“Beep! Beep! Move man move!” an annoyed taxi driver yells as the traffic lights change from red to green. It’s scorching hot and the sun’s heat punishes the city of the power hungry: Jozi. Women pulling their children furiously across the road respond to the taxi man with irritated smirks. The air is hot and moist. Everything here is bigger and moves as fast as quicksilver.
It’s been months since my mother died in our matchbox of a house and it feels as if it’s been centuries since I escaped the foster care system that used many of my siblings and I for grant money. The escape, however, was short lived as the crime and violence I’d tried to avoid in Thembisa was in abundance when I landed upon Jozi.
The city is riddled with an immense number of thieves that vary such that some are quick and obvious in their daily grind whilst others are patient and disguise themselves in suits. The “quick” gain little for a short while, whilst the “suits” garner large amounts of money that is enough to last an eternity. They have one goal in common: survival, which begs the question “Are you the man for the job?”
“Alright, alright Jabu I’m impressed with your recent piece of work you’ve done well, I think you are ready to work with big boys now,” my Pakistani employer, Mr Malik, applauds me. He is a “suit” and believes himself an honest man. He is in fact corrupt and ironically the same man I stole from in an attempt to save my dying mother. He nearly killed me for the parcels I stole from his pharmacy. The pharmacy itself is a façade for his gun and drug smuggling cartel. I never wanted this wanted this life but I had to be the “man for the job to survive.”
Gunfire thundered through the stale air of an abandoned warehouse. “Where are the firearms boy!” the infuriated drug lord, from whom Mr Malik stole his merchandise, demanded. Hiding behind wooden boxes I fire back hesitantly since it was my first time firing a gun. I shoot blanks but it’s enough to scare off one of the shooters in balaclavas. I don’t know how I got myself into this situation. A situation that could reunite me, six feet under, with my brother and mother but, unfortunately, there was no turning back.
Mr Malik constantly reminded me that working for him was payment of an infinite amount of debt. His version of sympathy was allowing me to live since I had lost my mother. I was entrapped with as many chances to escape as a man alone at sea on a lifeboat. I had survived many tempests prior to this but this one was sure to drown me…but I wanted to survive, so I must have been the man for the job.
© Nolulama Msomi