Moth

Just after midnight, the New Year fireworks already receding, Boeta Cassiem shuffles off to bed. Sounds of the revelry carry down the street, oozing out of the new bar in Rose Street.

With a sigh, Boeta Cassiem sits down on the edge of the bed. Ghaliema always gave him a hard time about that – ”moenie oppie kant vannie bed sittie”, why he never understood then. Now he understood – here, on his side of the bed, the mattress had sagged – 40 years of use, perhaps time to visit old Arrie the Jew and buy a new bed – this old thing was done, just like him.

A lone moth flys around the naked bulb in the room. Ghaliema hated moths. They terrified her like no other insect. She would scream like a teenager, shrill and high pitched, every time a moth got into the room. And he would come, gently catching the moth, the powdery residue of the insect staining his hands, then let the insect out, to fly off into the night.

He watched the moth settle, finally, after a futile third or fourth attempt to fly through the closed window. Choices – open the old window to let the thing out, and allow more of them to to enter, or leave the captured one to find his own way out. Life, encapsulated in that moment, made perfect sense.

The old man settles down, reaches for the insulin pump. Deftly, he tears off the green label, attaches the needle to the pen, dials in 14 units, plunges the new needle into a fresh spot on his right leg. He feels nothing, now quickly depressing the plunger, allowing the life saving insulin to flow into his aged body. He pulls out the tiny needle, removing it from the pen and drops it into an empty pill bottle holder. Ghaliema taught him that trick – 30 needles would fit into the old vitamin container perfectly, ready for incineration next time he dropped off the medical waste. She was clever like that, always practical, thinking of clever ways to re use things.

He switches off the light, the moth now settled down. His thoughts run wild, the year past, the year ahead, the little plans, the unfinished projects. The children. They don’t come around as often, too busy with their own lives. He sees the phone now, a flashing green light telling him to check messages – it can wait for tomorrow.

The party goers are walking to parked cars now. Loud, young, full of life. He saw them when they parked earlier, girls in little black dresses, boys in stovepipe tight jeans, sporting beards in the fashion of the day – Hipsters, someone had called them the other day. He hears the car start, the deep bass of the music can be felt through the rattle of the old window frames. All about the Bass, he chuckles to himself, turning around and settling down. He hears the sound receding, the feel of the bass now absent. He closes his eyes, allowing sleep to overcome him. A new year. What lies ahead? Not for now…

The little Golf speeds away, four young people with promise looking forward to the year ahead. The driver, an 18 year old boy, the ink barely dry on his licence, doesn’t see the black car skip the traffic light. The impact, the sound, the cries of his friends are the last thing he hears, before he too closes his eyes. For the last time…..

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Taliep and Mina (Part 2)

The smell of bacon and eggs wafting through the house penetrated through her disturbed sleep.

Awake now, the aroma of fresh coffee made her sit up, pushing back her tousled hair.

She smiled. He always did this, when he knew that her sleep was troubled. He never asked her what it was, or what the dreams were, but always got up early and made an extra effort with breakfast.

She slipped into the soft slippers, her soles feeling the cool sticky patches. Already a  chill was approaching. She looked out and saw the trees shedding leaves in a hurry now, and wondered why trees always preferred to face the Winter naked? Another one of those unanswered questions. Another memory tickling something long forgotten. She tip toed to the kitchen, wanting to surprise him but found him waiting with a steaming mug of freshly brewed coffee, a slice of toast smothered in maple syrup, topped with the crispiest bacon on earth. Just her most favorite breakfast ever!

Her smile faded as a memory of the past crossed her mind, like a cloud crossing the sun. A shadow fell over the kitchen, his stricken look bringing her back. Still, the memory was too evasive, too fleeting for her. What was it?

She sat down at the old wooden table, the meddlesome strand of hair hanging loose again, the toast now forgotten. The coffee now cold, her hand still clasping the handle tightly. She replayed what she could remember.

