Written by Kaiser Aryee
Walking down Victoria Street is a blissful
fever dream. My headphones provide an indie soundtrack for my romantic saunter
down the street. Safe enough to cocoon myself from the outside sounds with
music on loud. Mercilessly attractive
women stroll with Airpods, flowing hair and strange clothes – hippie chic,
hospice chic. White boys in slops. I wonder if they find me attractive, and I
don’t even want them.
I don’t belong. Lucky. I’ve always
been lucky. So lucky I feel guilty. My family doesn’t even know how lucky I am.
I relive the flashbacks of relatives who I have never met, who sell fish in
Ghana instead of going to school. It is a reality I have never lived but it
hovers dangerously close, a rotten fever dream. I sober quickly when I get too
comfortable, splicing painful memories through my consciousness while I pass
through hot shadows cast by the towering oak trees.
Blending in is important, this town spits
people out. Campus Security spits homeless people out of the Rooiplein daily.
Thankfully so. The Rooiplein: backdrop for the diverse rainbow-nation college
friend group seen on every prospective student’s pamphlet with an enticing
“APPLY NOW”. "Bergies" take
your scraps and coins in exchange for a fleeting moment of saviour complex. My
guilt, their currency, running a business on guilt. How exploitative.
I'm an imposter, it's only a matter of time
before I am found out and spat out. Many have gone. Exclusion: financial,
academic, social, mental health or simply the end of your degree. “You didn’t
think this three-year vacation was permanent, did you?” croaks my inner cynic,
a grim reaper around the corner. Blending in is important, this town spits
people out. I start by finding the right attire.
The Hospice Shop, which I understand is some
kind of goodwill establishment, but also where all the cool kids go to get
their clothes. I've long ditched on-season trendy Mr Price outfits for much
sought after thrifted overalls and mystical looking eastern style skirts. I had
to make quite a trek – into the Badlands… The taxi rank beyond Eikestad Mall
marks a hard border, showing the other side where the grass is a dull
ochre. Spoiler: There is no grass.
People don’t stroll here; they walk like their
employers are waiting. This is also the part of Stellenbosch where one is most
likely to get robbed at knife point. I blend in, headphones are best tucked
I cross Bird Street, it hits closer to home
than any of the boutique style coffee shops lining Dorp Street on the
"good" side of town, I’ve tried and failed to acquire an expensive
addiction to iced coffee - it gives me the jitters. I was genuinely shocked in
my first year, that Stellenbosch had a CBD, thinking so this is where all the brown people are hiding.
"Workers" (only poor people with jobs are "workers") make
kissy faces and call me sweety. I'm angry; can’t they see that we are not the
At the Hospice Shop, I'm side-by-side a
barefooted woman with dirty and calloused feet. She rummages through the same
smelly pile of clothes as me, collects a few R10 to R30 items and heads to the
counter where she pays for her goods. Moments later she returns to complain
about a shirt with a hole torn in the armpit. A screaming match ensues, she
spews the most impressive Cape curated profanities. I mind my own business.
Maybe I’ll finally find a snazzy oversized denim jacket today, softened by
years of wear. Hospice chic.