“What happened?” Nkele is among the street kids who come to our rescue as we pass the park. He rushes to Fetta’s side as Simon and Bonga struggle to carry him further.
“Just help us carry him!” Luntu shouts.
Nkele and a friend take over from Simon and Bonga. We take turns carrying Fetta until we reach the hospital. Nobody has stopped to help us in the street. Taxi drivers hoot angrily as we stop the cars to cross the road.
Fetta is bleeding to death. Fetta is a good person. He doesn’t deserve to be treated like this.
“Please help us!” Simon calls the security at the hospital gates. “Call a nurse!”
One of the porters helps as we struggle with Fetta up the stairs. He fetches a wheelchair. Fetta’s shirt is covered in blood.
“What happened?” the porter asks, wheeling Fetta towards the accident and emergency rooms.
“He got stabbed.” Nkele tells him what we told him. The man nods as he pushes him down the busy corridor. Two nurses approach with a stretcher. They lift Fetta onto the stretcher.
“Is he going to be okay?” I call after the nurse who rushes off ahead of us. We can barely keep up with her.
“We’ll take it from here,” she says as they wheel Fetta away from us through some double doors.
Dejectedly, we walk back to the reception area where Nkele and his group are waiting.
“U tla ba lokile?” Nkele looks at Luntu and then at me. Confused, I look at Luntu who nods at Nkele.
“He’s asking if we’ll be okay.”
“We have something to take care of … We’ll be back later,” Nkele excuses himself and his group.
The lady at the reception desk waves for us to come up front.
“Have you brought someone here?” she asks, looking up from her paper work.
“Yes,” Luntu and I answer simultaneously.
“Okay, wait a second.” She browses through the pile of papers on her desk, and then bends to search for more papers. I curl my thumbs into my palms nervously. My stomach clenches and knots painfully. I am scared for Fetta.
Luntu picks at her nails beside me as we wait for the lady to assist us. “Here you go.” She hands us a paper. “It’s a form,” she explains, handing Luntu a black pen. “I want you to fill in everything you know about the person you’ve brought here.”
“What about the things we don’t know?” I ask, noticing a few of the things on the form that neither of us can know.
“It’s fine – you can leave that empty,” she smiles and I am relieved to find a friendly face.
We go sit down and fill in the form. Luntu knows more about Fetta than I ever could. We both don’t know Fetta’s real first name or even his last, but Luntu fills in his age and gives the address of the building we stay in. I am amazed that Fetta is only 19 – the way he acts, holding our group together, he seems much older.
“How long have you known Fetta?” I ask Luntu as we both sign in the signature block.
“Long enough,” she dismisses me, standing up to hand back the paper.
“You can wait that side.” The receptionist points us to the waiting room.
The room is full. Luntu finds a bench for us at the far end of the room. Everyone in the room seems in a sullen mood.
“You okay?” Bonga asks as he sits down beside me. I am angry at him for not doing anything to save Fetta. Maybe if we had fought harder he wouldn’t have been stabbed. I don’t answer Bonga. I’m not okay. Simon is pacing around the waiting room. Angry and irritated stares follow him. He doesn’t seem to care.
“Do you want water?” Bonga asks after a while. I nod and follow him to the water tank on the far side of the room. “I would have brought the water to you,” he says filling the paper cup for me. I haven’t tasted water like this in months. It is ice cold and soothes my dry throat.
“Thanks.” I hand the cup over to him after I finish drinking. Bonga fills the paper cup with water again. “I wanted us to talk,” I say, folding my arms against my chest as his eyes run away from mine again. “About the other night … your nightmare.”
He downs the water in one gulp and fills the cup again. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he shrugs.
“Bonga … I’m here.”
“It’s none of your business, Yenzokuhle. Leave it.” Angered, he walks past me back to the bench and offers the water to Luntu, who takes it and pats the bench next to her for him to sit down. When she has finished the water she puts the cup down and then I see her reach for Bonga’s hand and links her fingers between his and squeezes them. I see, too, that he is trying his hardest not to cry.
It is a little past midday and we are still waiting for news of Fetta when a doctor comes in and starts talking to the family next to us.
“Is he going to be okay?” Bonga interrupts the doctor. The doctor turns and looks at us, a pile of files in his hands. “Fetta,” Bonga clarifies, looking hopefully at her. “Is he going to be okay?”
My stomach twists painfully.
“Are you his family?” the doctor asks, looking dubiously at us.
“We are the only family he has,” Simon tells her. “We brought him in. He was stabbed.”
The doctor looks confused for a second and frowns and then realises who we are talking about. “I didn’t treat him. But I know they have managed to stabilise him,” she says.
“Can we see him?” Simon asks.
