Thursday Evening in Elim

Elim market women with bottle store in the background.

Elim market women with bottle store in the background.

When the market women pack their things and fill the taxis, the setting sun begins to beg young girls to go home. Before the taxi rank becomes a maze of groping hands. Men grab our limbs like funeral meat, between would be compliments of “yha baby!” from breath of Zamalek.
“These taxi drivers don’t mind to drink and drive us home,” one woman says.
The driver growls his laugh, and over a screaming radio shouts, “come in and stop wasting our drinking time.”
And I, dodging his eyes, climb inside the taxi that will deliver me to my mother’s house. A big fat woman won’t budge at all so I get to know the window. And the taxi driver speeds off.

Half a blasting song down the road, a crowd is gathered around two small children and a car. I can’t tell you where the silence came from or where the speed went. As we slowly pass by, the women lift themselves from their seats to peep outside the windows even though they were shuddering already. One is dead, one child that is. The other is flailing her arms and screaming something the glass won’t let me hear. The women sit back down and cluck their tongues, their feathers ruffled.
“Eish, the mother” they all say to each other.

I can’t look. I don’t want to do that to my heart. In order to keep it unbroken I force my eyes to stay away from the ground. Next to the car I see a man with his hands over his head and an ocean swelling in his eyes. My heart breaks anyway. Yes, a child has died. But someone else’s child has killed today. All of a sudden the sun has had it with us. For the rest of the way we search each other’s eyes for sense in the darkness. The driver says nothing. When we reach home I hand him a ten Rand note. Tonight he gives my change without grabbing my hand. Instead he looks at me, and I look at him too. Tomorrow we will drive down this road again. And I wonder, will I still be human then?


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