The airport. She, there, standing smiling, happy. A car, racing towards her. Slipping, sliding, flipping and flying. Then, the impact. Waking up in the hospital. Not able to talk, or remember. Anything. Sleeping. Lots of sleeping. Then learning to talk again, walk again. And then some memories, some snippet of the past. Another man. Another place. Somewhere else. But who was she? And what was her name. Now, they called her Jane E…..

Returning home…(Taliep and Mina) Part 1

For a long time now he had roamed around aimlessly, only to return home finally.

The money had dried up a long time ago. And for months now, he had been existing on the goodness of others. The odd job, here and there, but mostly, just moving. One day at a time.

The first few months on the road were good. The card worked everywhere he went. Swipe, enter pin and off you go. Until the cash ran out. It had been part of a plan, retire one day, then see the world. But after Mina left, nothing made sense anymore. They had planned to get old together. Sit on the stoep together, even bought the rocking chairs from old Sammie after his ma and pa passed away in 2007. Canada she said, to visit the children she said. He shrugged his shoulders in the worn cardigan again, thinking of that day again.

The drive to the airport with Gakkie in the taxi, still picking up passengers illegally, the back seat filled with the beaten up Samsonite suitcase. The scuff marks had long turned the blue suitcase into an ugly grey,  the knocks of many local trips ingrained into the hard plastic. Mina was wearing her best dress, the one with the flowers. Her hair was stiff with something, gel or spray or whatever; the wind could not even move it! Her thin lips had a smudge of pink lipstick on it, a dab here, a little there. She  wore a light perfume, something new he did not know. It lingered on his clothes for weeks after.

The taxi stopped at the drop off point and Gakkie jumped out to open the door to take out the luggage. The box of frozen snoek somehow stayed behind. He only remembered later, when he saw the crumpled slip in his pocket.

The airport bothered him. People everywhere, going and coming. And the noises. Announcements. Overwhelmed, he did not even remember saying goodbye properly, only that she kissed him on the cheek, lightly, then seeing her walk through the security gates without looking back even once.

Alone, for the first time ever, he looked around and felt lost. The sights and sounds scared him. Mina always knew what to do. She had traveled before, with her Pa and Ma, and she always seemed to know where to go. And he always just followed. Now, alone, he turned around and walked out of the airport building, looking for the Taxi.

Minah

She answers the phone. It is him. The time has come.

Doubt floods over her, like the first of the winter rain. Painfully. But her resolve softens, like the ground. She absorbs that doubt now, allowing her fears to subside.

She bathes carefully. New razor blades. Takes extra care with her grooming, shaving her legs slowly. She cuts, trims, pulls, plucks, eyebrows, unwanted bits of stray hair.

She sees herself in the mirror, feeling as obscure as her reflection. This feeling has no name, yet. She finishes now, spitting the last of the minty mouthwash into the porcelain basin.

She dresses carefully. She stands looking at her full length reflection in the mirror, her hair still wet and dishevelled. The body she sees is aging gracefully. The stretch marks remind her of the child, but that was so long ago. The all ladies Gym has toned her now, the little bulge of her tummy just enough to break the perfection. He liked that, told her that she still had the pot belly, always saying so, saying he thought it sexy, in his way.

She smiles. But through the smile she sees the pain. She looks away from the mirror now, and into the recess of the cupboard. Clothes. She needs to cover her nudity now. But carefully. She selects the dark grey wraparound dress, slips it one and relishes the feel of the soft Egyptian cotton on her bare skin. She slides open the drawer, and picks out the most delicate of delicate undies, the soft grey matching the dress, slips them on quickly. Lastly, the black abaya covers everything, the veil to hide her face from the world, the shapeless cloth covers her sensuality, her form now hidden.

Somehow everything feels more intense today. She tries to push the feeling away, focuses on getting dressed now.

She wonders why again? Why must it always be this way? Why not over the phone? There must be a reason? The nervousness, the butterflies again.

She leaves the house, walking through the narrow enclosed passageway, to the semi-attached garage. He had insisted that the house lead to the garage – for her safety, he had said. She grimaces again. She holds back the tears with some effort – the mascara will run if she cries now.

