by Candice Morrow
I’ve always thought that taxis were for the ride, some funny, others bad and downright taxing but all with one thing in common, Point B. The destination is the whole point of taking a taxi. My experiences have been transactional to be honest and I could make a mental collage of my ups and downs and the picture would be most colourful. Well, little did I know that one of my life-altering experiences would be sealed in a taxi. Who would think that? I could tell you about the most hilarious experiences I’ve had to date or maybe the most annoying but fact of the matter is, none of these have had any real impact on my life and so I will share with you the one experience that still sends my mind to a place in my heart that still shivers in broad day light.
On this beautiful Sunday morning I was set to take a taxi from Ladysmith to Durban with my friend Andy having attended her sister’s “umembheso” the previous day. The sun was out and I was smiling because my spirits had been lifted by the weekend’s events and I’d never been to a “Zulu” pre-wedding celebration prior that weekend. It was a joyous affair with singing, gift-exchanging, dancing , cooking with the Dj later on keeping us on the dance floor for most of the afternoon and the early evening. I’d promised myself I’d have a good weekend, what with my brother being home after a longish spell in hospital there was no doubt that things could only get better from there. My brother was home, it was not just going to be a good weekend, it was going to be a new beginning with less uncertainty and stress. Reader, I pray you forgive me for the word for word account as some things are best told as they are..
The beauty of the morning had eased me of the anxiety I’d felt when I woke up in the middle of an array of bad dreams that had been tormenting me all night. I called home to find everyone awake, ready to go about their business as usual. The children’s school uniform needed washing, someone had to go to the butchery to buy meat for lunch, the other needed to make breakfast while making sure that my Grandmother had her morning fill of “Amarhewu” and everyone needed to keep an eye on the rascals because there’s no way of telling what new idea they’d invented to give us all new grey hairs. You find yourself smiling far from home and thanking God for yet another normal day in The House Of Peace. Every now and then one would call to ask if we’d left yet, if my phone had been charged, if my Facebook was still running, to remind us to pray before we leave, if you have women in your life you’ll identify.
When we got to the taxi rank we met up with a lady who was to take the taxi with us but my goodness, the taxi looked like it was placed there to show everyone what an example of a car that is NOT roadworthy looks like. If you’d replace the tyres with bricks and take your granny for a stroll around the rank she would’ve mistook it for the taxi she rode to her 1st job in the city as a maiden. And so we chose to wait for the next taxi; of course we got the usual quiz from annoyed taxi drivers about the whereabouts of the person we were “waiting” for, or better yet if we were too stuck up to ride in “certain” taxis.
“What ever happened to the right to climb into the taxi that I chose, at the time I choose and pay with the money I work for in the new South Africa I voted for?”
When the next taxi took the stand I sat next to an old lady in the seat just behind driver as my company took the seat behind “Gogo” and I. Inundated with whatsapp messages from my sisters at the house, I was excited to show and tell all about the Zulu experience because we all are more familiar with our Xhosa ways of doing things which is a bit different in its similarity to the Zulu ways and the question of my Facebook kept coming up but I paid no attention because nobody has ever taken interest to who is doing what on Facebook on a Sunday morning. I drift in and out of the memory of my dreams trying to figure out what they could mean and why dreams have such an impact on us as the human race and so I decide to text an elder friend of The House Of Peace (home) and share these thoughts to which he responds with, “I will call you in a few minutes.”
I talk to a friend and the dreams are not much clearer by the end of the discussion. I eventually log on to Facebook and there first post is a photo of Siyanda with Ziviwe and Zovuyo that was taken the year before at their friend’s 21st birthday party. So handsome he looks, so full of life with his perfect teeth beaming brighter than sun rays. A stark contrast to the man lying in the bed at home fighting for his life and I post a comment,”Ja nne.”A few minutes later Mr Nda calls as promised, we discuss these things and my brother. The call comes to an end and he says, “My condolences to the House of Peace.”
