THE TALES OF ONE CITY

I miss writing for the sake of it. Tonight I hurried home before the need to write down the moments I’m about to describe abandoned me and decided to go to real writers like Mohale Mashigo. I understand why ideas sometimes become impatient with me.  I’m the kind of person who will write one good sentence and get up to make a congratulatory sandwich, only to return hours and sometimes days later.  I’m the kind of person who leaves notes everywhere.  My endless notebooks, diaries, tissues, the backs of slips.  There are worlds, evidence that I had a thought or an idea, contained in different handbags and drawers.  Today was the kind of day I had all the time to write but no will to participate in further externalizing after an emotionally draining therapy session.  So I spent most of the day recovering, naked in bed with the heat, eating slice after slice of a third of a watermelon.  And thinking about the beauty in the mundane.

While driving to Killarney to buy some black bin bags, honey and facewipes, I passed a startling sight.  Two women, both domestic workers in uniforms sitting on the pavement, in a profound embrace.  One of them sat almost parallel to the pavement.  A shiny pair of long, wood brown legs and black takkies.  She had both of her arms around her friend, who was wearing a white doek on her head. I couldn’t see her shoes because her legs were folded into her chest, her head was buried into her friend. She wore a long floral skirt where the pinks and reds were no longer as proud as they had once been.  It was a still embrace, no back rubbing or any movement. Inoba kwenzeke ntoni? I wondered. Did somebody die?  Was she crying because of her husband, her employer, her child?  It didn’t look like a money related embrace.  The woman who sells impepho and hand carved wooden spoons, clay pots and dish cloths on third avenue wasn’t there at that moment so there was no excuse for me to stop.  But why would I? Maybe they were just release tears and in that moment, the street was her safe space.

***

As I turned into the mall parking lot, there was a nun standing outside on the pavement knitting.  She was dressed in a white shirt, a black skirt, black sandals and a navy habit on covering her white hair.

***

While waiting in a rather long queue for 12.30 in the afternoon at Woolworths in Killarney Mall, I think I stood behind an lesbian couple.  They must have been in their late 70s or 80s.  They were really old.  Or maybe their age stood out because I didn’t expect them.  They both had chalk white hair and Miss Boyd hairstyles (Miss Boyd was a teacher in my primary school who unlike the other women teachers, had a typically man’s haircut throughout my school career).  The one on the right wore a hearing aid on her left ear, a pink t-shirt and a silver medical bracelet.  Her partner wore brown chinos and a mint green golf shirt.  They both wore those serious about life hi-tec hiking boots.  The one on the left was pushing the trolley, counting the money and generally in charge of the situation.  Of course there is no way to prove that they were partners just by looking at them.  Maybe they are retirement home friends but the way the in charge one brushed her partner’s back in between speaking directly into her ear, teased my imagination.  Maybe they had been together for 50 years, disrupting curiosities in queues.  I wanted to talk to them but remembered a time when I was 18 and commented on how beautiful a couple this interracial straight couple made, and how rightfully unimpressed the black woman was with my ”you guys are so beautiful”.

***

As I was walking out of my apartment tonight, one of the caretakers, who lives in the building, stopped to ask if he can have some Wi-Fi.  It was pouring with rain and my umbrella was open but the bottom of my floor length dress was getting wet. ”What do you mean?”, I asked him? ”Ngicel’ungiph’iwi-fi”, he repeated.  I was legit dumbfounded because my first instinct was no.  I was holding my purse, keys, phone and this umbrella trying not to convey my irritation through my face.  I took a deep breathe.  He then asked me what wi-fi is in Zulu.  As I began to explain that it’s like data, I felt all ten of my toes getting wet.  I want to get out of there but I couldn’t be a dick because this guy is always helping me with something or the other.  So I ask what he’s going to use it for and he says making calls on Whatsapp.  I reiterate the fact that it’s like data and one has to buy it and pay. ”Ok, how much should I give you for using it?”, he asks.   ”Cha, you can’t give me money. If you have money then you can buy the data to make the calls”, I say.  ”Oh, okay, is it like data?  ”Yes, it’s data but for the flat.  When I leave I can’t use it.  ”Oh ok, he says and then in Zulu, ”It’s just that everyday these boys come and stand under the tree across the street after school, saying they are picking up Wi-Fi and always asking me for the open networks so they can make calls”.

***

I’m waiting for the robot to change to green on Hendon Street in Yeoville. It’s dark and raining heavily.  I’m about 50 meters from the robots and there are four or five cars in front of me.  Directly in front of me is a blue MBW. When the robot changes, the BMW doesn’t move.  I don’t pay too much attention to this because I’m distracted by the Kyle Shepherd Trio.  I assume that there is so much traffic that the BMW can’t proceed.  But when I begin to concentrate, I see that there are no other cars in front of this BMW anymore.  I hoot but nothing happens.  The robot goes back to red and I look to see if I can overtake this person. Kusegoli lana.  As I overtake, the cars behind me following suit, I turn to aggressively look at the driver and they appear to be unconscious.  I can’t see whether it’s a man or a woman because of the rain but their head is on the steering wheel and no arms are holding onto the steering wheel.  Jesus.  I get onto Joe Slovo and the car remains where it was.  What do I do? It’s pouring. It’s Yeoville.  I’m a woman alone at night.  Clearly that person needs help.  I don’t stop because there’s nowhere to stop.  I call the emergency number for BMW, which my car, a Mini, has in the car’s on board computer system. The line rings and gone is Kyle Shepherd, replaced by the customer deflating music from this medical assistance line.  I continue driving away, growing impatient with the phone line.  Luckily I see two traffic police cars parked on the left side of Joe Slovo Drive.   I put on my hazards to get their attention and park next to them.  There are four of them in one car.  The driver is holding one of those ”why lord god is this phone so big”? tablet phones. We both roll down our windows and I tell them about the BMW down the road.  He sits up, listens to my description and then as if to make himself more comfortable, shifts around in his chair and says ”shap”. Did they roll down all the windows and sit up because they were curious to hear what this girl with red lip stick wanted to tell them or were they performing the duties of their badges by being so attentive?  When I roll up the window, he continues on his WTF for tablet phone and I feel uneasy but still hand tied. When I return to where the BMW was two hours later, it’s gone.

 

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