The car waits, the driver already in it. Abdul, old faithful, always on time. He smiles at her, his white teeth showing through the salt and pepper curly beard. She nods a greeting, slides into the back of the big somewhat ostentatious car. She had asked for a smaller one. He had refused. Her safety was paramount. So many reckless drivers all over the roads, people messaging on phones while driving. No! The big luxury SUV would do. At least he had agreed to buy the grey one, and not the black one which looked even bigger. She disliked the feel of the leather seats, and the coldness of it, pushing at the buttons to adjust the heat, the feeling of warmth creeping up making her feel a little more at ease now.

” To the Medi City Hospital, Abdul”, she whispered through the veil, so softly, he barely heard the instruction.

The short drive from Camps Bay to Town took even longer than usual today. She wondered what event was happening, perhaps a concert. She missed going to concerts. How absurd it would be to be dressed this way at the Grand West arena for a concert? She laughed out loud.

Abdul smiled to himself – the missus was happy and in a good mood today. He could smell the perfume, Channel No5, wafting from the back of the car. He liked that smell, it was the only perfume he knew. The traffic was extra heavy today. He glanced in the mirror and saw the backup vehicle just inside his blind spot. The boss always insisted that the second car follow. The missus did not even know about it, but Abdul enjoyed the safety. The cargo they carried was extra precious, even more so after what happened all those years ago. The child would have been 17 or 18 now? So sad.

The car turned into the underground parking of the City Park Hospital – the missus always mixed up the name of the hospital, but Abdul had been here so many times before. He opened the door for her, and walked with her to the lift, respectfully, just two steps behind. The boss insisted on it. They wait for the lift, the wait feeling longer than usual, Abdul sensing some of his wards tension. No idle chit chat today. Must be serious. He grimaces. He too, does not like hospitals. Especially this one.

The doctor’s rooms are on the 13th floor.

She sits and waits for the lady to cal her name. Even after all this time, she still feels uncomfortable coming to this doctor. A white man, from Scotland, or Ireland, British, with his pompous airs. But he was the best. Or so they were led to believe. He had been firm, insistent. This was the best doctor in Cape Town. She would have to see him.

Her heart races faster now. She practices slowing her breathing, but the tight knot in her stomach has loosened now. She feels like she needs the toilet, but cannot move. She hears her name, stands and walks slowly, confidently, almost regally, to the rooms, the door slightly ajar already.

She sees him now, sitting behind the imposing desk, the clean crisp white coat unbuttoned, the striped light blue and white shirt, the white collar starched, the tufts of grey chest hair peeking out at her. He is reading her file, his face impassive, a small frown crossing his face, making him look older than the 50 years she knew he was. He looks up at her now, the crisp blue of his eyes finding its way through her veil. She lifts it slowly, her dark eyes absorbing the look. She tries to read the look, but fails. He looks down again, ushers her to the seat before him with a cursory wave of his hand. She slips into the leather chair, too deep for her be comfortable. She pulls herself out from the depths of the chair, now balancing on the edge, her hands on her knees, gripping them tightly, the knuckles white, the large diamond glistening in the morning sunlight.

The clock behind him says 9.17. The time her life as she knew it came to an end. She glances at the open file. In bold black letters, unmistakable, even upside down, on the Pathology company letterhead…

HIV +

Moeneeb

The first cold snap of Winter in the Mother City hit him hard this year. He wrapped the threadbare coat tighter around his shoulders, his hands tucked deep into the too small pockets. The cold still managed to seep in around his wrists, forcing him to squeeze the bunched up R50 note even tighter. The Winter wind always whistled down Long Street in May, and he cursed himself for choosing this location. And for the myriad of other stupid decisions he had made recently…

How different things had been 5 months ago. He tried moving around to get some blood circulating in his feet again, the inner numbness now spreading to his legs, immobilizing him. He reflected on his situation now, a tight coil of fear tightening in his stomach, self doubt, and perhaps even self loathing growing in him. This was not part of the plan. Yet, strangely compelled, he stayed there where he stood, waiting. Not too long to go. These guys were usually on time.

