Urban life is far more different than that of rural areas. Its life style is quite hard to adjust to, and not to mention the slang language used. There are times when you will greet township people and they will not reply. Not that they didn’t hear you but because you didn’t greet them according to their slang.
When I came here I knew no one but my family, and that was not good. I learnt that in order to survive in a township you have to know people and have connection with them.
People get beaten, robbed, bullied or killed. Not that they have wronged anyone, but because they are new and know no one in the area. So in order to prevent such things, one has to be part of a gang or get along with people as such.
As much as I have always distanced myself from gangsters, I found myself forced to befriend them in order for me to be secure, accepted and feel safe in the area I live in. My dad never approved of me being part of a gang but I felt I had to.
“You fool! I thought you knew the difference between wrong and right. I thought you were old enough to know that getting along with a gang will lead you astray. My son, I know that you might feel pressured to join a gang so as to feel accepted and secured. But having to joining a gang is not a wise choice. Everything that happens in life is a reflection of the choices we make in life, and sometimes the bad choices we make in life haunt us in the future. So please my son, drop the gang.” Dad said.
“You were not around when I needed you the most. So you have no right to tell me who to befriend and whom not to.” I shouted.
I then went out the door and slammed it hard.
Part of me felt guilty, I knew that walking out of my parent was wrong. But dropping my new friends was not a good idea either, especially since I feel secured with them around. With them I managed to gain respect and fame from others. They say blood is thicker than water, but in to me in urban areas it was the other way around.
Sometimes families couldn’t help when you are attacked, robbed or threatened to be killed. Instead they are the ones who would be afraid to act against them or report the matter to the police. But having connections with people and being part of a gang could help you when such Things happen. There is no way I would’ve ended my friendship with Thokzin and Khido just to satisfy my dad.
A car pulled in front of me as I was walking by the road.
“Dwadla phakathi – get in,” Thokzin Shouted through the open window of the car.
“Zithin’, what’s up? Where are ya’ll taking me?” I panicked as I entered the car.
“Ey, thula mani wena – shut up, we are all in this together,” Khido said.
“What do you mean?” I asked confused.
“We happened to have robbed a man, unaware he is a gangster. Now we have to repay him otherwise uzohlasela imndeni yethu – he’ll come for our families.” Thokzin explained.
“So how am I into this?” I panicked.
“We have always scratched your back, now it’s time for you to scratch ours. That’s how our friendship works. You need to prove yourself to us in order for us to trust you and regard you as one of us,” Thokzin added.
“But, but how?” I asked concerned.
“There is this guy who owns a store across the street. He has done wrong to the community, now it’s time for him to pay. He might think he is careful, but he is not as wise as he thinks he is. You have to enter through the back door where there are no cameras. Point the gun at him, not too close, but make sure he doesn’t duck. If he refuses to give you money, kill him!” Khido said, handing me a gun.
Though I have always done as he commands; used drugs, cheated people and even went against my Dad’s orders, this was a hard duty for me to do. Especially since it involved taking away another person’s life.
“Please my son, don’t do this to me. At least spare my life,” the shopkeeper said.
“If you want me to spare your life then give me all the money you have,” I said trembling.
“I don’t have enough money with me. The little I have are savings for my son whom I just heard about. I have saved this money to repay him for all the years I have been absent in his life,” he cried.
I stood still, not knowing what to do. I pitied his son because I knew how it felt like to grow up without a father. But what if he was deceiving me?
“What’s taking you so long?” Khido said as he barged in the shop. “Do it already!” He pressured me.
I aimed the gun straight at the shopkeeper’s forehead with both of my hands shaking. But I failed to make a move.
“Ngyakuncenga ngane yami – I beg you my child, don’t do this to me,” the shopkeeper pleaded.
“Shut up, wena slima,” Khido shouted at him.
I stared at the man with tears in his eyes while Khido was urging me to shoot at him. I stood for minutes not knowing what to do, until Khido pulled the gun away from me. He started shooting at the shopkeeper, took all the money on the counter and ran.
I stood for a while staring at the man’s dead body on the floor spilled of blood. Then I ran after Khido.
“You are nothing but a coward. All you think about is yourself. You have showed me how useless and selfish you are. You are no longer one of us so voetsek!” Khido shouted at me then left me behind as he departed with a car. Aware that the neighbours had heard the gun shots, I ran away fearing they might call the cops.
As I was running, my mind was deep in thoughts. I kept thinking of what the shopkeeper had said. Though I was glad that I was not the one who killed him, I felt guilty either way. I put myself in his son’s shoes. How would I feel if this was my own father? Maybe Khido having cut me off was best. I would forget what happened and move on with my life.
I came home the next morning dizzy from the weed I was smoking. I had slept at the garage. I knew that smoking was bad for my health but I was used to it; Khido and Thokzin used to force me to do it. Besides, I needed it to help me forget about the previous night’s drama.
“Come here Zithobi,” my dad said in a down manner.
I staggered all the way to him. I stood far from him so that he couldn’t smell the weed and I avoided eye contact with him. My eyes were red and barely opened.
“Sit down,” he commanded.
“I know what I’m going to say now will hurt you and affect your life. But I want you to know that I have always wanted to tell you but was afraid to rebel against your mother’s last words.” My dad added.
“What do you mean my mother’s last words? Did she say anything to you before she died?” I asked demanding to know.
”Yes! Before your mother died she called to tell me not to make contact with you or tell you the truth. I know your mother told you that the reason why I was absent in your life is because I discarded you and your mother while she was pregnant. But the truth is, your mother cheated while I was away on a business trip. When I came back she was pregnant. At first she convinced me that you were mine, but during her checkups at the hospital I discovered that you were not mine.”
“So who is my real father? Where he is?” I asked this in tears.
“Your real father was a shopkeeper. He was found dead by the police last night at his store.” My dad said, stabbing me with his words.