“ Get busy living or get busy dying.” — Stephen King.
I packed my bags along with my basket. I put Malesela on my back once again and I had Hunadi alongside me as I headed to the taxi. I had been doing that for quite some time and the taxi drivers and everyone at the rank already knew me. I had one particular taxi driver Malome Joel who would always give me a ride home. I was usually the last one to be dropped off so he would normally wait for me. He would always save a seat in the front for my siblings and I. You know Siyaya taxis had a double seat in the front so it was a lot easier for me to put Hunadi on the seat in between the driver and I while I had Malesela on top of me. I was very good at Math too and I didn't need a calculator so I thought perhaps that was the reason why he didn't mind doing all of that for me. He smiled as I approached and I could tell the rest of the passengers were annoyed but they knew better than to say anything bad to Malome Joel because he didn't mind making anyone get off.
Malome Joel: (smiling) “Ao (oh) Bina Bina. You finally made it.”
Bina: “Askies (apologies) Malome (Uncle). It is a lot harder walking around with two kids.”
Malome Joel: (smiling) “Ska wara (Don't stress) man. You know I don't mind waiting.”
I could tell one of the older ladies right behind me were irritated.
Passenger: (annoyed) “Rena we do mind.”
Malome Joel: (peeved) “Wa bolela (did you say something)? This is my taxi so if you don't like how I operate abore gwa (take a hike)!”
She kept quiet instead. By then it was about 4pm. I usually made it to the taxi at 3:30pm but I got delayed that day. I went in and just kept quiet while Malome Joel kept asking me questions as usual. Multi-tasking has never been a problem for me. I could listen to him talk the entire trip while counting the money. The nice thing about him was that he never wanted me to pay for my trips so I would save the money for those afternoon rides every single day. I never even told my mother nor my grandmother; I mean they might have ended up getting the wrong impression about him more especially since they knew him as a family friend since he was friends with my Uncle.
Malome Joel: “So tell me about the book you were reading today.”
Bina: (excitedly) “Well it is called The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.”
Malome Joel: “Interesting. What is it about?”
Bina: “Well The Midnight Library is the place where Nora gets to find out. Where for an hour a day or a month she gets to dip into and sample lives where she made different choices with the ultimate goal of erasing those regrets and finding a life she's comfortable in.”
He was so interested as usual and allowed me to delve into the book and explain it all to him. I enjoyed that because no one at home had the time to listen to me talk about novels. I was talking about the book the entire way while he was listening attentively and also listening to people telling him where they wanted to stop. An hour later everyone had gotten off the taxi and then there was him and I and my siblings.
Malome Joel: “O tshwere ke tlala (are you hungry)?”
Bina: “Aowa (No).”
Malome Joel: “Bina you know very well you're hungry. I can hear your stomach growl all the way from my seat.”
He was right I was very hungry but I didn't want to take advantage of the situation and give him other ideas.
Bina: “Malome Joel I don't mean to be rude but I don't want you doing favours for me. People might get the wrong idea about you and I.”
Malome Joel: (frowning) “Relax Bina. I just want to see you o le shap (being okay). I hate seeing you throwing your life away like this when you are so intelligent. I know that you have bright future ahead of you but you are very brave to take on the role of the provider of the family. Buying you something to eat won't harm anyone. Look at Hilda she is even sucking her fingers. Let me just buy you food just this once.”
I was reluctant to be honest but I also didn't want to seem rude for rejecting his offer. I mean he was really nice to me and already I wasn't paying a single dime for all the taxi rides.
Bina: (hesitantly) “Okay.”
He smiled gladly and drove to the nearest Chicken lickin' drive through. He ordered a massive meal and I felt so horrible.
Bina: “Did you order for yourself as well?”
Malome Joel: “No this is all for you.”
Bina: (aghast) “Malome Joel I can't possibly accept this. Ko gae ba tla reng (What will my family say)?”
Malome Joel: “Don't worry I'll tell them I bought the food. Ska wara (don't you worry).”
I felt a little uncomfortable with the entire idea. It felt as if perhaps Malome Joel saw more than just a 16 year old girl who happened to be his friend's niece. Perhaps I was just over imagining things I really needed to stop over-analyzing things but my mind was not allowing me to stop. We finally made it to my house. I felt so guilty I didn't even want to touch the food in the taxi. Upon exiting I wanted to act like I had forgotten the food on the seat but he reminded me to take the plastic bag.
