City Diaries: Fast, Faster, Fasting

I had exactly five minutes to walk from the post office to the bus stop in order to catch the next bus scheduled to leave at 15:15.

I walked briskly in the manner that I was accustomed to. ‘Power walking’ was a characteristic that most people I knew who used public transport had. It even manifested itself when I was in shopping malls. There was no slow dragging of feet or leisurely dawdling.

I saw the bus standing at the bus stop with its destination emblazoned on the top in red lighting. I approached its side preparing myself to embark upon the steps to the driver’s window so that I could hand him my clipcard. Instead, the doors shut abruptly. I locked eyes with the driver and mouthed my destination. He turned to face the road and I heard the bus’ engine cough and splutter in acceleration.

My shocked face stared at my watch: 15:14. The next bus would only come at 16:20 and what would I do for that hour?

I tilted my body and began to run parallel to the road. I passed lines of people queing to buy their weekly and monthly clipcards. I passed the Somali vendors at their stalls. I felt the fabric of my long dress get swept up in the momentum, exposing my leggings underneath.
“What’s the point of wearing a long dress if you’re gonna wear leggings underneath? You may as well wear pants.” I remember a friend telling me incredously. She drove in everyday, ofcourse. Her leg movements limited to depressing the clutch, break and accelerator pedal of her car. She did not cross roads on the Foreshore, where the wind propels womens’ dresses above their legs and exposed it to passersby.

I was running in the direction of the wind and my scarf was blowing in it leaving a trail of viscose fabric behind me like a cape.

I felt my lungs expanding with every breath, every muscle and sinew in my body collaborating to propel me forward. Against gravity and the crowds, I felt my high heeled boots hit the uneven tarred ground.
The robot turned red and the bus was forced to stop. I left the pavement and proceeded to knock against the door until the driver could ignore me no longer. I heard the release of air that signified ‘open sesame’ and lifted my dress slightly as I walked up the stairs.

I breathed heavily as the driver held my clipcard in his hand, poised to clip it, attempted to catch my breath.
“Do you know,” I said, trying to steady myself, “I’m fasting and I ran after you?” I swallowed to appease my parched throat. “We don’t give up.” I said, taking back my clipcard and walking through the aisle of the bus towards a seat.
Who are the we of whom I spoke? The generations of my family that travelled with public transport? I thought of my mother clutching my hand as we navigated the crowds of Wynberg train station, taking two trains and a taxi to visit my grandparents. I thought of my grandmother who had clutched me to her body when a man opened fire at Athlone taxi rank. I thought of my grandfather balancing grocery packets in one hand and me in another as we commuted to the shop and back home. I thought of my father who I ran across the road to follow at Salt River station.
We don’t give up indeed.

The passengers in the bus stared at the shaking, flushed figure that I was. I knew that none of that had instructed the driver to stop on my account. And I hadn’t needed them to.IMG_20170619_152425_911.jpg


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