James de Villiers

My soft heart died at 13

2017-07-07 13:22
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When Cape Town’s children go to bed and parents prepare for the day ahead, there used to be a boy standing on the cliffs of Table Mountain howling for residents to prepare.

As the cold winter’s wind blew between the city’s dilapidated buildings, the boy carried his chest bare.

Every night, when darkness caressed the hallow suburbs, he’d reach his hands to the stars to capture the dreams above and bless the city’s people. He’d pray, and with the city’s Saints, petition for mercy.

On Tuesday morning, however, as soft dew gently kissed the city’s buildings, a faint memory was all that was left of the boy’s existence.

As a grey haired homeless man asked for the coins left in my pocket, I instinctively turned my face, adjusted my earphones, and simply ignored his request.

Walking past an impressive 11 story glass skyscraper, I acknowledged the defined wrinkles on the man’s face, yet, instead of having compassion for him, I tiptoed over the tar road and hurried on to the day ahead.

That day, while Capetonians diligently worked at their desks and the soft rain washed away dust and other imperfections, the rain cleansed the boy from our collective memory; his howling whispers inaudible to a deaf generation.

I always seem to forget that the boy died at 13. He stood in the corner, watching in disbelief as I considered reaching for pills in my mother’s bathroom cabinet. As my veins danced to the pulse of my rapidly beating heart and clung to my bones in distress, the boy cried as I surrendered to this broken world.

I was simply unable to carry the continued rejection. In this, humanity’s coming of age ritual, the boy, my soft heart, died and left my soul.

The boy was you, the boy was me. For some the boy died at the hand of human interference, for others he never existed. And for some he was intentionally killed to ensure individual progress. In a world fuelled by tit-for-tat politics, hatred and stubborn goals, the boy suffocated.  

Yet, while most have forgotten about this urban legend and the boy’s existence was relegated to dusty books in forgotten collections, he still somehow today roams the city streets.

Scarred and unnoticed, he weeps. Listen softly and you’ll hear your soft heart speak. Quiet now, listen – can you hear him breathe? 

  • James de Villiers is a reporter at News24 in Cape Town.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. 

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