Bina: “Thank you.”
As I walked out
Malome Joel: (shouting) “Dumela Magogo (granny). Le kae na (how are you)?”
Koko: (smiling) “Hello Joel. We are fine how are you?”
Malome Joel: “I am always fine.”
Koko: “Kea bona o hlokometse setlogolo sa ka (I see you are taking good care of my grand child).”
Malome Joel: “Yes girls her age need to be taken care of really well. Ke mo reketse dijo o tla le sharela akere (I bought her some food she will share some with you okay)?”
Koko: “Oh dankie Joel. Ba ko gae ba dumele (greet your family for me).”
Malome Joel: “Oh I wanted to ask you something. Would it be okay for me to come pick up Bina in the morning? I mean since well winter is approaching it is not safe for her to travel via train at odd hours of the morning.”
Wow I wanted to die right there. He just decided to ask my grandmother for permission to pick me up without discussing it with me first. It felt something like he was asking for my hand in marriage or something. I mean the guy was 35 hence I enforced calling him Malome at all times. I had no words they were casually talking about me as if I didn't exist or as if I just didn't have any mind of my own.
Koko: “Go siame (It's alright). Banna ba go swana le wena ba hlokega (men like you are needed in this life) Joel.”
Malome Joel: “Alright ke tla le bona gosasa (I'll see you tomorrow).”
I felt instantly annoyed.
Koko: “Bina nko o beye ngwana di kobong (please put the baby to bed) and come help me with this laundry.”
My life basically revolved around being the home maker. I had literally just gotten into the house and already I had to get busy with chores. My brothers had just come back from school and they were not home which meant that they were most probably outside playing soccer with their friends. I didn't even have it in me to argue or sigh I just did as I was told. I helped my grandmother with folding the laundry and straight after that I had to cook because my brothers heard that I had brought Chicken Lickin' and they finished it way before dinner time along with my granny. That was a day in my life; and I had to repeat the process daily. I couldn't exactly say that I knew what happiness was but I could tell that my life didn't have any of it in it because all other kids my age who weren't doing what I was doing were forever smiling. After dinner my mother had made it home at about 6pm from doing people's laundry. That is what her day job was. She got cleaned up along with my brothers who came home at 5 and we had dinner. After that I had to do the dishes – no questions asked and I still hadn't cleaned up myself. The rest were watching Skeem Saam while I finally had a little bit of time to myself. I went to take a bath and get into my pajamas. I was about to sleep when my mother called me. Oh I felt like dying right there.
Mama: “Bina weh! Come here!”
Bina: “Yes Mme (mom)?”
Mama: (frowning) “Ke kwa ba re Joel o go reketje Chicken Lickin' (I hear Joel bought you some Chicken Lickin').”
She said that as if I had even the smallest bite when I didn't even eat any.
Bina: “Yes but my brothers and Koko ate it all.”
Mama: “Ke kwa ba re o tlo go lata mo gosasa (I hear he is going to fetch you tomorrow morning).”
Mama: “Okay le seke la be la nshiya (don't leave me). You guys can drop me off in town. I'll be working for a few clients there tomorrow.”
I rushed to my bed leaving so confused. I honestly thought she was going to reprimand me or ask me what Joel's intentions were with me but she was asking me for a lift. I mean why didn't she ask Joel? I couldn't even thank him for the food properly as I didn't even have a phone. I counted all the money I had saved so far from the free afternoon rides and I had saved R350. I made a mental note to get myself a phone. I mean just because I was basically one of the providers at home it didn't mean that I didn't deserve nice things. Selaelo had a cellphone but I couldn't even chat to her during the week because I didn't have one so I would always wait for Saturday to tell her everything. I worked on Saturdays too but I would knock off at 1pm. Sundays were church days so my entire week was pretty much filled come rain come sunshine. I needed to ask Selaelo what she thought about Joel's intentions. I mean perhaps I was the one who thought otherwise of him but I could never imagine myself dating such an old man. He was too old to even be my brother. I even heard that he was married; although I had never met his wife. I didn't want trouble all I wanted was to be able to finish my matric some day and possibly go to University. I said my prayers before I went to bed and came across Luke 18:27; “But he said “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Things seemed really impossible for my family but I knew that one day my time would come for as long as I put all my faith in the Lord.