My door is shut before the sun sets. A typical routine adopted by those who wish to portray the message: “Don’t want any trouble tonight.”

Windows are pulled closed, leaving light to peer through the cracks between curtains. I’ve risked forgetting a visit to the house shop until the last minute again… It’s eerily dark for 8pm, but the young ones play in the street without caution. Tell me what I have to fear.

Even a child picks up that I wasn’t raised here. Growing up unstably around different parts of Johannesburg, I’ve never known the feeling of being apart or belonging to a land or to a people. I’m little too light and without one native tongue had me robbed of an African title. I’m surely of no comparison to the light and too dark for my Indian ancestry, oddly standing out even amongst the mixed like me.

Though there may have been no home willing to adopt me before, my circumstances led me to being brought into a neighborhood that vouches not to care; the native children are worry enough. For nearly five years, I’ve tread with caution to stay alive, and untouched.

A rundown suburbia that does not quite cut it as a township – It has been proclaimed a hot spot of notoriety by local residents. With over nine established zones, the area maintains an evergreen nature of drug use; the effects of poverty remain evident. Infrastructural damage, house break-ins and carjacking are a common trend committed by the ruthless, or just the unruly who could be out of a buck, or short of a quick fix.

Members of the community take matters into their own hands. The justice system evaluates the bigger matters. An area fit for the alleged low class with a stigma attached to it; widely exaggerated by those seemingly surrounded by “the better”. It’s just a location in distress – as indifferent as any other – and on a daily basis I learn to define it more for myself.

One proverb says, every dark cloud has a silver lining. Like the birds of the air do, some will take to the heavens to find the warmth of that light. Many of us are misled by our flock leaders or we just grow tired of the flight, and fall fast. Some miss the chance to find a solid landing, yet someone takes up the duties of tending to broken wings and bandaging wounded claws. It takes us a while to heal, but through their unnoticed kindness and their perceived sight of our little lives, we may just be able to fly again.

Not every parent here has grown tired of trying to raise this rebellious youth with honour. You’ll find outreach rallies drawing attention in the streets randomly. Even if one head is turned away from an all-too-vivid lifestyle, it counts as the death of one phoenix, reborn through a more acceptable fire.

Another young life still ignores the lecture and opts for a long night out; downing another dashed shot of vodka, gathering materials for another hookah pipe. Whether it ends with a typical 4am tiredness, or with two dead, the casual get-togethers blasting the deafening music have always made surreal, memorable nights.

Perspective and oblivion coexist. No one world reaches perfection, but mine is beautiful. No right way to live life exists; choices made by you reveal your own revelations. A change in the “hood” starts with a change adopted by the man himself. Until then, I continue to take my hat off to any host opening their door to welcome me in.

The End