The car was so unassuming when it arrived that Moeneeb almost laughed at it. An old  nondescript slightly beat up 10 year old Jetta, white, looking like someone from Parow’s daily commute. The driver of the car slowed to a stop now, having seen Moeneeb standing in front of Snoekies. He ignored the glare from the parking meter maid, stopped on the yellow line, then rolled down the passenger window. He called out now and Moeneeb moved to the car, quickly opening the door and slipping onto the faded cloth seats. He closed the door with a hard tug,  banging it hard, and earning another glare from the driver. The car moved off now, and merged easily with the Friday evening traffic, heading up Long street towards Kloof.

Moeneeb looked through the clean windscreen and saw the top of the mountain clearly. All his senses heightened now, he could feel his pulse throbbing in his neck, the cold sweat of a few minutes ago now warming  quickly in the heated car. The driver ignored him, and continued driving slowly, keeping to his lane and sticking to the almost crawling speed of 30km/hour. Moeneeb glanced at the man now and took in his appearance for the first time. He looked to be in his late fifties, wearing an old pair of faded jeans, checked shirt, and camel coloured coat. His long hair peeked  out from under an old cap, the kind favoured by racecourse punters down at Kenilworth. He looked, to Moeneeb, to all intents and purposes, like someone’s dad, or maybe even a granddad.

The car now approached the intersection of Long and Wale Street, and the man turned into the parking garage of the old Saambou Bank building. The heavy metal security gates were already coming down again, as the car came to a standstill in a corner of the empty garage.

The man turned to Moeneeb now, indicating they should leave the car, still silent, no words being spoken between them. Moeneeb knew what he needed to do, fear transforming itself into adrenalin, charging through his body. He slipped out of the car, and walked to the where the man stood at the open boot. He reached in and picked up the laptop bag, the new ultra book almost weightless in his hand. The man started walking to the small metal gate, waving a small grey tag in front of the scanner, the gate jumping open with a loud clang. Moeneeb followed him up the stairs slowly, watching the now dead CCTV cameras as he passed them, the silence of the building deafening. These old building were always noisy and alive with the hum of the large air-conditioning units, but this building was so quiet now that it had been turned off.

Focused now on the task at hand, Moeneeb followed the man to the small server room. The machines still hummed with life, the backup power still connected to the building next door. This had been part of the design when they had installed the system all those years ago, the power had to stay on, the computer servers were not allowed to be turned off, the flow of information had to stay on, always. Multiple backups and fail safe methods had been been discussed and implemented, and Moeneeb had made it happen.

Dropping the bag lightly on the small table, the coldness in the room creeped under his thin jacket again. He would use some of the money from this job to buy some new clothes. After this gig, he would be able to afford to buy something decent, maybe from Markhams. He smiled to himself now, thinking that this would be some easy money for a change. God knew, he needed it.

Powering up the compact machine, he took a minute to admire the sleek aluminium finish, and the smooth feel of the recessed keys on the keyboard. Top of the range, core i7, nice. He thought of keeping it after the job was done, then thought again, no, this machine would be trouble. He pushed the thought from his mind. The old man had returned now, the bunch of keys jingling noisily in his hand. His silence was now easy for Moeneeb to accept, so when he spoke loudly, Moeneeb jumped. The man’s voice sounded as if he had gargled with gravel, the small pieces of rough sand having destroyed his vocal chords a long time ago. Coupled with a lifetime of smoking Gunston plains, the man had a voice that would set off a car alarm. Deep and rough, it sounded like someone running a  brick through a blender at low speed.

”Your instructions are there. You have 1 hour. I will wait outside.”

Moeneeb sat down now, and pulled out the flash drive from his inside pocket, inserting it into the slot on the side of the laptop. The usb drive was shaped to look like a key, a gift from a friend who knew that he liked that sort of thing. The laptop booted up incredibly quickly, the log on screen requiring no password. Moeneeb went to work. He detected the wireless router, and logged on with the password he had setup all those months ago. Faanie had been very specific about this job. Copy everything, then delete all trace of the information, all of it. And make sure that it could never be recovered, ever, again.

