Three Boys/Mad Hopes

There’s a little boy’s body lying at the morgue.

Unnamed. Unclaimed. Shirt blue, pants grey, passport photo in pocket.

He’ll never again run like the one outside Grove Mall.  Never spot me from across the street, trail me almost to KFC saying “Water. Water, Mevrou. Please. Water.”

I only notice the bottle of water in the outside compartment of my backpack when I’m driving away in a cab.

It’s full almost to the brim and clearly visible to anyone behind me and I finally understand the young man’s insistence despite my shooing him away. Stride swift, phone clutched, wallet empty besides the N$20 that will get me home.

My heart sinks to my feet as I catch what may be my last glimpse of him in the rearview mirror. His too big shirt billows in a merciful breeze as he bends over a dry hosepipe in the ground and his cheeks hollow with the effort of trying to suck something out of the opening.

The gush of water is timed.

Perhaps after sunset the stream will flow freely but for now the pipe is simply a tease. The kind of cruel joke that sees him wandering the streets in the first place. Filthy, alone and about 11 years old.

The water tastes sour when I drink it later but I drink every guilt-laced drop.

How can I not when my childhood was filled with makeshift dishwashing liquid and black bag slippery slides? Innocent ecstasy made magic with water to waste spilt copiously from taps that always gushed and nourished with the slightest turn.

I wonder about the boy’s mother but only for a moment.

One seldom knows how another life goes so I perish the thought to pray he met someone better than me.

Someone who listened. Someone less crippled by their duels with crime, harassment and men who stopped and heard and looked in their backpack.

It’s a mad hope but I send it out anyway, watch it fly out the window and over the city to the place where mad hopes go.

A few days later a 16-year-old boy dies a hero.

He rushes to the aid of woman screaming for help after being robbed of her cellphone and his life ends abruptly in the street – blood pooling, knife wound gushing, mother approaching to encounter the unspeakable.

His name was Megameno Kamwangha and he would have turned 17 this week.

Four years younger than his killer, perhaps 6 years older than the boy looking for water and no one can say how much more than the one in the mortuary.

They both wore blue.

In the images the world would come to know them by on social media and in press, the unnamed and the heroic both wore water.

Megameno’s bright, Nike and below a smiling face. The little boy’s removed from his body, laid below a light jacket next to the photograph the police found in his pocket.

I’m not sure why I notice this and I don’t know why it calms me.

I suppose it’s another one of my mad hopes.

Those irrational pleas you send out into the ether when you think there’s a God, an afterlife and that people who like the same colour shirts may notice one another in some heavenly queue, walk over to each other at the pearly gates and share the story of their lives.

Perhaps talking to Megameno, the little boy would finally have a name.

He’d claim the family that hasn’t yet claimed him.

He’d tell the story of his demise and his eyes would shine bright and alive as he described what he’d have liked to do with his life if living was kind, fair or worth the trouble.

I know it’s a sweet story and a mad hope but I send it out anyway. Watch it fly out the window and over the city to the place where mad hopes go thinking:

Maybe mad hopes eventually get to watching gods and make them cry.

Big tears disguised as welcome rain that soothes “Water. Water, Mevrou. Please. Water.”