Like many other guys in the ghetto, I dreaded waking up early especially during weekends.
The main reason was our residential yards were too small.
One could not do anything in confined places.
It was, therefore, not surprising that one ended up drifting to the small shopping centre as early as 8am.
By then, Zororo Sports Bar was yet to open for the day.
It did not stop us from going there that early. The usual crowd, like Rasta, Fatso, and Widza would not disappoint.
They would be there as sure as day follows night.
“If Baba VaTata comes looking for me, tell him he will find me at the shops,” I shouted over my shoulder at my wife, Mai Maidei.
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“Don’t you think it's still early to be at the shops doing nothing for a grown-up person like you,” she said, not too pleased with me.
Even then, I was already outside. And very soon, she was also going to leave our children alone for the market before all the vacant stalls were taken up by the other women.
It was a "dog eat dog” scenario.
She sold vegetables at her market which greatly supplemented our income.
Otherwise without that, the misery of existence was unbearable.
The earth would revolve and evolve and one would hardly notice.
As I arrived at the shops, the first person I noticed was Fatso. I was inclined to think that he lived his drab existence there.
It was always either him or the scavenging pack of dogs that were always fighting for tit bits of food in the bins.
Sometimes these dogs were a menace to the residents. They seemed to have no owners.
I tried to avoid Fatso. I was tired of his stories.
By the way we called him Putin. It was still too early to hear half truths of Eastern Europe, mainly the Ukraine War.
I was hopelessly thinking he would keep his peace. I was wrong.
“Did you watch the news last night?” he asked.
I shook my head vigorously.
“China sent a spying balloon over American airspace,” he said. I kept quiet.
“It was shot down,” he said.
I was thinking that if the Chinese were capable of sending balloons over USA, then they must have started this mission on Africa without getting detected.
Africa was too unprotected for an invasion.
Before long, we were joined by Rasta and others. The talk drifted to European football, which was a source of heated debate.
To hear them talk, one would think that they were professional soccer pundits.
Before long, my friend, Baba VaTata joined us. His water selling business was doing well.
Among us, he was probably the only one who could afford a decent life.
But on this morning, he was agitated.
“Can I see you?” He said.
It was obvious he could see me clearly, as I was standing only an arm’s length away from him.
He wanted to talk to me out of earshot of the others.
It was obvious that something was bothering his mind. I did not like this one little bit.
“Are you aware that there has been an earthquake in Turkey and Syria?”he asked.
By now we were standing a few metres away from the others.
And of course I was aware of the devastating earthquake.
The death toll was currently at 11 000 and with each passing minute, hopes of finding alive those still trapped under the rubble were fading.
But what had this to do with my friend?
An alarm bell began chiming in my head.
“My daughter had gone for studies in Turkey. She is missing.”
He dropped the bombshell. Then he started sobbing.
I tried to calm him. The others were by now looking at us.
“There is still hope. She can still be found,” I said.
"Has someone died!" said Fatso of all people. He could not just keep his mouth shut.
I then broke this piece of news to the others.
They all crowded round Baba VaTata, and they were all trying to give him hope.
I knew his daughter, Thandeka very well and did not want to believe the worst for her.
Not even for one moment had I thought that the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, half a world away, could affect us that close.
She was too young to die and for the sake of my friend, she had to be found alive, but that is the story for next time.
- Onwell Ndoro. For feedback, oniendoroh@gmail. comTwitter@Onie90396982