. I wouldn’t stop trembling. I didn’t know what he would do next, especially to me. I needed to tread carefully. I needed to keep myself calm. And most importantly, I needed not to provoke him even further.
I just needed to keep silent.
When we arrived back at the hotel, I didn’t know how I was going to share a bed with him. I didn’t know if I was even going to be able to fall asleep. I was beyond terrified. But mostly, I was mortified that I had gone through so much to be what he wanted. I wished I wasn’t jealous of the girl he mingled with at Claire’s party. Maybe she’d be stuck with him instead. Actually, I wouldn’t have wished that on anyone. The friends I’ve lost because of him. My family. Myself. I was now his puppet.
No weapon was sharp enough to make him feel the pain I felt. I didn’t even bother fantasizing about killing him. I was too abashed!
“It’s a big day tomorrow.” Koketso kissed the back of my head. “Come to bed.”
I was pulled back into reality again. I didn’t even have vivid memories of what I did as soon as I walked into our hotel room. But as I looked around, I realized that I was sitting on the edge of the bed again. He was rested on the bed watching rugby highlights. I looked at the clock on the wall and the time was 00:00. How did I lose this much time? How long was I in my head?
“I have to use the bathroom.”
I walked inside the bathroom and locked. Finally! I was alone again. I took deep, slow breaths as I stared at my reflection in the big mirror. Damn, I was a mess. My mascara had smudged all over my face. My wig had almost detached from my head. I took off everything, including my clothes and undergarments. I looked at my naked reflection. I hated my body more than ever. I hated being a woman. I hated that I had become one BECAUSE OF HIM. He was the ONLY reason why.
“No. No!” I whispered to myself as my fists tightened.
I shook my head, not knowing what I was about to do. I wore my bra, panty and heels again before unlocking the door. I hyperventilated for a few seconds before stepping out. He was still on the bed, watching highlights.
His eyes descended from the screen to look at me. He almost smiled, until he noticed the look on my face. I was enraged. I wanted him to notice. “EVERYTHING I DID, I DID FOR YOU!”
“…what?” He sat upright with widened eyes. “Jenny, what are you talking…”
“EVERYTHING I DID, I DID IT ALL FOR YOU, KOKETSO! I’M NOW A WOMAN BECAUSE OF YOU. I RELENTLESSLY PURSUED YOU EVEN WHEN YOU KEPT ON SAYING YOU WERE STRAIGHT! I WAS JEALOUS OF A SWEET GIRL AT A FUCKING PARTY BECAUSE I WANTED YOU ALL TO MYSELF! I LEFT EVERYTHING BEHIND TO LIVE WITH YOU! MY FRIENDS ABANDONED ME BECAUSE OF YOU! MY FAMILY’S DEAD BECAUSE OF YOU! I LITERALLY WATCHED YOU BURN THEM ALIVE!!!”
“FUCK YOU, KOKETSO!” I neared to the bed, looking at him directly in the eye as tears fell down my eyes. “YOU WOULD HAVE NEVER DONE ANY OF THIS FOR ME! YOU NEVER CARED! ALL YOU EVER DID WAS CRITICIZE ME! I EVEN QUIT SMOKING FOR YOU, DAMMIT! I HAVEN’T EATEN FAST FOOD SINCE THE DAY WE KISSED! I WOULD HAVE KILLED MY OWN FAMILY…FOR YOU, KOKETSO.
“NOW THAT I THINK ABOUT IT, IT’S ONLY WHEN I TRANSITIONED THAT YOU STARTED TAKING BOLD STEPS. KISSING ME, TAKING ME OUT. WHEN I WAS RICKY, ALL WE DID WAS SIT IN EACH OTHER’S DOMES AND TALK ABOUT OUR FUCKING DAY! AND YOU KNOW WHAT’S FUNNY? YOU’RE BLANK AS SHIT! YOUR FACE DOESN’T CONVEY EMOTION AT ALL WHEN YOU SPEAK! YOU DON’T CRY! YOU DON’T SHOW ME YOUR PAIN AND EMBARRASSMENT! YOU’RE A BLANK PIECE OF PAPER! YOU’RE NOT EVEN FUNNY BUT I LAUGHED AT YOUR EVERY STUPID JOKE! I CAN’T BELIEVE I HAD TO HATE MYSELF TO BE LOVED BY YOU!!!”
