Ntombi K. Mhlambi
Salithambo, the pink castle
And so went the tale of Salithambo, the pink castle. One woman gone missing after the other. Another found as bone or ash or never found, and the found sporting a plastic nose, doll eyes, medical boots and sometimes a rechargeable larynx. Those investigating the crime will be caught pink-handed with an entry ticket to Salithambo and to every ear, it will be known that the body that had a leg missing is now missing two legs, a head, four fingers and other parts that only Salithambo can claim.
The sun will only rise mid-day when it’s not waited for. When waited for, it will not rise at all. For why should the sun give up her radiance over Salithambo? Why shouldn’t daisies tuck away their yellows from Salithambo’s spiteful bees? And the big birds? Why shouldn’t they pluck the wings of their younglings? What about the ants? Where have they gone for all four seasons?
Ahead is a stream of sugar water into which our chests are emptied. There are things heavier than what our chests were meant for. We carry them even when we are told not to. “Woman talk.” What art in your chest? Talk! We carry them the way we do the babies we had against our will. The way we do with the husbands we stopped loving. The way we do with the life that has long stopped favouring us. We chest. Stomach. Womb. Aches, lumps, hiccups at the peak of every cry. All kinds of things. Don’t ask me why. Even without chests, stomachs, wombs. We continue to do so. They say we were born for it. I ask: what is born for us?
Still wondering about the dead child over that cold sink? Wonder about my plastic eyes and rechargeable larynx. Wonder about Salithambo as you wonder about my plastic eyes and rechargeable larynx. Wonder about your unmissing parts. Wonder that they’re already missing. Wonder about where they’ve all gone. Wonder if they’ll ever be found when Salithambo is already thick with our skin. And his lights – crystal chandeliers – a downward spiral of our frozen tears. Wonder, when our natural hair, braids, weaves, sacral hairs have done his carpeting. When the doorbell of his main door is my larynx and his curtains the clothing we were last seen wearing. Wonder again. When our thin and fat fingers are cigars for tasting at your pink parties and our platforms, wedges, pumps, ankle strap heels are ashtrays. Wonder if his lounge suite is wide curves and backsides.
They are sitting on our power. They are living in our castles. They are the aches. Lumps. Hiccups at the end of our cry. We chest. We stomach. We womb them. Don’t ask me why we chest, stomach, womb them even without chests, stomachs, wombs. Tell those with parts unmissing to build us a castle made out of our own strength and call it Zalithambo – a place where bone is spawned. Because unlike Salithambo – a place where bone stays behind, we will never take from that which we have given birth to
About the writer:
Ntombi K. Mhlambi holds an MA in Creative Writing (2017) from Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. “Salithambo, The Pink Castle” is a short piece that opens her thesis titled I Won’t be Long, a weave of short stories, flash fiction and vignettes of prose-poetry.
Image: “Abstract” by Mary Ann Goughler.