This time Mama is on the cold red ground, her legs sprawled like she was about to take a step, and her face pillowed by dried vomit. It’s a cold Sunday morning, and people have started making their way to church, walking up the rusty road towards the sunrise like it marked the meeting place for mothers in white, and gold, and red, and yellow two-pieces and matching bags and high heels, and their matching wide and round and lacy hats, dragging their daughters in their church dresses and shiny doll shoes, and shiny faces, and their shiny hair, like none had a sin, all looking so pure and clean, leaving behind the undeniable smell of soap after passing us.
Standing next to mama sleeping on the cold dirt with vomit like a halo around her head, I knew then that God wasn’t for people like us, even though I was grateful that I didn’t find her sleeping on maggots again. My older sister is now living in Vanyaville with another new boyfriend. He’s not the father of her three children who stay with us, we don’t know him, but then we don’t know who the fathers of the three are, and I heard mama screaming that she’s pregnant again.
‘We never see you, only when you bring your animals then you disappear like a fart and leave them here with me, what do you think these pigs eat heh?’ mama screamed on the cellphone call brought by a neighbour, and I think that’s what makes mama drink so much. She never cooks anymore, mama, since older sister left the second child and left like she was going behind the house, so we rely on neighbours, or maBantu the lady who brings food once in a while for the people around here. I don’t know who this woman is or why she is giving us food, but she’s like an angel. I also stand at the main road. I made a help me sign with a white board I found the last time mama was lying by the rubbish dump, spooning with a stray dog on a black-bag oozing with maggots and flies.
Sometimes people can act like they don’t see you while they are eating in their cars, when I’m standing at the robots, holding my sign. When I come close they hide away like I’m an animal that will eat their precious nice things, and sometimes they give me the things they don’t want to eat anymore, their bread with things inside, and sometimes they give me some money. Sometimes I can buy 4 chicken pieces and small rice, other times I can buy Amasi and Mealie-Meal, sometimes I buy soap and bread.
Mama doesn’t do anything anymore, no more bathing, no more talking, no more singing, no more washing and ironing for boMa’Stands in the township, no more nothing but this picking her up in disgraceful spaces every morning of any day since older sister decided to be a baby making machine for shack city. I can’t remember the last time mama slept with us at home. Home. I don’t like calling that place home. This is the third place we are now living in, and it is no better than the previous places, now forgotten, like God has forgotten us. Maybe that’s why mama sleeps here, it is the same as sleeping there.
I first struggle to pull her hands over the wheelbarrow, once her upper body is in it is not very hard to get her to raise herself all the way in. Thank God she’s alive when I find her, I think to myself, every time I see her shifting on the wheelbarrow, probably thinking she’s sleeping on her sponge we all share in our home. Even though I know before the sun is down again, she will be out searching for whatever she’s lost in the night, and I would have to find her again tomorrow morning, if she doesn’t find her way back home. Happy Mother’s Day, I say to mama, as I wheel her home.
Writer & Photography: Palesa Motsomi