The Thirteenth Train
Liesl Jobson

There are 13 trains a week from Berlin to East London in the Amatole region of the Eastern Cape.

Nosipho sits at her desk on a Sunday evening. She's studying interior design by correspondence. Or rather, she's trying to study. She is trying to be calm and still to optimise her memory retention. She knows how many trains there are because she counts them as they pass each day.

She painted her desk a pale salmony pink, the colour of the Dawn body lotion her grandmother would rub into her old skin if there were money. It is the colour of the icecream she will buy Gogo when she is a qualified interior designer. The desk is the colour of her once white underwear after she left it soaking with the new red face cloth she bought on sale from the Indian shop. She forgot how cheap dye runs. Maybe her memory retention would improve if she had something to cook.

She used to attend the Nowawe Senior Secondary School in Tshabo village. Before she got sick. Now she reads good advice in old magazines, like "Redecorating on a Shoe String". That was not easy to decode. She translates these articles using the English-Xhosa dictionary she stole from the Bisho library when they went on a field trip. English has many idioms that are difficult to comprehend. She reads _Garden & Home_ and _Women's Value_, which she finds at the rubbish dump.

The article explained how pink induces advanced states of relaxation, evoking the serenity of the womb. The translation took a long time. Sometimes she forgets to cook. Even when there is food. Gogo forgets too. Maybe Nosipho will study translation after she has become an interior decorator. In _Fair Lady_ magazine she read, "Discover Your Hidden Assets". It revealed wonderful ways of developing a mindset for success and motivation.

Once a month Nosipho's CD4 count is checked at the clinic. The sister there says it is decreasing steadily. Soon she must start antiretroviral therapy.

Nosipho tried to use the power of positive thinking to calm Gogo down when she cried because the food money was spent on paint.

Use your Imagination. It is a good tip.

Nosipho will take the thirteenth train one day. All the way to East London. From there she will catch a bus to Port Elizabeth. And then she will fly to Johannesburg. From Johannesburg it is a small hop to Berlin in Germany - if you know how to access your hidden assets.

But if you can't access them, then it is good to have a desk that induces advanced states of relaxation. Meditation is scientifically proven to enhance the immune system.

First published: May 2005
comments to the writer: Knob'