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Pilgrims Of Fortune Part 3

Later at noon, I sneaked outside and strolled back to the bus station. I was feeling tipsy from the few beers I had consumed. Johannesburg ...

Later at noon, I sneaked outside and strolled back to the bus station. I was feeling tipsy from the few beers I had consumed. Johannesburg beer is matured and gives a punch compared with Harare.

I had been drinking for a while, so I know what I mean. But I never wanted to miss Philemon – my only source of liberation from the menacing city.

By Derick Matsengarwodzi

The wait was longer than I had budgeted for. Around 7:00 pm. I noticed a familiar figure approaching. He is rope thin like before. Although I had not seen him in five years, I was not mistaken.

It was him, Philemon, my rescuer.

He had finally arrived to pick me up as he had promised. I stand up to greet him. He grins and promptly grabs my bag.

“Let’s go home, my friend, it’s not safe here.”
Park Station 

I did exactly as he said without protest. We did not waste time in the station, because it was risky place according to him. Inside the taxi we remained mum, until we dropped off. The excitement of the reunion had to wait until we reached a fairly safer place.

“So how did you get here,” he finally asked when we dropped off the taxi.

I paused. I was not sure where to start.

“It’s been a long journey, my friend but I am glad you finally came to fetch me.”

Their lodging was a garage converted into a single large room. Already, there were four other occupants, including Philemon. I will be the fifth dweller, without the owner’s knowledge.

An overused double bed and an old fashioned refrigerator that mainly contained water and beer occupied adjacent corners of the room. In between is a small passage, the size of a grown up man. That will be my designated sleeping spot.
Sleeping In Overcrowded Room 

Inside the room, there is a lingering smell of soiled underwear, shoes and socks that addressed you as you entered. The stench of used condoms – remnant of lager are too pronounced to ignore either.

With time, I will get used to it. I can survive any unpleasant smell, as long as there is a roof over my head.

Before long, two other occupants arrived. When they notice me and my bag, they were less amused. I could sense it. Philemon had not notified them of my imminent arrival. I could feel the resentment building. Imagine five adults constricted in a single room and feeding from one plate.

After a shared meal, they decided we go for a drink to celebrate my arrival. I could not decline such a generous offer – I was also craving for a cold drink. We all drove off.

The nearby tavern – Cecelia, is named after the owner. A round of beers was ordered. We all assumed our drinking postures. This time there was no sharing, like other imbibers had requested in the city.

I recited tales from home – they listened alertly.
Drinking Is Part Of Life For Immigrants 

Most of the guys had not been home in countless years for various reasons – chiefly was lack of proper travelling documents. Without these, many would not even enter the city as they risked arrest and deportation by home affairs officials.

That’s why Philemon was swift when he picked me at the station, now I knew. We did not discuss this. This is a sensitive topic.

Brown, a guy I met at the tavern had left Gweru aged 18. Twenty years later, he had not travelled home. Now he was married and was fluent in local languages that he never imagined himself in Zimbabwe, again.

All along beer was flowing freely until it was my turn to buy around. I thought they were celebrating my arrival like they had all said?

Anyway, I requested a round. It was six quarts altogether. Our get-together lasted until the early hours. All these guys were self-employed as I discovered later, so their jobs commenced any time of the day.

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