Excerpt from the book.

I remember joining a march from Ga Rankua in the mid 1980’s in the then independent state of Bophutswana. It was headed to Mothotlung. To this day I haven’t a clue why there specifically. It seems such an obscure place. Perhaps they wanted to go further and for a moment, we wanted to go further. 

It was a terrifying time in our history but for me, only in retrospect. People disappeared regularly and if they ever returned, they were never again the same. Some whittled and faded into oblivion, their spirits broken like beaten dogs and their eyes vacant like ghosts. Some had the sense clobbered right out of them and walked the streets mumbling incoherent things. Their sky had fallen, and their minds had been rattled loose. Others harboured rage but all lived in a world of hushed tones and racing hearts. 

On occasion, young men would return battered and bruised almost beyond recognition just on a regular day that was no more significant than the one before. I would later come to understand that it was that they didn’t have their dompas, looked at a white man the wrong way or in the eye or were simply as God had made them…black.

I had not given any thought to these realities that day when I joined the march. The thunderous struggle songs rattled my ribs as I walked alongside thousands of black bodies going into battle for their freedom. Some would not return that day and of those that did, some who had not given up the ghost later from their wounds would walk for the last time that day.

I walked in stages, trying not to get noticed. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be there. Still, I persisted…pressed on, pretending to be from nearby wherever I was when I wasn’t walking. I was as stealthy as a clumsy, young boy with knocked knees could possibly be.

Instinctively, I knew there was death where I was headed. It hung in the air like the omens of Shakespearean literature but that didn’t bother me. I wanted to die! Not for the cause. I didn’t know what the cause was.  I didn’t want to be a martyr. I didn’t know what that was either.  I just wanted to die.

So onward, forward I went for what seemed like miles on my tiny, skinny legs and bad lungs. Anxious but resolute. Scared but determined. I pressed on. Eventually and inevitably, I was discovered and was sent home. We respected our elders then, so I complied without protestation or an ounce of defiance and just like that, my stint as a freedom fighter came to an end just as quickly as it had begun.

It would be a short time thereafter that I attempted suicide for the first time, hanging myself from the branch of a tree with a spinning top string. I cannot be sure of the exact time that had passed but I am not writing from the great beyond because the branch I had chosen from my favourite mulberry tree could not hold my weight. A cruel irony for someone a skinny as me.

So, I fell to the ground, the string tight around my neck but only enough to cause discomfort and not death. My crudely tied knot had grown tighter and I could not get it undone. 

I headed for the kitchen to get a bread knife to cut the string off and hid underneath one of two dining room tables in my grandparents three-bedroom tin house. The same table I hid under when I fell from a makeshift jungle gym at school and broke my left arm. I got no joy and no sooner had I giving up was I discovered with my little string around my neck. 

I stood by my story that I had attempted to tie a tie and not a noose but wasn’t believed. I got one of the most memorable beatings of my life that day.

Still, my need for death persisted just as I too had persisted in my march towards Mothotlung that day and by the time I reached adulthood, I had lost count of my suicide attempts. The suicide attempts that were all done quietly because their success has always been more important than the attention people would invariably conclude I seek. 

And so it was all done in the darkness in which I live. All done secretly. I was ashamed for it. I was told it was nothing more than weakness my entire life and of all the things I couldn’t be or archive, at the very least, I didn’t want to be weak.