reaching for the button

Because everything is alarmed and locked and bugged and on standby, great stress is caused in trying to remember what to press, when, how many times, after you’ve done what when, and where to press it. I have keys littered over London, Luanda and possibly other bits of the world because I forget and lose and misplace. And here, where I am currently (mis)based, it is much more of a struggle. Not that Struggle (more later), no. I said I would refuse to drive The New Car because the alarm system is too complicated. And then it struck me that my reluctance to demobilise the immobiliser was no different to that of the man who can’t be arsed to find the clitoris. Not that I don’t want to pleasure the car, and not that I want to be pleasured first and foremost and only. No: it is about my own sense of humiliation, of being humiliated by the mother of a Merc that we (two cyclists and bus-riders who champion against the car in all other worlds but this one) have somehow ended up being involved with. The demobiliser is a tiny button, strangely similar in size to a clitoris, hidden not between folds of flesh and thigh and wiry hair, but smothered beneath a layer of grey carpet that lines the leg coves and arm-rests of the mother body. It is true that J locates the button far faster than I, and without effing and blinding at it. A soft, Hold on, here it is, and the car flashes its small red light and purrs into action. My own sense of being a woman feeling so hollow, as I f*£($ed and c*&&£$ed at the vehicle, kicking the carpet, cursing the entirety of South Africa, the National Party and all the British hypocrisy that continues to thrive in this part of the world.

And then I found it. And held my finger in place, pressing continuously, getting an uneasy pleasure as I watched the small red light flash. Look, look! You see! I know how to handle her! Of course, I’m a woman! The car purrs and rolls forward, and the fear of the alarm echoing across the hills and valleys of the dreaded northern suburbs retreats. The engine will not cut, she will roll on. I am safe. Calm. Almost happy. Except that I now feel the need to disguise myself inside the car. I know what I look like (as a hairdresser pointed out) ‘Another blonde from the northern suburbs who insists they were In The Struggle.’ That’s what I look like. Not what I am. What’s the distinction? If I look like it to many of the people I drive past, does it make any difference if I’m not? That’s part of the fear of here: slowly being moulded into something I’m not and then waking up one day being it without knowing. First, the Merc… What next?

And now that I know my immobiliser, I look differently at drivers here. As I sit in a traffic jam, gazing at the suited, tied man in his silver BMW at my side, I imagine him fumbling for the clitoris every single time he opens the car door. Is that something he looks forward to? Or dreads? I imagine the wide fat fingers of the thick-set, hairy-faced Afrikaaner male in his pick-up truck gently reaching down and feeling for that tiny button and pressing with his forefinger to release the tension. As he looks skywards.

Oh, the gentleness that the cars here require. The cars. Such sensitivity. Writing it is so hard. So confusing. Too much. Overloaded. Everything matters. Every last detail.


4 thoughts on “reaching for the button

  1. I remember a man in the circus (when I was as well, not a man, but in the circus) paging through the layers of feathers in a rig of ostrich feathers designed to be worn around the waist by a female performer. He was looking for some small part buried beneath the huge fluffs, and as he did he looked up at me and said something very male about looking for the clitoris. It was a dead on comparison–I saw immediately. He seemed very pleased with himself, especially to be making the joke/reference to a woman.
    Oh, gender.
    But to be in a place where such things are also scrambled up with the perception of ones social/political identity, not to mention ones vehicle of transport, is very surreal.

  2. That’s Afrikaner, and it’s an anti-hijack device, not an immobiliser.

    But your blog is great. You’re into the SA groove.

  3. Mia, I like thinking about that man’s fingers and the ostrich feathers. But it is true that it is quite surreal here. There is something unreal about this place. Much of this is to do with where I stay: the northern suburbs. I’m in the best bit of that bit, Melville, but it’s still a Truman Show experience most mornings, just cut with fear and loathing. I feel I must come to terms with it, but J wisely said, No, No, the whole point is that you don’t come to terms with it!

    Yes, J, anti-hijack device. But I like immobiliser. Isn’t it also an immobiliser? It doesn’t stop a hijack taking place anyway: it just might stop it after it’s happened. It’s more an anti-getaway device,no? The jargon of security.

    Vania – I’m glad I made you laugh. I wish we were here laughing together.

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