It has been quite some time since I’ve had anything worth posting. I’ve written to process my thoughts. As I navigate my grief journey I’ll dip in and out of this blog. My aim remains to only post relevant content.
Yesterday was a particularly emotional day. Most people look forward to the weekend, I relive my trauma of receiving the news my sister had died. 14 months later and it’s not any easier.
My family is not okay. We all experience this and as if on cue I received a whatsapp from my cousin in the early hours. I could see he had sent photos. I could make out one was me in uniform at their home. I delayed opening that message for a few hours. I knew there would be a tsunami of emotions.
I also had a lot of work to get on with ahead of some planned time off work. When I opened the message I saw the photo of my sister. I cried for quite some time. I shared it with my aunt who went to identify her body and my parents.
I shared the photo on my Instagram with a caption.
The emotion overload from that picture was the memories it triggered. One was remembering I felt I needed to lose weight then. I think I was a perfect size 10. I am not that anymore and the weight gain / loss journey that has been a constant since that Heathrow injection. The letter I’d write to my 16 year old self.
What I focused on most of all was that top I was wearing. My mum sent it from the U.K. and I loved that top. Seeing it, took me on a journey to one of the most scariest experience I’ve encountered. A memory which thinking about it now, explains my aversion to crowds and noise and my trauma response. I won’t go into analysis here but will recollect. As a side note, I am currently reading What happened to you? by Oprah Winfrey, Dr Bruce Perry. A book which seeks to reframe the question, What’s wrong with you.
I was wearing that top when I went to the Agricultural Trade show, 1994. This was an annual trade show held in Zimbabwe in August I think just before schools opened.
That year I went with my step mums kids, the two girls and her house-help. After seeing the main show people would go to the amusement park. Luna Park this was in a field next to the exhibition centre.
If I recall correctly there was a firework display on Wednesday and Saturday evening. I think we went on Wednesday as it was less busy. After the display we got separated with the house-help and younger sister. I was with my other step sister, same age and name and we made our way to the pickup point before the set time. My dad is a stickler for time.
On the way there, a group of guys maybe 4-5 from a high density neighbourhood zoned in on me by the car park. If you know me I’m an introvert. I know some people may take this demeanour as arrogance. It’s not. I’m just a really shy person trying to step outside of myself. I don’t know if they zoned in on this.
This place is relatively busy with people walking up and down. It wasn’t secluded. They felt entitled. Felt no fear about their actions or people challenging them. The boys were pulling me from all directions. Groping me in my intimate areas and trying to get me on the ground.
I just knew I couldn’t let that happen. I would have been gang raped. Probably contracted an incurable STI. (Check stats in Zimbabwe at this time). I fought to stay upright. Lost my right shoe, a patent leather loafer my step mother had bought for me that summer holiday during that struggle.
My stepsister, was pulling my other arm. At one point she wanted to let go and get help. I begged her not to leave me alone. Thoughts of them dragging me away, never to be seen again flashed in my mind when she said she was going to get help. So we screamed for help holding each other. They didn’t even look in her direction.
Towering over me, the boys joked with each other, and made plans about how to get me on the ground, I distinctly remember the fun-fair sounds in the background, music from the rides, people talking, the normality of it all whilst I was petrified.
I couldn’t let my first sexual encounter be that experience. I knew I wouldn’t survive that. I distinctly remember telling myself I’d kill myself if the boys got their way with me. I called out to God for help. Just as I was about to loose my footing I heard a guy calling ‘Patricia’ over and over.
I realised, I was his Patricia! He was a mixed race guy and approached the guys cautiously but confidently. He asked them what they were doing to me, I was his sister and they had to let me go.
The guys argued with him for a time disbelieving his claim. I was scared as I wasn’t sure if it was part of their game, the other guy was in on it or if that was going to lead to another horror. I instinctively reached out to him and begged him with my eyes to help me. They kind of shoved me into his arms and walked away laughing as if nothing had ever happened.
I wept! Thanked him profusely. He noticed I didn’t have a shoe and we attempted to look for it. We must have covered some distance as I was walking in one direction they were pulling me in another. After a few minutes I abandoned that search conscious my dad would be waiting for us. The guy and his friends walked us to the main gate where my dad was waiting.
He asked what happened and I explained. He didn’t console me as I wept silently in the car. No one said anything. Perhaps it was relief at what I had escaped.
I remember he took me to my aunts flat about 10 minutes from that site that evening in the Avenues. The cousin who sent me the photo. His mum is my mums sister. So culturally my mum. He is more than a cousin, he’s my brother and their home was a safe haven for my sister, brother and I.
I recall running a very hot bath and scrubbing myself raw with a stone. You’ll find one in most Zimbabwean bathrooms. We use this on the soles of our feet. Then I cleaned the bath and ran a second bath. I could feel those boys hands on my body. A body that hadn’t been touched intimately by another. A body I was saving. I felt violated. Years later still do.
The soil at Luna Park is that deep red soil. It was everywhere. I hand washed my black trousers, black leotard, underwear and chucked the remaining shoe. I don’t think I ever wore that blouse again.
This would have happened shortly after this photo was taken. I left Zimbabwe a year later.
I thought about that a lot yesterday.
Seeing this version of me with my sister at her house triggered another memory. I’ll journal that and sit with it.
As for the guy who saved me that evening. He gave me his number and I called the next day to thank him. I think we met once, briefly, a welfare check of sorts to let him know I was okay and the impact of what he did for me that evening. I believe he was also scared engaging with those boys. There’s a lot I wont go into here about the dynamics of that evening except to say it was a lot for a 15 year old to absorb.