The program ran quickly, the code optimised to copy, upload to the remote server at lightning speed. This was his thing. His skill. The time he had spent inside had been an education and having the right connections had helped. His natural ability to work with computers and his years working in the family electrical business had all helped. So when Moeneeb had made the mistake of wiring the money to his personal account that first time, and Faanie had picked it up, the alliance forged was to stay in place. For obvious reasons Moeneeb had to take the fall, the discreet arraignment taking place after hours, the sentence a light slap on the wrist, but the damage had been done. Two years in Correctional Services facilities with access to some of the best criminal minds in the world, and Moeneeb had flourished, quickly learning how to code on the easily smuggled in laptop, the 3G  modem allowing him access to the Internet. On the inside, he became the banker, moving funds from bank to bank on behalf of the bosses, all the time teaching himself new programming techniques. And when his stay came to an end, he found himself alone in the outside world, with all his former friends gone, ties broken, except the one with Faanie, the old white guy. And unable to find work because of his criminal record, an unholy alliance had now been forged.

So when Moeneeb got the call he was not entirely surprised. Last year it had been the mining thing in Joburg, and he had to go in to do the cleanup, now this. A nice little sideline job, cash money, and relatively low risk. He made another copy, this time to his private little server, then ran the kill program, the virus that would wipe the drives. He smiled to himself. This virus had potential, but could never be released onto the web, the destruction it could cause would be catastrophic. He allowed himself to envision a dystopian future where he could release the virus, but then realised it as pure fantasy, forcing himself back to the present.

He watched the screen now, as the accumulated years of data was wiped clean. When the auditors arrived on Monday, they would find nothing, not a trace of data. When they logged on the virus would transfer to their machines a small piece of code that would send him all the information on their machines, every time they logged onto the Internet. And silently, Moeneeb would gather the information, and store it, until Faanie called. Money would change hands.

Finishing up now, he checked his watch and saw that the entire job had taken just under an hour. He pulled the usb key out and slipped it into his wallet. Quickly now, he wiped down the machine, removing all trace of his DNA from the machine with the small pack of alcohol swabs. He closed the machine with a quiet click, and stood up, stretching his arms and clicking is neck and back.

The old guy was waiting outside, just sitting there. Moeneeb did not see the gun under the newspaper. The old man looked up, a tear running from his eye. This still upset him, even after all this time, this would be number 73. The silenced gun spat out one bullet. It hit Moeneeb between the eyes and he crumpled like a sack onto the floor. The old guy picked up the ultrabook from underneath the fallen body. Reaching down he took the boys wallet, removing the usb stick, then wiping the wallet down, pushed it back into the boys jean pocket. He stepped over the body, leaving the security tag on the floor next to the dead man, and walked to the small emergency exit. He pushed the bar, the silent alarm triggering at the ADT control center where a lone security guard would dispatch a car to come and check. The car would find nothing wrong. The door would be closed from the outside. On Monday, the security firm will find the body, cold, all leads dead.

He walked out into Wale Street, the city dark and foreboding. The long walk back to the Bo-Kaap was refreshing, turning into Rose Street now, he passed the Bistro on Rose and saw the new generation of Cape Town partying up a storm. He smiled. And life goes on, for some anyway….

Ismail

For Attention Ghaliema Cassiem, Chiappini Street 46, Bo Kaap:

Mothers Day Correspondence 2012

Inmate No: 786 123 28/28 – Ismail Cassiem

 

Salaam Mammie

ek is gese ek kan vir mammie ‘n briefie stuur vir Mothers Day, en toe vra ek vir Vingers hierso om vir my te tik oppie leptop – tamaaf mammie as mammie nie so lekker verstaan nie – Vingers het oekie skool geloepie so Our spelling issie so hottie, hy se mos hy het ‘n priveliege edukation gekry da wa hy by correctional services so baaie tyd gespend het innie Paarl.

