Noluyanda Roxwana – Oscar Mpetha Writing Workshop Winner

Theme – How May The Future Be Different From Now?

© Noluyanda Roxwana 2005.

I was nine years old when I was in standard one, which is grade three these days. I had a cousin who is one year younger than me, but we looked as if we were equal. She was exactly my height but the worst thing; she sometimes looked like she was older than me, because she looked as if she was growing every day. We went to the same school, but not in the same class, as she was one class behind.

One morning we woke up at 5.30 am – actually, she woke up then because I was so lazy it was too early for me. She was always awake and finished with things before me. We often fought because sometimes I had to ask her to bring me things and to ask for favours as she was always on time. One special day, I woke up as usual and we did what we usually do, ate our breakfasts. Our grandmom washed the dishes and we were off to school. I got to class to find my first subject was agriculture. Now agriculture is my worst subject. It’s not that I really hate the subject, my problem was with who was teaching it.

I always did my homework and all the things she asked us to do, but that didn’t satisfy her. We had to memorise the whole book and know every word and example in the book and I thought, isn’t this memorising dumb. Or is she perhaps taking us for granted because I know for a fact she doesn’t know everything in the book herself?

But because we were kids we had to play by the rules. So the teacher asked us to open the book and we had to read not one but two chapters today. At the end of reading it, we had to close the book and now the real problem started. She started to ask questions and you had to raise your hand if you knew the answer. Those who didn’t know had to stand up. Then she walked around the class and those who had raised their hands had to whisper their answer to her. The cane danced in her hand and if you spoke nonsense it danced on your hand too.

We went home that afternoon with our hands so sore! I got home to find my cousin had finished up all the food that was left by my grandmother. I asked her where the food was and she said she was hungry and just ate everything she could find.

I was furious: “Since when did you become a pig that you need to eat everything?”

She walked away from me, throwing words over her back: “Talking and shouting at me won’t bring the food back – just live with it!”

I grabbed her by the arm before she could get outside and slapped her in the face. As she always thought we were equal, she tried to fight back, but I had more power than her, because I was older and angrier. We fought till we got tired, as there was no one to separate us, we were alone at home. Exhausted, I left her to cry and went to the cupboard to find some mielie-meal and salt. I lit the stove and boiled the water and cooked myself some mielie pap.

But when I tried to taste it, it was so terrible that not even the dog wanted it. The pot burned and it was so black the stains wouldn’t come out.

My grandmom came home from work and asked what was going on, so I told her everything.

“Did you eat the pap?” she asked sternly.

“No!” I said.

“Why not?”

“It tastes terrible,” I said.

“Don’t waste food,” she said in her fiercest voice, so I ate it all.

After supper, I went to bed with a stomach ache, but was able to fall asleep and I dreamed.

I dreamed the world was in the future and it was all changed, even though it was the same place. Everybody looked the same; we were all black – no whites, no coloureds. We stayed in this place that looked like a field – we had no money and no shops. It’s not that we needed money anyway, because there was nothing to be bought. We made everything ourselves. We were all not poor but nor were we rich. We had enough.

Everybody was nice to everyone and we all respected each other. In this dream I had two friends and we went to this abandoned place where it was so creepy. As we got closer, I heard a voice – it was a girl like us, lying on her side. Only there was something strange about her, she was so different from all of us – her face and hair were so strange. My two friends wanted us to leave her but she was so small and alone I couldn’t. And she reminded me of someone.

“Let’s take her to the elders – maybe they’ll know who see is.” I touched her gently to make sure she was fine. My friends refused to help at first but I insisted and we took turns lifting her until we came closer to the adults.

They looked at us from the village centre and asked what was going on. We told them we had found a girl, but that she was different from us. People did not want to have anything to do with her, except our old wise man who said: “You see my children, this girl is going to bring us luck one day. We look and think the same but she is different and that makes her unique in her own way…”

I was feeling happy but heard my grandmom say: “Come on, wake up, it’s time to wash!”

I grumbled, getting up, thinking it was all a strange dream from my bad meal the night before. As I washed for the day, I thought how it might be if the future were like that – all people the same, no differences and no hatred towards each other. But then, wouldn’t that be boring as well, because everybody wouldn’t care about each other if we were all equal and the same and no one would look interesting…

And then my cousin walked in, all ready for school already. My hand still ached from my agricultural lesson yesterday but maybe that’s why my memory suddenly seemed so good. I knew the first eight chapters in my book well now and I remembered the strange girl in my dream – she looked just like my cousin.

So I stepped back to offer her my comb.

We fought a lot less after that. But I still never forgave her for growing taller than me!

by Noluyanda Roxwana – grade 11; Oscar Mpetha High School, Cape Town