Ghetto dances: The ghetto is a battleground for survival


I knocked off early from work. It was only possible because Jim had come early for his shift.

He seemed to be in a jovial mood. Only the previous week he had confided in me that Chipo had finally accepted his proposal and they were now dating.

Apparently I later learnt that he had confided about this to almost everyone at work.

“You can knock off early if you want,” said Jim.

“Are you sure about this?” I asked.

“Look, here is her photo, she is beautiful,” he said.

I left him staring at the small screen of his cracked android phone.

He was in  love indeed. I hurried away before he could come back to his senses.

On another day, knocking off early from work could have excited me.

I was broke without a dollar to my name.

Several times I had tried to change jobs but without success.

I trudged wearily home from work. The weight of the day’s stress bore heavily on my shoulders.

I realised then that as they say, "Money is the root of all evil.”

Without it, it can kill you and with more of it, it can still kill if you are not careful enough.

I was passing Section F; new houses were being built.

I caught sight of a UD Nissan truck parked by the side of the road.

A man was bustling back and forth from the truck, hoisting heavy bags of cement.

The bags were piled high and the sweat was glistening on the man’s forehead.

There was a small group of children gathered around the truck, watching the man work with keen interest.

This was a common occurrence in the ghetto. There was too much watching.

The watching started at an early age and with time it was easy to become full time gossipers.

I felt a pang of curiosity and wandered closer to the truck.

“Hey, you there,” the man called out.

"You look like you could use some extra cash. Want to help me unload these bags?,” he said.

I hesitated only for a fraction of a second.

The thought of earning some extra money was enough bait.

"How much?" I asked cautiously.

“Fifteen dollars for one hundred and five bags," said the man. I had never seen him before.

I did some quick mental math. It was a daunting task, but the promise of a little extra cash appealed to my empty pockets.

 It was winter, Maidei, my daughter could do with a new school jersey.

“Deal,” I said.

He gave me a pair of dirty gloves. Each bag weighed 50kg and I had to lift them from the ground to a nearby stack.

The first few bags felt like a tonne. My muscles screamed from the strain and ache.

Sweat poured down my face and over my eyes.  My mouth suddenly became dry from the cement dust. I began to cough.

My nostrils felt dry, like there was no oxygen passing through.

Bag after bag I trudged on. I fell several times under the crashing weight.

The man would give me a strange look.

A broke man is hard to beat sometimes. I summoned all my courage.

Each step assured me of victory. With each bag carried, I was earning a little bit more money.

It was hard work, but it's honest work, enough cause to feel a sense of pride.

The last ten bags I carried strained all my muscles. After what seemed like several hours, I carried the last bag.

My arms and legs were trembling like reeds being blown by the wind. I spawled on the ground, deadbeat..

It was already too dark. In that section, there was no electricity, not that it mattered as the power was always switched off most of the time.

The man handed me the crisp notes. I counted the money carefully. After the toiling, you don't want to be cheated like what often happens.

I could hardly walk. I dragged one foot after the other. What I need was a hot bath and a hot meal.

I was hopeful that Mai Maidei had prepared supper by the time I reached home.

I was hoping that it was not one of those days she came home late from the market.

I decided to pass through Zororo Bar and quench my dry throat with one or two beers.

That was mistake number one. Common sense should have told me to go home straight away.

There was no electricity. There was darkness everywhere.

As I turned into Shumba Street, two men suddenly emerged from the dark and pounced on me. 

They frisked my pockets, took the money and vanished into the darkness, all in a split second.

When this happens to someone else, you don't feel the burden.

I swore and swore all the un printable words I could think of.

All my hard-earned money was gone, gone just like that. It is indeed true that a poor man dies several times before he finally meets his maker.

The ghetto is a battleground for survival.

* With  Onie Ndoro : educationist, ghost writer, IELTS Tutor.

For feedback: email [email protected]/Follow Twitter@Onie90396982

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