The only thing that has changed is the slower speed at which I get enough money for my shelter fees. My clothes need a wash, but with four days of pouring rain and crippling pain slowing me down, it’s a miracle I make 10 bucks.

I’ve been downing pain killers on an empty stomach, and the antibiotics with my only meal of the day at the shelter.

Kitty’s like a mother hen, checking up on me, making sure I’m eating and taking my tablets. She almost jumped over her desk when I crawled into the shelter after the night I had spent curled up the train station.

“Mr Olivier! You’re here. Where were you? How are you? Are you okay?” she asked.

I gave her a lopsided grin and waved her down. “Molo, Kitty. Unjani? Miss me much?”

“Hauw, Mr Olivier, I was worried about you.” The frown lines between her eyes deepened. “Waar was jy? Hayi, it’s not right to make me worry so much.”

I swallowed the tears prickling my eyes; she cares so much. “I’m all good, Kitty.” I gave her a thumbs up.

She didn’t believe me. Her eyes narrowed and she folded her arms across her chest. “Uh huh, but where were you? In the cold. Have you eaten at all? You look …” She rummaged in her bag and handed me a lunchbox. “Eat. Please. All of it.”

I didn’t need a second order, not with the piercing look she gave me, and my stomach smiling. “Only if you join me.” I opened the container and held it out to her.

“Kulungile, I’ll have one.”

There were four thick, wholewheat sandwiches with peanut butter and jam. Oh dear Lord, whatever Kitty’s sins, forgive them and grant her every wish, however small.

* * * * *

In two days I’m due at the hospital to have the staples removed. The pain hasn’t lessened as the nurse and doctor promised – it’s gotten worse – and I’m out of pain tablets. I can’t take a break from my car guard duties. I’ve been resting more, plonking down anywhere, my arms limp at my side, the stab wound throbbing. At least the rain has stopped.

I’m restless, tossing and turning from the pain in the shelter at night; sweat running down my temples. Shivers wrack my body no matter how deep I crawl under the blankets and try to sleep. I’ve already put on a second pair of socks.

When Kitty comes to say goodnight, my body’s shaking. “Mr Olivier, I’m–” She drops to her knees and her cool hand checks my forehead. “You’re burning up.”

“I’m f … f …fine.”

“No, you’re not. I’m calling for an ambulance.”

While we wait for the ambulance, Kitty dabs my forehead with a cool cloth and feeds me sips of water. “Please, I think you have to stay awake. That’s what they always say in the movies, Mr Olivier. Open your eyes.”

Despite her encouragement, I pass out.

* * * * *

“Ndiyacela Nkosi, please take care of Bhut Ollie. I’ll eat fewer eclairs and exercise more, but don’t let anything happen to him,” Khetiwe sniffs.

Well, damn, I had to end up in hospital to get her to call me Ollie. She doesn’t know I can hear her, as my eyes won’t open, even though I’m awake.

She squeezes my hand. “Please, God, Bhut Ollie’s the brother I don’t have, and he’s a good person.”

“Let him rest, umntwana wam, his body needs it. You did the right thing calling for an ambulance. You can visit again tomorrow.”

Her voice is soft and caring, just like Ma’s the one time I was sick with the flu.


Tell us: Have you ever been admitted to hospital? If so, how were the nurses? Eg, kind, harsh, in-between?