no dogs in the streets

The truth is, there’s a lot of self-censorship going on. Perhaps that is what is feeding the imagination. Gazing from bus windows and car windows and office windows wondering whether he has ever raped anyone, or how many times she’s been raped and how old she was the first time. Wondering whether he has got a gun at home, or a knife in his pocket, or whether he’s looking over his shoulder because he’s anxious about the man walking ten feet behind him or whether he’s actually wondering whether he can get to the woman in front without the man behind quite noticing. The truth is, the high walls and sloping electric fences no longer seem ugly like they did at first. They have become unremarkable. But they are there. And the walls and the fences and the rolls of razor wire and the barbed wire and the patterned metal security fencing keep pushing out, pushing out from the boundary into the mind, the memory, the spirit. When the clouds come down over Johannesburg, so low that the fading crimson I LOVE JOZI disappears behind the thick grey curtain, the fences expand and surge beyond the plot perimeter and the grey tarmac roads narrow and swallow and it seems that we are living under the authorisation of the barrier. There is more empty space than space with people because so much space has been walled off. There may be no way in and no way out. On the outside, zombies stroll the streets not knowing who else is a zombie and who else might be an alien. No familiarity in faces, no familiarity at all. The old grey-skinned lady, rolled stockings hanging from her ankles and a stained pale pinafore hanging from her shoulders, opens her garden gate and throws broken bread crusts for the pigeons whilst sucking on a thin cigarette. Will she die naturally, or be murdered? How many people are transferring their wealth abroad as the pigeons peck around her slippered feet? How many people are readjusting their furniture and carefully placing buckets under holes in the roofs of their shacks? How long will she stand out in the rain? Where are her children? Have they left her here, for opportunities in Dubai or Putney or Brisbane? How much of their day do they spend worrying about their mother? Not very much as it turns out. She was what was called a terrorist, devoted to the cause not the kids. Her only son hasn’t spoken to her for 11 years despite his wife’s pressuring, which increased dramatically after she’d had a fright one day, looking out of her window through the rain to the pool. The washed eiderdown she’d left drying between two white plastic chairs was stretched over the lip of the shallow end of the pool. It was bulging at the fold with a large weight that was hanging like a dead body inside.

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