I is struggling to find the words to say what I need to tell you mammie. This place, here in Pollsmoor, issie lekker nie, but it give a man a chance to think clearly, and after all the werk is kla gemaak, then I get a chance to think about my life, and you and Boeta and how I ended up here.

I know I make a lot of mistakes, but I never did learn to talk about stuff. In here, we have a Suster Human, a Afrikaans lady, she come every week, and she listen to us talk. In die begin wasit nogal nie easy nie, but I kept on trying. She did do a IQ test on me and said I had star potential – sort of like kinetic energy, but it never got used, and maybe if I had a different chance in the beginning, I may have ended up like Dorris or Jaleel, educated and not a common criminal here in the chookie.

Mammie, I wanted to tell you that I rememer the times you went without stuff so that I could get a shoe or a jersey. I rememer when we used to take the Tremway bus to Woodstock and go buy me clothes there by the old Jood se winkels. I can still rememer when I smell Vingers Nugget Shoe polish how you used to polish those Bata Toughees of mine.And now I am ashames when I rememer that I never used those shoes to go to skool like you thought I was going.

Mammie, those were the days when we were young and free and had no cares. I didn’t smaak going to Skool, cause there was always something beteer or nicer to do. And then when I met that Cheryl cherry, and her derre was mos the man that worked there by the Palace bioscope in Salt River, that was the end of my skool days mammie. And ja, Boeta did find out and I still rememer that i got a blerrie hiding of my life that day, but it was too late mammie. I saw the gep, and I took it – the films and big screen and the 70’s went together and I was hooked mammie. I used to go with Cheryl and we watched everything that came out – Jaws and the Rocky films, but the one movie that stand out for me, that really talk to me, was the Godfather.

Sorry Mammie, ek vra weer tamaaf vir mammie, ma Vingers is strugling with the Computer – hy het al so twee of drie lessons gevat, ma nou moet hy wee innie solitary gaan sit so I am tikking on the machine, and I am also not so lekker on the leptop here, but I got stuffs to say and it is easier to struggle than to talk to Vingers and he also struggle but anyway. We get so half and hour a day here in the bib to writing letters, but because I did only learn to read last year, I stuggling to spelling the woorde, but I am not struggling to think anymore, so tammaaf if the letter is a bietjie messed up deurmekaar.

Mammie, that time we all were just struggling to get by and Boeta went to work every day and I saw Mammie trying hard to help, but I couldnt go to skool anymore and then Cheryl opened the door to my pleasures and I cant close it, and I am seeing all these films at the bioscope every day and then I decided to become a real life gangster like in the godfather movies and I went to talk to Boeta Gakkie – he was mos konected then, and his partner Staggie, and they did show me the ropes mammie. The times you thought I was learning methemetics, I was running pille to the white mense in Mowbray and Observatory, cause nobody gave a snot gevreet laaitie like me a second look. And I was making already R500 a month which was a kak huis full of ching then mammie. I just wanted Mammie and Derre to be proud of me, but in a house of 8 chillen it was difficult and me the quiet one hettie my bek oep gemaakie, so I just carried on.

I dont know if Mammie can remember,but Cheryl was only 15 toe sy met die lyf gekom het. I wanted nothing to do with her, she said it was my laaitie she was carrying and that I must pay pap geld. I told her to fokkof, she had that thing with Whitey, and then my life changed again Mammie. When I did seen that baby, I was starting to believe it was mine. The brown eyes, the dark hair, the dark skin, she was an angel. But then Cheryl got all clever like, after talking to Sister Mildred at the clinic, and decided to give the baby up for adoption. Nay man mammie, onse mense hettie sukke goed gedoen nie. Ons was mos ‘n kommunity en ons het na mekaar se kinders gekyk as die een te besig was. Ek onthou Antie Gawa het soma a paar keer vir my ook ‘n klap gegee tien die kop as ek die P woord voor ha gese het. En dan het sy my bek soma uitgewas met die Sunlight Seep, saam met ha eie kinders. Good times and sad times mammie, ek sit hierso nou en huil and smile at the same time. And I remember Cheryl running away with that ou to Canada and getting all international and becoming a dancer and the baby was given away and I never even seen that child again mammie. She must be a woman now and wondering who is her daddy?

