BECAUSE I HAVEN’T SEEN HER FOR A WHILE. I WILL TAKE A DRIVE AROUND TODAY, ASK AROUND. I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO HER.
She sits on the pavement every morning watching cars for fifty-cent tips, or a loose cigarette. By lunchtime, usually, the fifty cent handouts have added up to enough to buy her a bottle of something strong enough to make her belligerently curse at passersby, until she lies sprawled in a shop doorway and the other vagrants drag her away. She tells me she spends her nights in the foyer of the Post Office, summer and winter.
I asked her today if I could take her picture, and should I print one for her; was there someone she’d like me to send it to. No Merrem, these tsotsis is my people now.
She’s lost count of the number of times she’s been beaten and raped, her nose appears to be septic; a man who was too jealous bit the tip off, last winter.
When I ask her how old she is, she shrugs and says twenty nine; she tells me she came from Port Elizabeth when she was eighteen, she was pretty and wanted to get grand, she dreamed of finding a job in a clothes shop: Smart Merrem, like John Orrs. I seen the ladies wearing smart hats and gloves there. I’d put her closer to my side of forty, but who knows?
I leave her with a loaf of bread, a bottle of milk and the R22-plus-change I have in my pocket, I perpetuate the cycle of her miserable days. I keep the newspaper I bought for myself, I doubt that she minds. She beams as though she’s hit the jackpot.
When I get home, I scrub my hands where they brushed against hers as I handed her the money, I use vanilla soap and I can smell the scent of it here at my desk. I can’t get Monica out of my mind.
Someone’s little girl, once.