I hyperventilated again as I paced around the room. I wept again. I wanted to hurt him, but I didn’t know how. Weeping turned to a sob. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t fix him. I couldn’t fix a criminal like him. A murderer! Yet, I couldn’t just up and leave. I had nowhere to go, not even a friend to cry to. NOTHING! NO ONE!
He crawled off the bed with the same expression. He was completely shocked. He stood by the edge of the bed and looked back at me. “You…did all that for me?”
I sighed defeatedly as another tear rolled down my eye. “Of course I did, Koketso. I would have become absolutely anything and anyone for you.”
He blinked multiple times, scratching the back of his head. I was also afraid of that reaction. There was no way he didn’t notice even one effort.
“Jennifer…” He fiddled with his hands as he sat on the edge of the bed. “I grew up in a household where my parents felt like two different people in my life. My father was a strong alpha male, a traditionally masculine man. My mother was a traditionally feminine woman who cleaned, fed us and walked us to school…my siblings and me, that is. My mother barely smiled. My father never smiled. They divorced when I was really young, but…I was already a hologram of my father by then. I also grew up around women throwing themselves at me. Well, that was in high school. I was even thinner than you growing up. After the divorce, I had to take care of my unemployed mother. My elder brother is also unemployed, just a few jobs here and there, but he would have more money if he wasn’t drinking. Though I was the youngest, I had to take care of my family. I learned to depend on myself because no one offered to help. When I got to varsity, I got the chance to build more of the body image I wanted for myself.
“When I met you, I immediately knew that you came from a privileged home. You smoked a 20 pack of cigarettes in less than five days. Sometimes you bought two packs in a week. That’s almost R100 in just a week. You ordered takeaways almost every day, you smoked weed, you reeked and didn’t take care of yourself at all. You were happy with the way you lived. What made me even angrier was how your friends were the worst versions of you. I hated that even though your father was absent, he still gave you ‘pocket money’. We come from different worlds, Jenny. I couldn’t allow myself to trust you. I didn’t want to feel owned or exploited. I knew you wanted me so bad, but I didn’t know why. I couldn’t trust your reasons, either. I also didn’t want to find out whether or not I was into you as well. But when you transitioned, you made the job easier. You weren’t a cisgender woman, but you were exactly what I wanted. I would have never thought you did all that for me. In fact, if I knew, I would have stopped you.”
I lifted my head to look him in the eye.
He wept. He finally wept! “I would have asked more than once if this was something you wanted. I would have been with you all the way. Look at me, Jenny.”
I looked back into his eyes again.
“You should have never done all those things for me. Look at what I just did! I’m a terrible person, Jenny. I cut my family out of my life, too. My brother would have killed me if he found out about us. About you. I couldn’t bear to imagine the pain I would be putting you through. You’re compassionate and loving, Jenny. You tolerated my worst traits. To be honest, no one has ever done that for me before. But then again, you’ve excelled my expectations.”
He walked to me and held my face in his hands. “I’m so sorry, Jennifer. I’m sorry that I put you through all that. I’m also sorry that I can never let you go. You’re exactly right for me. You’re too good for me to lose. We need to trust each other from now onwards, okay? We’re all we have for each other!”
I couldn’t believe it! Koketso finally let me in. He finally opened up to me. He finally cried. It’s everything I ever wanted from him. He finally provided the bare minimum!
“Okay.” I whispered back to him.
He smiled a bit as he wiped his tears, now his ego returning to the surface. “You had me in tears. Damn! No girl has ever made me cry before.”