Not one to probe into another’s use of language, I thank the gentleman and hang up. I watch the land through the window as the taxi takes the road, the beautiful valleys and hills of South Africa and again I am in awe of The Creator’s flair, a beautiful morning after a very good day. For once in weeks I felt alive and living, no more hospital visits, no more staying up at night wondering what was going on at the hospital, no waiting and daring the phones not to ring till day break because day is always easier to bear, but the night, in the night when it all comes down to faith and knee-time. When we’d spend hour after hour praying with friends and family near and far for our boy. It was morning yet again and it was beautiful and I was going home to sleep knowing that he was just a door way. By and by the messages kept coming in, more and more people wanting to find out where I was and if I intended to come back home that day and the question, “Is your Facebook still not running?”
While I looked forward to home it was still a good while away so I chose to close my eyes which didn’t last more than a few minutes after which I logged on to “Facebook” and there it was right in front of me. I read it the first time and decided I’d lost my understanding of IsiXhosa overnight or maybe I was exhausted and I was misunderstanding.
“Who wrote this anyway?” Well, it was Lwando Mlamleli .
“So then let me read again, that boy tends to be dramatic when he need not be, is he trying to mislead people? I’ll handle him when I get home. He can’t post such statuses when his brother is not well, people may misunderstand. I almost did.”
But there it was, unchanging when I read it again and again and again.
“Wela mfana wakuthi, wuwele loomfula Ntlane” (Cross my brother, cross that river Ntlane)
My mind ran a film that would’ve broken all the rules adhered to on the road because lighting was trailing behind the film.
“He was gone? He was gone!!!! Siyanda was gone, gone? My brother? His only 23 man he can’t be. Gone?”
I must have passed out for a few seconds because what I remember next is me coming to, wailing in the Gogo’s arms and the gentleman sitting to my left carrying my weekend bag which had been on my lap. Oblivious of the confinement of the taxi and the strangers who were looking on with pity and questioning eyes I cried my eyes out. Never had my friend seen me in any state other than that of controlled cool even in the face of the greatest mayhem, I was the one who kept the calm, the one who laughed things off then solved the problem, the stronger one and yet there I was, my body curled up in a ball of anguish on Gogo’s breast tears streaming down the new rains that told of summer. Silently I bore the pain with every kilometre the taxi drove, it seemed to drive me farther and farther away from him. With Gogo soothing me and my shame as the taxi driver kept peering through his rear-view mirror with saddened eyes as he drove along much slower than before, I prayed.
I prayed a single prayer with begun with “Oh God,” over and over again because those where the only words my mind and lips would form because my heart had taken leave of me. With the taxi seeming to grow bigger and smaller I struggled to breathe and would at intervals let out a suffocated cry. I only wanted to be home in the House of Peace but he would not be there, he would not be a door away but a lifetime away.
Where would I find peace without my aunt’s child, Siyanda Mlamleli? Would it be just a house without the peace keeper? “Oh God,” I cried.
I’d had such a good day yesterday, I promised myself I wouldn’t cry that day and I didn’t. I sang and danced and joined in the celebrations knowing that Siyanda was home. “It was a good day, not a good day to die. Oh God pleeeease,” my heart pleaded.
We were supposed to start jogging again soon and now he was gone, we had “klaar” planned our December to the very last day of the season. “Oh God!” I cried again.
He’s my best friend, where will hide? “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God….what are we going to do?”
Well…. I could tell you about the rest of the journey or I could tell you about the thoughts that still roam around my mind since taking that taxi but maybe some other day when the heart wills to speak. You see, it has just found its way home after wandering on distant clouds of tears. We made in safe to Durban where a friend was waiting to pick us up and drive us to Margate. The last look and last wave was not just to the Gogo who had no name, of all things acceptable or unacceptable in a taxi, I had never fathomed saying farewell to my brother in a taxi.
I never knew the soul to weep
But for your soul
My soul weeps