Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Fleeting Thought

Oh cold unfeeling thought
I am aware of your presence.
Nigh and light I do sense
The countless images you bring forth.

Lurking behind the shadows in my mind
Flowing ever so sublime,
I entertain you with great ease.
Of my dillusions you displease.

Terrible and wicked you are!
For that damsel there yonder
Surely is covered down under
Without me having to bother.

Terrible and fleeting thought
You and I have so long fought.
Yet you wage on, without a shudder;
For how long without surrender?

You are a part of me I acknowledge.
Some consider this to be a privilege -
To be at peace with you,
To learn that you can be subdued.

Dreadful and feeble thought
Life's companion you have been.
When I am gone and nought
take me where I have never been.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Stranger

The stranger walked briskly towards the two men; they paid him no attention as they searched through the bins lining the beach-walk for food. Judging from the look of satisfaction on their faces, the stranger concluded that they had made a good meal of the left-overs discarded by visitors who had been at the beach earlier. He walked on further, feeling helpless and useless, his attention now captured by the rising moon behind the clouds and how it cast a shimmering path of light on the sea that seemed to shine into the horizon.

His thoughts of the shimmering moon upon the waters were interrupted by a figure walking towards him in the opposite direction. The figure was clearly under the influence of some intoxicating beverage judging from how its movements were a series of repeated steps in whichever direction necessary for it to remain on its feet. As the stranger got closer to the figure he noticed the figure transform into a young man of no more than thirty years of age. This young man stopped at the nearest bin and held it in both hands in a fashion that a person would when the alcohol turns in one's stomach and wants to make some escape in the same direction it had been consumed. It turns out that the swaying young man is actually looking for food; just like the two previous men the stranger had passed some paces back.

The stranger walked on, perhaps for some thirty paces and he found his attention diverted to some chatter on his right. He cast his eyes to where the chorus of jovial voices were coming from. It was a restaurant with an open deck looking out at sea. Seated in groups at the tables on the deck were white people enjoying the cool evening air, their generous meals before them, and everything else that white people enjoy. The stranger felt a surge of frustration and suppressed anger rush through his being as his mind wondered how, barely a few paces away, some men had been eating out of a dustbin. As he tried to reason on how things changed yet remain the same he looked over his shoulder before making his way across the street.

Across the street, on the stretch of grass regularly used for the flea market on Sunday was a marquee. This wasn't just an ordinary marquee. This marquee was especially erected for the Easter church celebrations. For what reason the church had decided to erect it at the beach, the stranger didn't bother to think. The frustration and suppressed anger he had felt only a few moments ago reached an almost unbearable crescendo accompanied by the music flowing from the people singing in the marquee. This unique blend of emotions and music made the stranger feel like crying. It couldn't be the frustration and suppressed anger that made his eyes well up in tears he silently concluded as he picked up his pace in an effort to get away from within earshot of the music as soon as possible.

He crossed yet another street and immediately upon reaching the other side he was greeted by a beggar. The beggar followed his greeting with a request for cash. The stranger mumbled some inaudible words to the beggar as he entered a nearby shop. A few minutes later the stranger emerged from the shop carrying a plastic bag and walked towards the beggar. He paused briefly in front of the beggar and pulled out a brown loaf of bread, handed it to the beggar, while adding that he didn't have any money but could afford to buy that loaf for the beggar.
As the stranger turned and continued his walk a smile appeared on his face. The uselessness and helplessness, the frustration and suppressed anger he had felt, and the sorrow brought on by the music from the marquee miraculously lifted off him. The gratitude expressed by the beggar had done the stranger a world of good.

Taxi Affair

Conversations with strangers are much like a refreshing cup of coffee. We so gladly and willingly confide our darkest secrets to strangers without the slightest of suspicions. The stranger, on the other hand, needs neither formal approach nor qualification in analysing our experiences and at times our fears. I remember confiding in a stranger on more than one occasion without having to think twice about it.
South Africa’s favourite mode of transport, for those of us who do not get by from month to month on overdraft and credit facilities, is the taxi or minibus as some would call it. I never really appreciated the prospect of being packed like a can of sardines into a taxi that’s certified to carry fifteen passengers but takes eighteen or nineteen passengers. All of this, mind you, is done to accommodate the long queues and scores of us trying to get home or to our jobs. An appalling attempt at giving us a false sense of security if you ask me; who says the spirit of Ubuntu does not prevail?
A friend of mine attended a course in Cape Town and offered me the use of his vehicle while he was away. You can imagine my excitement at the prospect of avoiding being jammed into a taxi with ear-drum-splitting music pounding in the background. The thoughts of open road filled my imagination!

My excitement and wild imaginations were short-lived. I was late for work on the first day I drove to work due to heavy traffic which I had not made provision for. The drive to and from work was also not as exciting as I had anticipated. The looks on the other drivers' faces were far from friendly - almost every one of them was irritated and trying to get wherever it is they were going. Maybe it was the heat. On the fourth day of the week I felt strangely lonely. This was a loneliness stemmed by the need to associate, a need to belong. The more I dug deeper into the cause of this hollow feeling within, the more I realisedhow comforting riding in a taxi actually was.

South Africans are a very sociable people. You’ll climb into a taxi and you will be fortunate to ride with a man of the cloth, a young accountant who’s doing her articles eager to prove herself, and a nurse who has had a rough night-shift at the hospital. This is one of infinite combinations of passengers and your imagination is allowed to stretch itself. As a cherry on top, your chauffeur’s constant move is in and out of the fast and emergency lanes. Allow me to add that the ‘emergency’ in this case is the shortening of the queue back at the taxi rank. As the journey proceeds, (and visions of death flash), the man of the cloth is more than likely to offer spiritual guidance and a way to redemption in this forsaken place called Earth. The young accountant will probably complement the forsaken state of the Earth by offering advice on how to evade income tax, while the nurse will tell you where to get off for trying to flirt with her.

How sad. The opportunity to exploit so much potential, advice for free and a possible date go begging. I have to disembark for my stop is around the corner.