“Sorry about that.”
“Don’t be, darling.” He kissed the back of my hand and smiled again. “Come to bed with me. We’re going to Jan Smuts tomorrow.”
We didn’t have sex. We didn’t talk more. We comfortably got in bed and cuddled to sleep. Maybe it was the sex or the conversation that I longed for from him. Maybe all I wanted was to find myself intimate with someone imperfect. Someone with underlying layers of childhood traumas and…complicated choices.
I decided that I hated my family anyway. They hated me first! I guess that was the best way to cope with the memory of the man I loved burning my family alive in front of my eyes. I also decided to face reality. That, really, he was all I had. I had no choice but to trust him. To survive.
Jan Smuts stadium was the biggest stadium in East London. Named after a notable South African prime minister, some of the events that were held at the stadium included music festivals, the Olympics and sport tournaments. One of the biggest national tournaments of the season was taking place at the stadium that following day.
The following day, I woke up to Koketso’s cheerful whistling. I stepped out of the bed and noticed that the weather outside was a bit gloomy. In fact, the breeze that came from the windows was unpleasantly cold. He was in the bathroom brushing his teeth. He was attired in the same grey sweatsuit he wore on the day of Claire’s party. I walked to him and wrapped my arms around him from behind.
“The last time I saw you in this outfit was when I realized I had feelings for you.”
He spat out toothpaste into the basin before turning around to me with the widest grin I had ever seen on him. “The day of that boring party.”
My eyes rolled. “C’mon, it wasn’t too bad.”
“Well, you weren’t around most of the time.” He held my face into my hands again. He had toothpaste on his beard. “And that girl annoyed the crap out of me.”
“That’s not true. You were cuddled in the same blanket as her.”
“First of all, it was her idea. It would have been rude to say no to a lady. And second, take a good look at me. I’m too hot to need a blanket.”
“Alright, Human Torch.” My eyes rolled with a smile. “I need to use the shower.”
“Want me to join you?” He brought me closer by wrapping his arms around my neck.
“You’ve just showered, dummy.” I giggled.
“I can do it all again. I couldn’t reach my back.” He bit his bottom lip.
“Let’s save it for later. After the game.” I couldn’t believe that I was flirting with him.
“Your loss. And definitely no pun intended there.”
My eyes rolled as he smirked at himself.
We left the hotel after an hour later of getting ready. That day, I was attired in a beret again with a tight sweater with a patterned tie this time. I also wore an A-line skirt that reached to my calves and a pair of simple black oxford heels.
‘Paper Planes’ by MIA started playing on the stereo as we drove to Jan Smuts.
I don’t know, but I had this sudden, unshakable feeling from the bottom of my stomach as we were driving towards Arcadia, the suburb. I assumed I was just bloated, but the feeling persisted. It made my heart race. It made my palms sweat. Whatever that feeling was, it made me uncomfortable in my own skin. As if we were driving towards a supernatural demon’s realm. When we drove inside the premises, it seemed as if the match had started a long time ago. There were a lot of cars at the lot and almost no one was outside the stadium. I could hear the cheers from inside the car. We found a spot to park.
“Can we just wait for a second?”
He caressed my shoulder. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah. I just need a second.”
“Is it the loud cheers? If the noise is making you anxious…”
I shook my head. “No. It’s probably just breakfast not sitting well.”
There was silence in the car. I didn’t know what to say or do. I couldn’t describe what I was feeling, so I found myself looking around the car aimlessly while waiting for the feeling to eventually fade away.
I looked at him as a question popped up in my head while aimlessly caressing the car’s dashboard. “You never told me how you got this car, Koketso. How you’re suddenly able to afford a five-star hotel and expensive alcohol. It’s as if ever since you stopped talking to your family, you were suddenly rich. Even my mother couldn’t afford that hotel room.”
“My god! You just don’t trust me, do you?” He rubbed his temples while grunting.
