The Naked Women of 9th Street
Remember that year when the sky was not completely grey in Winter? That year, the sky was a silver grey with ripples of violet. Everyone spoke about the sky that winter. Kids would lift their little brown faces and sing to the sky pleading for it to go away. Lovers would discuss the sky before making love. On the taxis to Town, strangers bonded over the strange heavens. When the Housewives hung out their washing, they too would remark that the sky was awful this winter. You could smell it too. Smelled like the sea. No no no. It actually smelled like before-it-rains. You know before it rains, the air smells like cold sulphur? Everyone knew that this awful sky was a prophecy of times changing. That was the reason why even though deep down everyone knew the goddam sky was beautiful, they insisted in calling it awful. They knew beautiful skies brought down heavy rains. People were scared of beautiful things that pre-empted change. After all the heavy rains had washed up all dark things from our backyards, where would all the hidden bones go?
Nomaza was the kind of woman every wife on the street resented. Her honey skin reminded other women that their dark skin would never make men stop mid-sentence when they passed. Nomaza was quiet and submissive. She was not the kind of woman who would get into the tavern and drag her husband by the balls on any given Friday night. She married into money as well. The fortnightly blue-eyes barely hidden by the Chinese foundation was the only thing that managed the other women's jealousy. They would smile and shout "Meza" unnaturally high at the communal tap during those times when her eye was honey and denim blue.
The other women envied Nomaza's life, denim blue eyes and all. They convinced themselves that they could take a blue eye once in a while for a brick house and a tap inside their houses. "Meza, I'll take a blue eye once in a blue moon for yonke lanto" they would say to each other. And they would laugh and laugh at their witty use of blue. Of course there were rumours about Principal, Nomaza's husband. Sometimes women would leave the school with police and their daughters crying. No one knew but everyone knew. Packages would bounce on police counters. Case dockets would disappear. And so would people's daughters after a few months of no schooling. People blamed Nomaza for being stiff. After all, pretty women felt that they didn't need to do all the theatrics other women needed to do in bed to prevent a wandering eye.
But that year, that damn sky changed everything. Its purple and grey was softening the women of 9th street. The women felt less and less resentful of Nomaza and the brick house with a tap inside. After 15 years, they eventually invited her to join their R75 stockvel. She graciously refused because she already had the pots and tuppawares the women were saving for. Even then, they didn't resent her even though everyone knew that you don't refuse a stockvel invitation.
It was a Sunday morning when the prophesy of the purple and silver grey sky came into being. All the women were bent over their stoves in preparation of the Sunday koss, when all of 9th street heard the scream. It was a man's scream. At first no one knew what it was. No one had ever heard a man scream before. Like a badly rehearsed dance, all the women took their clothes off and left them scattered outside their front gates. Everyone knew Nomaza had reached a point of no return. And they were going to close off 9th street till Nomaza had strengthened the foundation of her home.
Let me backtrack a little bit. I didn't tell you that Nomaza had a little girl neh? Well she did. And her daughter was not Principal's daughter. Cleo was 19 and had a disability so she never went to school. Last year in November, Nomaza's mother had a stroke so she had gone to Mthatha to attend to uMama. She had left Cleo with Principal since it was the school holidays and he did nothing but watch Supersport. It would have been impossible to look after Cleo and her mother at the same time. After her return, she noticed Cleo would cry and scratch her face when she left her alone with Principal. She ignored the thump in her throat and chest every time this happened. She just took Cleo with her everywhere when Principal was home. Early this year, when Nomaza bathed Cleo she noticed that she was gaining weight. Two months after, the strange bump on Cleo's stomach was unavoidable.
So on the Sunday when the sky hung low, purple and silver grey, Nomaza snapped. So the women took off their clothes and blocked off both exists of 9th street while Principal screamed. The men swore at the women for this calling them mad and one even tried to enter Nomaza's house. The woman from number 55 held him up by his throat with her right hand and told him, "No one disturbs you when you are cleaning your backside in the toilet".
We are told that Nomaza woke up that morning and filled her biggest pot with her most expensive Sunflower oil. She then tied Principal to his chair in the study with a green rope. After the Sunflower oil had turned a smoky black she took to Principal's study and sat quietly in front of him. After refusing to answer "Why is Cleo's stomach swollen?" She took his left hand and dunked all his five fingers in scalding oil. Upon hearing his screams and seeing the blood shot eyes of the naked women guarding the street, the men in fearful patriarchal camaraderie, called the police. The women fought and chased the police away. For 5 hours straight the men and the police negotiated with the women to enter 9th street. The women fought till their naked bodies were covered in blood. They insisted that they wouldn't open 9th street till Nomaza had fixed her house's foundation.
It was not until Nomaza had come out of her house with her dress covered in sweat and oil that the women reopened 9th street. Principal's hands now look like the hands of a white man with a lingering smell of Sunflower oil. No more mothers leave his school crying. No daughters have disappeared. Nomaza has wild eyes that won't go away and a granddaughter with silver grey and purple eyes.
It was a year of beautiful awful skies and changes.