You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town Summary

Zoë Wicomb


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town” is an intense personal interior monologue of a young Coloured woman who aborts her unborn child, the offspring of a two-year relationship with her white boyfriend.

The story begins with the nameless narrator sitting on the bus into Cape Town, South Africa, clutching her purse and worrying about how much the fare is, if she will need change, what the lining of her handbag is made of, and where she should get off the bus. The entrance of two women who cook and clean for white women, on their way home from their jobs, offers her a welcome distraction. The narrator feels a flutter in her womb and thinks that God will never forgive her. She chooses to anchor her mind in the women’s conversation, mostly a monologue by the larger and more aggressive of the two who refers to herself as Tiena. The woman is discussing her white mistress, the stupidity and laxness of the white people, and how she manages to outwit them. She shares some chicken she has taken from the house with her friend, while she explains how her exploitative mistress tried to keep her from having any of it for herself. She also discusses the mistress’s daughter, who has been having sex with her fiancé but has been using birth control pills, which she assumes the servant is too ignorant to recognize. This girl will be married in white and seen as a blushing innocent by her family, though Tiena sees through her.

As she listens, the narrator...

(The entire section is 546 words.)