This creative writing piece is a sort of response to my article “Hope, the Beloved Country – Why 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, tiredly. It groans with age, spinning, once, twice, with a wobbly limp. It shoos away the dusty heat, as a kwaai ouma chases away naughty children. Or as a starving dog shakes off flies, dying in the mud, idly kicked by a passerby, tail drooping with deadly fatigue. Unloved.
At least the fan has not given up. That makes two of us.
It knows, as I do, that life is an upwards struggle. To win, you must fight. Mandela knew that.
Minutes pass. Slowly.
Others trickle out, to go play soccer, or smoke in the bathrooms.
Now there are two of us. In a class of fifty.
My eyes run idly over the other boy. Thumelang, I think. He is dossing on the floor, legs splayed and caked in mud.
I glance at my watch. A crack in the glass like a bloated spider.
But the hand still moves. Tick. Tick. Ticking.
I am proud of it. A present from my ma, I fixed it up. Me. Myself. Like a real mechanic. She called me her clever little boy. Special. A grin parts my cracked lips.
The time flows like thick mud.
Still the teacher has not arrived.
Udakiwe we call him. A useless drunk. A pathetic excuse of a man. Leeching on the government. Probably passed out in a shebeen. Or beating his wife. Or maybe he’s scraped together some money for a prostitute.
I drum my fingers on the desk. My foot taps the floor, faster and faster. Where is he?
I breathe quickly. My heart beats. Faster and faster. Where is he?
My body tenses like a steel cable. Trembling.
I breathe deeply, once, twice, calming my mind, relaxing my body. Remembering patience.
Anger erupts. I throw the desk. Kick it. Over and over. Just like the dog. Imagining it was Udakiwe.
There is a sharp pain in my foot. Blinding white. Red spots. Blackness. Fok. I topple into the wall.
The other boy looks blankly at me. Face hanging lazily, his mouth stupidly agape. Stupid. Stupid. Fucking stupid.
Shit. Shit shit shit.
Blerry lui. All of them. Except me.
Hope. All these years. As Madiba said. I listened.
But what is hope? A bunch of crap. A traitor. Scheming. A lier.
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.
But he was special. I am not. People like us don’t win.
Blood drips to the floor, drip, dripping from my hand. The pain is good. Something I can concentrate on.
My head feels thick and swollen. I have a headache. It throbs. Over and over. Like the djembe.
Today was supposed to be important. An exam. Maths, I think. Or Zulu. I can’t remember.
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. No longer.
I’m not special. I’m just another kid. Betrayed by the government.
I am sobbing, curled up against the wall.