09H39 FRIDAY, 20 DECEMBER 2013

Episode 1
Episode 2 
Episode 3

The thought of going to a pub where someone’s carcass was recently carried out and their blood still moist in the mop and bucket, it didn’t go down well with me, in spite of the cheap alcohol swirling through my head. I looked at Magadesh and served a firm but polite “no”.

Magadesh shrugged and walked off. He figured he’ll go “pick up women alone”. Mnaka couldn’t have been bothered. Taking advantage of the situation, I asked him about women, girlfriends and getting laid. “What do you want to know?” he asks, biting the corner off another whiskey tube and squirting it in his mouth. I wasn't not sure how to ask without my preconceived assumptions selling me out. I mean how do you approach the concept of sex with a homeless person? Luckily for me, Mnaka got the gift of gab, so he started telling me before I even ask. “Me I get igolo (vagina), plenty of it. I eat igolo and I sleep on igolo. I mean I use it as a pillow; the chick would have to pull me up to sleep on her chest because I pass out on top of igolo. It would be raining, the water flowing past my mattress and it’s soggy, but I will eat igolo. It can be cold and I’m shivering, I’ll be inside igolo.” He said all this without even glancing at me, so I’m not sure if he was thinking out loud or talking to me.

“But you must be careful with women. That’s how I ended up staying at this place. I used to stay under the Mandela Bridge. I had a girlfriend, I loved  her. There was this guy, he was a pimp. He messed with the girls. One day, this fight. I grabbed him. He had a knife, I had a bottle. Someone was going to die. People die in the streets. I left."

Me and Mnaka were sitting directly in the sun, everybody else had moved to the other side of yard into the shade of the brick wall. It was painfully hot. Mnaka wiped off the sweat from his forehead and said, “I sweat because I work hard”. I chuckled but he didn’t flinch. He carried on with the story and I saw the anger bubbling up in his eyes.

“When you live on the streets you must fight. You see these knuckles? They will mess you up. If they try to take my money…you see those two sitting on the other side of the yard? Yah, they robbed me. They took my last R90 and I didn’t eat for five days. You see these scars? *takes off his shirt and reveals a massive scar on his shoulder* They tried to kill me. My arm doesn’t work 100% now. But, I fight.”

The two guys he’s talking about glare at us. “Why do you want to bring up stuff when you have a guest? Don’t start shit!” shouts one of them. “You must come, I’m not drunk this time. Come!” Mnaka shouts back. The “witch” lady tried to diffuse the situation by asking Mnaka if he’s had anything to eat. Mnaka paused, trying to calm himself. “You are right, maama. Rasta, we are drinking and we have not even eaten. No.”

“There’s food in that plastic bag there”, said the old lady. Mnaka got up to get the food. In my mind I’m like, wait, where do homeless folk get food from? My stomach knotted at the thought of grub scavenged from dirtbins. He returned with a white plastic bag and I immediately told him I was not hungry. It barely registered. He sat next to me and said, “Rasta, let’s eat.”  He handed me a burger roll. I scanned it for mold, grime and anything that’s said this is not food to eat. I told him again that I’m not hungry. He wasn't listening. He held out the roll with one hand while searching in the plastic bag with the other hand. I took the roll. It was soft. It was warm. It was fresh. He pulled out a small tupper-ware dish. It has something that looks like shredded chicken. He took out a roll and dipped it in the dish then handed the chicken to me. I felt like I was in Fear Factor, the disgusting challenges. With everything in my being trying to stop my hand from reaching for the chicken putting it my mouth, I took a bite. Then another. Then another. ‘Ey, Rasta, you must have been hungry ne?”, laughed Mnaka as I forgot my manners. The damn shiggin was tasty as hell, couldn’t help it.

After we finished eating, Mnaka admitted defeat. “Rasta, I drunk now. I need to go sleep. You can decide. I can give you your own blankets or we can share mine and we sleep. You can decide.”

I drew a line right there. I thanked Mnaka for his hospitality. I thanked everyone else. They all shouted that I mustn’t disappear and I should come again, soon. Mnaka walked me down the road. Well, we both kind of hobbled down. He thanked me for coming and taking time to listen. “If you are a journalist, you mustn’t write nonsense about me, neh? You must tell the truth.” We both laugh and I say goodbye. It was like leaving a relative’s house. As I walked down the road, I heard Mnaka swearing at someone, “TSHEK!”



Words: Vus (@JustVus)

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    I've really enjoyed this series. So often we don't see past the facade of these "street people" that we pass by on the daily. We cease to see them as an extension of ourselves: people with histories, and stories on this life continuum, sharing same breath, having structures to life, living.

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