I dreamed, last night, I was a street-child. In my dream, I woke up under a bridge in the centre of the city. It had been raining all night. I was cold and I was hungry. I wandered around the town. It was mid-morning when I did my usual thing of directing cars into parking places – even where there were many available. I put my head to one side and said words – any words – to the people passing by. I said “Please, I’m hungry”. I said “Please baas, two Rand to buy some bread”. And occasionally, someone would give me something. Always very little. And sometimes, I had enough to buy something.
But there was nothing which could take away the ache I had in my stomach. Nothing I ate could take it away. Not even the food from the dustbins outside Kentucky. I sniffed some glue which I bought with some of my money. I felt my head turn and spin and the blood rush to my eyes. I felt the glue burn my nose. I felt as though nothing at all mattered for a few minutes.
And then I felt a sharp pain in my back. I was thrown onto the floor and kicked in my head. In my stomach. In my mouth. “Give us your money!” they shouted. They were bigger and they were older and they had knives. I gave them my money. My little money. I must get a knife, I said to myself.
Now I had a bloody nose and I hurt all over. I asked a white woman for some money. She looked at me and her lips curled back in disgust. “Vra Mandela”, she spat (“ask Mandela”) and walked on clutching her handbag.
I went to the park and washed the blood off my face. A man in a big black Mercedes stopped and offered me fifty Rand to do things to him. We drove to a quiet road where no-one could see. I did what he wanted. When he finished, he hit me and threw me out of the car. He didn’t pay me. As he drove away, he made the window go down and shouted “Thanks!”
Now I was lost. I cried because I was alone. I walked down the road in my broken shoes. They were broken and they smelled so badly. No-one looked at me. No-one saw me. I was a lost child, walking down the road with tears in my eyes and no-one saw me. I had no-where to go.
In the university, I was chased away, even by the cleaning woman, who just swore and me and waved her hand. She had no food for me. She had no money for me.. I must go and get work. Yes – if I stopped sniffing glue and fighting, then maybe I wouldn’t be in such a bad state. No, I must go away – she has children of her own to worry about.
The students didn’t see me either. I lay down on the pavement and shivered, because it was now late and I had nothing warm. I pulled my thin jersey over my knees. I saw children in cars going home with their parents. They were smiling and playing. They had toys. They were eating things – sweets and chips – and they were happy. And when they saw me they looked at me. Their smiles stopped for a second. They paused on their way. And then the lights changed and they were gone.
I walked across to the shelter called Khayalethu. There was no-one there. They had closed it down because there was no money to run it anymore. Then the big boys found me again. I ran away over the road and a car swerved and then hit me – and I died.
I went to heaven and there was God in all his glory. He had a golden crown on his head and he had a long white beard and he wore a shining white robe. I was excited and happy to see God. I said “Hello God. My name is Immanuel Mkhize”. But it was strange, because God met me on the outside of the gates. He said he was very sorry, but he couldn’t let me in. There was nothing he could do about it. He gave me a piece of cake and patted me on the head and smiled at me and then left me alone.
And in heaven, beyond the Pearly Gates, I could hear the sounds of laughter and people singing hymns. I could see people smiling at each other. I could see and hear all these things, but I could have none of it. I was a street-kid, even after death. And no-one saw me.