Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Blog love: east and west of the airport

One of my very dearest friends is probably also one of the best writers I know - which is saying a lot but I've met a boatload at this point. Her blog east and west of the airport, much like this blog, is not about anything in particular. It's more a running commentary on her experiences with gender, poverty, privilege, public transportation in Cape Town and whatever else she feels like writing about. Well worth following.

This week's post cut me deep. I think so often issues of race and gender, power and disempowerment, get simplified to fit neat editorials and M&G ThoughtLeader blog posts and all the messy, fairer but more confusing subtleties get glossed over. Sometimes to the point that it's no longer meaningful to even be having that conversation anymore. I quite liked this piece though because it's a careful and honest soul-searching on what is often unsaid about how we perceive our richness or poorness or relative power. And even through my blackness and my Joburg-ness I can totally relate to her experience. I feel like it could have been me sitting in that car, talking to that drunken hobo. And isn't that kind of what great writing is always supposed to do? Take you somewhere, hold your heart in place, make you stop, leave you changed.

Yesterday, as I was making my way to a friend's house, I stopped at the lights at Stanhope and Main and a man came to my window.

"Two for five rand," he said, and rattled a pair of wooden maracas through the window.
"No thanks," I told him.

"It's for my daughter," he replied.

"I'm sorry," I answered, "but no." The man's breath smelt bitter and alcoholic. So I made a judgment call. And yes, on the seat next to me was a bottle of birthday bubbly for my friend. But while the rich are allowed their frivolous purchases, the poor must be responsible (and the rich must be paternalistic). It's not as though their impoverished lives limit their freedom in so many other ways, no-no, no-no. No drink for you.
So that's what I told him, "No."

He kept shaking the maracas, kept asking, kept begging. I sat there on my throne and alternated between "no" and "I'm sorry." Sorry for so many things, but that's for another time. And then, then he tries a different line: "If you don't give me money, then give me sex."

Just go read the whole thing.

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