By Dudumalingani Mqombothi
News is horrified of dew. That is a Xhosa idiom– old as time– carved on rocks. It simply translates: if there is news, it will be heard. The idiom leans, owing to innocent inferred meaning, towards bad news and not good news. A month ago, I eavesdropped on a heated conversation meant for friends and those participating in that discussion, exposing their own wretched soles. I intended to abandon the conversation at the doors of the train and not retell it because that is theft. But every writer is a thief of conversations, gestures, personality and at times writers steal people in their entirety. People show up in fictional books, in their entirety or in parts. It cannot be me. The writer does not know me. We dismiss ourselves.
From the storyteller, when she says ‘explain to me how does one become horny in such heat’, I extrapolate that the day had been one of those gloriously summer Cape Town days or perhaps a winter day when the sun violently bursts through the clouds. The train– as usual– was crowded with not much space to move. The passengers’ bodies face towards each other and away from each other. The crowding makes it impossible to stay clear of human contact. One’s hips brush against another person’s. The person behind you brushes against your bum and the nostrils breath in the breath of the other person.
According to the storyteller, the woman had been standing in the open space between the two electric doors. She wore a black skirt, black leggings and white blouse. She had stuffed her convenient belongings in the bag she hid underneath her arm. Bags have to be hid underneath arms because criminals gash them open with sharp blades and take out of them what they please. She was beautiful my friend. You could tell she was off to an interview or work. The storyteller says to her friends– to me. It is not clear which station she embarked the train. According to our storyteller, she had been there for some time. The woman was not talking to anyone, she did not know anyone, or wherever she was going lay heavily on her mind. I saw the white marks on her black skirt and I thought its nothing. The storyteller says. As the train commuters empty, people appear in complete full, from head to toe. The woman was still there. It was now three stations before the final destination, Cape Town. An older woman calls her and tells her that she has a white smear on her skirt. She twists her neck to have a look and so does everyone. It was semen. Unbelievable. Someone yells. Men are such horny dogs. Another woman yells. The storyteller continues her story because news is horrified of dew. Clearly the guy was not getting it at home. But did he get his thing out and rubbed it against her? She asks.
Another woman shares her story. She had been standing next to a man. The train is crowded. So it is not like I can move to another place. And then this bastard takes out his penis right inside the train and asks me if I want it. I will grab it and show it to everyone if you do not stop it. She threatens him and he stops. Men are dogs. She completes her story.
A friend of mine had told me that this happens in the train. I did not believe her. It is perverted to understand. Inhumane. I could not in my mind frame up a complete picture of a man who gets aroused by a woman in the train and having an orgasm.
On a separate day, I embark the train in the afternoon. A girl, who looks not older than 20, embarks the train. She wore a mini skirt and a grey top. It looked like a work uniform. She stands by the door and places her bag on her calves and takes out her phone and stares into it. She faces the wall of the train the entire journey. Only peering to look out the window– I assumed for her station. The men around her and farther down the carriage yell greetings and perverted compliments at her. She is in a catch-22 situation. She looks away but she hears them talk about her bum and her thighs. She looks at them and will see their horny eyes fucking her.
Men are always trying to get laid, aren’t they? I say to the woman next to me. She giggles and agrees. Shoo. She adds.
To make sense of this sickness I gather close female friends and asked them. My one friend tells me that she wants to slap men that stare and undress her. Another friend wants to cut their penises off. Another friend tells me, with disgust on her face, I feel naked. I can feel their nude bodies against mine.
Another friend tells me that she can feel their tongues slide up and down her back- soiling her- leaving her skin permanently scarred and their slimy hands violently brushing against her skin- bruising it. She feels her skin itch, as if something is crawling underneath.
After talking to them, I sit by the window and stare at concrete bricks placed such that they form a maze. This is an attempt to evade my friend’s feelings and the stories I heard on the train from those women. My attempt comes to naught. Sorrow consumes me. And it continues to do every time I see a man staring at a woman and every time I notice myself staring at a woman.