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Rainbow Nation After Dark

SOUTH AFRICA | Sunday, 27 April 2014 | Views [1370] | Scholarship Entry

Street lamps illuminate the diminutive spots of tar along the road we scamper quietly along. It is as if the lights were a yellow brick road, and each footstep we gave its surface echoed with 'follow me'. To the Emerald City, we go. Plastic bags blow across our path like processed tumble weeds. We feel like New Age cowboys, hands in our pockets, armed to the teeth with colours, nozzles, and gloves. This is the wild, wild West... Coast. In the After Dark, the murky in between pallet of four AM, Cape Town's side streets come alive with the un-dead. Skeletal men with sand paper skin sit in crumbling church door ways, huddled together, but in their hearts, they are worlds apart, picking dirt from beneath their finger nails with rusty knives. They reach out gnarled, worn hands as if in prayer, begging for donations to their cause. 'Give me a two rand for a cigarette, asseblief.' But if you do stop, even for a second, and rummage in your pocket for a two rand, you will end up having not one cent to your name, and perhaps a few missing teeth to match. This is the land of the tough and the toothless. You choose.
We have hidden our paint where no street lights reach. Behind a wall clustered with colourful profanities. We have decided to paint the town red, so to speak. There are four of us. While one goes to fetch the spray paint, the others position themselves on each street corner, their eyes wide open to the dangers one cannot possibly foresee. For they hide, in the confines of the future, patient and all-knowing. The future meets us After Dark in the form of a beat up old car with mismatched doors in grey and black, which swerves to the curb violently. A man with a balaclava jumps out and grabs me roughly before I have the time to react, and shouts into the darkness 'Gimme all you got or the girl gets all I got!' One of my boys takes his glass coca cola bottle and hits the man holding me on the back of his head. The resounding thwack takes his breath away, and he releases me. Foot steps become music as we all shuffle here and there. Fight or flight? Destiny flips a coin; I jump and roll over the hood of the car, get to my feet and run, catching each yellow brick with my toes, and over my shoulder, shouting for my boys to 'follow me, follow me!' As we go, we take our cans of spray paint and aim them at the men, who are chasing us, yelling threats at our retreating backs. We hit them with our paint. BANG! And instead of painting the town. we paint its people.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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