The Silent Revolution
Crash bam clang boom clang smack… was the reluctant sound erupting from the house? Each noise as that of an untuned string being plucked at will. The sight of this little lump of a house would deceive you into thinking that the people who lived there lived quite a sombre living. The fact was far from it. Inside this clod of insignificance, something quite momentous was happening, a revolution of sorts.
Tring the school bell clanged. Perfect white uniforms flooded the hallways. A rushing overwhelming noise of children stampeding for freedom. Then silence!
Stefan, an 18-year-old boy emerged slowly walking with a steady thud. His limbs were hanging from him slowly cantering with each soft thud. His blond head was hanging low, weighted by the pulse of his heart. He stopped for a moment at a signpost and read “BANTUSTANS ROER DIE KAFFERS!” The words penetrated his thoughts he looked around and saw her the darkness of her beauty.
He saw her face in the images of martyrdom lacquered on lampposts around town. Passing each sign a slight tang erupted in his heart. It reminds him of his deep painful affection, an affection that even by Shakespearian standards were unmatched. You see his story was not some fictional tragedy but a very real, very painful catastrophe.
With cartoon-like style, the boys around him jumped into the forefront of his attention. They were all his age, well built and the pride of their respected families. He saw the last of their innocence dripping away as he approached. His revolution was starting right now.
A revolution is often characterised by guns blazing, troops storming, and camaraderie to echo into eternity. This revolution although full of blazing and storming was a solitary revolution one which silently shifted the lives of many and yet will never be found in the history books.
A flicker of happiness flashed across his face as he remembered the times they had, times of camping and playing “tok-tokkie”. He remembered them smoking their first cigarette together, he remembered sharing the first beer, but that quickly sunk to the bottom. The expressions before him were vile, like a poisoned ocean beating against the sands of innocence. No mere memory of joys in the past could exorcise the demons present on their faces.
“Look who it is” the freckled boy hissed. “Ou Stefan”. Another retort. “Why the long face?” freckles asked, “Aren’t we good enough company for you anymore?” “Ja, he prefers a different kind of company now” “Or shall we rather say you weren’t good enough company for us!” “Fokken Kaffer Naaier” he added. Stefan squirmed as his friends flank him like a flock of hungry vultures. “Today we were going to moer the kaffer out of you!” they justified as they closed in. The freckled boy took the first shot and each after that came in quick succession. Each punch made a soft sound. thump, thump, Thump, Thump, THUMP, THUMP. Eventually, the vultures drifted away leaving behind a bloodstained pavement and a lump of flesh.
Each revolution is characterised by those who oppose it and their last whimpering attempts at euthanasia.
Soft droplets of rain ushered Stefan back to consciousness. The summer rain cleansing the palate of the earth mutilated by the taste of aggression. Stefan whimpered to his feet and journeyed home. His mind was dull and thick, but through this haze, one question erupts “Why?”
The answer, though obvious in nature was complex by design. “Why did he get beat up by his friends who have been by his side for the last 18 years?” That was not the question he had, rather “Why does colour make such a difference?”
A low murmur filled the room as Stefan sat beside the bathtub his pain streaming down his face. His glistening cheeks showing the dull roar of the ache inside him. He gently lowered himself into the tub. He started shaking while he scraped away the last few ounces of pain from his battered body.
Each revolution leaves deep-seated marks upon its participants. Marks that justify the fight but not the injustices.
Bam he heard the front door close. “Stefan, where were you?” His mother shouted. “I’m here Ma!” he replied as he emerged from the bathroom. “What the hell happened to you?” she asked shocked by his state. “Nothing” he mumbled. “Well, I hope you bliksemed the other guy properly, I did not raise a moffie.” His mum trudged off with a bunch of groceries in her hand musing about the feast she had in mind. Allowing his mum some space Stefan retreated to his room. He remained there for a while, allowing his bed to offer a moment of peace before the storm. For he knew it was only a short while before the news infected the community and the disease started festering in his own home. He drifted into a solid…deep…dead…sleep.
Each revolution was marked by moments of still breath where each side of the argument draws in peace and attempts to rest.
As Stefan was dreaming, a dream that will be brutally interrupted let me explain to you what might not be clear. The year was 1961 the place was South Africa. A place and time where racial hatred ran rampant and race justifications were the basis for what many would now call crimes against humanity. In this dismal age, we find Stefan a young 18-year-old grappling with feeling that he was taught never to feel, things he was told his entire life would move God to swift judgment and action.
