Amnesia Getting to the Sandton licensing department in Marlboro was effortless. She has been here before.

Unfortunately, at first, she doesn't know that she has been here before. Two years had lapsed since that night that she had lost her wallet (and with it, her driver's license card). Had this knowledge been accessible to her before she hit the highway, she could have saved herself some time. Her mind works in strange ways. She is a highly educated woman but her abilities in the arts of practical living are sometimes found to be lacking. But one can sympathise with her forgetfulness on this particular matter. She hates losing things. Losing her wallet was an upsetting experience that, for a while, had been mercifully buried somewhere deep within. She hates losing in general, and during that harsh winter of 2007, she had stumbled into an infatuation that would turn out to be totally unrequited. It is even possible, this country being what it is, that the man in question didn't think of her as a woman. On the night she lost her wallet, she had gotten rather drunk so he could be forgiven for not thinking of her as a lady. A few days after that party, she had applied for a new license card, new credit cards, a new medical aid card. All that hassle, forgotten! This is why she is rarely unhappy. She has these bouts of profound forgetfulness to thank for her contentment. The object of her infatuation, a young man desperate to shed his skin, had arranged a dinner in Melville. He was new to Johannesburg and this mess of a suburb must have seemed to him a classless haven. She never tells him this, but she has quite a history with Melville. This must be the beauty of not straying too far from home in adulthood ± to be able to walk all over your foolishness and lust and ambition and heartbreak ± to retrace the geography of your heart ± and not fall. To walk past that spot that used to be The Bassline (In Music We Trust), where blk sonshine performed one night (µsoul smile¶) and one man was discarded for another. And then past Soi, where the chosen man wanted to dump her but lost the nerve ± only to find it weeks later. Past the small Greek restaurant where she tried to steal someone else¶s man. To walk through it all as if nothing ever happened suggested to her that she might have come a long way. A security man helps her to park her car. She is convinced she has all the necessary documents for her renewal application. The only outstanding thing, she reckons, is to take some ID-sized pictures. She even made sure to call the department in advance to check exactly how much she needs to pay and whether the office accepts card payments. They don't. On her way here, she had stopped at a garage to withdraw some cash. You see, all is not lost on the practical front. She has moments of administrative brilliance. She asks the security man where photographs can be taken. There is always such a place close to a licensing or home affairs department. He directs her to a field a few meters from the office. She decides to walk there. It is slightly chilly. She is wearing a bright red scarf over a black V-necked top. Her hair is loose, but it is not as severely flat-ironed as it was last week, so it doesn't blow too carelessly in the wind. She clutches her bag. She is usually confident that she can blend in safely anywhere. But this is Marlboro, a stone's throw from Alexandra. Of late, she has been thinking about developing what she calls her 'physical courage'. Being so close to Alex, she is engulfed by a thin layer of apprehension that she can't shake off. As she walks, she tries to imagine what she looks like to others. She feels good, strong, fit. She has some muscle tone these days. She still hasn't decided if this development diminishes her in some way. You let your hair grow, lose weight, what's next - a husband?

The men speak Sepedi. She knows she won't go there. He is applying for a professional. This isn't a bank. A white couple in an old. There are small mercies." She flashes the letter. she is never sure how to speak it (the proper uppity Setswana she grew up with? Jozi Sesotho/Setswana street medley? Setswana with bits of English thrown in?). Hope Flower is in an angst-ridden trance now. He is also laden with traffic department documents. The copier is connected to power coming from god-knows-where. a fee. A man knocks on her window." Or something like that. "The notice letter doesn't say anything about copies. She storms off. The man is wearing a leather jacket and expensive-looking shoes. He is short.. She is confused.what is wrong with these people? She is also baffled. No time for courageous gestures now. well-preserved Mercedes approach the photo stall and ask for the price. She gets copies her copies done. He chats to the photo guys. Please help me. The parking spot she gave up is still open. She cares nothing for her surroundings. Someone is charging R5 less around the corner. There is a mobile food stall. he claims. It mostly has to do with her fears and uncertainties. It is not clear to her why there are so many airtime vendors." "They won't help you without copies. The men mutter . There is a woman selling airtime." She glances at his documents. every outlet. Dealing with citizen-facing government departments puts her on edge. pictures. She reluctantly agrees to help him. Why should she help this well-dressed man with his forms? She utters some discouraging sounds. into the dark building. When she settles on a language. You bring your own copies here. then drives back to the licensing department. to make some photocopies. This has been going on for too long now. insulting service meted out by her own people. back to the field. He informs her of the requirements for a card renewal a copy of an ID document. "Can you hear me?" "Yes. The airtime woman is also in charge of photocopying operations. she walks back to the licensing department. Young men are still leaving their villages in Limpopo to settle amongst their Sepedi-speaking brethren on the margins of affluent suburbs in Johannesburg. "You seem educated. she finds a few stalls serving a diversity of needs. She wants to scream at him. "Where are you from?" "Ga-Molepo. pictures. perhaps an unoccupied property. a copy of the license card. She never knows what language to speak with officialdom. through every channel? Are people being constantly seized by airtime emergencies? Two men are running the photo operations. the expiring ID. There is a male client standing next to her. She also dreads being on the receiving end of possibly bad." She gets out of her car. There isn't a consultant to slip away to make copies of your documents. pointless argument. Ms.In a small open field.. They walk into the building. "Yes?" she snaps back. They are straight from Limpopo. she drives the short distance. The couple leaves. She thinks she might have seen him at the field. Where do people find the time to go comparison-shopping for something so cheap? Pictures taken." she glares at him. The man doesn't like the price. one she knows she will lose. She tells the man at reception her business. "Can you help me with these forms?" he asks. She doesn't bother to look at the board above the stall to see what's on the menu. Why do people need to be sold airtime at every corner. "I need your help. . It lists the requirements . She is feeling the first pangs of hunger. public license so that he can be a minibus taxi driver. They have a brief.

