Hallo, my name is Joseph…

I was very excited when I saw that new people moved to our street. I immediately walked over to the house when I saw that renovations were being done. I was 14 years old and did not go to school anymore. It was only a couple of women who were busy painting the house.  They bought junk cheap paint that was running down the walls while they were painting. We laughed a lot, and they bought better paint.

One afternoon while we were watching them painting, we laughed so much that we fell down. We tried to paint the ceiling, but we were all a bit stupid and we ended up with paint all over our bodies and faces. We tried to clean each other with wet towels, but the paint just would not come off. We started chasing each other around. I was very proud when the house was finished and thought it was my work. And it was good work…

Heideveld is a strange place. The saying goes: You live by the gun, you die by the gun, but at 14  I still had some hope. The new people that moved in actually gave me hope, because they were trying to get me back to school. For some reason this did not work out.  Maybe my mother was not interested, or maybe the school did not want a new learner who would have been way behind the others. Maybe the new people in the street did not  know what to do with my poor school results. I don’t know.

After the death of my grandma and grandpa, it felt as though my life was just floating around. Then I was here, and then I was there. I stayed with my father, mother, sister and brothers in a house that was very tidy and we had good dogs as well. But I just could not get a grip on life.

One day myself and some friends decided to build a nice strong cage in the yard.  We were busy with wrong things anyhow, and decided to make ourselves comfortable. The cage was made with steel pillars and it had a small peeping hole. Drugs were our main thing. I started getting very hard inside and towards people and had a hard outlook on life. You pay for your drugs or you get beaten up. Finish and klaar.

Children started buying drugs right in front of the school in their uniforms. The street was very busy and we started using runners. The younger the runner, the less chance that they would be caught by the police. They don’t really look out for children, but rather for older ones like me. The good thing about children is that they can run fast and they listen to what you tell them to do. And they want only a couple of rands for their trouble. To run your drug dealing like that is the best way.

My nephew is a runner, and I heard that he told the people at the Kids Club that he wanted to stop that. But he did not have a choice, because his mother told him to carry on. And my laaitie also needed to be taken care of. My laaitie looks a bit slow. His mother was a heavy drug addict when she fell pregnant. My mother has to see what is best for the child. I attacked that girlfriend many a time because of the drugs and the pregnancy.

One day my mother and sister had a big fight.  My mother wanted her to quickly take drugs somewhere. She shouted that she did not have the right bra to hide the drugs. My mother was swearing at her and forced her to deliver the drugs. Fortunately, nobody caught her and the drugs did not fall out because of the wrong bra. My mother said the drug business was fine, because now we did not have to look other people in the eye for a piece of bread.

The other day the police were all over the street. Machine guns, handguns and bullet proof vans (not the junk that they normally drive). And they moved fast, and you could see that they had a plan. What a pity for them that there was nothing in our cage. They kicked down my sister’s bedroom door. Shame. She is converted, and now the police were fiddling with her underwear and possessions. They searched everywhere – even in the ceiling, but could not find anything. There was a lot of Kid’s Club children and they were chased like a flock of sheep at auntie Lewena’s house . The Kid’s Club aunties watched closely, ready for action if the children were in danger. The police were in and out of our house and it looked as if they were getting frustrated. They hardly found anything, except for a couple of dagga zols. I wondered who in the street phoned the anonymous line to report us. Well, good luck to them.

I can clearly remember the day my grandma died. It feels like yesterday.  I loved her very much. She was the glue that kept the family together. She also had a rough life, but near the end she got converted. She was Catholic all the years, but forgot about the Lord. All the time people were in and out of the house. My heart ached so much that I wanted to scream to get rid of the pain. Auntie Lisa came to me to say that she was so sorry about grandma’s passing. I wanted to scream at her that she did not understand, but then I started crying and went to stand in her arms.

Christmas Day I decided that we all had to go to her grave. She was already gone for two years. The baby also had to go along. The Lord gives and the Lord takes. I bought lovely flowers and we went in my father’s car. I sat at the grave for a long time, thinking about my life. My drug dealing,my floating around, all because the glue was not there anymore. Your life can change very suddenly.

The rest of the day was quiet, but that evening all hell broke loose. My nephew and I were in the middle of a wild shooting spree. I cannot remember much. The bullet was in my body. I heard my mother scream and then it was all over. Total silence. I was only 18 years old.

I wonder how my life would have turned out if I was able to go back to school years ago. I wonder how it would have been if my grandma’s glue did not disappear. I wonder if I could have been a good painter. And I wonder if my laaitie would make progress at school.

I think I will be wondering for ever.