Rwanda... Darfur... Congo... Zimbabwe... South Africa... the city where I live... my neighbourhood...
Insanity prevails. Violence ravages. Respect is a little heard of thing. Life may be taken for one pound or less. I'm sick of pretending. Hoping, wishing that everything will be okay, is okay. It's not. It's broken. Maybe we can blame colonialism. But ultimately, whatever our pasts, it's up to us in the here and now to put things right. And we're not. There are those who are intent on consistently preying upon others. Those who like the terror that threat and violence brings.
Tell me... Have you ever had to think about how to kill someone? Really? Have you ever wondered whether you'd even be able to do it? Probably not. It's not what nice, normal people living in relatively sane societies have to do, is it? Tonight I've had to think about how to kill someone. It makes me feel as though I am tormented by a thousand devils. Makes me hysterical. Only I can't afford to be hysterical. I have to be sane enough, rational enough to protect myself, save my life - and that may mean taking the life of another. Welcome to my Africa.
Six hours ago I was driving home. Minding my own business when I noticed a delivery van had driven up behind me and was edging closer and closer. I took a good look in my rear view mirror. Two guys. Watching me. Okay, I thought, they don't look too friendly. But they probably just want to get past me. I couldn't change lanes - the other lane was backing up with slower traffic. So I accelerated a little. They acclerated. I put my foot down and took off. I've learned to trust my intuition and it was screaming at me. "You're being followed." No. I don't want to be followed. I'm being paranoid. "No, you're not." I know that voice. I made the mistake of not listening to it once before. I zipped in between two trucks in the slow lane, nearing my offramp. The van pulled into the same lane. I pulled onto the offramp. They pulled onto the offramp. I headed right to turn into the arterial road. They headed right. Came up right behind me. Watching. It was the watching you see. It was intense, predatory. Blank masks of faces. Staring. Eyes boring through me. Why me? What had I done? Had I somehow offended them? What did they want? My pulse started to race. You're being paranoid, I told myself again. "No, you're not. They're following you." But why, why would they follow me?
I took a small gap between two oncoming cars and shot across the intersection and bolted up the road. They couldn't make the gap. They had to wait. Then there they were, 500 meters behind me. Two cars between them and me. They veered across the road, back, across into the pedestrian lane. Watching. Keeping an eye on me, making sure they didn't lose me. I didn't dare pull off into my road. Keep going. Drive somewhere public. You'll know then if they're following you. I got caught in traffic at the traffic circle. They moved closer. I sped away. They followed - the quarry well in sight. At the next traffic circle I turned left, pulled into the parking lot of the small local shopping centre. I ducked into an empty parking bay. Watched. There they were. They'd turned into the parking lot too. They were looking. They spotted me. Drove over... slowly - edging closer, stalking the prey. Watching. They drove up behind me, inching forward, paused behind my car, peered into my vehicle - at me, edged on again, creeping forward. The beast waits to pounce. I locked my doors, sat, waited... I couldn't see them, the huge SUV next to me blocked any view. But I knew they were there. I could sense them, feel them... Rank scent on the breeze. The van appeared behind me. Stopped. Waited. I waited, my heart beating in my ears. What did they want? Why me? What was going to happen next? A guy appeared at my window. Round face, wraparound shades. Thickset, stocky.
"I want to talk to you."
"What to you want?" I sounded aggressive, take no shit, take no prisoners. Don't fuck with me.
"I want to buy your car."
"It's not for sale."
He watched me, smiled - a narrow soulless gash across his face. He nodded. Was it knowingly? He moved away. Got back into the van. I couldn't have left if I'd tried. He was blocking my exit. I waited. He edged forward. Nothing for it. I got out of the car. Walked to the supermarket. Lurked behind the flower stand. Watched. They drove level with the supermarket. Stopped. Waited. Watched me. Looked back, watched my car. One took out a mobile phone. The other scribbled something on a piece of paper.
I need to get their registration! The thought flashed into my mind. Determined, I stalked towards them. They saw me coming - took off. Swept out of the parking lot. Gone.
But see, here's the thing. Here you trust no one. Everyone knows a man who knows a man. They might have my registration. They might be able to get my home address. They might come back. I don't know.
I drove home the long way round. I didn't know where they might be waiting, if they might be waiting.
Tears trickled down my cheeks. I was too afraid to be angry. I felt so disempowered. So threatened. I'm tired of the stress. Sick of the fear. This is no way to live. This is rank insanity. This is how we all live. For some it is so much worse. Traumatic stress disorder is a part of our lives. Welcome to my Africa.
This is not my home. This is some strange and violent war zone where terror lurks around every corner, in broad daylight, at night. I am not African.
The burglar alarm is armed. The doors are locked, the security doors bolted, the windows shut, the burglar bars in tact. My can of mace stands ready. My pepperball gun is armed. I know I have to aim at the base of the nose. This will blast the nasal membranes which will shatter and drive up into the brain... Welcome to my Africa.
It is time to say goodbye.
(Image used in this post... courtesy of the internet.)