When she stepped into the omnibus she reeked of dejection, the stench was more repugnant than the decades pilled upon her, darker than the aura of disappointment that she had to show for the culmination of all her life. All her years, all the lives she had birthed with the African hope of redemption in posterity. Our children will take care of us, it was written in the old book and she had read it, followed it, and now…this.
She came from afar, a name I dare not pronounce for memory distorted those morphemes into a vast daydream, rather a nightmare strolling before my eyes in the brutal daylight. I too had been defeated in my quests, and kept wondering,replaying the same old song, haunted by the same old refrain: why do we remain? Are the bones of our predecessors so valuable that in trying to lie among them we hasten to the grave? If hope is such a valuable currency, when shall her dividends pay?
The future is a beautiful illusion, much so for us here, who have survived what we call the worst. But this new living, this slow poison where nothing works and the government is a full blown coliseum…The one-party dream seems to be cruder than the imagining it was birthed from. Aye, the future is a beautiful illusion, it always has been.
I hate to pry; curious as I am this country has taught me pain, and while I lick my own wounds I like to close my eyes, concentrate on the task than to look and see those on the next man, or woman. But somehow, inevitably rather, in the confined space of the short vehicle I could not help but hear her agony.
The vendors have drawn their bananas against the police, pineapples will explode against grenades, not now, perhaps, maybe later, all symptoms of the bigger crisis, the one we refuse to treat. And she was a vendor, in those tumulus times we survived, whose survival taught us hope. How audacious it is, to lecture us to believe while the sky is turning crimson with fires of Armageddon that we will see the dawn for we have survived the worst.
She was a vendor, a vendor she was and pilled her useless money, the local currency which became change faster than it could be changed. When all was said and done, she had only a stack of notes to show for her labour, and the government decided, without much effort or choice in the matter, that the money would cease to work. Worthless stacks, as worthless as bond paper.
I thought of her plight, and thought of another conversation in a moving vehicle, a train this time. Someone had heard the old notes were being traded in for big value, I offered him less than the rumour (back then I still believed, as a part of me still does, that one day we will need those notes to laugh at ourselves and how far we have come along). He turned me down, and called me a crook, chose to brave the city instead and search out the source for himself.
But there was no source, as she, my omnibus companion found out, the Reserve Bank wouldn’t even face her, rather send her to the Post Office, they would pay her coins for her trillions dollar notes. She wouldn’t do her shopping, she would pester someone in the city for bus fare back home, and hope the one who had lent her money to come into Bulawayo would wait a while before demanding his dues.