“No. It’s quite the opposite, actually. Why can’t you tell me?”
“Because you don’t need to know!” His hands tightened around the steering wheel again.
“I don’t need to know?” My voice rose by an octave. “You killed my family in a fire and I still never left. I could have called the cops at the hotel’s reception if I wanted to. WHAT DOES IT TAKE FOR YOU TO FUCKING TRUST SOMEONE?!”
He breathed through his clenched teeth again. “OKAY, FINE! YOU WANNA FUCKING KNOW? I STOLE IT! THE MONEY WE HAVE? I STOLE IT TOO!
I laughed for a few seconds. “What do you mean you STOLE it? How many people must you have mugged to be able to afford a room at the Protea Hotel?”
“I hacked various accounts of wealthy men in Bloemfontein and stole their money.”
“Hold up!” I shook my head. “You hacked? How good must you be at hacking?”
He didn’t answer. From the look on his face, I already knew. My heart began racing again.
“I also hacked your account as well. I didn’t steal anything from you, but that’s how I knew about your spending habits. I was just…curious.”
“How much money have you stolen altogether?” I whispered with widened eyes. My heart was beating even faster.
“Jenny, this is ridiculous…”
“HOW MUCH, KOKETSO?!”
He sighed. “R74 000 since my first year.”
“Oh my god…”
I forcefully emerged out of the car as I was having a panic attack. I could feel my chest constricting even tighter. How did I get myself into this mess? That’s all I could think of. How could the same boy, a Computer Science nerd with a dry sense of humor, steal 74k and get away with it? I still couldn’t believe the things he was capable of. And whether or not I wanted to believe it, I was now his accomplice. His mess was now my mess.
“Hey hey hey! Look at me.” He whispered as he caressed my back.
“What did I get myself into? Oh my god. We’re going to jail.” I wept.
“LISTEN TO ME!” He grabbed me by my sweater, breathing heavily on my face. “We are NOT going to jail! TRUST ME!”
“Is everything alright?”
A lady, probably in her late 20s, approached us. Koketso released me as slowly as he could while trying to fabricate the fakest smile I had ever seen. “Hi. No, we’re fine. Don’t worry.”
“Sir, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get her answer!” The girl shot a look at Koketso before looking back at me sympathetically. “I’m Fiona. Are you okay?”
Koketso rolled his eyes.
“Yes. I’m alright. Thank you.” I faked a smile as well, but it felt too heavy on my cheeks. I frowned again, almost immediately. From her face, I could tell she cared. She genuinely wanted to help. I hadn’t realized that I had been a silent victim ever since I allowed Koketso in my life. And, I don’t know, seeing another woman’s compassion and concern raised something in me that I thought had died long ago.
I knew that Koketso wasn’t all that I deserved. All so suddenly, I remembered this. I remembered that I could have a healthy life without Koketso. I could experience a healthy idea of love for the first time with someone, maybe me. Maybe I could learn to love myself as well. Maybe I just needed someone to help me break out of the shackles.
Fiona looked at Koketso again with a scowl.
“See? She’s alright. Now, why don’t we all go inside and watch the game?”
Fiona looked back at me again. It was a moment filled with suspense. I was on my tip-toes, right on the verge. Her eyes begged me to say something before she walked away. I wanted to. I wanted to so bad. I believed, for some reason, that she could help. A stranger I had never met before.
“Alright.” She turned around…
It was as if everything was happening in slow-motion. As she walked away, with each step, my heart began beating even faster. Something told me to break my silence. All of a sudden, I found the courage to speak.
“RUN! HE’S A MURDERER!!!” I screamed from the top of my lungs.
Fiona’s eyes widened as Koketso’s did the same. Fiona froze for a few seconds in disbelief before her feet started moving. Koketso grunted agitatedly as he shot a look at me. He, out of nowhere, pulled out a pistol with a silencer and aimed. With no effort whatsoever, he pulled the trigger and Fiona’s body collapsed on the floor.
