I have had two encounters with death. If you are a pessimist, everyday is a meeting with death but these two events almost resulted in a rather undignified ending.
The first incident was at home. It was a warm afternoon, after a relatively busy day at high school. I went around the house performing my chores. You know, like back in the day when kids were told to stop watching Bold and the Beautiful and do something productive?
On my way to close the living room curtains, I helped myself to an Endearmint. They’re those lovely, milky- white, chewy mints that could break your tooth or as in my case, bring you closer to your fate. Upon reflection, the first three letters of Endearmint were a great warning.
Instead of putting it in my mouth to quietly suck on, I tossed it in the air, put my hands behind my back and attempted to catch it with my mouth wide open. It was a trend I had picked up from watching pantsula dancers and it had worked before with peanuts and grapes. Based on previous success, this should have been no different. However, as opposed to settling on my tongue, the mint sealed my wind pipe. It was a perfect fit. It was then that my first fight with death began. I raged against my last gasp, ran to my mother’s bedroom, tried to signal the problem whilst gasping, choking and crying. She shoved her fingers down my throat and told me to keep swallowing. It was the longest 3 minutes of my life before the combination of water, my mom’s fingers and a brief prayer, sent the mint lower down my throat and allowed for some air. Should this not have worked, my mom (also a doctor), confessed that she was on her way to the kitchen to fetch the sharpest knife and perform a small operation that would allow me to breath. Every time I remember this incident, I imagine a tombstone written: ”Here lies Phakamani, she died a sweet death”.
The second encounter was a little more serious. I was walking to campus just before midday to do research and print notes. I walked past a tall, middle-aged man, wearing dark sunglasses, a sport hat, jeans and a drimac. Nothing out of the usual except, why is a middle- aged man soaking up the sun instead of clocking in some hours at work midday?
I walked past him feeling a little nervous about the tattoo on the back of his hand. I have nothing against tattoos but I’d watched too many documentaries about gang related tattoos. A minute after I had passed him, he ran up against me. I think it was a failed attempt at snatching my bag. He walked in front of me towards campus and I slowed down behind him. I ignored the whispers telling me to cross the road or to walk in the opposite direction. As he reached the top of the cross road leading to campus, he turned around and pulled out a thick knife with a steel handle. I turned around to run, felt my sandal’s slipping off, screaming help! He chased me for about a meter and pulled my right shoulder down with his free hand. I was on my back, against the tar throwing my purse at him and pushing the knife away from stomach. Luckily, it was a busy road so onlookers came to my rescue. The punk ran off without a single thing and he was chased after by private security guards doing their morning routes. They found him cowering in the drains.
I was left wondering where that big puddle on the tar came from? Turns out I was so scared; I lost control of my bladder. I have to thank my Bridget Jones inspired underwear for keeping my frock dry.
What is the point of the now common middle class existential crisis? A life made up of angst, fear, numbness and despair even with an environmentally- friendly roof over your head and beef medallions in your stomach. You see my friends, unlike life, death is short. It’s a mint blocking your windpipe or a brush with a jail bird on parole.