Who is the classified kid?

As if that not enough even if I were to go out telling my intelligent self I will be back in a jiff it never happens. Somehow drama finds me and I always entertain it. Here I was on lazy Saturday morning . . . transport is always a problem so jostling as usual. After being shoved a couple of times I decided to stand a little away from the crowd and I found myself standing next to some woman I have seen on several occasions but never talked to.

There is something about her . . . she is quite . . . not really in a minding your business kind of but real loneliness. The word that comes to mind always when I see is sad. Here is some kind of deep, permanent, ‘I give up’ kind of sadness.

I have never seen her with anyone or talking to anyone for that matter and I get this feeling that she needs someone who can reach out.

Reaching out to people is a talent and I am sure I don’t have it. I am clumsy when it comes to tender moments like that but here I was standing a few meters away from this ‘sad’ woman and I can’t help her. I am sure I moved a little closer and I saw her taking a few steps in the other direction. She hates contact . . . she is weird, I have read about such people.

“Ah what is he doing?” I heard her say. I was relieved. I followed the direction of her stare and there was a boy of about twelve going through the pockets of the crowd shoving into a minibus. I know something about the boy, he stays somewhere near the dumping ground at the periphery of the suburb in a plastic shark.

Sometimes you see him at the bus stop, sometimes on the highway tracking and sometimes you see him in the heart of the city. “Pick pocketing?” “Let him raid them.” I expected a giggle but there was none. Apparently she meant every word of what she had just said. “Why . . .” I asked in a strangled voice. I wasn’t sure anymore if I wanted to ‘reach out’ to this woman. I was chickening out I should admit. “He has to survive don’t you think?”

Again I looked at her, opened my mouth and closed it. I wanted to give her a lecture on instilling good morals in our children but in a view of what she had just said I realized how hollow and unwise it was going to sound. She giggled then forcing me to take my eyes from her back to the shoving and pushing crowd.

The little boy had just fished a piece of soiled tissue paper from someone’s pocket. He threw it down with disgust. Before I could ask what she meant another minibus stopped just in front of us and we were the first to get on. The boy jumped on and rushed to take the back seat. This time he was not interested in people’s pockets. I watched the woman follow him with her eyes and a rare smile dancing on her lips. For a few seconds I wondered if there was some game going on between the two.

After about five minutes , the conductor asked for the fare. We all handed over the fare quickly but my friend took time going through her bag and I was almost panicking that she might not have the money after all. I saw that angry glint in the conductor.s eyes, . . . someone had not paid.

“In business we pay. Can I have my money!” We all did the usual, adopted the ‘that doesn’t concern me’ stance but the tout was not going to let it pass. He started interrogating each one of us, . . . you are left wondering why he didn’t do law. “You! What are you doing in here? Driver stop the car . . . the classified kid is in here!”

The minibus was quickly brought to a halt. The boy was picked by the collar and pulled out through the window. He didn’t protest, he just dusted his already greasy trousers and started to track. Nobody talked and I felt I had to say something.

“You should have given him back his money.” I said and a few people laughed obviously realizing how daft I was. I should have figured out what was going down. I looked at my friend expecting her to come to his rescue but my friend was watching the boy until she couldn’t see him anymore.

She turned back, took a deep sigh and said, “That should not take him more than twenty minutes.”

“Twenty minutes?” “He will have enough time to do a few odd jobs.” “He should be in school.” My friend looked away her mouth set. We parted company with no goodbyes, not that I was expecting one but I still wanted to know more about the classified boy. Free from my packing job I am always on the look out for something in the arts. This particular day I got a rather shaky deal with one of the industry’s dubious producers. He has a tendency of bringing up God and Jesus even in the midst of a business discussion but does not hesitate to cheat you out of your money when it suits him. Dealing with him is like getting into the same hole with a snake but I was prepared however to go through the grill just to put something on my CV.

I was feeling a little good about myself when I bumped into my friend by at the terminus. She was carrying some groceries and I decided to open up dialogue by offering to help her with them. She said she was fine until she looked at me and realized we had been together in the morning. I wanted to go back to the classified boy’s story straight but it’s hardly the most intelligent way so I went for most neutral topic . . . weather.

The unfortunate thing is that she went to town and back about it leaving me wondering if she worked at the metrology office. We were dropped off before I could bring up the boy’s story and I had the feeling she was deliberately blocking me.

“You stay a street after this one, at the corner.” I was just trying another angle of bringing up the boy’s story. She didn’t answer this one, her attention had been caught by an excited crowd crossing a street just ahead of us. It wasn’t the crowd that had drawn her attention . . . such nonsense is part of ghetto life. An excited crowd means someone has broken the rules and if you don’t have anything better to do you can join in the fun. She is hardly a person to follow such kind of monkeying. I saw the classified boy was trying break through the crowd. My friend started running towards the crowd and without thinking I started running after her. I was shouting about her groceries but I knew this had nothing to do with me wanting to hand them over. In the midst of the crowd was a boy of about nine carrying an expensive looking overcoat.

“These boys are becoming a menace to this neighbourhood.” A woman in a church uniform said adjusting her headgear. “Where is the mother while the children are doing this?” “Imagine breaking a window to fish out clothes?” “We have to chase them out of here before they go too far.” “Nobody should give them a room.” “Nobody has in a long time but I think we should call the city officials about that shark.” “Yah here is the owner of the jacket.” “Madam your room has been broken into by this rowdy boy!” I could see nobody knew exactly how to speak to my friend. Just like me nobody knew her that well. She had sneaked into our neighborhood a few years back and had kept a very low profile.

“Can I see the boy?” The crowd parted and the classified boy crushed in. He was carrying a loaf of bread, some wilting vegetables, a couple of overripe tomatoes and rotting mangoes. “He is my brother.” “You need the jacket?” The woman asked softly and everybody went ha!

“For my mama . . . she is sick.” “Let’s go and give her then . . . Everybody I would appreciate it really if you stayed out of this!” They backed off but this is not the way you treat your ghetto neighbors and I knew I wasn’t doing my reputation any good as I followed still carrying the grocery bags.

“We are all classified.” My friend said as we followed the two boys into the dingy smelly dump plastic shark. The mother was sleeping on a mattress and she was really wasted. “Why do you think I sneaked into this neighborhood and never made friends? We, the classified have to stick together.”

June 2006
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