There was something oddly anticlimactic about a silenced gun. It almost made the act of shooting a gun less terrifying. It didn’t feel dignified at all. It felt disrespectful, actually. What made this problematic was how the cheers from the stadium were louder than the gunshot itself. It was ridiculous.
“ARRGH!! FUCK! SEE WHAT YOU MADE ME DO?!” He frustratedly pointed the gun at his own head.
I had never seen anything more insane!
“Koketso…” My voice trembled. “Where the fuck did you get the gun from?”
“No!” He roared. “You are DONE asking questions! We are going to dispose of her body and do what we came here to do!”
“To watch the game? You seriously think a fucking game is more important than someone’s life?”
“Do NOT…” He pointed the pistol at my forehead this time. I could feel my lungs running out of air. “…patronize me! You asked me to trust you and made me your fool! We’re going to pick up that body and shove it in her trunk! GOT IT?!”
I nodded with tears streaming down my face again.
We quickly ran to the body. The lot was still empty. It was as if no one noticed that there was a dead body on the premises. The bullet had shoved itself to the back of her head. The blood wasn’t that much, but it was nauseating. Koketso seemed to be handling a dead person’s body really well. He was actively searching for her car keys from her pockets. When he found them, he pressed on the remote and her Polo Vivo beeped once. Koketso ran to the car and instantly opened the trunk. He looked around several times before returning to the body. The car wasn’t so far away from the body. She was actually running towards her own car when she got shot.
We picked up her body. With the help of Koketso’s muscularity, we were able to shove the body into the trunk in a few seconds. He closed the trunk and released a sigh of relief.
“We need to do something about the pool of blood.”
“Don’t touch that. We won’t be long at the stadium.”
He walked back to the mustang. I followed him with widened eyes. “What’s that supposed to mean? Aren’t we here to watch the game?”
He opened the mustang’s trunk. In it were the empty 25-litre bottle and a large black sports bag. He took the seemingly heavy bag and closed.
“Koketso…what’s in that bag?” I had asked because as soon as I saw it, my stomach turned.
“I SAID STOP ASKING QUESTIONS!”
“WHAT’S IN THE BAG? WHO IS BRYAN HECTOR AND WHY ARE WE HERE FOR HIM?!”
“How did you…”
“What are we doing here, Koketso?” I begged.
He scoffed once and placed the bag on the floor with a smirk. “You wanna know who he is? He’s a rapist. Every girl I was friends with at school had a ‘story’ about him. A story that remained just a story. What I am about to do is serve justice. Jenny, there’s nothing I hate more than a rapist.”
“Were you…raped by him?”
He scoffed again as he shook his head. “That’s all it takes for you to stand up for others? You have to experience it yourself first?”
“No. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I am ASKING if you were ever raped by him.”
He didn’t answer. In fact, he looked as if he wasn’t inside his body anymore. As if I was talking to a hollow container. It was as if he didn’t hear the question.
He picked up the bag again and looked at me. He wasn’t frowning nor smiling. He was just pale and cold. A side that felt too familiar. “Follow me. And this time…try to trust my plan. I will be forced to hurt you if you ask me more questions. Do you understand?”
I didn’t answer. I just nodded sheepishly. I was terrified for my life. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what his plan was. This is the same man who burned my mother’s house down. The same man who stole a car and R74 000. The same man who murdered a woman and continued as if nothing happened. He had a pistol at the back of his pants, hidden behind his sweater and sweatpants.
Did stadiums even have security men equipped with weapons? Was he going to be searched? Was someone going to notice how sketchy he looked? I asked myself this as I followed him in silence. After all, I had learned that I would always be silenced.
I might as well embody silence, I thought.
My heart sank when the security men didn’t even bother to check the bag. In fact, they were sitting far from the entrance indulging in cigarettes. One of them even looked high. There were about 5 of them and NONE of them thought he looked outlandishly odd and suspicious. All he did was submit two tickets to the lady at the reception and walk right in.
