Dashiki Dialogues: Are we predators or prey?

2012-02-17 08:05

On a rotten February night in hell-hot Pretoria, knives are quick to be drawn and beer bottles break easy on the heads of stick-up kids who own the streets– or at least lay claim to them.

I learnt this quite recently.

For me the lesson started with a stealthy, choreographed walk that left me surrounded. What seemed like somebody asking for the time and a lighter turned into a stick-up in progress.

If you’ve been in that situation, you know that it could be the most terrifying triangle of your life.

Three predators determined to keep what they find. It’s sink or swim as you get a rush of blood to the head. Your eyes and nostrils dilate on instinct. You reach for breath and struggle to clear your line of sight.

Then the survival reflexes kick in.

Your best move is to swing whatever is in your hands. At this point, it becomes a weapon of convenience. Here goes.

With eyes closed tight to avoid any flying glass, I heard the beauty of the crisp sound of breaking a beverage on a human head.

The smash sends a slight tremor through the swung arm and I discover the terrible joy of making such a hit. Yes. Otherwise, yours truly would be telling a much more tragic tale.

But like I said, it was a blurry night on one of Pretoria’s most putrid street corners.

The night-crawler types were out for a regular steal and I might have seemed like an easy kill. Little did they know. Anyway, with two bottles spent upside the head of the toughest looking one, the rest scattered across the empty intersection.

The predators’ retreat bought me time to rearm. So I scurried the ground for rocks or anything of the sort.

This was war! My hand scraped the pavement to find a broken piece of polished granite.

Then I noticed them fade into the blurry distance from the corner of my eye. I knew then that I had survived.

The return of breath is coloured by the flashing blue lights of patrol cars, as usual a tad too late on the scene.

Just as I threw the rock back from where I got it, I caught the glimpse of the slate from which it had broken off. It’s a side barrier of a monument with the phrase “To all victims of terrorism” engraved into it.

It says it was unveiled in 1989.

While standing there flooded by passing blue lights, I began a dialogue with myself about who the victim of my encounter was, me or those would-be muggers now disappeared into the dark dashiki of the night.

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