The next day Linda walked out of the hospital, holding a tiny, beautiful, healthy baby boy in a soft blanket. She was still weak and frail; all she wanted to do was lie down and rest. The pain from her raw caesarean cut was still agonizing. She had to go home because the doctors had declared her fit and healthy to go home. But where was home?
Aunt Rosy didn’t really want her back. Anyway, her three-roomed shack was already full to capacity. Where would she sleep with the baby? More importantly, how would she feed the baby? Who was going to buy baby formula if she was still struggling to breastfeed? That expensive baby formula, she knew she could never afford to buy. She thought losing her mother was the worst experience of her life, but now, holding this baby in her arms, she was suddenly overwhelmed. How was she going to get by?
She cried and cried, but her tears offered no relief. She felt stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“Oh Lord, forgive me. Please help me.”
Her eyes were blood red and puffy from crying as she stood by the hospital gate waiting for the mini-bus taxi to stop and take her back to Siyakhula Section.
“Hey lady, this money is short. The taxi fare has gone up; don’t you know that?” said the taxi driver. He was counting the few coins Linda had given him and driving at the same time.
“Give me five rand more,” he said sharply, looking in his rearview mirror as he maneuvered his taxi to overtake an old lady who was driving slowly.
“Hey, Tortoise! Get off the road, man! That is not a way to drive!” he shouted as he passed, showing the middle finger to the lady, who was driving at the right speed for a residential area.
“Taxi drivers own the road; don’t you know that?” he said as he narrowly missed an approaching car. He swerved so hard that the passengers started screaming.
“I am sorry, driver. I don’t have enough money. That is the last money I have,” answered Linda, ashamed and looking down. The driver lowered his head and moved the rearview mirror so that he could get a good glimpse of Linda’s face.
“Pay me the money or else I am dropping you off right now,” he said. By the look on his face, Linda knew that he meant it.
“Can someone help me? I really don’t have the money,” Linda pleaded, looking around at the other passengers. Some were busy on their phones, with headphones covering their ears; some were swaying along with the music they were listening too. No one seemed to care what she was saying.
She sobbed silently. She was praying inside, but the prayer had no real meaning, as she could not even say, “Amen”. She could feel the baby stir and wake up, unsettled by the terrible driving. The driver was rushing to the rank for another pick up, because it was almost month end. The rough journey was worsening the pain of her operation wound.
“I am sorry, driver. Can I please take your number and then pay you back,” she begged.
Before the driver could say anything, the baby started screaming.
Even those who had earphones on looked up annoyed, as if they had never seen or heard a newborn crying.
“Give her something, please,” said another girl sitting at the back.
Linda fumbled with her T-shirt and tried to pull out her breast to let the baby suckle for a while.
“Why stop a taxi when you do not have enough money? The next thing you will say is that taxi drivers have no manners. You people are trouble for real,” said the driver. “I’ll let you off today, but next time …”
Thank God the baby cried. There is something divine about the cry of a baby: it can melt even the hardest heart.
It was chaotic on the roads and Linda was glad to finally get out of the noisy, dirty, badly-driven taxi. As she stepped onto the pavement, she took a deep breath. The sun was almost setting and the sky looked beautiful. Purple and red clouds hovered above the horizon. What the kind doctor had said was coming true: everything was going to be alright.
Tell us: Why do you think nobody on the taxi helped Linda?