Those of you that have been following my blogs might have noticed yesterday afternoon’s blog was a little short. I was pretty tired! I have been sleeping like a log at night, and the rats seem not not like my smell anymore…at least for the time being! i guess not washing does come in handy for some things! Anyway, as i said, i have been sleeping good, but staying up pretty late and getting up at the crack of dawn caught up to me yesterday. I walked around like a zombie for most of the afternoon. I also got pretty hungry, and had not had a coke for the first time in my time on the streets so my head was spinning. I was thankful for Donna (one of the girls who use to live on the streets but lives home now and visits her boyfriend/father of her child) for buying a coke for us to split; also thankful i saw Vusa and Zoe from Zula Bar. They gave me a whole, freshly cooked pizza! PURE BLISS!! I shared it with a young girl that strolls on Long Street. The other day when she saw me she said she was in the mood for pizza. I also adopted that “mood” after she mentioned it. So from that day i have been joking with her about “organizing” a pizza for us. So it was cool to see that come into being. Then i went to bed early and got an amazing night’s sleep! I feel fresh today. I don’t smell fresh, but its all in the feeling!! Anyways…
Last night when i got to my slaap plek i noticed Kleintjie had assumed the “passed out” position again. (i wrote about him in my blog yesterday for those that didn’t read it) I walked over to him and he was kind of awake, but trying to hide his face from me. He had smoked mandrax (an outlawed prescription sleeping tablet that is crushed up and sprinkled over tobacco and marijuana, or a mixture of both, and then smoked). He seemed embarrassed for me to see him in that state. He laid there, coming in and out of consciousness, trying to talk to me, lifting his head and letting it fall back to the ground. I noticed he had a full mouth of bread; it was stuffed full! It seems like it had been in there for a while and he was struggling to swallow it. I told him to sit up and not fall asleep until he had swallowed first. At that point i strangely felt like my mom at the dinner table! I helped him sit up against the wall and then i went and filled a bottle up with water for him. He drank it quickly and then had relief from his mouth full of dry bread.
I sat there and talked to him for a while. he didn’t respond much; just with a funny little smile, the occasional comment and a lot of head bobbing and eyes rolling back in his head. I knew he might not remember the conversation, or even remember talking to me the next day, but i felt it was important to speak some positivity to him and over his life. i told him what a great kid i think he is, even though i haven’t know him for that long. I told him that i hate seeing him in that state and think he is such an amazing person when he is sober. i told him the potential i see for him and his future…if he chooses to leave this life and pursue something better for himself. I rubbed his head and asked him if he knew what he was talking about. He patted my hand, smiled and tried to look me in the eyes and said, “yeah Ryan!”. That was good enough for that moment.
You see Kleintjie is the reason i am out here for these 16 days. No, I don’t mean only Kleintjie, but he represents the very reason i am out here. You see, if you ask Kleintjie why he is on the streets, he will tell you that there are no real problems at home, he can go there if he wants, but “die Kaap is lekker” (Cape Town is nice)! He likes living in Cape Town. He likes the freedom it brings. The daily excitement he finds. The drugs he uses. The people he meets and interacts with. The money he makes. The life he is able to live. Kleintjie was given a choice, by society, to live on the streets or to stay at home and he chose the streets. He now lives an unsupervised life and is exposed to all the elements out there. Anything could really happen to Kleintjie when he is passed out like that. And it probably does.
So i have been carrying this South African Constitution in my bag. Really for no other reason but for the symbol and the metaphor, because as i have said before, every single right of a child is being broken by ALLOWING him or her to live on the streets! Like Kleintjie, he has the right to many things, but he has forfeited them because WE have allowed him to. So today i was given several things: some fruit, an unopened coke, a chocolate. I didn’t want to eat all of these things right when i got them, from the various people that gave them to me, so i just put them in my backpack as i received them. By the time i got to the coke i was looking for space. I thought about throwing out the Constitution, because it is really no use to me on the streets and it is just extra weight. But then i thought twice. If i did throw away the Constitution to make space for more stuff in my bag, i would symbolically be doing the very thing the kids do; the very thing that i am protesting. I would be literally “throwing away my rights”. I decided for the sake of the symbol i would hold on to the Constitution. Even if it is only paper and i don’t see the words on it being manifested in the lives of those that i am now living with. For their sake, and for the hope that we will one day “get it together”, i am going to hold onto it for now. I only wish that at the very least, the weight that i feel from it on my back was matched, if not doubled or tripled, by the weight in the words. But for now the words are empty and weightless!