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he rarely laughs, let alone smiles. The first time I saw him I thought that he was a mental case. In fact, he drinks secretly, and smokes too, but he does both of these things in private, as if he is hiding from somebody. Pheladi has never seen him smoke but sometimes he sends her to buy him a packet of cigarettes. She says that her father is too much of a private person, that he is a big secret, not just to us but to himself as well.
    They have five children, of which Pheladi is the first-born. Maybe at one point they loved each other, maybe they still do and just have a funny way of showing it. He comes home at intervals, comes on a Friday and leaves Sunday night. He spends ninety per cent of his time at work. At least, that is what we know.
    Pheladi’s father called a meeting with her, looked her deep in the eyes and told her that she should listen to her mother because her mother knew best. That was it. He had said what he needed to say. It didn’t change anything. It was like telling someone who is addicted to gambling that they should stop gambling. They are going to listen to you and agree with everything that you say – that this addiction is ruining their life – and swear that they will never gamble again, never. You may think that they have seen the light, but as soon as they have money in their hands they will be gambling again, and not because they have forgotten what you have told them. No.
    And worse, after they know your mind they will try to hide that they are still gambling, until they have lost everything again, when you are going to know all about it. You can say the same things all over again, and they will not disagree with you, but come some money they are going gambling.
    This I know, but why? I think , and please underline the “I think” part, that it is because gambling is in their heart and gambling promises them far better things – a life they want and will have if only they can win. And when they win you are going to feel sorry for ever saying that gambling is bad and ruining their life. Because after they have won you are going to be the first to know and they are going to pay all your debts. But they never win.
    Sex, I think, operates in a similar way. I have never gone gambling and got thrilled by bright lights, cigar smoke and machines, just as I have never been charmed by a boy and wished to get naked in front of him, but I know that you can tell somebody not to have sex, but there are inner sexual urges that urge them, making them want. And, afterwards, they find themselves hoping for more, hoping for more like a gambler hoping that they will win. Which makes me think that however often one has sex, one will never be fully satisfied, that the hope for more will remain a big hope for some more. This scares me about sex.
    James, for instance, will have sex with a girl that he says he loves but after their third sexual encounter he is finished. Now he is hoping to have sex with another individual and working on it hard.
    It is a health risk to have sex these days and a day does not pass without me being reminded of this fact. If someone tells me that something burns, I believe them and hope not to experience that the thing indeed burns. But for many people, even though their minds understand the risks and dangers involved in the whole act, the urges are much stronger than their fear of the risks.
    Pheladi couldn’t say no. She even said yes to those who didn’t impress her or charm her in any way if they were persistent enough.
    At fourteen Pheladi aborted what was to be her first-born, claiming that she was too young to have a baby. To which one might have replied by asking why she was having sex if she was too young to deal with the consequences. I think her main reason for having the abortion was that she was not sure who the father of the child was. The three people who, according to her calculations, could be the father were all already husbands and

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