What kind of love is this when women are bashed up by lovers
Over the weekend I was chilling at my friend's place in Alexandra when the woman next door walked into her yard, causing me to almost have a heart attack.
After my initial shock at the sight of her face, I immediately looked away out of embarrassment. But curiosity redirected my eyes back to that visage of hers.
There was a huge raw scar running from just below her left eye all the way to her chin. Her right eye was half-shut and red. Blotches of open skin suppurating with yellow pus girdled her scabbed nose; her swollen lips hung loose, refusing to close.
"Another drink?" said my friend, in an attempt to distract me from my shock.
When the woman had disappeared back to her house, my friend told me that she lived with a violent man who would disappear for weeks on end; when he came back, he would beat her senselessly, accusing her of sleeping around.
When the community tried to intervene the woman herself poured scorn at her would-be saviours.
It was a chilling tale that got me thinking of my childhood neighbour S'dudla. She was not a particularly attractive woman, but her aura ensured that men who drove cars - when a car was still a status symbol - made a beeline for her house, almost every weekend.
From this troop of admirers, S'dudla chose two men as her full-time boyfriends. She made them swear that they would abide by her terms: she would have the final say over who came to visit her on what day.
We only knew this because she was talkative when in her cups: "Lamadoda adansela esami isiginci!" (With these men, I call the shots.)
But one of the men started coming even on days he wasn't supposed to. When she chased him away, he reacted violently. It started with "innocent" slaps. Then the slaps became punches to the face.
Then S'dudla dumped the pacifist, settling with the ragamuffin. One day, the pacifist parked his car in front of S'dudla's house.
Scared that Mr Ragamuffin might turn up, S'dudla chased the pacifist away. He complied. A few minutes later, he was back, begging for an audience with her. She started throwing stones at him.
Screaming and shouting, he said he was going to kill himself. S'dudla, like some neighbours, laughed when he started dousing himself and his car with some liquid.
Everyone thought it was water. But when the man struck a match, and car caught alight, no one was laughing any more.
I was not present to witness this. Together with my playmates, I was only alerted to it when loud shouts rang across the neighbourhood.
By the time we got to the scene, they'd rescued the man from his car, which was still in flames. He'd been rushed to hospital, with serious burns.
Mr Ragamuffin came to the hood a few weeks later. He beat S'dudla senselessly for "creating a scandal".
Immediately after that, S'dudla disappeared. At Christmas time she came visiting. She told her family that she was now based in Johannesburg where she was a back-up singer in a band led by Mazambane Zuma, who was originally from our township but was based in the City of Gold.
After holidays, S'dudla went back to work. A few days later she died at the knife of Mr Ragamuffin who'd followed her from our township back to Joburg.
What kind of love is that?
That's the question I keep asking myself every time I visualise S'dudla's face; and the face of the woman I saw in Alex over the weekend.
What kind of love.?