Many years ago, I read Peter Abrahams’s ‘Mine Boy’. Even then, its rich ménage of themes came to life for me, but what really struck a chord was the racial bigotry that ran through everyday life, from the paper pass, to a simple drink of beer. And the sadness in the novel leapt out and gripped my heart in a vice for many long days.
Last weekend, I read Mine Boy again, and savoured, once more, its clean and colourful characters: Xuma, Leah, Elisa, Maisy, Daddy, The Red One, The Fox, that sonofabitch, J. P. Williamsom et al. But, in the simple plot, this time, my now-older mind fixated on the theme of love, and of wishes and reality.
Powerfully-built Xuma loved the dainty Eliza. She loved the trappings of the white man’s world. She wanted a gentleman (like the doctor); a man who could read. Who would have clever-clever conversation with her in the night, and not just the raw, physical thrust of simple love. So, although Eliza loved Xuma back, and became his woman for a short while, she left him like a twilight thief. And she was never seen again.
Maisy was not quite a finished work of art, but she had warm laughter in her eyes and a lot of sugar in her heart. She loved Xuma, and he liked her. She made him happy, and, with her, he saw his worldly woes fly away. But he felt he loved her not.
In the end, Eliza stole away. Xuma was going to jail for co-leading a strike at the deathtrap which was also called a mine (a thing a black man had no donkey’s right to do). Before turning himself in, Xuma fled to Maisy, and beseeched her to wait for him. Maisy said she would, and we are all sure that she could and would.
Somewhere in that triangle, I learnt a lot about love, and what it really means. It means being at ease, being at peace, and having free fun with whoever is the one it happens with. That is love!
Postscript: Thank you, Peter Abrahams. This was too special to edit. It had to be read raw!