I wrote this ten years ago, shortly after a lonely road trip from Kimberley to Cape Town. I wondered at the road signs—in the middle of bloody nowhere—that showed the number of accident free days. Who changed the numbers on these signs, and how depressing a job is that!? Below is the result of that reflection; it’s from the perspective of a rather disagreeable fellow, but I’ve always quite liked it.
Bearer of Days
God, it’s hot. Why does it have to be so hot?
I hit the dashboard in irritation. The aircon hasn’t worked in years. I’ve had it re-gassed twice already—the second time with special paint. The colouring, they said, will be exposed under UV light inspection. We’ll find the leak, no problem. They didn’t see shit. The mechanic then tuned me some story that the compressor might be the problem, and that that will cost three grand to fix. Three grand! Fuck that greasy little bastard.
The road stretches to the horizon. It’s straight, but I drive in circles. I’ve never been to the end of the road where so many people go. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I don’t really care anymore. I used to. I don’t know how I feel about that too. But I’m content. Or rather, I’ve made my peace to drive this stretch of the N1 for the rest of my life. They call it, “The Road of Death”, and I know its curves like the life line cut in my palm.
The heat shimmers off the living tar. It’s a rabid animal that scavenges. Only three days ago, a taxi had crashed, feeding the insatiable beast again; this time, it devoured thirteen kaffers. They had used a shifting spanner for a steering wheel. Jesus, how stupid can you be?
But it’s for them, these dead fools, that I drive my circle again. I carry numbers, I bear days. When I was younger, I used to think a lot about what I do, but now I prefer the dull bliss of drink. I often joke that it was my wife that drove me to booze. It wasn’t.
The karoo veld rushes past me in a haze. It’s grey and red. Kameeldoring and dust. Why does it have to be so hot? I wipe the sweat from my forehead and when I look back at the road, I see death—my death and others’. They are real and not ghosts.
Instantly sober, I perceive the horror of faces—young and old—just before I crash my piece-of-shit car into a SUV.
I am not dead, but I will be soon. Who will change the “Accident Free” sign? It’s stupid to worry about that, but it bothers me. The number is wrong, and now there’s no-one to set it right.