Mammie, die jaar wat nou kom is my 30 jaar hier binne. 30 years mammie en mamie dont come visit anymore. I understand. Ek verstaan, mammie se bene issie meer so lekker nie, ma ek kry die news hier binne, hulle se mammie and Boeta is awright da buite. Is old news, ma as ouens in kom vannie outside dan kom hulle eers hier na my toe. Ek is so bietjie bang om te dink ek kan miskien uit kom een van die dae. Die regter het gese na 30 years kry ek ‘n review, en maybe sal hulle my sentence verminder, so with added good behavious kan ek miskien nog vroeg uitkom, ma eke is sieker ek wil nie. Ons hoor ook hoe things changed da buite – almal het ‘n phone in hulle sak, en mixit en sms. Ons ou manne sien die nuwe goed happening, en ons hoor die stories, on kry elke nou en dan ‘n koerant, ma ek sukkel om te lees – my oe issie meer so lekker nie mammie.

Mammie, die mense se ek moer kla maak – my time is up! Ek wil net vir mammie een ding se, en weetie of die mense die briefie lees of nie, ma ek worry nie.

I love you mammie – i never ever said it. Ons was mos nie allowed om such things to say nie, ma Suster Human says it is OK to say these thing. She says it always about your mother, all your issues (ek het mos baie anger issues gehad dai tyd) come from your relationship with your mother. So ek het peace gemaak met my tyd hier binne. Ek is ‘n ou tronkvoel, and I cant change my old tricks. Hie binne kry ek alles wat ek wil he mammie en kyk elke dag tv, die kos is ok, en other needs are met as required from time to time, ma ek issie meer lus vir daai goed nie mammie.

I wish i could see you mammie, to tell you that I love you, and that I am sorry for the pain I caused to you. That thing that happened that put me here had to happen, it was my destiny. But to see you again, one more time, that is my dream. I heard no news about you, and no one is saying if you is ok, so i did asked Vingers and the warden to help me with this letter.

Kriesalaam vir Boeta and Dorris and Jaleel

Your loving son

Ismail.

AUTHORIZED FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION VIA SA POSTAL SERVICES BY THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES.

Mariete

The sound of the alarm was foreign to her, not that she needed it to wake her this morning. She had been lying awake for the last 2 hours or more, watching the digital numbers change, seeing the little red led’s blink, then steal another minute of her life. She recognised the call now, this sound, harsh and penetrating, telling her that the time had arrived. She sat on the edge of the bed now, the carefully laid out white slippers waiting for her small feet. With a great effort, she slipped her toes into them, feeling the instant warmth from the furry lining on the soles of her feet. Day 1. Best to get an early start.

Mariete took the stairs down from the penthouse suite, running her hand along the cold stainless steel rail. She had dressed carefully this morning, taking advice from Gladice, the last of the maids still in her employ. Black pants, sensible shoes (she had chosen a small heel, not willing to go all the way and wear flatties, a decision she would regret later that day), a black and white striped blouse, a simple string of hand made beads, a little makeup to soften the lines, and a touch of perfume. Her hair was always a problem, and today she decided to tie it up, the blonde strands resisting the simple black cotton elastic. A quick look in the mirror arrested her thinking. Who was this person getting dressed at this time of the morning? When last had she been up at this hour? The harsh light of the recessed lights gave off enough heat for her to feel it on the back of her neck. The sensation of the heat made her feel like crying again, but she knew that there simply was no more tears.

She shook her head, willing herself to continue down the stairs. She felt the need to walk faster now, to get things going, deciding to forego on breakfast. Perhaps she would catch something later? Gladice had set out the white porcelain bowl, the heavy 16/10 stainless steel spoon she liked using, the All Bran, all neatly laid out on the place mat. The red mat stood out starkly against the Zimbabwe black granite top, the one she had chosen personally in the quarry, all that time ago.

