A depressed young woman gets an unexpected boost
Aneesa rounds the corner, cupping her hand over her forehead to shield it from the rain. The black jacket, at least five years old, bought at
Pep, has a slack elastic and zipper that have long since stopped functioning. December, almost there. Walking down the street past the houses en route to the bus terminus, Aneesa smiles wanly. Empty streets, at 7.20 in the morning. People sleep late, or call in "sick." Past the primary school, duck the dogs, and into Leibrandt Street. Anyone watching her would wonder why this untidily dressed woman (Not-so new jacket, skew scarf, squinty eyes, well-worn boots) takes a roundabout route to her own house.
Almost at the taxi rank. Aneesa loves the smell of the air when it rains. Simultaneously clean and musty. Yes. Cleanse the Earth. Rid it of pain, suffering, disappointment... "Sara!" Aneesa's head swings around to the right, then promptly to the other side. Who is calling? Who? She's the only living soul walking in the street.
"Is it her?" "Yes, it looks ...it's her!" Aneesa is puzzled at the barely contained excitement in the voices. Two old people, standing in a doorway, looking straight at her. Aneesa stops, almost sorry that she has to dim the expectant light in their eyes. They look so fragile , as if one more disappointment will break them. "No," she decides, turns her head and walks on.
Who is Sara? More importantly, what was that momentary sensation she had when she heard the old woman's voice? It had been strangely uplifting. "Bonteheuwel!" the taxi guard shrieks. Aneesa runs, relieved to get out of the rain.
5 December, 7.05 am. Two more weeks before leave starts. Complete all work, then enjoy two weeks of full-blown idleness. Aneesa smiled at the prospect. Don't open a single document. Book. Or file. As if. learning to not overkill
is a skill she has yet to learn. Spent the whole morning ignoring her husband. Filthy liar. Leopards and their spots notwithstanding. Now the stove won't be fixed, she can't bake for her child's party. Third time she'd borrowed for that purpose. Nothing gets fixed.
Rounds the corner. Aunty Nazli shouts from her balcony, "Assalaamu Aleikum! Enjoy your day!" "You too," Aneesa returns, trying not to sound like she feels.
Past the school.. The black Audi is always there first. Dedicated teacher? Or trying to get away from his family? Perhaps trying to beat the traffic. Again, the school and the road are otherwise empty. Just Aneesa and her...thoughts. The caregiver walks past; Aneesa greets her as usual. As usual, the caregiver greets back softly, her face expressionless. Must have had a tough night, or perhaps will have a tough day. It is not in everyone's character to take care of sick people; you really have to love helping others. A memory strains to break through her negative firewall. She used to be like that, when she first started out.
Rounding the next corner, she looks to the left anxiously, almost afraid of running into the two old people. Yesterday afternoon she changed her route, but now there is no time. No time.
Past the house. Aneesa breathes a sigh of relief. Then, peripherally, she sees it. The door on the left opens. Momentarily, her heart skips a beat. Involuntarily her head whips around. This time the old woman leaves the doorway and runs towards the gate, a smile brightening up her wrinkled grey face. Aneesa wants to run, but the expression on the old woman's face stops her. The expectant look of yesterday has been replaced by one of unadulterated joy. As if in slow motion, she watches the old woman runs across the street, in her direction, oblivious of everything around her. If aneesa had not been so perplexed, she would have laughed at the spectacle of age running to meet youth. The old man was standing in the doorway, with an unreadable expression on his face. Arms outstretched, the old woman rushes tto meet Aneesa.
Up close, for just a second, the face looks familiar. Her mother's face, deceased now for thirty years, as she would have looked now.
Aneesa shakes herself out of her reverie. Ridiculous, this. She turns on her heel, determined to never walk down this street again if it can be helped. Life is complicated enough, and today she will have a sulking boss on her back for being late. Then she hears the screech. Two screeches. One human. One that of tyres forced to an abrupt stop. Then the sound of something being knocked over.
Onlookers later reported that the young woman was standing in the middle of the road, staring at nothingness, speaking into the air, appearing oblivious to her surroundings. The onlooker had been the only witness, since the road, as usual at 7.20 in the morning, had been otherwise empty.