It’s not the prostitutes who forgot what shame was. It’s not the pollution clinging to the air or the dirt hugging the walls, making every commuter feel dirty after leaving the city. It’s not the forlorn beggars asking for change; no, expecting you to hand it over like philanthropy and altruism was a marked column in your budget.
I remember this
I remember the way he smelled, being pulled along by a child who was younger than a fifth of his age; like a dog. He would be guided into the mini bus taxi; he would be pushed through, stumbling, mumbling almost inaudible apologies. I could tell who the boss was in the relationship by the apathetic expression on the child’s face. He’s the responsible one, he’s the one who handles the money and pays. It’s hard not to wrinkle your noise at how they both smell. The blind man is seated next to me, eyelids flapping over two ghosts who left a long time ago and it’s like those empty sockets yearn to see but can’t like an arthritic hand trying to grab a-hold of the wind. I’m happy not to be cramped into one of those old slow super 16 Toyotas. South African car owners and people with alternative transportation who aren’t regular parcels of the dismal transport system will never know the joy of being seated in a relatively new Toyota Quantum. He’s blind but even he can sense the difference in the seating and its pace. I can overhear him speaking with his handler. It’s a simple joy for him.
A short stop
The blind man exits the mini bus taxi with the child in tow. You can hear the notorious taxi gossipers speaking about how they are there to solicit change for sorry stories. They have gotten off not far from my own stop. I guess the truth is, we’re all there to beg in one way or another. We’re trying to trade something for money and livelihood. They use the blind man’s empty sockets while I use a keyboard. This is their nine to five.
Knock off time
He nonchalantly pulls the old man with his left hand while his right hand pages through an old catalogue. You can tell that he’s magazine window shopping for things that he’ll probably never get. There’s a cherry flavoured sucker hanging from his mouth and all I can think about when he dumps that rag into the dustbin is how he doesn’t care. He’ll play pretend for money but once upon a time, I think he cared; I think that he didn’t have to act for spare change and the tears were real. Routine ends up numbing you, you accept a situation as it is and you adapt. The story was once true but the new headphones hugging his neck say its all bullshit now. It’s knock off time for them just like it is for me. The child’s pockets are stuffed with what you get when sympathy and guilt meets with someone who has something while you have nothing. They’re riding home just like I am. It’s all the same, the sun sets on us three in the same way like a downcast product of a dead beat dad, counting broken promises on a Saturday afternoon.