I had a fast trip to Joburg. We spent more time in the airport drinking Gin and Tonics than anything else. (Delayed flights, being too early.) An interesting thing about travelling with work colleagues, is how the dynamics change. Inevitably I turn into part clown / part Mother type person leading the way, carrying the tickets and making insane suggestions. The hardest bit – I was the only non-smoker. Every smoke break, every bar, at the end of every trip, I stood by and watched them light up. It killed me – it was the ultimate test. I survived. I don’t think I am going to struggle again. Not after that.
The weather was beautifully fine. The speeches were long. IT people should never do presentations about IT. It is simply not a good idea. The IT presentation made my eyeballs hurt from trying to look alert. I wasn’t the only one, throughout the auditorium heads were bobbing and jerking, creative attempts were made to stretch ones legs under the seat in front, in a space only generous enough to fit ones foot sideways. The IT presenter was thoroughly in his speech, was one with his speech and remained blissfully ignorant of the resounding sounds of yawns and fidgeting and blind to the enviable audacity of those who left the room for sudden bathroom emergencies.
There was one of those motivational speaker type people. Those that tell funny stories and in-between the jokes spew the work propaganda – work hard, actions speak louder than words, pick yourself up when down – then more jokes. Subliminal messages seeping into our heads while we laugh I suppose…but then came his last part. The story of a young boy going with his father to a shebeen in KwaThema, it was his Gran’s birthday and they ran out of beers. He described the shebeen as a dark room with metal bars covering every window, an old hunched up lady with her head covered. Inexplicably he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, he squeezed his Dad’s hand and begged him to leave. He told us that his Dad yelled at him and said he must be a man. soon after, men he described as animals, walked in behind them. One man put a knife into his Fathers neck, he said his Dad was a large man, strong and tough, so he watched as his father fought him until he was on the ground, but then there were more, and they had guns. He was shot once and his Dad died after the 9th bullet hit him.
I don’t know about anyone else in the room – but I was just finished with tears running down my face! I could see it like it was happening in front of me. I used to hear township stories daily, one of my dearest friends was married in Soweto. She was loud, smoked, wore tight jeans and a different hairstyle every other week. She would tell me stories. We would sit in the sun, drink savannahs – two girls from two completely different worlds, born only a couple of days apart, and she would tell me stories, stories I will never forget.
She was 25 when she died. I arrived at work and they told me it was suicide, I knew otherwise. Her husband fell in love with her because she was sexy, confident, cheeky and outspoken. His approval vanished the day she became his bride. A young girl at 25 – how little we knew.
Memories flooding back, back to my trips to Soweto, the Hector Pieterson museum, then the Regina Mundi Church. I saw the bullet holes in the walls and tried to hold back the tears as they sang and wailed at my friends funeral. The Cemetery. Buses and buses of mourners, the heat, the dust. My colleagues in their suits shovelling sand onto her grave. Her Mom, on her knees wailing, thumping her breast.
I found a bit of writing. I was in quite a state of shock after she died, but I am glad I wrote something at that time.
I loved to be in your presence, sitting beside you was enough.
When you were cold you would put your hand up my sleeve and rest your head on my shoulder
You had me convinced the world is great, colourful and exciting.
Coming from a township girl, how could I not believe you.
Two girls from two different worlds.
My nemesis, my partner in crime and fabulous conversations.
Two women from two different worlds.
The world needs to come to a stop for this untamed beauty and my friend is no longer here.