It was a busy evening that day. The sun had just gone down, and the sky had taken a dark blue shade, slowly dimming into the blackness of night. The cars in the streets all had their lights on and as he brought his head down from looking up to the sky, the noisy bustle of the city returned to his ears:  the car horns, occasional screech of tyres, people talking and laughing, this guy buying airtime, that one on his phone, the guys by the corner kept arguing – he heard Hazard and Neymar – football debate. He walked past. The vastness of the city dawned on him then, just as it did often. Harare was huge, the buildings enormous, compared to his average stature. The dealings that happened behind closed doors massive; and he could tell he was just another pawn in the chess field, an expendable, not really worth much.

 

He clutched his backpack harder, head down, and walked faster, until he reached the next main street, Samora Machel, and looked across. He wanted to get across to the other side. His mind wandered. The other side suddenly started moving further away, until it seemed too far to reach. Would he make it?

 

He heard a voice in his head, ‘Just run into the street and hope to get hit by a Mercedes, that’s not an entirely bad way to go out mate.’ He lifted his foot off the pavement to take a step forward. His mind took him back home. He saw his bed in the dimly lit room; he was on the cold floor, huddled up. Why wasn’t he in bed? He heard the loud thuds, they kept him awake, and the first couple of screams drove him crazy and he tried to get as far away from the noises as he could. The corner was furthest from the noise. His dad yelled again, and one final scream, cut short by the sound of impact and a broken voice, another thud. He heard a body being dragged across the floor; he covered his head fearing the worst. The bedroom door shut. She crawled into the room, bleeding, and found him in the corner, mustered up the strength and managed to make it to her son. They huddled in the corner, and she told him not to cry, and that she was going to be okay, they were going to be okay. And morning always dawned, and dad would wear a smile, mom would hide her scars with her hair, and he’d pretend to not have heard anything. That was life.

 

A car horn brought him back to Samora Machel. Two drivers arguing, “Haa iwe uri kuita sei? Hausi kuona pakabaka red here?” What are you doing, can’t you see the red light? “Haundiudzire, haisi road yababa vako.” You don’t tell me what to do, this isn’t your father’s road. He had stepped back for a moment, then the pain returned, and he took one step into the street and stopped. A white pick-up was coming. It looked exactly like her hearse. He remembers it perfectly. That night, the noise was excessive, and the beatings severe, the last thud, was followed by the usual dragging across the floor, but she never made it to her eldest son’s room. The morning came, he went out to look for her; there was blood. He ran to dad, who gave him a sharp eye, and dared not ask. They informed him later, and arrangements began. It was never investigated. His pain turned to rage, against the hand that fed him. But he dared not let that break him. His father’s eldest son – born out of wedlock, his father’s favorite – never stopped taunting him. ‘Useless piece of shit, this is our house, you have nothing here, and I wish you’d have died along with your mother”

 

Were these people human, or did they just need a punching bag? He found his father’s eldest son, beating his mother’s little son. The little man cried his lungs out and it was then that he saw the same pained look his mother had in her eyes, the same wailing she made the night she died, and his heart broke.

 

He walked along the street; he’d cross at the next, busier intersection, that’d give him a chance. He overheard someone on the phone, ‘How was school?’ school, ah he remembered. “Dad, I need two hundred dollars to be able to get my results” he remembered asking for some money one time, in the kitchen. “I don’t have money.” And that was it. He never saw his results, until he got the offer to work for a little bit of money. “Just take this bag, and leave it with the guy at this address in Mufakose, we’ll help you out mate.”

“Whats in it?”

“Its better you don’t know” the grim voice responded.

He carried the bag, and got his two hundred cash. That night dad got drunk, dragged him out of bed, and beat him to a pulp. He had found the money and accused him of stealing from him. The next night dad came back and beat him again, for the same thing. And the next night. On the fourth, he stood up to him, with a limp. “Hamundirove zvekupenga Mdhara” “Ooh wava kuda kumisidzana neni?” and he called his son, and that night, they took out everything on him, and threw him out of the house. His new home was the wooden cabin at the back. A cold, unlit, damp home. He couldn’t go to the police; this man was a Presidential Guard, who would listen to him? No one had listened to his mother, her death wasn’t even investigated, who was he?

 

He reached the corner, gripped that bag hard, and was about to run into the street. Then he thought of his brother. Little man would be stuck there forever, he’d take his place just the same way he had replaced his mother. He was too young, he’s only seven. He couldn’t let that happen. He’d buy a gun off the black market! Then end up in jail and not able to take care of him still. He’d get a job! Yeah right, with what education? He took a step into the street. He’d get killed with what he was doing. But if it meant waking up early morning in the next month, enduring living with the man who murdered his mother, and taking the little man away, that’s what he’d do. He took a step into the street, side stepped some people and made it all the way to the other end of the street. He stepped onto the pavement on the other side. It felt like the biggest achievement he’d made in the past few months. He’d crossed Samora Machel. Heavy breathing, one huge sigh, and he headed for Market Square…

 

 

 

 

Jena

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4 thoughts on “The Other Side of the Street.

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