I sat under the marula tree with a rope in my hands. It was the only way out. My recurring dream of an old woman calling me from the dark gave me courage. Maybe that’s where I belonged, on the dark side of the earth.
I turned and looked down at the tall, golden summer grass. My best friend was lying there, my djembe drum. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it in a pawn shop window while I was a music student in Joburg. Its skin was well stretched, ready to give out a nice tone. I had composed music for it. I had beaten out rhythms on it and recorded my songs on my YouTube channel. I had over 2 000 views but still I failed to attract the music producers I had hoped for, and so I had to return to Khutšong village, where people still used cow dung to polish floors. They gossiped about the boy who came back from Joburg with a music degree but no job. They said I had wasted my parents’ money on a useless course that would never help me. It felt like a curse – I had disappointed my parents. My father took me to a sangoma and my mother prayed for me.
I tried hard to prove everyone wrong. I recorded several demos, pitching them to every recording company that was willing to listen. They all loved the song and promised to come back to me, but no-one ever did.
Months passed by and still there was not a drop of a promise. Money ran dry. I decided to look for a part-time job to raise money so that I could go to the big city again. The only work in the village was as a cow herder or taxi driver.
I became a taxi driver by chance one morning. I was at the new shopping centre on the outskirts of the village when I saw a woman in trouble and rescued her. She had fallen to the ground and a minibus taxi had to swerve to avoid hitting her. I helped her to pick up her groceries that were strewn everywhere on the tar.
“Thank you, my child. That car nearly killed me, you know,” she smiled as we greeted each other. I thought I recognised her. She looked around and told me her driver was late but that she would walk home, it would do her good, if I would carry the bags. When I helped her home with her bags and saw the big double-storey house – unusual in our village – I realised who she was, the wife of the biggest taxi owner in the area.
“Aren’t you studying?” she asked me as she used her remote to open the gates.
“No, Ma. I completed my university degree last year, but I’m struggling to get a job. You know how things are in this country.”
I looked around and saw two smart cars parked in an open garage.
“Come to work tomorrow morning, we’ve been looking for another driver. You do have a driver’s license, right?”
“With a public?”
I nodded again.
“ Good. Ledimo …” she called towards the house.
“Magriza!” A young man came out and took the shopping bags inside. We followed him into the kitchen.
“Ledimo is our adopted son,” the lady explained. “He is our taxi business manager. Thank God for giving us such a loving child. I don’t know what we would have done if it wasn’t for him. My husband is sick, you know,” tears shone in her big eyes as she said those words.
“Ao! Hei mfo. What have you done to my oulady, nou? Why is she sad?” the young man asked, glaring at me.
“No … It’s not him, ngwanaka, he helped me today and I am grateful. I want you to give him that taxi, the one without a driver.”
When Ledimo told me to report for duty the following morning at five o’clock, his tone was laden with resentment.
Tell us: Do you think Gift should have taken the job or gone back to the city to look for work there?