We walked into the passage leading to the bleachers.
“Listen to me. I need you to stay on ground level. Don’t go to the bleachers, okay?”
“JUST STOP ASKING MANY FUCKING QUESTIONS! PLEASE!” He spoke through his clenched teeth.
Before he could walk to the field, he looked back at me. “I love you.”
I only looked at him in silence as another tear fell from my eye. He ignored this as he walked into the field.
My eyes widened. Was he planning to interrupt the match? How was he even allowed on the field? Weren’t there stewards who were being paid to keep non-players off the field? What was his plan? What was he doing? All these questions made me more nervous and even sicker.
But then again, it’s South Africa. The kind of country where one man can get away with burning the Parliament.
“What the…” I heard the first person commenting.
“What is he doing?” A female from the bleachers asked with the most exasperated face I had ever seen.
He walked to the middle of the field, forcing the players to pause the match. The crowd from the bleachers began booing. Before he could do anything, he scanned through the stadium. There was a variety of people from different backgrounds and different demographics. My blood was boiling in fear.
The Jan Smuts stadium was packed that day. The maximum capacity of the stadium was 37 000. As much as the stadium wasn’t FULLY packed, there were at least 28 000 people present on that day.
But then again, it was ridiculous to assume that his idea this time would be successful, whatever it was. As much as he was undeniably capable of doing the unexpected, he couldn’t fight a mob as one man.
After a while, he reached into the bag and took out a speakerphone. He separated his legs and put the speaker in his mouth. “Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Koketso Thobatsi. I won’t waste anyone’s time, but this is important.”
Bryan walked to him, seemingly asking the same question as everyone else.
“Okay. This is how this is going to go. It’s very simple. Anyone in here who is NOT a rapist, kindly step out of the stadium. I repeat, if you are NOT a sex offender, please step out of the stadium.”
Everyone laughed in unison, even the stewards. Everyone had their phones in their hands, recording this idiot. I couldn’t believe this idiot was the person I considered to be my lover.
“I’m expecting Bryan Hector to remain on the field since he has raped almost every woman I’ve known.”
The crowd gasped. Cameramen began amalgamating around the field. About 5% of the crowd left the stadium and the rest stayed and laughed. Bryan was fuming. His teammates were holding him back.
“One thing I can’t stand are rapists. Especially ones in denial.” He smiled as he retrieved his pistol from behind. He flashed the gun in front of everyone, which created immediate silence across the stadium. The silence was deafening. It was the loudest silence I had ever heard.
He opened the bag again and put the gun inside with a smile. A lukewarm, uncomfortable laugh was generated across members of the crowd. Some people were still convinced it was a joke. However, more people began leaving. The players in the field were watching anxiously, some thinking he was just a clown. The stewards were probably thinking the same thing. In fact, they were also amongst the laughing crowd. Amongst the ‘vloggers’.
From the bag, he took out a long tripod and a ridiculously long ammunition belt followed by an automatic rifle. A loud gasp came from the crowd in unison. In fact, a wave of terror had permeated the entire stadium as fast as the wind. Everyone was finally aware that he was not joking. Everyone was frozen attentively while others were wise enough to sprint to the exit.
When the atmosphere was dead silent, the rifle FIRED. Chaos permeated across the stadium as the firearm clanked endlessly without a breath or a cock. The rhythm, similar to a chopper, was like an endless loop of stutters. Bryan Hector was shot first. And in a less than a minute, about 90 bodies were already on the floor. ALL of the players, except for a few that left the field before the shots started, were drenched in blood. In two minutes, about 213 people were dead.
The number escalated by the second. Toddlers, even infants, were shot brutally. The stewards were all shot dead. After all, no one would have suspected a terrorist attack on a random Saturday afternoon in East London of all places.
