Fatima Damon

Ties of blood

I stood in the doorway and saw my youngest brother crying uncontrollably. My mother was trying to calm him. I wasn’t sure why he was so upset but by the look of the leash cradled in his hand, it was about Boomer, the dog he had begged my father for. “Don’t cry, Fareed. Boomer might still come home.”

I moved into the living room, dropping my school bag next to his feet. His big brown eyes were bloodshot, his head shaking. My mother turned to me. “Some-one stole Boomer this morning. We went searching everywhere for him. We only found his leash tied to the washing line in the yard.” My brother was barely seven years old. This was not a toy that could be replaced. Tears welled up in my eyes – not for the dog but for the loss my brother felt. For the first time I felt emotionally tied to Fareed. He was my brother and I felt his pain because I dearly loved and cared about him.

Boomer never returned. Fareed showed affinity for other animals and for the environment but never again did he have another dog. And nor did I ever see him cry like this again. In the years that followed, Fareed hid his pain and emotions with a drug addiction that ruined him and our family. At the age of 15, he was a brilliant student looking at Maths and Physics as key subjects in standard eight. Then his schoolwork started going downhill. He dropped out of school after failing standard eight. When Fareed turned 19, he had a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed schizophrenic. All my mother knew was that her son would never be the same again.

Fareed was permanently high on whatever was available on the streets. He lied and stole, selling everything he could get his hands on. He became more and more aggressive, more and more desperate. Fareed turned into a monster and my mother had to pay ransom money for a peaceful hour. She gave in to Fareed’s manipulations even though interdicts and court orders should have prevented him from harassing her.

“Give me the fuckin’ R10!” Fareed’s words jolted me awake. He was screaming at my mother. He pulled her small thin arms forcing her to sit up. She was so frail that she could not even breathe. His eyes were big in his head, his body a skeleton, his voice controlling and demandingly aggressive. My mother was shivering. I wasn’t sure if it was the cold weather or her fear. I was asleep next to her. The curtains were still drawn, the morning light dim and already my mother’s daily hell already had begun. She slumped back onto the pillow exhausted. This was my mother whom I had feared and marvelled at all my life! She had sacrificed her life for us. How dare he!

“Who do you think you’re talking to! She is sick and you dare to pull her out of her own bed! You’re not sick; you’re pure filth, pure evil! Get out! ”

“Hey! You stay out of my life. I’ll grab a knife for you. I don’t care! You are nothing to me, nothing!” He turned to my mother. “Where’s the fuckin’ money!” He pulled the cushions from her head to find her purse. Her body was limp as he turned to me eyes bulging, “Stay out of my fuckin’ way. I’ll kill you!”

I laughed at him “You’re not mad enough!” I pushed him away from my mother.

As he fell forward my mother screamed at me, “Pack your bags, take the children and go home.”

I was shocked! She didn’t want my help. Was she then satisfied with this monster driving her to her death? I left, promising myself never to defend her again. I needed to overcome my hurt. So for three weeks I didn’t phone or visit her. Little did I know that the morning of the argument would be the last day I would see her alive. Three weeks later she suffered a brain hemorrhage, and was rushed to hospital where she died after two massive strokes. I couldn’t look at Fareed, think of him or pray for him. He stopped me from having a mother. He tortured her into her grave. I could also not live with myself for deserting her at the time she needed me most.

Then, one day, a snow white ridgeback came scampering across the road. It was obviously lost and hungry. Its eyes met those of my son’s and without hesitation, he picked the dog up. He turned to me as the dog licked his face. “Can we have him, Mummy, can we?” My son’s big round brown eyes trusting, hoping and yearning, looked into mine. Out of nowhere, I saw my brother at the age of seven playing with Boomer in our back garden. I remembered the day Fareed lost Boomer and how I felt his pain. I forgot the monster, I only remembered Fareed. I found him again. I hated what he had done, but still loved him for who he was – my brother.