This is a short story that I wrote which was a point of view from the character Boston in Athol Fugard’s Tsotsi. It is his reflection on a murder.
(This was written 2 years ago)
His body was left slumped lifelessly against the wall. Our fingerprints scattered around him. I tried not to look as the light left his twinkling eyes; I tried to focus on what Tsotsi told me to do: steal money.
We stole more than just money.
The way the gleaming smile crumbled off his face when he realised. It was a bewildered, disbelieving realisation, yet still embroidered with threads of hope that maybe – just maybe – we’ll be good people for once.
We weren’t good people.
That mask was spread across his face when we left him. His body was left alone on that train. Perhaps someone will try to find whoever killed him. Who am I kidding? He was black. No one cares for a black man. He must have been evil and cruel and a white man righteously killed him for the safety of this city. Why would anyone else think differently?
His body will be thrown away and left to rot, our fingerprints decaying beside him. I wish someone found us. I wish I were sent to prison. I could escape this cycle that I’m trapped in. Anything is better than this; the pain of self-accusation and dread as my feelings seesaw between fear of Tsotsi and disgust for myself.
I am too weak to stop. I am too weak to forget Gumboot. His shadow lingers behind me as I walk, a trail of others chained behind. I drag them along with each painful step. They say nothing but I can hear what they’re thinking. I can see their faces. They haunt my dreams – those innocent lives from whom we stole.
The word “stolen” has a whole new meaning now. It carries with it guilt, regret, anxiety, terror, disbelief, disgust and all of those lives that we have cost. The word “stolen” weighs on my shoulders constantly, growing with each living breath I take. Each selfish, cowardly breath.
Consumed by fear. Fear of myself. Who cares what Tsotsi could do to me? Who cares if the police get me? Who cares if the entire world ceased existing?
I wish it would.
I would not care if the police got me and imprisoned me and tortured me for the despicable black that I am.
I wish they would.
It wouldn’t hurt if Tsotsi beat me until I was just a bruised shell, if he hit me and punched me until I could bleed no more because of the disloyal scum that I am.
I wish he would.
Nothing can compare to the pain that I am in. Nothing could be worse than the endless confliction and war and hatred and fear and guilt and doubt and repugnance that I have for myself.
What am I capable of?
Look at what I’ve done already. I could do more. I could do worse.
I probably will.
All because of my repulsive cowardice, my weakness.
I am doubting and hating because of my deeds.
I am questioning and apprehending because of Tsotsi and my duties.
I am fearing and worrying because of my disloyalty and questions.
I am craving and needing and yearning and longing for an escape from this pitiful, pitiful life.
Because of my malevolence…
And my decency.
That Friday night will be forever engraved into my mind. The darkness came quickly, the dread alongside. Silence was hung in the air, wet and cold. It blew in my ears and amplified my thoughts. My fearful, anxious thoughts. The silence grew colder and soaked for longer in my ears, it usurped all around me and swallowed me, my thoughts bouncing off the walls of the silence. Echoing. Time was stretching and shrinking as we waited impatiently for the shadows to grow long enough. I never wanted to stop waiting. I wanted it over with.
I tried to fill the empty air; I tried to tell stories, to overpower the interminable ringing of thoughts in my head. We all sat and waited while listening to my stories.
Then Tsotsi had something to say. I plastered a smile onto my face and silently feared it all.
“One on the train.”
Everything inside of me collapsed. It’s happening. No questions could sway Tsotsi’s decision. It was happening.
I was wrapped in my thoughts. Fears and doubts and guilt and regrets swarmed around me like locusts. I followed Tsotsi and Butcher and Die Aap numbly, caught in a whirlwind of feelings.
I saw the train sitting patiently at the stop. It made me nauseous. We were taking one on the train.
Despite his complexion, he was sunshine. He was hope and aspiration. Sweat and coal dust.
I was like that once.
The rest of the story went like a flash of lightening.
I was sick. I am sick.
It’s over. We’ve got the money, but for what? An envelope? An envelope does not equate to a life. Nothing can be compared to the precious thing that a life is. The living breath of working lungs, the steady beat of a loving heart, the silent whispers of an intelligent mind.
Money can’t heal the wounds that we’ve made, can’t bind the bonds that we’ve broken. Can’t undo the things that we’ve done.
And now, I carry his body on my back – along with the others. They pull me down, weaken me, crush me. Blame me. And with each staggering step I can feel the earth beneath my aching feet rattle because of the weight of my unforgivable sins.