We Are Here: On a not too hot day

2010-11-30 08:55

Day 6 (30 November 2010)

This poem forms part of the We Are Here series, a collection of

16 poems by Antonio Lyons that look at gender violence from a male

perspective.


It was hot…so hot.

One of those clear-blue-sky days where nothing separates you from the insistent fire-tipped rays of the sun, but the hope that you can reach your destination before you have to wipe another drop of sweat from your tension-creased forehead.

And later ponder the damp spot left on the side of your pants from your wet hand.

It was hot, and people walked slowly as if it would make the heat of the day pass over them a little more gently. My pace is a little faster, as New Yorkers are wherever they go.

A beat later, I slow my pace to match the rhythm of Johannesburg and her people…well-versed in heat and exhaustion, and hunger.

I recognise it because I am also hungry after a day of running around this busy city in the midst of 2010 construction mayhem. Roads dug up and leaving gaping wounds of red earth that reveal piping tendons and wiry veins. Buildings rise with speed and certainty. Traffic diversions leave commuters confused and resigned. And everywhere throngs of people going nowhere slowly, and it’s hot and my day is almost done.

I shout bus stop in a deeper resonance than most non-Africans use. I’ve learned that the right inflection can keep me from missing my mark. I wait for the taxi to come to a full stop. I unfold myself and climb from the back seat where four bodies have been wedged with too little leg room and no space for bums to breathe. Warm bodies packed together on a too-hot day.

I’m out on the side walk and crossing the busy intersection of Queen and Langerman.

I raise my weary eyes on this too-hot day and across my vision a couple about a block ahead are a having a public dispute.

I watch them silently play out this dance. My pulse quickens. My hot, hungry and tired body’s amplified irritation goes to red alert. My throat tightens and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth like I just ate a spoonful of peanut butter.

My steps speed up and I want to say something. I can see where this thing up ahead is going. A violent wind is blowing.

She pushes him and jumps in his face. He side-steps and moves forward. She spins around unwilling to be dodged. He feints left, and brushes her away determined to continue his forward motion. Her insistent demands. Him unwilling to stop and listen and address her needs. She so concerned with driving her point she misses the mark...misses the signs that on a too-hot day, anything can happen.

So I watch anticipating the need to intervene…as the heat of the day drives internal thermostats to explosion…to devastation…to slow thoughts and fast action of hands on flesh. And just at that point of no return…I think she becomes aware that they are not alone on this busy slow-moving baking side walk. And she grows silent and stops her need for something, I know not what.

And I release my tension-locked body, wipe the sweat from my creased forehead and stroll past. She won’t meet my sideways glance and he seems to be in a world all his own. I exhale, never looking back. Seeing what next will cross this vision of mine. Body focused on just getting home on this too-hot day.

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