I don’t want to use the word victim.
It sounds so weak and pitiful. But that is what I was. When I think about it, I was a victim. A victim of a smash & grab incident while driving home on Wednesday night. Living in South Africa we know that things like this happen. We put smash & grab film on our car windows thinking that it will protect us in the “unlikely” event that it happens to us. We live our lives, we go about our daily chores and we become complacent. We all know the “rules”… Never drive with your bag on the seat beside you… Don’t put valuables in view of possible thieves… Don’t talk/text on your phone while stationary at traffic lights… and yet we have all done one or all of the above… Yes. We think it will never happen to us.
Until it does.
You leave the office later than normal. You drive unconsciously on your usual route home and think to yourself “I better send my husband a message to say I’m nearly home”. You pull up to a red traffic light. You pick up your phone to send the message you just told yourself to send. You focus on the phone. You stop being alert. You stop being conscious of what is happening around your car as you quickly tic tic tic out that message on Whatsapp. Then you hear it. The BWA-CRASH. You are stunned into absolute shock for about 2.4 seconds. Your brain finally catches up with your body and registers that there is glass all over you and that there is someone shouting at you. Someone who you can’t quite see because he is wearing dark clothes and it’s dark outside and you are screaming at him something along the lines of “what the… what are you DOING?” He is tugging your arm trying to wrest your phone out of your hand while screaming “you stupid bitch, just give me the phone”. You hit out at him thru the window that is somehow still hanging by a shard of glass with your elbow and he gets your phone and before you think to look behind you, he’s gone.
Your phone is gone. Your hands are bleeding. Your heart is pounding. The car behind you hoots aggressively because the lights have turned green and you have not pulled off. You come out of the reverie you’ve been part of and you realise “shit I’ve just been the victim of a smash & grab”.
Your life has changed in the space of a minute (maximum two) and your hands start to shake.
You put your car into first gear and you force yourself to be calm and drive home. You worry about your little boy seeing you with blood on your hands, and shout to your partner to not let him run downstairs to hug you because you are full of glass and don’t want to cut him. You slowly pull off your glass stained coat, trousers and shirt while trying not to get any more fine slivers of glass into your hands and legs. You shake out your hair to get rid of the glass.
You answer endless questions from your 3 year old about why your hands are bleeding. Why the man broke your car window. Why he took your phone. Why. Why. Why. All the while you are trying to make sense of it all yourself.
You settle your children. You do what a mom needs to do at night. You bath your kids. You put them to bed.
Then and only then, you allow yourself to feel the violation. You allow yourself to feel the hot tears prick the back of your eyelids. You allow your hands to shake. You try sleep but keep hearing that awful sound every time you close your eyes. You start to remember what went down. You start to process.
When the sun comes up the next day and you’ve slept despite the events of the night before, you sort out the insurance claims. You get your window fixed. You arrange for sim-swops and new phones. You suspect EVERYONE at every intersection. You go to work. You drive home the next night and force yourself to use the same route. You feel nervous but you do it. You drive past your shattered but in tact window (thanks to that smash and grab film you had fitted) lying on the side of the road and you realise that it will take more than one asshole to make you live in fear. That you choose not to live in fear.
You choose to heal. You choose to forgive the man who did this to you. Because life needs to go on. Because life is too short to allow one incident to define your views of your country. Because this is where you have chosen to live your life.
You heal. More and more each day. You heal.