I saw her yesterday, she was drunk; swaying this side and that like a taxi doomed for doom. Her name is Miriam; her surname is something I can’t seem to remember. In her drunken stupor when she sighted me she smiled like a flower catching sight of the morning sun.
When she smiled her cautious teeth peeped shyly like a thief checking if the coast was clear. On her back, underneath a dirty towel, she buried a tiny baby, probably fatherless too. The baby hissed and coughed diseases and viruses like a kettle about to fall from a stove. Poor Miriam, all she could do was hum the ancient lullaby.
“Thula mntanami umama uyokutheza…” she hummed, just like my mother used to when my younger brother, Thembani, was restless.
I wanted to talk to her but she was in a hurry. “Somewhere-somewhere, got to go,” she said enthusiastically, like someone who had an appointment of life-and-death schedule. She made it sound as if she could not miss it for the world.
“Where’re you off to? What’s the scene?” I asked.
“Dumpty-dumpty!” she laughed, “still search for the news like Simon Rickett, I got no lead. No story at all,” she laughed mockingly, with a tingle of childishness in that laughter.
“What’s gone wrong in your life,” I asked.
“You see…” Miriam said sadly, “there you go ‘gain wanting to be Obama and a journalist on me, leave politics to politicians and mind your damn business,” she concluded moving away, not turning to look back.
I observed her walking away. She moved like a leaf blown by the wind, swaying and almost stumbling to fall down. I thought of the baby on her back and the dangers that the streets of Galeshewe held for a woman walking all by herself at night.
These boys have no mercy; they rape you, cut your throat and stomach. And just to add injury to insult leave your intestines hanging on tree branches. We’ve seen them all in Kimberley, the sad and the good; the horrors and the strange mysterious ones that shocks one out of one’s shell and leave one trembling like a reed for weeks on end; so scared to go out on to these streets that swallow the brave and courageous. But strong women like Miriam brave the night with all its unknown calamities…
Miriam, my high school sweetheart: we were together in Thabane high. She was beautiful like a dream and eluding like a butterfly, skin smooth like that of a mermaid. We were happy together, but then all the world went wrong and dealt her fatal blow after fatal blow; just like in boxing.
First she loses her mom and her dad slips into a coma just after the funeral. What a coward that man was; leaving her all on her lonesome to fend for herself — can you imagine that? At sixteen you are all by yourself. Her Majesty, Mother Earth has just devoured all that she knew as family. Circulating like a trophy from aunt to uncle, demoted from RDP to shack…
With no proper guidance she quit school. She wore skirts that didn’t reach her knees, with cheap make-up on her face, going out.
“Somewhere-somewhere,” she would say jokingly. Somewhere-somewhere gave her a baby and, he too, ran “somewhere-somewhere”, or so she said.
Out of pity a local guy married her at the Magistrate Court and supported her baby, but she went very hard on the bottle. Sometimes when she couldn’t afford her binges she did what man expected her to do.
Drinking and fornicating….
Drinking and fornicating….
Drinking and fornicating, all this time I had been waiting for him to die or for her to realise who she was before she became what she is now; before men ruled and dictated her life; before this abusive marriage that saw her wake up black and blue with bruises; before she was kicked and her value was demoralized…
Damn! Why couldn’t I take hold of the hands of time?
She went home, swaying and stumbling all the way to her shack. Night dark and dreamless; she slept undisturbed. Whilst dawn came creeping and crawling like a nomad tired of last night’s journey. The day new, its possibilities bubbling like popped champagne. Miriam stood on her window and checked the landscape.
The sun was smiling; the trees were green and full of life. Her window mirrored behind her a past gone wrong—all the unfulfilled promises, the hopes, the defeats, the endless journey of self-torture.
She looked at herself; babelaas but beautiful as the African night sky, her eyes glittered like stars. And she saw the past for what it is; the debris and the dust…