Have you ever sat down, stroked your bulging tummy, shed a tear and prayed to God that you would not give birth to a boy? Right that moment, every mother-to-be would have graced her unborn son with soulful caresses and blessings for him to burgeon to be the next Makhaya Ntini or Benni McCarthy. Or even envisaged her son holding up the family flag at Harvard as a graduate.
However, things weren’t like that because I feared my boy wouldn’t even have survived to see his first birthday.
It was not the panic of having a possible miscarriage which crawled all over me, but instead the profound reality that if I had miscarried I would have been the first woman in South African to miscarry in 27 years! And no! This was no country of perfect pregnancies because no woman was ever found after 2017.
In the wake of the acts of sexual assaults, abductions, and bestial murders (amongst many other injustices) of women which mushroomed all around the country; a revolution ensued. Women from various spheres of life (doctors, lawyers, domestic workers, butchers etc) with the aid of organisations like POWA and Masakhe for Women Justice, came together in solidarity.
It was like the women of the Sharpeville Massacre. The fury and force of every female was found in different forms. From important buildings which evaporated in dark palls of fire smoke, to ear-splitting traffic jams as cars filed slower than snails on roads strewn with broken clay bricks and bottles. Their tempest had the economy on its knees… The government had to act.
After countless back-to-back meetings in Parliament, men were traced down as the crux of these issues. That is when the Panacea23 (P23) was born. This was a pill and a medical shot which was created exclusively to affect men. Its purpose was to temper the testosterone of a man, thus reducing the sex drive to say the least. A mandatory law was passed by the government for every male to either take the pill or be administered the shot within six months.
A door to door system was set in place for doctors to check if every household, with males, had gotten the shot. If they had not obliged, they faced jail time without trial. (Oh yes, the law got that stringent as well).
Within the first couple of years and some months, South Africa reaped the benefits of the P23. The rates of sexual assaults, rape, teenage pregnancies all nosedived with the exception of those anomalies which ruined the system. Streets were safer to walk on, even in the night time you could see girls occasionally laughing. Long term impact included population control which portended the dip in unemployment. The results were astonishing. TheP23 lived up to its name.
However, there was one minor fault in the drug’s chemical make-up which caused all the sperms of the affected male to always lean towards the “X” chromosome during fertilisation. This meant that every man (after being injected) could only have girl children. The extinction of all men was predicted to come most certainly.
“You look cute when you’re serious hey…” a voice came from behind and disturbed my flashback. I swivelled on the chair to see who it was.
“Oh thank goodness it’s just you, Derek.” I pillowed my face on the books on the table.
Derek Fourie and I were the last of what was left of the R.O.A. (Rib of Adam) Collectively. There used to be four of us – the lost ones were Thami Lukhele and Keshav Vijay. We were registered medical practitioners by trade for recognised institutions but the R.O.A. by night.
As the R.O.A, we were akin to Doctors Without Borders, yet simultaneously we discreetly kept ourselves away from the authorities by operating in a covert basement. We survived with resources we stole from our respective hospitals. Our sole purpose echoed the sentiment of creation from Genesis much like our name – the rib was used to create Eve. But in our case it’s in reverse as we were seeking to recreate our Adam with his own rib in Eve (we were that rib).
The R.O.A, was actually our bequest from our parents who were GPs. Amidst the six months of the nation being subjected to the mandatory shot of P23, they knitted together their expertise and created a special shot which mimicked the traits of the P23 in order to bluff the door-to-door system. Hence, my being pregnant (with a boy so to speak).
“Joyce, I know this must be hard for you…” he sat beside me.
“Know? What do you know? Are you me?”
“Please, calm down…”
“Calm – Are you crazy? You have no idea!”
“Oh right, Joy… If you feel like being alone, I can come back later.”
“No. Please. Stay. I’m scared…”
“What if Keshy and Thami sing? And they are on their way!”
“Oh come on. Don’t worry. They would never. They got caught for stealing resources to keeps R.O.A. alive. They’d never blow the gaff on us.”
“You think so?”
“No. I know so. Listen. Stay here OK? I’m going out to get us some essentials, OK?”
“Sure. Don’t forget the pickles…”
He chuckled and left before I laid my head down for a little rest. In the middle of my sleep, the door slammed against the wall with a bang of a thunderclap. I jumped up. Men in blue uniform with ‘Police’ written across the chest and their guns gave me glares… I was guilty.
“Put your hands up and turn around. You are under arrest.”
I felt the betrayal from the steely cold rings which constricted my wrists as the captain hauled me off to the police van. I turned and so did my stomach… It was Derek, Keshy and Thami darting sidelong glances at me as they conversed with the officers. He chucked me into the van. Bha! The door shouted as it shut and at the same time, a loud noise startled me.
I sat up. There was drool on my sleeve and cold sweat. I checked the floor. It was a porcelain cup shattered into bits. Thank goodness… it was just a nightmare.
I couldn’t anymore! This baby was too great a responsibility. His birth would have possibly meant the redemption of all lost men, but I couldn’t help but think of the worst. Would he be experimented on? Would he be harvested for medical purposes? I didn’t know and I sure as heck didn’t want to vegetate and find out.
So, I packed a few days’ worth of clothing and food before I hit the road. Next stop: Mozambique. Luckily, I had some cents to my name for petrol.
As I drove, I spotted a police van nearing from the other lane. I was inclined to take a look just to quench my paranoia and curiosity. I normally would have looked straight ahead and pretended to not have seen anything, like we do to these dancing street kids with chalked up faces. What I saw made my stomach push my heart out of its place… Derek and I locked eyes for a second as the cars passed each other.
No! It was just a hallucination. Or at least I thought as I tried to make sense of everything. I shook my head and refreshed my sanity. That wasn’t Derek! It was just my paranoia! I turned my attention to the rear view mirror. There was an abnormal shift of cars – the police van had taken a sharp U-turn and had begun to approach me with blaring sirens!
It was Derek!
I stomped on the accelerator and threaded my way through the cars which were ahead of me. I had to out vie these hounds at my heels. For once, I finally understood what it was like to be a taxi driver feeling a bear with a sore head on a bad day. I jinked around the corners and almost flattened the toes of those who were about to cross the street. I veered off course and knocked down a mielie stand of a street vendor but they still trailed me doggedly.
I found a multi-storey parking lot which I hurtled into furiously until I reached the dead end at the summit.
“We have you surrounded! Step off the vehicle.” I heard a horn.
I had no choice. I did my best. I was at the edge of the building. I stepped out gingerly and stared directly at them. It was just like my dream. This was it. Fighting was useless. It was time to surrender. So I put my hands up, turned around and surrendered myself and the future of SA – but not to the police… instead to the force of gravity as I launched myself off the tenth storey of the lot.