To tell this story from the dusty road would be to begin in the middle, or rather towards the end, so I’m going to start elsewhere, good and early ... I just have to make something clear first.

Farai Mudzingwa
Farai Mudzingwa

Traffic cops are the worst. Like potholes, they’re to be avoided. But on the highway there are no options. The cops spring up, you can’t turn back. The next moment she has your fake licence in her hand and she’s asking stupid questions while the guy is circling your car looking for something to fine you for.

There are benefits, though, to living in a dysfunctional country. The traffic police don’t have breathalyzers, for example. They can’t objectively determine whether you’re below or above the legal blood-alcohol limit. Depending on your morals and driving skills, this is either good or bad. Even when the cop can see that you’re drunk as a skunk, he still has to prove that your blood-alcohol level is above the legal limit.

He can’t. And so he asks if you’ve been drinking and you burp a denial in his face. So, frustrated, he moves slowly round the vehicle looking for something else to fine you for. A heavily perspiring cop once asked me to switch on my lights and then checked if the one above the rear number plate was working – this was for my safety on the road!

Well, on the day of this story, I’m driving to Kariba. Well, to Charara, to be precise. And when one drives to Charara on a stinking hot October day, it’s imperative to take a cooler bag with ice and Castle lagers to accompany you. I follow this imperative. Ever the obedient son of the soil. Leaving the house at 11 a.m. was never going to be a good idea, but I did it anyway. Thirty-four degrees Celsius in the shade. Or so the reading on the dashboard says. But my little Opel is not in the shade, so the reading might be out, and so I open all four doors. I also open the hatchback, for full cooling effect.

The October sun has been at it since 6 a.m. It comes up over the wall, over the pine trees, and then it leans on the windshield and the roof of the vehicle. Then it rises a bit higher and stares in through the windows and the back screen, bearing down on my poor little runaround, digging hot elbows into its roof. The rays pierce the glass and play tag around the seats and the steering wheel, bounce around and then bounce back off the windows. No way out. Trapped like a poor little kid in the playground cornered by the bully.

By 11 a.m things are cooking on the inside and when I open the doors the seats breathe out warm stuffy air with a hint of fabric and vinyl. Meeting the hot dry air outside, it mingles in with the crowd and disappears.

The cooler bag is under the driver’s seat. It’s warm. Ice must be found. Beer cans, cider bottles and a lost earring from last night’s debauchery need to be disposed of … and they are. Swiftly. I move the car into the shade for a bit, hoping it’ll cool down.

I’m breaking a sweat from all the movement. All the door-opening and trash-emptying. So much preparation. But after giving the car a semblance of cleanliness or vehicular gentrification, I step gingerly inside.

It’s time to leave, heat be damned. The temperature inside has dropped a few notches; it feels that way anyhow. I‘m sweating of course.

Not bucket loads, just a dampening. Enough to make me feel clammy and uncomfortable. I imagine a trickle down my back and a rivulet running down my sides. The open windows don’t help much when not moving fast. And with all the potholes and the shitty driving, how fast can one go?

I mean, tell me, why is Harare Drive, the longest ring road in the capital city, still a single carriageway? Questions like that keep me up late at night.

Trailing behind inching traffic, the sweat leaves the imagination and swims down my front and back and sides. Hot air blows in through all four windows making my eyes dry and scratchy. It’s uncomfortable to blink. I need to reach that ice and rub it over my eyes. First it must be bought, though. That’s the usual order of things.

In the distance, I can see a sedan at the intersection, waiting to move into The Chase. There is hardly any traffic on Quorn Avenue this morning. Odd for a Friday. Sunlight streaks in through the pine trees lining the road creating patches of shade so the road looks like a chess-board.

The sedan at the intersection has broken down; the driver is standing behind it, motioning traffic to drive around him. I tend not to stop to assist in these instances. Muggings and beatings have been known to happen to Good Samaritans.

But it’s mid-morning and I’m familiar with this part of town. My reason for not stopping is that the guy is motioning me to move on.

Also, I’m feeling too lazy to pull over. I follow his gestures obediently, and then I realise that beneath his hat, he’s an elderly white man. I’m not sure in what order these observations occur, but the combined effect makes me feel peculiar. I indicate to turn right towards Bond Bottle Store, but in my mind I’m reading back comments on an online forum about how people don’t bother to stop and assist stranded motorists.

I drum my fingers on the steering wheel. This traffic is taking forever. The guy is there, gesturing. Why should turning right onto The Chase become such a taxing affair. What if this were an elderly black man?

Would I now be debating my decision not to stop? No, that’s too easy.

What if it was just a black man, not an old one, driving the same rickety, washed-out green Datsun Pulsar? Would I have stopped? And if I hadn’t, would I now be mulling over my decision not to? But what if it was a younger white man? He can take care of himself, right? But what if it was night-time? Ah fuck it. I turn, drive to the Bond Street shopping centre, and into the bottle store parking bay, buy the ice and the beer, thank the man behind the counter, and I’m off on my merry way.

Green shadows are everywhere, even the lighting in the bottle store had a greenish tint, but now I hardly notice. It’s too commonplace. I first saw them in the summer of 1997. Certain events tainted our spirits, brought them into focus. They weren’t as conspicuous or as pervasive then. And in all fairness, I only noticed them because of a particular event which had brought me into their line of sight.

Even before that, a few hardy, perceptive souls had begun to warn us about the green – or was it khaki-green? – hue in the air. One was a particularly interesting fellow. A university drop-out who lived in the streets, unclean, unkempt, rarely sober, often high. A common sight in the city streets in general and on chosen park benches in particular. He had a keen awareness of the storms that were brewing, the dank green pools they would leave in their wake.

Back then our necks were too starched with euphoria to turn upwards. Our eyes were fixed on desks, textbooks and the keys to company vehicles. The interesting fellow scribbled notes, and a benevolent spirit published these and so it came to be that early warnings of an impending change in hue were placed before us. We ignored the signs. We read Parade magazine instead and supported Dynamos Football Club and called it the ‘7 Million Club’. Caps United had green livery but our eyes were on Dynamos.

A green shadow is leaning against my window, breathing down the neck of the policewoman, who’s rubbing my driver’s license between her fingers and deciding what to do with me. Whispering corrupt nothings to its owner. Another shadow is hovering next to the guy with the rifle. Every police roadblock has a guy with a rifle. This one looks lazy and imperturbable. And the shadow is there with him, chatting away like old acquaintances, telepathically of course – as if he wouldn’t put a bullet through you if you tried to do something stupid.

When they first started taking toll fees on the highways, these shadows were soon manning the toll-gates, dizzy with excitement. There was a mist, thick and green, like an early morning fog in the Eastern Highlands. We could not see for the haze. No one could see and no one knew what was going on. We would drive into this thick cloud and emerge a dollar lighter.

Of course, there weren’t really any ‘gates’ then, just a few cones in the road and the guy with the rifle. The guy with the rifle used to stand then, ready for action, I guess. With no proper gates the temptation to do something stupid tugged hard at the motorists. No one was ever going to try anything though. There really was no need for the rifle guy.

Or maybe I only feel that way because he was there. Go figure. The greenness hit you in the wallet and it hit you with fear. Rifle guy was totally unnecessary, even less so now. Green is everywhere.

Post published in: Arts
  1. ">Agen Bola |
  2. Berita
  3. Galaxy J1
  4. tgbudownictwo
  5. tgbudownictwo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *