While Walking Alone Through The Park At Night: A Short Story
An Hour Before Midnight
New Year’s Eve, December 1981, Josh at the relatively young age of 25 is intent on seeing the sights in the streets at midnight to celebrate the start of a new year and new beginnings. That afternoon he has a few glasses of wine in his flat, rests then goes out on foot to the streets of Hillbrow, Johannesburg.
Two weeks ago he had resigned from his job with the post office. He’d worked at the central post office handing out large bags of post to company delivery men for most of the year. Then after making enquiries about getting a more office orientated position, he had been transferred to a small post office; unfortunately Josh clashed with the boss there. Others clashed with the boss too; a woman employee burst into tears and ran outside one day when Josh started work there. After only two weeks of being in his new position he decides to quit, feeling humiliated by the boss's beligerent manner of putting him down in front of customers.
Josh soon finds a temporary job but is looking for something permanent. He also mulls over the idea of returning to his home city on the coast. He does not know a lot of people in Johannesburg; some friends who’d stayed there have gone to live overseas recently.
The Streets Are Alive
The streets are abuzz with activity, there are people everywhere; a festive atmosphere fills the air. What Josh doesn’t know is that some of the people get out of hand at this time of the year in this part of the city. During past New Year’s celebrations large items such as tables, chairs and even fridges were thrown off balconies into the streets below. It seems to be quite safe this year, the people are enjoying themselves but not doing anything dastardly, at least not in the area around him.
Josh is hungry; he buys a hotdog from a vendor and munches on it while watching the revellers. It’s after midnight and many are cheering, waving their arms about and dancing in the street. After a while, being on his own, he decides there’s nothing more for him to see or do so he starts to make his way home at a leisurely pace.
Just near his flat he decides to take a short-cut through the park, it’s not a very big park - it's dimly lit. Along the pathway he walks, then climbs on the roundabout and pushes with one foot on the ground to get it into motion, enjoying spinning around for a time. Feeling dizzy he climbs off the roundabout and continues on his way, it’s not far to the exit now.
Just then, a group of young males appear out of the darkness, there are three or four of them, one, stocky and well-built approaches him. He looks rather menacing and says to Josh “you got some money for me?”
Unexpectedly the youth starts to put his hands into Josh’s jean pockets searching for money, eventually finding R20.00 in his back pocket. Josh is alarmed, he’s never been in a situation like this before and says “hey give me that money back!”
This remark infuriates his assailant; before Josh can think to defend himself he sees two clasped fists coming at his face. Wham! - he’s been struck with a horrendous blow to his cheek. He reacts instinctively and flees towards the park exit with overwhelming fear and flight encompassing his entire being. He hears his attacker calling his mates to come help him chase Josh, as Josh races with all his might out of the park and up the stairs of his flat building. On the first flight of stairs up Josh trips and falls, his attackers catch up with him and start to kick and beat him. This time it’s a youth with long blonde hair who is upon him.
At the top of his lungs Josh cries out “Help, help, leave me alone!”
Nearby there’s the sound of a door opening, some people are coming to investigate; his attackers immediately flee. In pain, dazed and confused he is asked by the men who have come to his aid if he needs help.
Ridiculous as it may seem Josh says “no, it’s okay, I’m alright thanks."
He has somewhat of a passive nature and doesn’t want to impose on strangers. He could have done with some help but instead, pretends not to need it and heads for his flat, locks the door behind him and goes to peer out of the window at the park where he was assaulted - it's across the street.
There appears to be nobody in the park which has some dim lights burning along the pathway and elsewhere. Tentatively he goes to the bathroom to inspect his face in the mirror. His head is throbbing with pain; he feels awful, dizzy, confused and afraid. His face looks red and sore, especially the cheekbone on the right side. He’s hurt his hand and shoulder and leg from falling on the stairway.
Cautiously He Leaves....
Josh tries to gather his wits about him and after about an hour of deliberation he decides to head out in his car to the hospital. Fear of being attacked again has prevented him from going there sooner.
Cautiously he leaves the flat, goes downstairs to the parking lot and drives out into the mid-early morning hours to look for the hospital. Thankfully he does not see his attackers anywhere near to where he lives; feeling stricken Josh drives to where he thinks the hospital is. The place he goes to isn’t the hospital; he’s given directions by a security guard as to its location. After a certain amount of driving about Josh finally finds the hospital and goes to the casualty department.
It’s a slow night in the casualty department of the Jobur'g General Hospital; there are some plastic chairs where Josh must wait to fill in forms before he can be seen to. Nausea starts to overwhelm him, he feels as if he might collapse but holds on until it’s his turn to sit at a cubicle to see a consultant. All this time his face aches and he feels ill; with difficulty he fills in the necessary paperwork.
At Last he’s done and is seen to by nurses and a doctor then given some medication for pain.
“Have you been on a razzle?” asks the young smiling doctor.
Although he’d had a little wine the previous afternoon Josh hadn’t gone out drinking that night.
“No, I haven’t” says Josh but the doctor doesn’t say anything in reply.
He’s put into a ward with other patients and spends the day and night there. He’s taken for x-rays on his face and head, most of the time Josh rests and sleeps. The patients in the ward explain how they landed up in hospital. One man says he was stabbed by a friend after an argument.
What kind of friends would do that? Josh thinks to himself.
Before being discharged the next day the doctor tells him he must come back in two weeks for an appointment but does not think any operation will be necessary, there is some damage to the maxilla bone in his face though.
It hurts, my face really hurts.
It is a long two weeks wait for Josh, his temporary job has come to an end and he doesn’t get out much, the incident in the park has made him afraid of being mugged again. He reads reports in the newspaper of others who have been assaulted and robbed. It’s a bit of a lonely time for him, not even attending the weekly art classes at night he’d been going to: the classes had given him enjoyment and an opportunity to be with others in a relaxed atmosphere. Resting and reading helps to pass the time now.
It’s time to go for his appointment; he waits for hours that day to see the doctor. He’s told he will need a minor maxilla facial operation, to lift the bone slightly. Josh goes in for the op two days later; they shave the side of his head where they will make an incision to lift the facial bone.
The operation is successful and while he spends a few days in hospital the nurses are great, they give him back rubs and are good company. Josh is discharged, returning home to recuperate; his problem now is that he looks a bit weird due to the shaven side of his head that has stitches too. One day when he’s walking in the street Josh notices a woman looking at his head and then kind of walking at a distance past him with a suspicious look on her face. Maybe she thinks I’m a dangerous skinhead?
He feels slightly hurt that there could be some misunderstanding about his appearance, by others.
A few weeks later Josh decides there’s not a life for him in Johannesburg; he packs up and leaves for his home city on the coast, a thousand kilometres away. He’d had some good times in Jobur'g and one bad experience – it is now time to go home to look for new work opportunities, a new life and a girlfriend perhaps.
Do You Think Josh Has Made the Right Decision - To Go Back to His Home City?
© 2013 David Edward Lynch