That word

The drive was atavistic.

Hunter-gatherer sensibilities trumped a millennium’s worth of progress as we engaged in a quiet war to secure, and deftly, the most well-vantaged space for our cars.

Parking lots bring out the moer in people.

And the ugly too.

We were all inching along; the tiresome stop-go-stop-go, mindless clutch control, memorising the grocery list by rote.

A woman in the oncoming lane had her indicators on to claim a spot where a family were busy packing up lots of groceries and what could have been a baby or its pram into the boot of their car.

The man behind her hooted.

She made spastic hand gestures towards her rear-view mirror.

The impatient man was either not versed in mad finger pokes or really didn’t consider her problems to be his.

He proceeded to somehow squeeze his bakkie into the gap between her car and the other parked ones.

This looked like it was going to blow all out. Best to move along now, I thought, nothing to see and all that.

Her window was wound down on the the drivers side and I heard her say it.

Quite clearly.

“Fucking k******.”

The shock stayed with me all the way to Pick N’ Pay and blog.

She could have called him an asshole or a fucker or a fucking asshole or some other more creatively-constructed epithet.

And he no doubt deserved some measure of profanity for forcing his vehicle past hers the way he did.

But she used that word. Why, that word?

Was she so angry at that man that she just reached inside and pulled out the most hateful thing she could think of?

Here’s what got me.

This was a young woman, somewhere in her 20’s. Probably around my age.

Hardly fed off of the boob of apartheid, right?

It isn’t that if she were older, it would be more easily computed. It’s just that I don’t want to accept that certain things are still being passed on.

Is my alarm just symptomatic of my naiveté?

What do you think?

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I am a writer and photographer (look up my work on based in Johannesburg, South Africa. I have an MA in Creative Writing from the university currently known as Rhodes. My writing accolades include winning the 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize and the 2020 Ingrid Jonker Poetry Prize for my debut collection, Zikr.

6 thoughts on “That word”

  1. I think it is more an issue of the way that she was brought up and the influence that her parents played in her up bringing. Yes there are times when we are angry however, racial comments are definately not the way to get a point across.

    Yet now as i read the blog again, a thought runs through my mind. Is it an issue with all of us in this time and age. I mean i did not live through Apartheid, infact i was to young to remember most of it, however what i remember is my parents talking about it and my grand parents talking about what happend and how they were treated. Walking around with a pass showing that they were allowed to be here in the first place.

    People especially the young and un- educated tend to listen without thought.

    This is in no way a justification, just maybe a bit of though in the matter.

  2. I’ve heard ppl use that word for all races – not just for the one specific race.
    They explained it was to explain their frustration at the situation.


  3. Well I’M not surprised. Attitudes rarely change and are unfortunately passed down. A study done with Unisa students over a 10 year period indicated that attitudes and perceptions rarely change. It takes dramtic events or concsious willingness to change, to convert attitudes.
    Deep down most South Africans harbour racism and discrimination. I heard a 5 year old saying f*#” koelie.

  4. Im not surprised, but still saddened, that when people are upset, they still reach deep within their festering souls and pull out the worst of their humanity!

  5. i think that it is fucking shocking and i was just as shocked to hear it when i was in stellenbosch earlier this year. a dude and his whore girl friend tried to run over a car guard cos he asked for money for looking after their car (obviously) at the coke zero festival thing. they refused, the guard said something, the oke punched him and then tried to run over him. the bitch scream “k—blah blah”. i was also shocked; cudnt believe my ears/eyes/and mouth hung wide open.

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