It was only when an older woman got into the taxi that the other women seemed to come alive. Her gravelly-voiced “san’bonani” was followed by their collective “yebo“.
As the taxi drove them further from their day’s work and closer to their homes, the chattering, the raucous laughter, the gossiping whispers started.
I stared with jealous fascination as one woman stroked the tassels of her friend’s top when they spoke earnestly of a mix of who-knows-what and I-really-wish-I-did-know-what.
The embarrassing and frustratingly little I understood didn’t seem to matter, though. I felt comfort. The same comfort I felt years ago, sitting with aunts and cousins on cramped stoeps in the little Northern Cape dorpie I was born in. Their laughter on those hot December nights was heady as they recalled what so-and-so’s child screamed one Sunday morning in church, while the predikant delivered his usual fire-and-brimstone message.
Their silence was equally heavy when they’d spoken of how men I never knew — men from whom I came — were treated by their baas. Back then. “In die ou dae.”
I thought of those women as another woman climbed aboard the taxi to return to her children and her grandchildren after cleaning up after her baas and madam.
I closed my eyes and swam in her “san’bonani”. In the respect of their “yebo”. I closed my eyes and thought of my aunts, some now long gone, and the way they called me “my kind”.
I thought of these women — those women I know and those in the taxi whom I don’t — and how they shaped me. And how, whether they know it or not, they continue to shape me.
Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian. This is his story