“Boom crash klang” Stefan sat up with one swift motion, he anticipated this. He knew from the moment he saw her that this would happen. That the world, which was so forcefully constructed, would come tumbling down. He could faintly hear the low thud of his father’s footsteps. “Where ithss the fucking bathsstard ” “No Frederik, what does he do?” his Mother asked. “You thsay out offff my ffffucking way women?” “Kom hier jou klein bliksem”.
Stefan swiftly jumped out of his bed before his father’s lunge found its placement. He rushed around and trying to evade his father’s grasp. Running around he tried to dodge his father’s blazing fists of fury. “You fucking bastard. Tonight I’ll donner the kaffir out of you. Before his dad could land a boozed punch, he quickly manoeuvred himself out of reach.
For a moment, everything in the room stood still. Stefan looked at his mother, he saw the frayed dress the tattered shoes he took in this moment as if it was the last nibble of a sweet chocolate. He saw in her eyes years of self-denial, her blue shoulders were slightly malformed. He saw the pain when she looked at her husband. As she looks to him, he saw the pain as the last of her dreams crumbled to the floor.
She returned with a look of nostalgia. Seeing the innocence in his brow, the gentleness of his eye and softness of his voice. She saw the five-year-old sitting in the mud building dreams from clay clots. She saw his kids locked in the inflexions of his gaze.
At once, the stillness in the room collapsed as Stefan grabbed his jacket and ran out. Behind him, he heard the clamber the plumps of his father’s footsteps as he tried to catch up with him he looks back and saw his father crashing into a wall behind him.
He jumped off the porch taking one big stride after clearing the yard he looked back. He saw his father wheezing behind him. He stopped and looked at a man that society has devoured. He wonders if his father when planning his own future could ever have thought that this could happen. “I am going to kill that kaffir!” he shouted as Stefan turned around and darted off.
A revolution is marked by men spending nights crossing echoes of land trying to attain freedom.
The sun reluctantly rose over the township as inhabitants of this cluster of cohabitation started slowly emerging from their houses. A giant beautiful tree clumped one such house; a 17-year-old girl emerged from the house. She walked quickly to the tree and sat underneath it, she softly and slowly started to heave as the tears left her face. She was crying because once again her brother was in her case. “Ayanda, we must fight!” he said as he came out into the yard. “I don’t want to fight!” she protested. “I have seen what these men do; they will never stop killing our people.” “Should we then stop fighting”? “No…yes…I don’t know”. An elderly man walks out of the house. “Leave your sister alone to come inside and eat”
They left Ayanda alone and she continued crying. She knew she was supposed to fight she knew she should stand up for her people, but she could not. Fighting meant death, which might mean hurting him. Things used to be clear to her; she used to sit by this tree and dream of a wonderful future. Marrying a man and having kids. Now there was no hope for her she can’t marry the one she wants too.
Just as she started lifting him from her memory bank, she saw something moving. A light flicker in the distance. She saw him. “No.” She thought. “No! Why was he here? What has happened?” He was running. He then looked her and he gestured something to her with his arms. She couldn’t make out what he was saying, but she could see his lips “Inside”.
Kluck–a-kluck Kluck-a-kluck. An earthquake of fear was released. People started shouting they scurried to hide away. The street which a few moments ago was waking from a nights slumber now died down to a sullen quiet all that could be heard was the low of the engines
Ayanda sat stuck under the tree paralysed by fear. Her brother shouts. “Ayanda, Ayanda” he rushed towards her and grabbed her. “Get inside” he shouted. She started yelling holding onto the tree clawing to stay put her brother pulled her off and started to drag her inside. The last thing she saw was a white boy running his knees giving way under the hurt and pain of running through the night. The pain of running his entire life.
As they sat in the small room all close together, nothing could be heard but the klucks outside. Each person’s breathe was audible. The trucks neared. Kluck-a-kluck, kluck-a-Kluck, Kluck-A-Kluck, BANG. “NOOOOAAOAAAOA” Ayanda shouted and her shouts turned into a loud painful sob. Her mother grasped her closely trying to calm her down but to no avail. The klucks faded into the distance. Finally, Ayanda’s mother released her. She ran out to the street. First, she looked down the street, for a moment brief moment there was hope as she saw nothing, then she turned around and saw him. To make sure that it was he she moved closer, slowly step-by-step. She stopped and her hope cluttered as she fell to her knees. Her crying echoed in the township, bouncing off the compressed zinc housing. She was holding onto him. She pulled him onto her lamp the tears raining down on his face.
A revolution often leaves untold love stories; the only remnant of these stories is the red stains they leave on dusty grounds.