“I’m afraid he is in ICU. He is still unconscious. You will have to wait.” She offers us a sympathetic smile before she disappears and leaves us with a little hope. He is alive. I breathe.
“What now?” I ask the others, who are exhausted from the waiting. We have been waiting here almost all day now.
“Let’s go to the police station,” Bonga advises. “We need to report this. Steve needs to pay for what he did. We can’t let him get away with it.” Simon nods in agreement as we leave the hospital and are greeted by a blast of cold wind and noise out on the street.
The streets are lonely without Fetta leading us. Simon looks out of place and left out as he falls behind us. Usually, he takes the lead, with Fetta laughing at things they do not share with us at the back.
“I miss Aunty Rita on days like these,” Luntu admits, falling into step with me. She squints into the distance, her hands tucked in her pockets. “She always knew what to say or do.”
I pray that Fetta makes it. How would we survive life in the streets without him? Who would protect us from the things he protects us from? We need him.
We turn right into the familiar Smit Street. I don’t know all the streets in Hillbrow yet, but I know more than I did when I first arrived. Bonga promised to take me through all these streets sometime, so that I would never get lost if I am ever out on my own. I think that will help.
I will look for a job once Fetta gets well, I tell myself. My baby needs to be well taken care of and I can’t do that while I’m on the streets. Bonga also promised to help me with a CV, although we don’t have enough money to go to the internet shop yet to type one and print it.
“How far is the police station?” I ask Bonga, who is now leading the way. My feet are swollen and ache as we walk for what seems like forever.
“Come on, stop slacking – we’re almost there,” Luntu tells me firmly. My head buzzes and spins. I wipe a sheen of sweat that forms on my forehead and then balance both my hands on my thighs as I try to catch my breath.
“I can’t. I’m dizzy,” I tell Luntu. My feet are hot potatoes inside the shoes that no longer have a sole.
“Okay, we’ll walk slower then,” Luntu says, “but we can’t stop.” As we pass some fruit sellers she slips an apple off a pile and into her pocket. When we are out of sight, she takes a bite then hands it to me. It’s sweet and juicy – a lifesaver!
“We’re here,” Bonga points at the tall brown SAPS building. My feet are numb from walking.
“I’ll wait outside,” Simon says as we enter through the gates.
“Me too.” Luntu stands back with Simon. They must be nervous of being recognised from the police raids on our building, I think.
Bonga nods for me to come with him. I follow him into the small room. “How may I help you?” an officer behind a round desk calls at me and Bonga.
“We’re here to report a case,” Bonga tells him, leaning on the wooden desk.
“What case?” the officer asks him almost mockingly.
“Our friend was stabbed,” Bonga states boldly, swallowing hard as the officer stares incredulously at us.
“So you think we have time to play games?” He steps out from behind his desk.
“We’re not playing games,” I defend Bonga. “Our friend is in hospital.” I try not to cry as I think of Fetta.
“We have a lot of crime to fight in this area … We can’t nurse you street kids – you are part of the problem. When you left home, what did you think? That life would be easy? Nobody cares about you any more. Go away – we’ve got work to do.”
The other officers laugh behind him, shaking their heads at us. Bonga pulls my arm, “Let’s go.”
We step outside to where Luntu and Simon are waiting. “I hate this country!” I shout as Bonga tells them what happened.
“Poor justice system!” Bonga says furiously and continues to blame everything on politics. Luntu rolls her eyes at him as we all walk back to our crib, disappointed.
Our corner is a lonely place without Fetta. I even miss him making fun of me and calling me lame names. Simon assumes Fetta’s duties, collecting wood for us. It is unusually quiet with Simon in his sullen mood.
“Enough, Yenzokuhle,” Simon stops me as I try to help him make smaller sticks from the wood he comes back with. Most days I help Fetta to break the branches into little sticks. Those are the times he teases me and we laugh freely as the others gather paper.
When I first arrived, I regarded Fetta as the worst person to ever walk this earth. It took a lot of weeks of knowing him to understand just how selfless he is. I never thought I’d ever get used to him. Now that he is gone, I feel as empty as I did when I left home. My stomach grumbles. We don’t have anything left to eat tonight. Fetta would have made a plan.
Luntu helps Simon light the fire. Bonga moves further away from the flames, curling himself in Fetta’s corner. Now that Fetta is not here the fire is not as magical any more. The flames can’t wipe away the pain tonight. We are forced to confront thoughts we have tried so hard to escape. Losing Fetta will break us more than we already are broken. I don’t see us getting through. We wouldn’t be us without Fetta. We stretch our hands out to the fire and hope with all our hearts that Fetta will make it.
* * * * *
Tell us: What do you think will happen to Fetta?