A One eyed woman who smelt like an ashtray came home one day and was introduced to us as Aunt Z. Greetings were exchanged, she looked at me with her good eye and said “you look like my father”. This didn’t move because everyone says I remind them of my grandad cause he was dark and tall like me. That evening the fattest chicken was slaughtered we had the best meal since Christmas. Stories about my late grandfather’s escapades were shared. I laughed until my tummy hurt, thinking how this woman was so different than everyone at home.
She smoked menthol cigarettes and drank beer from the large bottle “ingudu”. The next morning she wakes me up very early in the morning and sends me to buy her cigarettes. I ran to the shop and came back with the cigarettes, but when I got back my granma was sweeping the yard. She asked me where I was coming from, I told her. At the top of her voice she shouted, ” Z you cannot send any of the children to get you cigarettes, they are impressionable”. I ran to my aunt and gave her the cigarettes, she looked at me with her good eye and told me not to mind my grandma, it’s just old age.
These tuck shop runs became my routine, wake up to get Aunt Z cigarettes, bath for school, after school run to the tuck shop for more cigarettes and sit listening to her stories. One weekend we had a ceremony at home, lots of people were invited. All the children were scared of this one eyed woman but to me she had become a friend and a confidant. She told me stories about her younger boyfriends, told me they kept her looking as young as she did. She was in charge of brewing traditional beer but didn’t drink it. When I asked why, she said she isn’t cheap! She wants store bought. She even managed to get another boyfriend in the village, a young and smelly skinny guy.
Our friendship got to a point where I idolized how free and liberated she was. This didn’t sit well with my dad or granma, they thought I was becoming disrespectful and was being badly influenced. One day my dad beat me up for telling him I won’t do something, I cried myself to sleep. She woke me up for the cigarette run, I went to get her cigarettes but went to sit alone by the mountain. Surrounded by trees and rocks I longed to be a bird and just be that free like Aunt Z, dance to the rhythm of my own drum!
She followed me to the mountain and sat beside me on a rock. She told me that I was spoilt! I was shocked! She asked if my dad had ever beaten me before, I said no. She said my grandad used to be them up sit sport, if he got home and the garage door wasn’t opened he got off the car with a sjambok and started beating everyone including my granma. She told me I had it easy and should be grateful for my dad. Told me no man will ever love me like that man did. Then she told me if I wanted freedom I need to stick with school cause she has seen how smart I was. She had not met a child who can get 100% without cheating (she said this with a wink on her good eye, the funniest thing I’ve ever seen). ” I believe in you, your dad believes you and everyone who matters believes in you don’t ever forget that. ” you see these men, cigarettes and beer in my life, I am trying to fill a void that I created. I like it but it’s still a void nonetheless”
We walked back home together laughing at how silly I had been. Just before we got to the gate she says ” where are my cigarettes?” I obviously hasn’t gone to get them, she says “now go get them”. I ran to the shop like a good child that I was. Gave her the cigarettes. Our friendship reminded and grew stronger. That night she didnt go with her boyfriend, she slept by my side, telling me stories until my tummy hurt! Two years later my aunt died. I will always miss her with a wink in my eye…