The ghetto has no secrets


The bus ride to town was always full of drama. It was unusual to find a new face among the passengers.

The mini buses driven mostly by semi demented young men were always an option in case one failed to catch  the Zupco bus on time. Most of the mini bus drivers were always high on weed and partook hard substances which made them reckless on the roads.

Some of them would drive dangerously like daredevils through red robots and stop signs. And if there was an amplifier, the music would damage the eardrums permanently. I am not sure as to who told Africans that you can only enjoy music when it is blaring loudest?

It was therefore, little wonder that for some of us, the Zupco bus became the next best thing to safe public transport despite the gully-like potholes on some of the roads

Our driver was always the same white-haired old chap except for weekends when he was off duty. It was surprising  that after all this time, I still did not know his name. One odd thing about the driver is that he was always chewing something.

He reminded me of a cow chewing cud, the jaws always  grinding up and down.

It so happened that on this particular day, I boarded the bus in quite a jovial mood. And as usual I took my favourite seat right at the back of the bus by the window. Mabhatiri took the other corner and then Mai John, a very chubby woman, squeezed next to me.

She almost squashed me against the window, restricting the free circulation of air. Her cheap perfume almost suffocated me. As the bus filled up, we were joined by three other passengers to make us six at the back, packed like fresh kapenta.

The seats in front of us filled up very fast. I saw Rasta taking his familiar seat just behind the driver.

“Driver we are late, can we go now?” That was Sister Florence. She was always late and complained bitterly all the way to town.  She would start on a tirade as to how life was unfair to her and that since her husband had died, no man had as good as looked at her. And now she had to take care of her three children, all on her own. She was supposed to take the mini buses which drove recklessly faster. But for one reason or the other, she always found herself on the bus. Brother James,  a well known devout Christian came and occupied the seat just in front of me. Sometimes Brother James took to preaching in the bus and he was also known to do some street preaching. He was joined by Mai Sekai, one of the biggest gosssipers in the ghetto. She worked for an Indian family as a maid. I had never met the Indian family but I knew what they are, ate, drank and all about their culture and religion.

There was quite some noise which was coming from the passengers in the front row. However my attention was hooked to Brother James’ android phone. I could not help it as I could see that he was busy chatting with someone on WhatsApp. He was oblivious to everyone.

“I am not the father of your pregnancy,” he typed.

“ You are the only man I slept with all the time,” came the curt response from the other end.

“I don’t believe you. Don’t take me for a fool. You must go for an abortion,” he typed furiously.

By this time, my eyes were almost popping out at this intrigue. I felt sorry for Brother James. Things were looking bleak for him.

“How can you say that? I am not going for an abortion. You are a fake man of God.” The reply came back quickly.

“Stop that, you will destroy my reputation. You know I can’t marry you. We were just playing,” he responded.

At this point, I am not sure what happened. I saw his body stiffen as he suddenly looked backwards. Our eyes met instantly and before I could do anything he suddenly stood up from his seat. The seat had suddenly become too hot for him. “Oh my God!.” He groaned. He was frightened and nervous.  He gave me one last look as he moved forward to the front row. I was ashamed of myself. I had surreptitiously allowed curiosity to get the better of me. Indeed curiosity killed the cat.

I was embarrassed for being caught red handed. He was nervous. I was afraid for him. I hope he was not going to do anything stupid. The ghetto has no secrets. When I looked at Mai John who was sitting next to me, she looked amused. It seemed she was also guilty of reading the chats on Brother James' phone.

By the time we reached our destination I had already made up my mind to keep this to myself. This had nothing to do with me. When I disembarked from the bus, I was a bit taken aback to  see Brother James waiting nervously for me. There was an awkward silence at first. I was quite perplexed.

“I can explain this, please don't let this out,” he pleaded. I was equally embarrassed for being a peeping Tom. I shrugged my shoulders and quickly moved away. His secret or scandal was safe with me. He had to reckon with Mai John who had also peeped at his chats.

Privacy in the ghetto is like gold which is ever elusive to fortune seekers.

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