Silent Nightby Brendon Bosworth / 20.05.2009
“I sleep with my door open at night.”
Alien words. I stare at our old family friend – mid-fifties, mother of two, soft eyes, calm voice. Completely insane. Out here on her lonely farm at the end of a long dusty road. No cellphone signal. No neighbours or ADT. No-one to hear her screams when they come with the paraffin and machetes.
Hasn’t she read Disgrace? Doesn’t she know she’s living in South Africa – the farm murder capital of the world?
“Eight years out here. No problems. Except that time they stole the food from the deck area, but that was just petty.”
The conversation turns to KwaZulu-Natal. My mother recounts the story of a woman who had her skull smashed in with a claw hammer, by the man who’d been working in her garden for the past three years. Boss fired his wife (the meid) and he didn’t take kindly. Broke in with a friend. bludgeoned her toddler’s head to a pulp. Attacked her afterwards. Emergency room; critical condition.
We talk about the friend who stayed on a farm in the Midlands. She bid her guests farewell at midnight, after an evening soirée. Went back into the lounge to find four men waiting for her. Gang-raped, tortured, sliced with knives, dehumanized, obliterated. My stomach churns as I listen to it. Other people; other lives. Other deaths. Newspaper fodder. I picture my sisters, mother, girlfriend. My mind doesn’t bend that far. It’s a self-preserving mechanism.
That night, in the cottage, 1km away from the farmhouse. No burglar bars. Transparent fear. Spray a few drops of mace outside the window. Test-run. Hide my little knife discreetly. They’ll probably use it on me when they come. But I prefer to think I’ll stab for the jugular.
Sleep eventually comes and wins over paranoia.
The clean morning sky breathes safety into the day. The embrace of the green valley allows no inroad for anxiety. I must live on this land that is mine also.
Image © Andy Davis