The Problem With Hope – Creative Writing


This creative writing piece is a sort of response to my article “Hope, the Beloved CountryWhy I’m Still Optimistic About South Africa”, presenting the irrational, emotional side of the argument. It acknowledges the naivety of my article, and the fact that hope is a two-sided coin. Warning: Vulgar language is used.

The fan spins.

It circles (once, twice) with shaky limp. Breath rasping. Shoos away dusty heat, like kwaai ouma chasing away naughty children. Or a ribbed dog shaking off flies – dying in the mud. Kicked (once, twice) by a frustrated man. Yelping. Whining. Curling like a shongololo, tail drooping with deadly fatigue. Unloved.

At least the fan hasn’t given up. That makes two of us.

It knows that life is a battle. To win, you must fight. Mandela knew it too.

Minutes pass like dribbling shit.

Others trickle out, to go play soccer, or smoke dagga.

Now there are two of us. In a class of fifty.

My gaze loiters by the other boy. Thumelang, I think. He’s dossing on the floor, legs splayed and ankles plastered in mud.

My eyes drift to my watch. A crack in the glass sprawls like a bloated spider.

But the hand still moves. Tick. Tick. Tick. Ticking.

Unhurried. Relentless.  

As GoGo used to say, “Time waits for no one. You must catch up, or be lost behind.”

I am proud of my watch. A present from my ma, I fixed it up. Me. Myself. Like a mechanic. She called me her clever little boy. Special. A grin parts my cracked lips.

Time oozes like the black river mud.

Still the teacher has not arrived.

Udakiwe we call him. A useless drunk. Leeching on the government. Probably passed out in a shebeen. Or beating his wife. Maybe he’s even begged enough money for a whore.

I drum my fingers on the desk. My foot taps the floor. Faster and faster. Leg shaking.

Where is he?

My breathe quickens. My heart beats. Faster and faster. Fingers beating a frenzied rhythm.

Where is he?

My fists squeeze. My teeth clench. Trying to restrain the anger. 

My body tenses like a steel cable. Trembling.

I breathe deeply (once, twice) calming my mind. Remembering patience.

Punch the desk. Throw it. Kick over and over. Just like the dog. Wishing it was Udakiwe. Bones crunching like cornflakes.  

Pain tears my foot. Blinding white. Red spots. Blackness. Fok. I crash to the floor.

The other boy looks at me. Dull eyes, face hanging lazily, his mouth stupidly agape. Stupid. Stupid. Fucking stupid.

I giggle, thrashing in pain.  

Blerry lui. All of them. Except me.

Except me!

Hope. All these years. As Madiba said. I listened.

But what is hope? A traitor. Scheming. The Serpent.

All these years I have hoped. Hoped that the government was telling the truth. “The doors of education shall be opened!” they proclaimed. “Education for all!”. Donderse lies. Hulle lieg!

Waar is ons water! Waar is ons onderwysers!

I used to watch old tapes of Madiba. Every day after school I walked to church. He preached hope. Forgiveness. Patience.

Our saviour.

He wasted his time. He was special. We are not.

I am not.

Blood drips to the floor, drip, drip, dripping from my hand. Pain is good. Something I can concentrate on. Pulls me back from the edge.

My head is thick and swollen. It expands and compresses. Throbs over and over. Like the djembe.

Today was supposed to be important. An exam. Maths. Mechanics need maths.

Now I would fail.

We all would.

But only I care.

Only I stayed up last night to practice.

Only I walked ten kilometres into the dorp, stealing money from my brother to print past papers.

Only. I. Cared.

I am sobbing, curled up against the wall.

The fan stops. Forever.  

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