They Called Me Queer is a collection of stories written by Africans from the queer community. The book is compiled by Kim Windovgel and Kelly-Eve Koopman. It’s published by Kwela Publishers. This is an extract from the chapter written by Chase Rys.
Trigger warning: suicide
My daddy hits the locked door.
‘Be a man! Make fucking open here!’
I can smell the wine through the walls. My heart is beating too fast. My daddy is going to kill me if he gets in here. I can’t fit through the small toilet window anymore; my body is too big now. I can’t fight my daddy. Everyone in the flats is scared of him. Even the biggest gangsters won’t take him on. My daddy don’t still worry with guns and panga stuff, he just uses his hands. He’s got the biggest fingers in the whole world; they swell out at the
tips, like golf balls. Everyone calls him ‘Dik Vingers’. Picking up a straw from the kitchen counter is a real mission for him. I pray every night that my fingers don’t start growing like his; my daddy says his hands used to be like everyone else’s but when he was my age they started to swell. He didn’t mind because it made him the best fighter in the skeem, just one hou from my daddy then you’re out cold. I’m too small now, but one day when I’m big, I’ll fight him.
I grab the apple shampoo bottle. My hands are shaking so I struggle to unscrew the doppie. If my daddy gets in here, I’ll squirt shampoo in his eyes. My mommy slides between my daddy and the door. I can hear her bangles clang.
‘Leave him, it was me, I put it on him becau –’
My daddy smacks her. Her body thuds against the door.
I wrap my fingers around the key. My nails stick to my palm; my nail polish hasn’t dried yet.
If I open for her then he’s gonna get in also. I lay down to look through the crack under the door; my mommy is on her hands and knees, and he’s dragging her by her hair.
I don’t understand fighting; it makes me feel sick in my stomach. I try to swallow but my mouth is dry. I have to get a better weapon than shampoo. I get up from the floor and catch my reflection in the mirror. My face is hot and looks red even through the base. My eyes are huge, I don’t know if it’s the lash-extending mascara or if it’s because I’m kak bang. I try to suck the lipstick off of my lips. It just reddens my teeth.
‘It’s you that’s making my child into a moffie!’ my daddy’s voice slurs.
Another smack. It’s my fault. I asked my mommy to put makeup on me. I just wanted to look as beautiful and fabulous as she always does. He wasn’t meant to come back so early. Now I just want the make-up off. It was a mistake. Kajal and tears streak a black line down my cheek. I look like a monster. I bend over the bath and open the warm water tap. It’s so hot it burns my hands but I don’t move them away. The geyser makes a noise but it’s not loud enough to block out the sound of giant fists punching flesh. I make my hands white with soap and scrub my face. I keep my eyes open. When I close them it feels like my daddy is right behind me. The soap burns but it’s a relief to feel pain somewhere on my body and not just inside. I don’t dry my face. I look in the mirror – all the make-up didn’t come off. It’s like my mommy’s foundation made my skin waterproof. I scratch at it but the space-shine nail polish leaves glitter on my face.
My mommy is shouting but I can’t make out what she is shouting. It sounds like she’s speaking with her mouth full of food but I know it’s blood. The mirror is getting misty, so I wipe it with my gown’s sleeve. Old toothpaste splatters and dust come off but the mirror still looks like it’s steaming. It’s cloudy; I can barely see my reflection. Is my daddy burning the flat down? I close my mouth and take short sharp breaths through my nose. I don’t smell fire and there is no smoke in the bathroom around me.
There’s a small thing sparkling on my chest like a hitman’s laser from a gun in an action movie. I look down but I don’t see the light on my body; it’s only shining on the mirror. I touch it and the dot, and it starts to pulse and grow.
Am I hallucinating? Maybe the soap damaged my eyes, I blink hard and look behind me.
Everything else in the toilet looks fine. The light in the mirror starts to take the shape of a person’s body, a figure hanging upside down. I am definitely losing my mind. The light dims and the body slowly spins the right way up. There, looking out at me in the mirror, is wrinkled man in a silver robe. Grey dreadlocks are tied in a high bolla on top of his head and a single peacock feather sticks out of it. He wears sunglasses with tiny black frames that just covers his eyes.
Why does he look so familiar? Wait . . . I hold my breath. When my cousins were here last year, we played Mirror-Mirror in the bathroom and waited for a ghost to appear but nothing happened. Is this the delayed demon? Is this the old man, that Charlie-Charlie ghost that my teachers at school warned us about in assembly?
Published by Kwela, the book is available at all good bookstores.