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Journey

Journey

I visited home during this one weekend, and it depressed me. It was during the winter season. I woke up at 4am on Monday to bathe and prepare, so I could return to Johannesburg.

I got up from the single-sleeper metal bed received as a birthday gift when I turned sixteen. I stretched and yawned. Then I turned on the light switch, but no light came. Darkness prevailed. Loadshedding. I was ready to bathe, but we didn’t have enough water. I checked the buckets where we kept water, but most of them were empty. The only water I found was not adequate to bathe with. In many of the buckets, what I got were dirty drops of water. This indicated that the buckets hadn’t been filled with clean water in a while. It was a norm in my village that running tap water was something we prayed for but never got. We had once gone without running tap water for almost three years. I got irritated. I needed warm water on my body to feel alive again. My body was freezing like I had slept outside. The shack I call home always failed to protect me from the cold.

Anyway, I had no choice but to accept my bath-less situation, brushed my teeth and only wiped important corners of my body with a wet washcloth. Then I left, while it was still dark outside. As I waited at the bus stop, I could feel the unsympathetic cold weather entering my body and chilling it from all angles like foreign-owned spaza shops in South Africa. I also couldn’t feel my hands and my feet. They were cold like frozen meat.

At the Bus Stop, I waited for a Putco bus. The bus is just like a shack with an engine and wheels; dirty floors and broken windows. The orange shack eventually arrived. When I entered, I found that its condition was as I expected. The leather covering the seats was damaged on most of the seats. For some seats, one had to sit directly on the sponge. When I sat down, I felt that my nether regions were absorbing most of the cold. My penis and scrotum had shrunk, even though I was wearing two pairs of pants.

The bus was packed to capacity, so some people had to stand. We were driving along Moloto Road, a road known for its potholes, lack of street lights, and many accidents which at some point had pastors and traditional healers questioning their powers. A frail woman was standing next to me. She swayed left and right like a shirt hung out on a windy day, whenever the bus turned.

I tried to look outside to see where I was, but my view of the outside world was obscured by fog. I felt suffocated inside the bus while willing my arrival time forward. Fortunately, someone wiped a window clean, and so I could peek outside.

As the bus moved, passengers took turns coughing, sniffling and clearing their runny noses like they had an unspoken agreement. When one person stopped, another started, and the noise continued. As I listened to them, I felt the bus slow down and realised that I had reached my first stop. I got off at Sisulu Street and asked for folded tissue from a street vendor. I cleared my nostrils, expelling everything that was interrupting my breathing. It felt cathartic, like exorcising a demon. When I could breathe again, I felt the morning air fill my lungs, reviving me. I bought a cigarette, lit it, and began walking to the Bosman Taxi Station so I could take a taxi to Jozi.

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Thabo Pitja

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