He never stopped. His ammunition belt was longer than a reticulated python. He was breaking a sweat, but it was as if his anger grew with each shot. It was as if he wasn’t in his body anymore. That something, someone, had taken over him. At that point, it was safe to say that I did not know him at all. Especially what he was capable of.
This time, he detached the weapon from the tripod and moved around. His finger never moved away from the trigger. He moved towards the exit, forcing people to run back into the stadium. That created a maniacal smile on his face. At some point, he was fully enjoying himself. He even laughed out loud hysterically.
The number increased incrementally. More than 400 children alone were killed. The field was painted in blood. The bleachers were painted in blood.
The numbers were increasing. I knew I had to stop him. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t even have a weapon to fight back, but I ran to him to the field. As I got closer, it became even more evident that the man holding the gun was nothing like the man he knew and fell in love with. This time, I had to help for the sake of others. I was stupid to even think that I could ever trust his plans. It was the stupidest plan I had ever heard and seen.
All of a sudden, the shooting stopped. When I blinked again, he was looking at me with widened eyes. I suddenly felt a sharp, cold sensation on my chest. He dropped his rifle and ran towards me with glistening eyes. Everything, once again, was happening in slow motion. I put my hand on my chest only for it to return with blood. My body weakened as I could taste the blood in my mouth.
The pain was paralyzing.
“JENNY! JENNY, NO! PLEASE! DON’T DO THIS TO ME! DON’T DIE ON ME!”
He held my head in his one hand as the only applied pressure on my wound. “THAT WASN’T ME! I SWEAR THAT WASN’T ME!”
It was getting hard to formulate words. But I couldn’t tell I was about to say my last words.
“I LOVE YOU. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! PLEASE! DON’T DIE! PLEASE DON’T DIE ON ME, JENNY!” He sobbed.
While he saw the life exit from my body, he bewailed. After a broken bewail, he released a long scream. A piercing, neverending scream. It was as if he couldn’t allow himself to believe that he had shot the one woman who made him cry. The one woman he had fallen in love with. The vein on the center of his head pulsated violently as his fists tightened together. Some of the survivors began amalgamating around him.
When he noticed this, he was suddenly engulfed in shame. How could anyone have sympathy for the worst person in the world? Before he allowed his mind to be changed, he stood up. This caused a startled ripple effect on the people surrounding him. The survivors took steps back, watching his next move carefully.
From the bag, he retrieved the silenced pistol. He looked at the survivors watching him from a distance. In fact, more people were gathering around him. Helicopters were getting closer to the stadium. It was like the aftermath of a natural disaster.
He removed the silencer and cocked the pistol. He pointed it to his chin.
“Wait! No!” One person from the survivors yelled.
The gun fired.
“21-year-old university student Koketso Thobatsi makes history as the biggest mass shooter of all time, killing about 2600 people and injuring more than 7000. This is the biggest mass shooting since the Garissa University College Attack in Kenya with 148 casualties.”
“The world woke up to another mass shooting, this time from a third-world country, South Africa. Koketso Thobatsi, only 21 years of age, committed the biggest, most notorious terrorist act of ALL TIME.”
“Almost half-time during the Blue Bulls vs Leopards match at the Jan Smut Stadium in East London, 21-year-old university student Koketso Thobatsi, opened fire on about 2600 innocent people at the game, singlehandedly, with an automatic rifle…”
“We all thought it was a joke. This guy in a grey sweatsuit telling 'non-rapists' to leave the stadium. It was too ridiculous to be taken seriously. But it was until he took out the rifle that everyone stopped laughing. It was the loudest silence I had ever heard!”
“Fiona Myers, a 29-year-old attorney was found dead in her own car’s trunk with a bullet in her head traced back to Koketso’s pistol.”
“What I’m still trying to figure out is the technicality of it all. How he and his girlfriend, Jennifer, were able to get past both security and the stewards. In fact, the stewards are seen on multiple videos laughing and even them taking videos! But then again, who would have EVER thought?”
