There are many ways to write this story. It could be sermonized or psychoanalyzed. It could be told with the aggressive, indignant tone of Eusebias McKaiser (but for maximum effect the perpetrators would have had to be white). It could be dressed in clever language. I cannot use a broken little boy as a metaphor and will simply state what we saw. So why write this then? Because it can’t go unnoticed, I can’t really explain why, I feel that it needs to be recorded. Maybe I should rather be telling you about wine estates that we visited in the Cape or a nice meal, not today.
Travelling home from the Cape we drove through Britstown, another town that you can blink and miss. We once spent a night there at Mirage Touriste Kamers.
A young boy, about 10 years old ran into the street. He was stark naked. At first we laughed, our 9 and 6 year olds will strip off their clothes at the drop of a hat. Then we saw his tears as he ran past. First impulse was, don’t interfere, it is simpler to observe and leave; but I had a son his size in the car and a suitcase of clothes.
We followed the boy. A lady tried to stop him, he spoke briefly to her then ran on with the desperate air of hunted prey. We stopped and asked the lady to call him back as we had clothes for him. Cautiously he came to our car. I handed him a pair of shorts and a shirt. He dressed. His mouth was cut and bleeding. His eyes were haunted.
We asked what had happened. The lady interpreted. Other boys had taken his clothes. We don’t know how many, we don’t know why. The lady walked off with the boy, we continued our journey.
There was no talk radio outrage, no newspaper headlines, no reporting to police, no trauma counselling. Nothing marked the day which will have scared a little boy for life.