For him to have to ask for help. Fingerprints. And here they are. Then she looks up from the forms." He offers a few suggestions. "Why didn't you say something?" "I thought you were busy. She doesn't think of herself as the sort of woman strangers approach for help (aren't men supposed to be intimidated by her?). She is shown to the supervisor's office. "Weren't you here in 2007?" Yes. She joins her queues. if she can't trust herself on these types of issues. She resents bureaucracy. turns towards him and thrusts the pen at him. She writes something plausible. thirty-one years later: an aspiring writer playing scribe for an aspiring taxi driver." "Ignore the letter. She gets to the dotted line. She walks out of the neat room. here's the strange thing. she remembers that due to a silly mistake on her part.She hates forms.. There are people she has never met. She asks for his current address. "When does your card expire?" "Well. "Oops. "If you need to. catastrophes that reign over generations. there has to be a point to everything. He is her age. This is not about remembering. so vital. She is slowly coming to her senses. He supplies her with his identity document. A quick eye test. "Ah. I was distracted... She doesn't know the nature of his problem: is it the languages that the form is written in (English and Afrikaans)? Is he completely illiterate? Is this an elaborate pick-up ploy? She takes a small breath. She looks around to figure out which lines she needs to join after helping him. Things start coming to her. Not so long ago. It says on the card that it expires in 2012 but I got a notice for renewal. come here in 2012. She gets to work. Is this the guy she walked in with? No. She is mainly relieved to be done with him. Then it's time to pay. it is about coming into her . she has taken to making notes on her blackberry). She can barely look. he can at least sign his name. It can't be her smile. Now her work has been multiplied.this man is humiliated enough already. She hasn't been smiling much today. She has only just learned his name. She is entering the ancestral realm. He signs the dotted line . She will give it. my sister. "Do I need to apply for a temporary license whilst I'm waiting for my new card?" The woman behind the bars pauses. She stands next to him. This is not the stuff of short term or long term memory. she is in trouble with the taxman." Suddenly. I'm not too sure. she thinks. He gives her a pen (how many times has she been told that a writer never leaves home without a pen . he will collect the documents from the office when they are ready. not a cross. she certainly can't trust these people. She silently takes over his forms. that are a part of her." Busy with what. She can't imagine why he thought he needed help. He seems to know what he is doing. He knows the stand number. could be illiterate.then again. She puts it down to her eyes. Her expectations have plunged within minutes. He assures her the address is not necessary. examines her. He was born just over a month after she was born. his real name. He has asked for help. If she can make such mistakes. What was the point of this hour? In her world.a real signature. If your card says 2012." she moves towards the right man. he seems to struggle with the overall formulation. The forms are simple enough. She whispers a translation here and she a writer? . Her man is standing a few paces away. events that preceded her birth. Whatever his issues. she was shocked at the prospect that a man so young. they seem to come from deep inside her bones. She is relieved." "Really? It's up to me?" The woman rolls her eyes. It takes a few clicks on the supervisor's computer and all is recalled.

a long repressed. That world.being. always in her heart. run businesses under the sun and need help with filling out forms. The man who asked for her help was an angel who had come to remind her of a world that is becoming steadily incomprehensible to her . yet so easy to forget. being. almost inaccessible.that other place where people buy airtime all the time in tiny denominations. . ever so very close.