Some Kind of a Vagrant by Gerald P Manomano
“Hey, are you not hungry today?” I looked back; the Indian guy I had seen seated behind the counter was now standing at the door. He looked 40, I kept my gaze on him, figuring him out; was he one of those who practiced magic?
How did he know that I was hungry?
“Go on, take your food.” He said nodding towards the black PikiTup bin, I could not help but notice that the bin was very clean or maybe they had been supplied with a new one. I looked at the innocent and ugly looking bin and then back at him; was he having fun out of my situation? I wondered.
I started walking away, thinking of the next bin that I could scavenge for food, though the prospects of finding one were slim, especially on a Sunday.
“Hey my friend, look.” I stopped and kept on looking ahead trying to control myself. Seemed he wasn’t done with me; some people get their kicks insulting food scavengers I tell you.
I decided to physically give him my piece of mind.
I abruptly turned; a judo move that even Jackie Chan would have been proud of. The man didn’t see any of that because he had his upper body buried into the new bin; instead of using the element of surprise, fear paralyzed me. I just thought that he was retrieving a gun. South Africa has her own fair share of trigger happy citizens I tell you. To my relief his hand came out holding a khaki bag. The aroma of fresh chips wafted from the bag straight into my nostrils, my stomach growled loudly.
“Here, this is for you.” He said offering me the offending bag.
“I don’t eat food from the bin.” I still had my pride to consider; though I wanted to grab the bag and dash; more like slumber away.
“Come here, I want to show you something.” I followed him into his fast food shop.
“Sit there.” It was a command. I sat down facing the CCtv screen mounted on the wall; it showed the outside view where the PikiTup bin stood with vivid clarity and the street across the road too from end to end
He took two coke cans from the fridge and put one beside the unopened khaki bag. I didn’t wait for another invitation; I opened the coke can and took a small sip, not so sure whether to enjoy or just guzzle. I looked at him, our eyes met, he looked away. I took a sip then went on to open the bag; my mouth became flooded with saliva. There was a chicken thigh and breast and a large quantity of chips; it really was a double portion. I wondered how much the portion could cost.
I ate everything, crushed the bones to pulp and licked my fingers too. I took a swig from my coke can and let out a loud belch. Recalling the incident now makes me feel ashamed of my table manners.
Whatever, it was that time!
“Thank you so much. I’m Nyasha.” I said introducing myself, I wanted to give him a handshake but my fingers were sticky and I still wanted to lick them; we bumped our coke cans instead.
“Aakil is the name my friend.” I later learned that Aakil is a Muslim name, which means intelligent.
Yeah, I could see intelligence in Aakil’s eyes.
“So tell me, what do I owe you for the meal, and how do you think I can pay you, seeing the state I am?” I wanted to know.
“You don’t have to pay my friend. Let’s watch some TV.” Was he for real? My mind went on a spin, maybe he had laced the food with a sleeping drug; maybe he wanted us to watch some porn then abuse me later. I stood up; I was not going to lose my ‘virginity’ for a double portion.
“My apologies, I have to rush somewhere…” I said moving towards the exit.
“This won’t take long, I promise.” He was behind the counter, his hands busy with something out of my view; the CCtv screen changed from live feed to blank, then some showers, then some freezing images, then it started showing clear images; engraved below the screen was the date; 2008/10/05 and the time 09:23.
Sipping our cokes, we started watching.
I saw someone resembling myself approaching the shop from the east side of the road; the whole thing was so unreal and disturbing at the same time. The character in the motion picture was struggling to walk; he supported himself with a walking stick; He had lost weight. A Spar supermarket plastic bag was tied to his waist.
The character just crossed the road without even checking both sides; a black Nissan Navara nearly ran him over and the driver, a young black woman had to swerve to avoid him.
The person in the motion picture did not even seem to care; he just kept on walking as if nothing out of the norm had happened. I saw the driver putting out her right hand and pointed to the sky with her middle finger.
Nyasha the actor was only focused on the dirt PikiTup bin, he managed to cross the road without another mishap. He opened the bin and started rummaging. I saw him stopping whatever he was doing to take out something from his pocket; it was a cell phone.
It really was me, I remembered the phone call and could recall the conversation word for word; story of another day.
We kept on watching.
On the movie, Nyasha continued rummaging the bin, took out his findings and he put back the litter he had taken out to reach the treasure. He nicely closed the PikiTup bin. He looked so stressed and slowly he walked away from the bin.
“This really got me thinking my friend.” Aakil said while fast forwarding the tape.
“First, a street/mad man would rather sell the phone than go hungry. Secondly, I saw anguish on your face when you were talking on the phone. Lastly, a street/mad man do not put back the litter into the bin, in fact he litters.” Nice observations.
I had been reduced to; a vagrant, a man from the gutter, a homeless man, a beggar, a foreigner, scum of the earthy, dirt, stinking, suicidal…
A middle finger to you Robert Mugabe and to you too Morgan Tsvangirai for joining hands with a tyranny.
I ran out of middle fingers, I wanted to give one to Thabo Mbeki, George W Bush and Tony Blair.
“Tell me your story my friend.” Aakil wanted to know.
“I am from Zimbabwe.” I said for lack of a better opening.
“Say no further my friend. When is that old man going to die?” Aakil asked.
“I also want to know my friend.” I replied.