“I knew Jennifer. Well, I knew Ricky. I didn’t even know she had transitioned. But I knew her boyfriend as well. My friend, Nalani, and I had this feeling that she was being abused. That Koketso was closeted and wanted to keep his options available by keeping her close. I knew that Koketso wanted Ricky to become a woman, it was all in the things he would say, but I guess he didn’t know how to ask until she actually did it for him without asking. But I think we judged her for being in such a relationship in the first place. He would ask us to leave sometimes because he hated that someone else other than him showered her with attention. He was the epitome of an abusive, toxic boyfriend. But we would have never thought that it was this bad!”
“My son was on that field! He died first! Bryan may have been a rapist, but he didn’t deserve to die!”
“I heard them having sex at the Protea Hotel.”
“I am Jennifer’s mother’s neighbour. I came back from work when I saw her house in ashes. Some people in the village said that they saw Jennifer arriving in a red mustang with him. One person also said that they saw Koketso running out of the yard. One even saw Jennifer being kicked out of her own home. I was scared to think that Jennifer had burned her own mother’s house to the ground, but I’m starting to believe that Jennifer was the victim of the story.”
“WHY DIDN’T SHE SAY ANYTHING?! WHY DIDN’T SHE ALERT THE SECURITY ABOUT HIS PLAN? NOT EVEN ONE PERSON?! EVEN THE STEWARDS WOULD HAVE TAKEN THEIR JOBS SERIOUSLY IF THEY KNEW HE WAS CARRYING A RIFLE IN THAT BAG!”
“Koketso and Jennifer had been dubbed the ‘Silent Couple’. It’s cheesy, but it kinda makes sense how they just slithered their way in and caused THE most destructive act of terrorism of all time.”
“The insanity of a 21-year-old Computer Sciences student from eJozi stealing R74 000, then stealing a car, committing arson then massacring so effortlessly with both a pistol and an automatic rifle just blows my mind!”
“I think, in these kinds of instances, we tend to focus on the 'bad guys' instead of the victims. I also think, for many reasons, it isn’t clear who is and isn’t a victim. Koketso’s intent was to eradicate rapists. He even said, in his words, that he hated them. He then spoke about Bryan Hector, who has had countless sexual assault allegations under our nose. Why was he so concerned about eradicating every rapist on that field? Was he also a victim of rape? Was he raped by Bryan Hector himself?”
“I tried to stop him before he killed himself. I just thought seeing him break down for his girlfriend was heartwrenching. I think there was an amount of sincerity to the act.”
“And of course, we also tend to focus less on silenced women who find themselves in such abusive relationships with such men. Maybe not to this extreme, but we cannot deny that Jennifer walking up to that field was a sacrifice! Otherwise, the numbers would have kept escalating. That was her way of breaking her silence!”
“What’s even stupider about this whole thing was how everyone remained seated when he asked non-rapists to leave the stadium. It almost makes me think that everyone who remained deserved to die because…WHAT THE FUCK?!”
“I can’t imagine the shock of enduring an abusive man in college, watching him burn my mother’s home with her and my brother in it and watching the same man killing thousands of innocents.”
“The saddest part is how these abusive tendencies seemingly started even before the gender transition. How he had full control over Ricky’s life without him even knowing how unhealthy it was. I think he was already dead when he took the decision to transition. Because it’s not as simple as chopping your dick off. There’s a process you have to go through. Some trans people can’t even get approved to go for gender reassignment surgery.”
“As much as there’s room for sympathy for Jennifer, we cannot excuse a man who killed 2600 innocents. He is a terrorist! It’s only unfortunate that Jennifer, and the rest of the people that were on the premises that day, had to see that.”
“Koketso is, quite simply, the worst person to exist.”
“Maybe the motive itself was to protect Jennifer from rapists. Maybe Jennifer herself was the victim of rape.”
“We should protect women from men like Koketso.”
“IT WAS NOT JENNIFER’S FAULT!”
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Ricky NcukanaWrite a Review