Paintings Litter the Floor

If you asked why my paintings litter the floor instead of gracing my wall, I’d tell you, simply, that this is not my home.
I have never had a home. I can never say that I grew up there and these people were there; I’ll treasure them forever in memory.
Despite being born in Durban, I spent little over 6 months in the mother city of Kwazulu Natal. I could only utter the names of my parents before I was uprooted for the very first time. We traveled across the country, literally settling on the other end of South Africa. Cape Town is a beautiful place.
We lived in four different places that I can remember in the Western Cape. Duplexes, two bedroom apartments, a caravan, and finally a house on the foot of Table Mountain. Some of my earliest, best and worst memories were made on the West Coast. Among the favourite is an image of a beautiful little girl whose name I will never remember. She was my best friend until I was seven.
Despite living in so many areas, I never did think we would leave that province. But, we did.
Memories of the little girl with a shard of glass sticking out her foot, a man in a smart black suit knocking on the door to ask the four year old me for the rent my incarcerated father owed him, camping in Mosselbay, splitting my scalp open under the steel staircase, making the brick pattern of the school ground shift into 3D, and seeing the branches creep ever so ominously outside the window at night, were soon to be replaced with bad accents, constricted living, poverty, drugs and violence.
If the states were a litter, Kwazulu Natal would be the runt. Sure, there’s poverty everywhere, but you’d think so too if you’d just driven 18 hours with a trailer full of belongings, leaving a beautiful suburb, to arrive in a semi-rural area. Here, the air reeked of disappointment, bad parenting, drugs, alcohol, teenage pregnancy, racism, crime and violence. It did not please the people that I was a little, outspoken, White-Indian hybrid that neither believed in or followed cultural norms.
I was not from there. I would not adopt their ways.
Umzinto, was the town.
Father left us there, and I didn’t blame him. The locals would stand at their windows, watching the White man each time he visited. I would have left too. He set off to become established in conservation, and mother, degreeless and unemployed, set off to survive.
For seven years, she laboured – learning new skills, trying to break into the formal labour market.
For those seven years, Mother, Brother and I lived in a three-roomed apartment. Those three rooms being a kitchen, bathroom and lounge/bedroom/office/dining room. Our current lounge is one and a half times the size of that entire apartment. For those seven years, we cramped into that one room, and not a single day did we expect to stay there. In those seven years, Father had houses in Port Shepstone, Ramsgate and Oslo Beach. I moved around a lot.
On my 15th birthday, we moved to Preston. Mother had succeeded in getting a good job and started climbing the corporate ladder with ninja-level skill. We lived in the outhouse of a relative for the next three years – again, never intending to stay. It was better there. We were a road away from the beach, and I spent almost everyday there; enveloped by the serenity I so needed in my chaotic, dysfunctional life. The outhouse was small. The bathroom was detached and outside. It had two bedrooms, a lounge and a kitchen. There was no passageway. You entered the house through the door on the right into the lounge/my room, which led to the kitchen, which led to Mother’s room/makeshift lounge, which led to Brother’s room. The door on the left was the bathroom. We were better off, but only just so.
Father no longer had a place in my life, and Mother was career-driven, working her hiney off day in and day out to provide for her soon to be university-student-age children. Brother would be first, being three years older.
When he left for UKZN, he and mother travelled daily to Durban. I woke to an empty house and arrived from school to an empty house.
Not long passed before I realized – I could stay at home and nobody would ever know.
Soon, memories of Cops and Robbers with the local boys, community cricket, crossing the river to get to school, getting my tooth knocked out by Brother’s best friend’s surprisingly great aim with stones, my horrible first kiss, the right obese neighbour’s drug addiction, her slutty daughter, the left neighbour’s obsession with ABBA, and the stench of that pool of blood from last night’s stabbing, were all replaced by new ones.
January 23, 2012, we arrived in Amanzimtoti – the small town in the middle of nowhere, between Preston and Durban. Our new two-bedroom apartment has a 24th-floor-magnificent sea view, a kitchen, bathroom and a half, a lounge, and most importantly, a passageway. This is the current lounge aforementioned. Our previous house could also fit in it.
Once more, it was time to make new memories.
A new life was in order. I had finished school, changed my identity, cut out everybody I knew before 2012, and set my thoughts forward. I could progress. I could finally be myself. Nobody knew me. I got out of the poverty. The sun smiled down on me. My glass was half-full.
I left behind memories of moving out of Umzinto on my birthday, Mother’s three promotions in three consecutive years, the elation and pride at Mother buying her very first car, Mother’s new managerial job, bunking school to spend days at the beach in my secret cave, being a pothead, being unanimously hated by every girl in the neighbourhood, consistently being grounded for getting caught drunk by Brother, being hurt by my best friend/lover, screaming at the principal, being hated by the principal, moving out in matric to get away from the hurt at home, and never being Indian enough to be good enough for anybody or their parents.
Even now, in Amanzimtoti, where I’m making new, and better memories, I know I will not be here long.
I will only hang up my paintings when the nightmares about going back stop, and I live on my own, for I know that place will be home, and in that home I will stay, making new memories.

5 responses to “Paintings Litter the Floor

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