After waiting for what seemed like an hour for my Rea Vaya bus to pick me up from Park Station and take me home to Auckland Park I was finally on the bus. I had come from a long day of work and like every other evening my commute home was usually my time to reflect on the day and just be alone in my thoughts. We were gliding over Constitution Hill and I marveled at the many lights that looked like spilled molten gold – Johannesburg is a gorgeous place at night. I was lost in thought as we sailed past buildings and rugby fields – lights glittering as they reflected off the bus’s windows. Everything seemed to be more of a blur that night than any other night. I had to focus hard on not falling asleep in the bus that night; although I really didn’t have to try that hard once we had stopped at the Milpark Station, as every night hoards of Spar and Pick N’ Pay workers descended upon the bus in swarms and one never knew if they would be sat upon, trodden on or shoved by the stampede of ratchets.
When we finally reached Sophiatown UJ Res Station and I squeezed my way through the throngs of tightly packed passengers and I was popped from the doors like a lemon pip from a freshly juiced lemon I mentally prepared myself for the one and a half kilometer walk back to my apartment. The mental preparation was more to deal with the two steep hills I would be climbing and not the fact that I would be walking in the dark – I had done this several dozen times before.
As I left the station and crossed the unusually quiet highway I noticed a young male neighbor of mine walking hastily ahead of me and disappear around the corner. I decided for safety reasons I would try to maintain a reasonable distance between myself and him – keeping in mind we were unacquainted and I didn’t wish to cause him any alarm by walking on his heals. I swung my backpack to the front of my body so it sat comfortably between my arms so I could jog without it bouncing up and down on my back. When I reached the corner he was already banking the hill, but he had broken into a jog. I looked at the steep hill ahead of me and rolled my eyes. I noticed that the street was terribly quiet and usually at half past nine on a Thursday evening there was an awful lot going on around the UJ Kings Campus area. The lack of activity alarmed me somewhat so I decided to pick up the pace and find my stranger neighbor.
As I walked round a blinded corner onto the main street that feeds into UJ, I was very much alarmed to see that my neighbor was already turning left onto the street that leads to the top of the hill – he was running now. Why was he running? Was he suspicious of me? Was he late? These questions swirled in my head as I walked onward.
Suddenly I heard a terrified scream. It was the scream of a young woman. I froze dead in my tracks. I listened. Another scream echoed from somewhere atop the hill. I had become so accustomed to the outrageous university parties that I concluded the scream came from a young girl who was just over excited and intoxicated.
As I started walking again I began to reminisce the Botswana bush and wilderness – I missed it so much. I remember thinking about calling my mom to ask her if we could go camping when I visited her.
I turned the corner and made my up the long and steep road home. With two hundred meters remaining till I was home – I was beginning to think of what to make for dinner. I was craving chicken salad with creamy avos and crunchy lettuce.
Two murky headlights appeared from around the bend at the top of the hill and instinctively I moved to the shoulder of the road on the left hand side – unfortunately the shoulder of the road dissolved into a think net of ivy and creepers so I was reluctant to walk any further until the car had passed and I could resume my walk on the edge of the tar again. The car slowed down and I assumed that it was a taxi dropping a student off at one of the plenty hostels. I thought nothing else of the matter and stepped back into the road and walked on. With the vehicles lights now dimmed I saw that it was not a taxi, but a Corsa bakkie with a cab. I kept walking up the hill. The bakkie continued snailing down the street – a lost driver perhaps. I was nearing a stretch of road that was completely darkened by an overgrown tree which canvassed one of the very few street lights that actually worked. I was about to walk past a large stately home entrance when the bakkie came right towards me and forced me into the hedge. I caught my balance and was about to start running when suddenly a screwdriver and cleaver wielding man stood right in front of me. In the time that it took me to tear myself from the hedge he had jumped from the passenger seat and darted round the back of the cab to get to me. I will never forget the way the thirty centimeter blade glinted in the faint moonlight. I swear I saw every atomic sized steel molecule on the edge of that sharpened blade.
I was reeling. Was this really happening. All the stories I had heard. All the countless stories of meaningless murders for twenty Rand or a cigarette in Johannesburg were being played in my head like an electronic sign board. My vision was suddenly altered. My perception on life was changed with the snap on three fingers. I was being mugged. That is all I knew.
Instinctively I backed away, but was blocked by the driver who had opened his door and had a knife to me as well. The man with the screwdriver yelled at me for my bag which I ripped from my shoulders and threw at him. The greedy bastard tore at the zip and was deeply disappointed to find nothing except for a pink pot of Oh So Heavenly Triple Body Butter, an empty USN smoothie shaker, an apple, a bunch of neon party flyers, a torn and tattered note book and a Nike Pro long sleeved tee. He lunged at me and grabbed my groin – dropping his knife all the while. Once he had a firm grip on me he proceeded to search me. The driver had his knife to my back and the idiot in front of me searched me with his screwdriver to my midrib and his empty hand doing the searching. Much to his dissatisfaction he only found a neon green Nokia with about as much internal memory as a goldfish. Now he was angry. Throughout the entire mugging he was mumbling and fumbling – but then he spoke clearly and told me he wanted my shoes. Side Note (Anyone who knows me, knows what affection I have for my Nike sneaker collection. The Air Force Ones I was wearing at the time of the incident were actually a Christmas present from my mom the year before.) I thought to myself “Ahh hell nawww!” I pushed past the driver who seemed to be high at the time and ran round the bumper of the car and across the street and just bolted like hell! I heard the mugger yelling behind me , but I didn’t dare look back.
Literally twenty seconds I was at the boomed entrance to my apartment block. The security guards jumped up when they saw that I was emotional and asked what happened. I explained to them in short sentences. I was only starting to register what had just happened to me as I spoke to them. The security guards were nonchalant when I told them. They informed me that five minutes earlier a young girl had been mugged and stabbed in the same street.
Let me refrain from using vulgar language. But did you just say that someone was mugged and stabbed not even six minutes ago and you’re drinking tea! Jesus Christ! There were six men altogether! Six grown men who are paid to protect the residents of that gated community. I asked the imbeciles why they weren’t patrolling and they bluntly told me that their responsibility ended at the bend and whatever happens beyond is none of their concern.
Even though I had wonderful times in Johannesburg and made cherished memories – I will always remember that night and feel sick when I hear the word “Johannesburg”.
I will write about the aftermath of the mugging and the repercussions that night had on me in a blog at a later stage.
Thanks for reading.
Stay safe and never walk alone or without a can of pepper spray or Doom.