My morning cereal
was all over the back of the van.
My throat burned
And my 6 year old eyes stung,
In pain, in shame,
And most of all – in pride.
I had promised Mumma I wouldn’t cry.
But all I wanted,
What I really wanted,
Was to let loose one sob,
So that the knot in my tummy,
Or the knot in my throat,
My two long plaits were my only friends
standing outside with me,
And I would have called on them
to hug me,
If I didn’t feel my wet uniform
Sticking to my chest,
Or if I didn’t smell the smell that haunted me,
From deep within me.
The pity in the van man’s eyes said,
“It’s all right, I won’t tell your Mumma”.
He gently lifted me back into the van,
To a dry seat by the window.
And with that,
Two drops weighing the earth, left me.
The school bell was long forgotten.
The other girls with the pretty pencils,
and obedient hair,
Had long gone in and called “absent”,
when I was summoned to show
house, worth two gold stars.
The scabs on my palms missed
The bars of the jungle gym.
The engine roar was loud enough,
So no one but the black rexine seat heard,
Two more drops
My nose felt cool against the window,
I felt my attention wander
Even while the rest of me sat crying.
The scaly salt trails on my cheeks
Still felt like cake
When I saw that my buckled black shoes looked so pretty
Polished to a shine
By my grandfather’s able hands
This time, I wasn’t prepared
For the onslaught
Of plop, plop, plop.
I played with my tears,
Squashed them with my eyelids,
And by some strange alchemy, this
Made sunlight seven dotty colours.
God-light played between trees
That had finally woken
Stretching their arms up to the sky.
The wind did not have a flavour of hurry.
The air was not full
Of hot breath or bus exhaust
Or the giggles of gaggles of girls.
The scene was the same.
It’s just that the view had changed.
No wonder adults hid this from me.
Who knows how much trouble it would be
To get me interested in
Long division again.
My running nose had stopped,
My shoes were still black.
My tiffin box, intact.
And yet, I was received,
By the tough hands of my grandfather.
My scrawny arms cradled his neck,
And his hand found my head,
Even with the flecks
Of hurry-chewed cornflakes.
Inhaling the smell of his talcum and sweat,
I fell blissfully asleep.
Outside, the world had chugged on,
Unchanged by my vomit.