She passes the laid out setting, and picks up the worn black leather bag, the shiny G clasp clicking the side of the marble top as she slings the bag over her shoulder. She opens the bag, looks in and sees the leather wallet there, double checking again and seeing the edge of the lone blue note, the tip of the horn of the buffalo peeking out at her. R100! This is it, she thinks. The wallet is now much lighter, she had dropped the Amex Black, the Nedbank Gold, the FNB Platinum and the ABSA cards in the glass bowl on the table – they had the same value as the little blue stones already in the bowl. Her last remaining card that still worked, that had some credit on it was the Woolworths Black card, and this she needed to survive, to get through to the end of the month.

She opened the heavy wooden door, the creak of the hinges crying out for a drop of oil. Closing the door behind her, she heard the metal click as the door locked into place. She pushed the button on the little remote in her hand, then clicked it again quickly to stop the heavy security gate from opening all the way. She would not be need it to open fully again, not for a while. She slipped through the narrow opening now, and heard the gate close behind her.

The leafy suburb was still dark, the first rays of sunshine unable to penetrate the 100 year old trees. She looked at the time on her Gucci wristwatch, and realised that she needed to walk now. She had timed the trip, it would take her 17 minutes to get there. Walking down the hill, she saw one or two domestics struggling up the steep incline, puffing from the exertion, steam coming from their open mouths, too intent on getting up the hill to notice the thin white woman walking past them.

She had chosen to leave early to avoid any of the neigbours seeing her, not that it mattered any longer. They all knew anyway. And no one had asked. They were all simply to ”ordentelik” or decent to say anything. She heard the car coming from behind her, the sound of the V8 familiar to her ears. It was perhaps the only car sound she knew, something inherited from her mother who had grown up in the V8 age.

The queue at the ticket office was longer than she expected it to be, but seemed to be moving along quickly. When her turn arrived she asked for a weekly ticket, metro plus, as Gladice had told her, trying to keep her voice even, but failing as the pitch went a little too high. The tired girl issuing tickets yawned, punched in the numbers and said loudly – R72! Mariete passed the hundred rand note under the glass, retrieved the change and the ticket. She needed to hurry now, quickly crossing over the bridge to platform 9, the train to Cape Town approaching already. She saw the bunch of white people, the metro plus ticket holders congregate to one side, and headed off in that direction, simply following the crowd now.

The train eased into the station, on time, coming to a juddering halt. She saw the man in front of her start moving forward, followed his footsteps, into the yellow opening, and took a seat. Tired eyes made contact with other tired eyes, some regular passengers nodding to each other, but no one talking, everyone occupied with their own thoughts. She slid down in her seat, the plastic cold beneath the thin layer of her trousers. The woman next to her clutched  her handbag tightly, whatever little value left in it important enough for her to guard it carefully. Mariete followed her example, learning quickly now. The train moved off with a screech, the steel wheels grinding on the tracks.

She sighed now, letting out the pent up air in her lungs. She had made it this far, and she would make it to the next stage too. Just one step at a time. She was a survivor – her mother would have been proud to see her now. Or not. She had always warned her, saying that Faanie was no good, something about him, something she didn’t like. Mariete closed her eyes for a second, shutting out the sound of the train and the intruding voice of her late mother.

In her minds eye she saw the last few months of her life play out like a movie. The big house, now empty, the car standing, also empty, fuel too expensive, waiting for the repossession agents to come and collect, the constant phone calls, until the telephone line too was cut for non payment.

Faanie had promised her that everything would be fine. But the signs had been there, for a while, and she chose to ignore them. Then, the call had come, from the hospital. Faanie, the stroke, the heart attack. The transfer from City Park hospital after the medical aid payments had also bounced, now he lay in Groote Schuur Hospital. The interview, the greasy haired man of indistinguishable origin, the job, her first, ever, at the age of 39, the salary, paid weekly, and then today, the first day. She wondered if she would be able to do it. Then realised that she had no option. Then she knew she would do it. She knew she was not ready to lie down and die. Not yet. She was a fighter. Till the bitter end. Always….