The kombi drivers and the conductors caused a mad racket as Fikile strode across the crowded bus rank of the capital city, Mbabane. These men, standing in haphazard groups around the within the rank, shouted snide comments at her. Each one of them felt they had something to say concerning the way Fikile was dressed. Most of their rantings were insulting and unpalatable, yet, notwithstanding that, the latter seemed to swallow them up without the slightest problem.
On-lookers and passers-by stared at her too. Others looked at her absent-mindedly, as they rushed to wherever they were headed and some, mostly the idlers, too keen interest in the unfolding events. Part of the latter mumbled their disapproval in what these men were doing, although a majority of seemed to share the same view with the raucous drivers and their counterparts.
‘She ought to be castigated and discouraged for such unwomanly behaviour,’ said one of the women vendors who sold fruits and vegetables in the bus rank. There were a growing number of these vendors who sat around the fringes of the terminus, selling their goods. In fact, they now seemed to outnumber the public transport for which the structure had been constructed. The city council rangers had tried in the past years to forcefully remove the former from the terminus, but in vain. They would only disappear for a few hours, and one-by-one—like vultures on a dead carcass—they would come back. The local authorities must have grown weary, so they now let them be. Although the influx of people selling various articles in the terminus meant bad news for those who did business in the legitimate market built by the authorities, the general public silently approved. Now one could easily purchase the items that were short at home without going to the expensive market a few streets away, without risking being left behind by the bus or kombi. Now who wouldn’t want that? This was the musing of most of the people who used the bus rank.
‘How dare she dresses up like that? With everything showing like that!’ said another one of the women. She proceeded to scoop ligushawith a rusted tin and filled it into a black plastic bag and, gave it to her customer. ‘That will be three emalangeni, thank you,’ she said as she received the coins. The two speakers and those that had heard her former comment broke out in a loud cackle.
‘These young ones have the nerve, I tell you,’ the first woman speaker replied her friend. ‘And to make matters worse, she doesn’t care a single bit! Look at how she is walking, tall and proud.’
Indeed, Fikile hadn’t the slightest shame by the looks of things. She strolled proudly amidst the hullaballoo her dress style had supposedly caused. She sported a white boob-tube top that clung—as if for dear life itself—to her plump body, and exposed slightly the cleavage of her breasts. The skirt she donned was held her tightly on the buttocks and hips and, was a few inches above her knees. Her slightly hairy thighs rubbed against each other as she continued walking. She also wore make-up, and it made her look a bit older than she was—nineteen.
Although the fear of imminent danger crossed her mind, seeing the place filled with a bunch of perverts, she didn’t think there was anything wrong in the manner she was dressed.
‘It is summer for crying out loud!’ she mused. ‘What must I be wearing? An all-weather coat and an ankle-length dress?’ she continued her musing. ‘This is not the Stone Age for Heaven’s sake!’
She now came near the kombis that ferried passengers to Eveni, her place of abode, and other areas in the vicinity. She got in. There were a few spaces that were unoccupied when she got in, and these were filled quickly after that. Seeing the kombi full to its capacity, the driver rushed in, ignited the old Toyota engine and drove out. No sooner did the kombi start to move than a man clad in blue overalls and a leather flat cap resumed the discussion on Fikile’s sense of style. He had shot an eye laden with disdain when she had got in.
The man went on a tirade regarding how today’s children had lost respect for adults and themselves too. As he developed his discourse, he proceeded to lick his calloused index fingers and cross-locked them as a sign of solemn vow to his great-grandfather Matamatisi, that if his daughter would ever dress like Fikile; he would be jailed for homicide. The driver joined in the discussion. He gawked gleefully at the overall-clad man on the rear view mirror and would occasionally steal a quick glance at Fikile.
Some of the passengers let out incomprehensible grumbles and, the women shook their heads slowly in disapproval of the image the young girl was portraying. Most of these women were clad in pink or powdered blue tunics and worked in the suburbs as domestic servants. Fikile sat two rows from the driver’s seat and as the “lecture” continued, she kept her eyes glued on a novel. She had raised her eyes from it only once, when the man had sworn that none of his children would be seen dressed like her, so long as he breathed oxygen. To that comment, she had partially grinned much to the vexation of the man.
The kombi swerved to and fro as it attempted to dodge the innumerable pot holes, as deep as rubbish pits, along the road to Eveni, a plush suburb undoubtedly exclusive for the well-to-do. The much respected residents of the place had complained—some even going to the extent of threatening to default on their rate taxes—about the deteriorating condition of the roads, and the city council had responded with the unconvincing measure of filling up the holes. This was ineffectual because every time the rainy season came, new holes, deeper than the previous ones would develop again. Presently the holes were very much a nuisance to the road users and the local authority was yet to respond.
Fezile looked up and signaled the driver that she was to get off at the Eveni bus stop.
‘Good riddance!’ yelled the driver. He changed down the gears and the engine let out dark choking cloud of smoke from its exhaust pipe. Through the rear view mirror he looked at his collaborator for support. And, this was not the type of chap to disappoint.
'Yes! You must tell your parents to teach you how to dress little girl, you hear?’ he howled and wagged an accusing finger at Fikile.
Fikile disembarked quietly and stood at the threshold as she handed the four emalangeni fare to the driver. Then abruptly, she said to the driver and the man: ‘Hhey’ nine, do you want to see more?’’ As they were still stunned by her sudden outburst, she pulled down her skimpy top and exposed her dark-nippled breasts for them to see. They bellowed and tried to cover their eyes. But it was too little too late.