Tyoviiityo!!! Tyooviityo!!! Silence. Tyooviiityo!!! It came again. It sounded different today, louder and meaner, piercing through my ears right to my soul.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, I knew exactly what would follow.
I missed my alarm this morning and I was running late for work. I hated being late especially since a boss that takes note of every minute wasted. I could almost hear her, “Thandi, you cannot just walk in and not say a word. Please make sure you work back your time.”
Missing breakfast and completely eliminating my ‘beauty routine’ was the only way to make up for lost time, the only way to make sure I did not have to stay beyond my usual 7 hours. This day really couldn’t get any worse.
Tyooviityo! It came again, closer this time. I fastened my backpack tighter and pulled it closer to my body. I was ready, I had to be ready for anything.
I pretended to be unaware of the footsteps that were quickly gaining on me. I was determined to look straight ahead and focus only on my destination less than 500 metres away where I could catch a my train to work. A distance that always feels longer than it is.
“Molo mabhebeza, kunini ndikukhwaza awuva nah?” He was so close I could feel his warm breath against the back of my neck. And he had his friends behind him. I zipped my jacket and attempted to walk faster. Fast, but without breaking into a run. I wasn’t going to show him how uncomfortable he made me feel.
“Braz ayiphenduli le way, icinga ibhetele.” Louder, with a hint of something sinister, something that I recognised. Recognised well enough to know I needed to get out of there, fast.
Before I could make my move, I was no longer looking at the approaching train station but rather into eyes that reminded me of my worst nightmare.
For the longest time I focused on those eyes and they looked right back into mine. The battle continued and someone had to lose. I lost. Taking the rest of his features, all I could think was how “normal” he looked. Maybe I was overreacting.
“Heyi!!” This time, I did not only feel the warmth of his breath but I smelt a mix cheap alcohol and breath that could have done with a large toothpaste and a good scrubbing. I looked back into those eyes and I knew that the lie I was trying to tell myself was exactly that, a lie.
I was almost sure I was sweating regardless of the crisp morning breeze. I had no idea what else to say. None of them have ever tried to make contact before. Yes, they would shout and make comments from a distance, but none of them were ever this close.
“Ndicela usuke ndidlule bhuti,” I finally managed to say in a voice so small and soft I did not recognise it as my own.
He laughed and the others joined in. How many of them were there? No! no! Forget them. I convinced myself that I did not want to know. The fear would cripple me if I knew. I would focus only on this one in front of me.
“Niyayiva le way braz? Ithi mandisuke.”
“Iyakuqhela bra, zicinga zibhetele eziway.” At that moment I knew I needed to do something before this escalates further. I moved to the side and I ran. I ran faster than I ever ran at any race and in my heart, I knew I would run further than I have ever ran in any marathon.
I refused to look back, my eyes were simply focused on that train station. A place I knew would have many people who were also making their way to work. I would be safe there. Only a few more steps. Focus Thandi, Focus.
Shame marn, the poor security guard. The shock on his face when I ran into him would have been comical on a different day. I have never been so happy to see another human being in my life. I apologised and only then did I allow myself to look back. The cowards were running in the opposite direction; I counted six of them.
The screeching sounds of brakes against metal announced the arrival of my train and that reminded me why I was there in the first place. I needed to get to work on time. I made my way to my carriage and through the crowd I heard it again.
Tjoooviityo! Hey baby! That familiar sound again. The sound that accompanies every woman from the moment they walk out of their homes until the moment they walk back in. The piercing sound produced by our brothers, uncles, fathers, friends and grandfathers. A sound that pierces through our souls to a place that is the birth of all our fears.