Leaving On A Jalopy

What’s worse? Waiting indefinitely for a person that’s convinced that they are doing you a favour even when you are paying them; or abandoning that feigned patience to board some motorized thing that they referred to as “a car” – some grand euphemism?

I boarded the car. This to an unfamiliar observer would somewhat seem like ignorance of monumental proportions but in reality was a colossal leap of faith. We had moved for less than a kilometer when I started to comfort myself that I had done what seemed to me a more pardonable blunder if it ever turned into that.

But hold. Even before I finished that thought, our dear jalopy stalled midhill. They said we should alight first. I know, my dear friend, that you don’t like this. I didn’t like it either. I also realize that if you are one given to omens, you are right now having a field day with this one. The car was overloaded, I think, but that’s an opinion I held alone.

Even with the fact that I have passed this way before and might have not noticed, it was a hot, surreal landscape, dotted with brush igloos called manyatta. We came to the place where I had my first puncture last time. Today, it looked like a scene from a badly done western movie.

Not one green thing. Even the acacia have the predominant grey-brownish hue that colours the ground and the rocks and the random goat (or ghosts of goats; I don’t see how anything could be alive here).

Still, we went rumbling along in this thing that has started filling its interior with diesel smoke. It was not pungent; it was sweetish and calming. Euphoric. Poisoning!

“Open the windows”, I shouted and screeched mine wide. No one else did. Look at this phenomenon- the air rushing in must have been hotter! I could feel it even as the sweat evaporated from me. And drier and dustier.

And here’s the place where I killed the small carpet viper. Not much to be said about it except that the road is now eroded at the sides and a pothole, but really not much difference to be found from other parts.

A baby pukes in the car. What a smell! The mother pretends to be concerned and looks apologetically around at faces that couldn’t have showed less concern. Except mine, that is, and her look lingers a moment longer on me as if to say defiantly “what?”. In that split second our eyes meet, this conversation takes place. Talking without talking

“(I think) I’m sorry, ma’am, but by God, what the fuck do you feed your kid?”

“I suckle her on my toes after I finish giving her some chicken droppings. Good stuff, you should try it!”

“Gag!”, I almost throw up.

“Yeah, screw you!” she says.

“And you, ma’am,” I return the nicety and turn towards the hot wind.

Later, tall sacks of charcoal by the roadside with no one manning them. A fellow passenger reads my mind. “For sale. The owner lurks nearby- not more that a kilometer away”, he says. “That’s in good range of a rifle”. I nod pretending to understand the common sense that they are secure from anyone that might want to pick them without paying. Strange people.

Half an hour later, my “guide” wants to alight. How do you know this is where you alight, I wonder audibly. “I know where I’m going. I live here”. No house, or footpath in any direction as far as the eye can see, just the desert with its rocks, bare sand and one or two stunted acacia in the distance if you look hard. Not even sure those aren’t mirages. It looks the same for miles around and yet he alights. Strange people. These fuckers must have a well-kept GPS secret.

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