Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Dress-Down

By the time I reached the driveway of number 11 late Friday night I felt betrayed by the gods. Behind me lay a string of mishaps topped off by a near full speed head-on crash with a driver on a cell phone and an encounter with a gorge of a pothole that caused my car’s body to flex so severely that my windshield shattered.

As I opened the gates to pull my car into the driveway Founder bolted toward me and her energy held me as my heart slowed for the first time in seven or more hours.

Moms prepared all my favourite foods and I ate quietly listening to her tell me this and that and then she asked: “What is wrong Ridwan, why are you so quiet?”

As if possessed I started to tell her that my dress-down Gandhi lifestyle was gonna kill me in a country where it matters to be driving a half a million rand car.

“But you don’t like being like that. It is against your principles,” moms replied.

I understand all that and have tried to live simply but just hours earlier as my car screeched and jerked violently and almost flipped I had a moment to think that I could live with a brand new BMW or Mercedes or whatever because those cars have ABS brakes and airbags and crumple zones.

My hatchback VW is a coffin on wheels. “If you have an accident in that car Ridi it will be like 1980 all over again. The doctors at the hospital will know you were driving a Citi Golf,” my boy Cliff once joked as we drove across town in his silver 3 series BMW.

“Did the idiot driver stop to see if you were OK?” moms asked.

He did not. He drove off. My car stalled but I managed to let it roll off the highway where a white man was changing a flat tire. He told me how lucky I was to escape and then he asked me if the idiot driver was a “kaffir” (a nigger).

I turned from that man. Turned my key and thanked my yesteryear hatchback anyway and drove off fuming.

Somewhere close to a town called Dealesville I hit a series of gorge-like potholes so hard that the windshield shattered.

It was at that point that I got out of the car to stare at the dark sky and ask the gods if they had had just about enough of f*cking with me for the day.

No answer was forthcoming. Just like that other time and the three million other times before that.

“What kind of car would you buy if you allowed yourself to have a nice car,” moms asked.

I stopped thinking about things like that in 2005 when I stopped thinking about the kind of anything I wanted in my life.

Somewhere toward the end of that year I watched what I thought I wanted unravel into deceitful and hollow contradictions that reached deep inside of me and twisted my faith in my hands, my knees, and mostly, my heart.

I closed my feelings and opened my head to reason past the urge to care about caring.

Recently I have been thinking that maybe my grandmother was right when she said that if you waited too long to love with all your heart it would be too late to love at all.

I wondered about deceit, denial, distrust, forgiveness, and forever when I sat quietly for hours in Gandhi’s ashram in Ahmadabad.

Would Gandhi love beyond the fear of being hurt again? Would he open up his email, if he had email, only to close it with a sigh of distance that is as unintended as it is familiar?

Did Gandhi ask his wife to forgive him for raising his hand? Did she?

As I made my way back to Pretoria inside the quiet noise of my father’s old Isuzu truck today I thought about conditions that go along with unconditional love.

What will it take to set aside that past weight that turns every slip into a fall?

What kind of redemption and what kind of songs are needed to put an end to too long?

"... Won't you help to sing.  These songs of freedom?

'Cause all I ever have: Redemption songs ..."


Kweli said...

I hear you, brother. Mama told you there'd be days like many days you'd stop counting.

Sometimes the struggle is existential, brother. Other times it is spiritual.

I dunno what to say. I just hear you.

Ridwan said...

Hey brother Kweli:

Thank you brother for hearing me. I know you have been inside these kind of days and moments.

We all are at one time or the other.

And then things seem piled on and the questions run so deep and the answers not even close.

I cannot say I know what happened Friday for any good reason.

Or why the pieces just seemed to fall apart - but yeah "mama told me there would be days like this" and even worse.

Does not make it easier huh?

I enjoyed reading your post on your moms and her life in Uganda and after.

An amazing woman no doubt.

Made me think that each time S.Africa layers me so painfully I open my desk drawer and look at my US passport.

Peace brother,

desert demons said...

I love that song, head up bro - there is a battle to win :)

"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery none but ourselves can free our minds..."

Ridwan said...

Thanks DD. I know you do.

Onward! hey.

Peace to you,