The Ndundulu Invasion – Chapter 10 – Born To Be Wild

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mantzariscoverHe was driving lazily. Thandiswa’s CD blaring in the car, the young girl singing alongside.
The traffic was bearable. Driving on the left lane gave to opportunity to the girl to absorb the peace of the surroundings, far away from the ENGEN refinery and the noise of the second hand MERCEDES passing as brand new one.
They were silent, only this Godly voice mixing with the few fumes from the sugar mills here and there. He did not even bother to check his rear view mirrors, there was no hurry, they were booked at the BB. His cell phone was off.

He did not even notice the bright red YARIS that passed him. Only the girl felt a little shaken, because her body felt like frozen for a few second.
“He was fast Daddy”, she whispered.
“Ah, you know young people, they drive fast, but we are not in a hurry, are we?”
“No”, she replied and moved her body closer to him, almost falling asleep.

His eyes were glued on the road. He almost felt like a guardian angel driving. He did not allow himself to even remotely reminiscent of his old days, his 20s, his 30’s, his 40’s, driving on the highways drunk as an idiot, playing back his life’s movie the same way victims of all ages fall into the trap of the one arm bandits.
In the end he knew it well, a drunken man who drives on a highway at four in the morning is mentally sick, even if he does not stop at the side to puke. He knew well enough, as in all Bolywood movies, the back up singers are anonymous, the glory lies with the Sharif Khans and the Amitabh Bachans. No one knows the names of the back up singers, no one cares about  them, the same is true of a drunk driver who kills himself. No one cares about his name. They only try to find it out when they have to notify the next of kin.

He almost killed himself in fear, although dead sober, when he heard the girl screaming. Her voice crumbled and tears fell from her eyes like a Mozambican thunderstorm. He stopped the car and tried to reason with her.
“Calm down, my, love, talk to me.”
She calmed down, or she tried to.
“Back there Dad, the red YARIS, Dad, the red YARIS.”
“What red YARIS, my love?”
“The one that was going fast Dad, call the ambulance Dad.”

He tried to calm her down, the more he spoke to her, the more uncontrollable she became.
“Go back Dad, please, please”, she pleaded, “the red YARIS, Dad.”

He looked around and made a u-turn, slowly, first checking all his mirrors. The girl had calmed down considerably.
“Don’t worry. I’m driving back, my girl.”
He drove slowly, and with his left eye checked the girl. She looked calm and collected, but not cool, something bothered her.
Her eyes popped out
“There is the car Dad, there he is.”

He parked next to the small YARIS. He shook his head.
“A write off”, he murmured.
“How can you say dad, we haven’t seen the guy yet.”

He did not reply, she would definitely feel upset if she knew he was talking about the car.
They moved towards the passenger’s door. He opened it, and smoothly moved towards the young man. He cradled him on his arms pulling him with the utmost care towards him. He was a handsome young boy, 20, 22 at the most, his eyes wide open, some blood coming out of his forehead, rolling big red eyes, begging for help, looking through the abyss of a hazy afternoon.

The girl notified the Empangeni ambulance services. They promised they would send someone when a vehicle was available. It sounded very optimistic in BATHO PELE language, but in these areas everyone knows that the word availability is a very relative term, in fact extremely relative.

Their attention turned to the young man, his LACOST yellow shirt blood soaked, fresh thick blood, stains so deep, as deep as the wounds in his hands. The young man looked mortified, more fear than pain, but who could guess, you can only feel at such moments

“How you are feeling my boy”, Bongi asked.
“I don’t know, sir”, his voice trembling.
“OK, don’t worry my boy, we are here, we have called the ambulance, don’t worry, everything will be alright, my boy.”
“Thank you, Sir, thank you miss”, he muttered, his eyes turning towards the girl, who was almost ready to faint.
The sight of the blood was foreign to her. She never lived in a real township, she was not allowed to go to parties with her friends, real blood was alien to her, she only saw it on TV shows and she knew that this was not real blood, it was thickened tomato juice.
She was interested in what was happening in front of her, her inquiring eyes examining every little detail of the young man’s being, his eyes, his panted crocodile shoes, the half empty CHIVAS REGAL on the floor, his bloodied corduroy pants, the fear in his eyes. The only thing she could not penetrate was his brain, it was still imprisoned in between his two ears, but its functioning was questionable.

“Tell me boy, why were you travelling so fast?”, Bongi asked.
“Stop it Daddy, please, the boy is in pain you can’t ask such questions.”

The young man put his right hand upfront, trying to say something.
“It is well known, my love, medical anthropology is very clear about, in such a situation, the brain of the injured person needs to be kept alert. I’m an anthropologist, I need to look after the boy before the ambulance arrives.”
He turned towards the young man.
“Tell me my boy, why were you travelling so fast?”
“I was driving to Empangeni, Sir, it’s an emergency, and I had to be there by 7.30 tonight.”
“What is the problem, Son? Death, birth, intensive care, it must be very important.”
“It’s very important, sir, the TELKOM final, Sir, tonight, Sir, 7.30.”

Bongi moved towards the young man, he held his head closer to him and his eyes moved towards his daughter.
He saw the young girl falling into her knees, half asleep, looking drained and exhausted, next to the young man’s body, and subconsciously moving her right hand to hold his. Bongi took her small hand and put it into the young boy’s, much bigger palm. He looked at the young man’s eyes.
“How does it feel, son?”, he asked.
“It’s beautiful, Sir”, he whispered, “her hand is so beautiful, so warm, mine is cold, Sir, very cold.”
“Son, you mean you were driving fast all the way from Durban for the TELKOM final, tonight at 7.30?”
“Yes, Sir”, he whispered.
“So, you support Chiefs, I take it.”
“Yes Sir, Chiefs.”
“Why, my boy?”
“There is only one team in the world, Sir, Kaiser Chiefs, Sir.”

The boy’s body temperature was moving to freezing. Bongi tenderly pulled his daughter’s palm from the boy’s. He put her slender figure on the thick grass next to the tree. He slowly moved the boy’s rested body next to her with care, so he would not awake her from the deep sleep.
He closed the young boy’s eyes. He put his business card next to the cold body, just in case.

He carried the sleeping girl to his car and placed her on the back seat. He looked around. Then he walked back to the red YARIS, his eyes glued to the half empty bottle of CHIVAS. He needed a stiff one, no he thought, quickly changing his mind, no cold water, no ice.

“Not now”, he told himself, as he walked back to his car.

He lit a cigarette before he opened his window fully as he put the key to the ignition.He looked for missed calls on his cell phone, nothing. He looked at the date, Friday, the 26th. He shook his head in sheer desperation.
“It’s Friday”, he spoke to himself, and the game is tomorrow. What a waste of a life.
He pulled a double puff, took a deep breath. He did not look back, he did not need to.
Keeping to the speed limit, he noticed an ambulance speeding towards the direction of the YARIS. He looked at his watch.
“That was fast”, he whispered to himself, one and a half hours, good timing for picking up the dead.
He looked through his rear mirror, the red YARIS was now a tiny speck of blood in the horizon.
ASIPHEPE, my boy”, he murmured,  “ASIPHEPE”.

The sun was going down fast, the flickering lights of Empangeni shining brightly a few kilometres ahead.
He extinguished his cigarette in his half empty ashtray.

Next chapter: Chapter 11

©  Evan Mantzaris – The Ndundulu Invasion – Rozenberg Quarterly 2013 – ISBN 978 90 361 0201 8

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