Landisa: Living on the Cape Flats – hell is a place called home

2019-12-06 08:42
Isaac Meyer (supplied)

Isaac Meyer (supplied)

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The sun peeks through my window as it beckons in a new day. A lone ray hits my ageing face and the alarm screams. "I must have run out of ink while I was drawing my curtains," I think to myself as I stumble out of bed. I draw the curtains back and crack open the window. 

The smell of Mandrax fills the air as it finds its home inside my nostrils. How ironic is it that I'm up while the drug addicts are coming down from their all-night highs. They haven't slept. I know this because the dog has been barking for most of the night.

The jangle of metal pierces my eardrums as I brush my teeth in preparation for the day. What else can a convicted felon do but sell scrap metal? It doesn't matter whether their kids starve as long as the addiction is fed. The sun is the only light I've seen since last night. There's a candle next to my bed but load shedding is the last thing I have to worry about where I'm from. The cable thieves were hard at work again. 

Silence is gold-plated. I've been woken up by the neighbours' fighting long before the coffee could ever do its job. If only I could freeze-dry abusive marriages and pitch them to Mugg & Bean I'd be rich; but alas, I sit here smoking my last cigarette wondering how I got here. 

I tie my laces before I head on out. It's just after 08:00 and already the streets are littered with people. There's a group of boys sitting on the pavement. I must have gotten the Capitec logo tattooed on my forehead in my drunken stupor last night because someone just asked me for a R5. 

Even though they're unemployed, they still find a way to work on my nerves, an occupation that doesn't offer medical aid or provident fund. One of them just told me someone got shot last night. I wouldn't have known since the sirens don't scream through the streets anymore. The heart stops, the body drops and the coroner rolls out. 

I take the shortcut through the park en-route to a little convenience store. It's run by foreigners and I'm reminded of how we own nothing. As usual, there's broken glass and drug paraphernalia everywhere. The last three remaining pieces of play equipment have been vandalised and sold to illegal scrap metal dealers in the neighbouring squatter camp. 

My friend just got out of jail today so they're huddled around him. He's telling stories from the brown building as they shoot dice by the jungle gym. I'm greeted in prison slang and I reciprocate with the appropriate hand gesture. This might be the last time I see any of them. A sad yet comforting reality. There's nothing for them in this place, this world, this life.

The parolee's girlfriend is nearby with a baby on her hip. She barely made it to high school and she's leaving again. One would think the price of nappies would deter these children from procreation. The allure of free money is too great to resist. Who would say no to three days' worth of heroin? If only our illustrious government would consider giving out vouchers instead of money I think we'd be alright. 

The entrance to the convenience store is the meeting place for the unemployed. There's music blaring from a tiny speaker connected to a cell phone, a cell phone that has never known a job application, never seen Careers24. The shopkeeper keeps the gate locked after someone stole a jar of mayonnaise. I laugh a little but he's not wrong for doing that. Everybody needs burglar bars these days. The cigarettes here taste a little different but I buy them anyway.

We know not to cross the border into Mongrel gangster territory. The side where I'm from is governed by the Six Boppe gangsters. I still don't understand how people could kill each other over turf that belongs to the city. That's why I don't wander too far from home. I could be mistaken for a hitman from a rival gang, and to be honest, I don't have enough leave days to be laying at Groote Schuur hospital. 

I feel something tugging at my pants and I turn around. There's a little girl dressed in a dirty t-shirt and shorts staring up at me. Before she could ask, I give her some change, but not before asking her why she's walking around by herself. All she wants is a packet of chips today, a drink with her friends tomorrow, a heroin injection by the age of 15.

What is life? I don't know. All I know is that hell is a place called home.

Do you have a story to share? Send it to landisa@news24.com and include your contact details and a photo. Visit Landisa for more stories.

Read more on:    gangsterism  |  gangster  |  cape flats  |  landisa
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