Tembisa. The beautiful rough-hewn township. The heart, from which the young throb in colourful splendor, as the veins to the muscle; intelligibly, enclosed by the protective walls of community. Side-by-side order and chaos prevail – the latter being more frequent in occurrence.
Since my mid-teens, I’ve lived in different places. But being a product of both displacement and the township of Tembisa, the narrative sharply cuts through the middle.
With a picturesque experimental backdrop of a childhood of constant trouble and impropriety that landed one into a day’s ass-whooping. The narrative is pale in comparison to the rowdy fights, hooliganism of stealing bikes from neighbouring suburb kids, and the thrill of the high.
I was heading to a friend’s place – the blue skies abreast of greyish porous clouds, habitually letting in the shimmering light moved above the head of the taxi I was in. Someone had paid with a R200 note for the normal R10 fare, and the Zulu taxi driver – waving his heavy, sweaty arm in the air in contempt – continually lectured us about the obscenity of paying with such big money for a local trip. The froth began to gather over his mouth like a rabid dog, but the minced words were insignificant and boring because the passengers were more focused on the energy and the controversy empowered by the lyrics of the music in the background, about a man who’d taken his life upon catching his wife in bed with the neighbourhood unemployed drunkard, alas a drunkard!
When we came to a halt by the pavement, to fill the empty seats. I was in great deal shock at the event of seeing some of my childhood friends, working as the local ‘fill-the-taxi-with-passengers-for the driver’ boys. To shed light on the shock. By description, the profession requires someone to be immersed in the drug sensation: nyaope. They have to be combatively resistant against water, overall your hygiene must be appalling.
They all huddled competitively around the taxi like a beehive, one trying to gather as many passengers as the next, later giving whatever little amount to the driver.
As I stared out the window, I came in contact with red eyes, sunken deeply into their sockets, squinting half-dead into a reality that had been reduced into smoke and mirrors. My eyes fell immediately onto my lap, as if answers for the sudden guilt were miraculously sewn to my jeans. The guilt crept and became exceedingly overwhelming. Memories with my now zombie-reduced old friends flashed before my eyes; each stacked on top of each other like a photo album – all scattered pictures.
The guilt rose from the fact that we all began experimenting together. This was made even worse by the fact that, even though I’m in varsity and deemed better off, I also have substance abuse problems of my own.
Getting off and lecturing them was beyond ends to my means. At the corner of my teary eye, the beauty and majesty of the dusty roads of Umnonjaneni section, Tembisa, which bred me, became animate. All the innocence of childhood gushed through my veins like waves over the shore, and the memories of yesterday left a bitter-sweet taste.
As steadfast as possible, the driver clutched gears and gave way to my destination. All the scent of the place that was once my humble abode became faint with each gathering pace of the taxi.