کتاب: زاده‌ی جرم / فصل 17


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By the end of high school I’d become a mogul. My tuck-shop business had evolved into a mini-empire that included selling pirated CDs I made at home. I’d convinced my mother, as frugal as she was, that I needed a computer for school. I didn’t. I wanted it so I could surf the Internet and play Leisure Suit Larry. But I was very convincing, and she broke down and got it for me. Thanks to the computer, the Internet, and the fortunate gift of a CD writer from a friend, I was in business.

I had carved out my niche, and was having a great time; life was so good as an outsider that I didn’t even think about dating. The only girls in my life were the naked ones on my computer. While I downloaded music and messed around in chat rooms, I’d dabble in porn sites here and there. No video, of course, only pictures. With online porn today you just drop straight into the madness, but with dial-up it took so long for the images to load. It was almost gentlemanly compared to now. You’d spend a good five minutes looking at her face, getting to know her as a person. Then a few minutes later you’d get some boobs. By the time you got to her vagina, you’d spent a lot of quality time together.

In September of grade twelve, the matric dance was coming up. Senior prom. This was the big one. I was again faced with the dilemma of Valentine’s Day, confronting another strange ritual I did not understand. All I knew about prom was that, according to my American movies, prom is where it happens. You lose your virginity. You go and you ride in the limousine, and then you and the girl do the thing. That was literally my only reference. But I knew the rule: Cool guys get girls, and funny guys get to hang out with the cool guys with their girls. So I’d assumed I wouldn’t be going, or if I did go it wouldn’t be with a date.

I had two middlemen working for me in my CD business, Bongani and Tom. They sold the CDs that I copied in exchange for a cut. I met Tom at the arcade at the Balfour Park mall. Like Teddy, he lived nearby because his mom was a domestic worker. Tom was in my grade but went to a government school, Northview, a proper ghetto school. Tom handled my CD sales over there.

Tom was a chatterbox, hyperactive and go-go-go. He was a real hustler, too, always trying to cut a deal, work an angle. He could get people to do anything. A great guy, but fucking crazy and a complete liar as well. I went with him once to Hammanskraal, a settlement that was like a homeland, but not really. Hammanskraal, as its Afrikaans name suggests, was the kraal of Hamman, what used to be a white man’s farm. The proper homelands, Venda and Gazankulu and Transkei, were places where black people actually lived, and the government drew a border around them and said, “Stay there.” Hammanskraal and settlements like it were empty places on the map where deported black people had been relocated. That’s what the government did. They would find some patch of arid, dusty, useless land, and dig row after row of holes in the ground—a thousand latrines to serve four thousand families. Then they’d forcibly remove people from illegally occupying some white area and drop them off in the middle of nowhere with some pallets of plywood and corrugated iron. “Here. This is your new home. Build some houses. Good luck.” We’d watch it on the news. It was like some heartless, survival-based reality TV show, only nobody won any money.

One afternoon in Hammanskraal, Tom told me we were going to see a talent show. At the time, I had a pair of Timberland boots I’d bought. They were the only decent piece of clothing I owned. Back then, almost no one in South Africa had Timberlands. They were impossible to get, but everyone wanted them because American rappers wore them. I’d scrimped and saved my tuck-shop money and my CD money to buy them. As we were leaving, Tom told me, “Be sure to wear your Timberlands.” The talent show was in this little community hall attached to nothing in the middle of nowhere. When we got there, Tom was going around, shaking hands, chatting with everybody. There was singing, dancing, some poetry. Then the host got up onstage and said, “Re na le modiragatsi yo o kgethegileng. Ka kopo amogelang…Spliff Star!” “We’ve got a special performer, a rapper all the way from America. Please welcome…Spliff Star!” Spliff Star was Busta Rhymes’s hype man at the time. I sat there, confused. What? Spliff Star? In Hammanskraal? Then everyone in the room turned and looked at me. Tom walked over and whispered in my ear.

“Dude, come up onstage.”


“Come onstage.”

“Dude, what are you talking about?”

“Dude, please, you’re gonna get me in so much shit. They’ve already paid me the money.”

“Money? What money?”

Of course, what Tom had failed to tell me was that he’d told these people he was bringing a famous rapper from America to come and rap in their talent show. He had demanded to be paid up front for doing so, and I, in my Timberlands, was that famous American rapper.

“Screw you,” I said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Please, dude, I’m begging you. Please do me this favor. Please. There’s this girl here, and I wanna get with her, and I told her I know all these rappers…Please. I’m begging you.” “Dude, I’m not Spliff Star. What am I gonna do?!”

“Just rap Busta Rhymes songs.”

“But I don’t know any of the lyrics.”

“It doesn’t matter. These people don’t speak English.”

“Aw, fuck.”

I got up onstage and Tom did some terrible beat-boxing—“Bff ba-dff, bff bff ba-dff”—while I stumbled through some Busta Rhymes lyrics that I made up as I went along. The audience erupted with cheers and applause. An American rapper had come to Hammanskraal, and it was the most epic thing they had ever seen.

So that’s Tom.

One afternoon Tom came by my house and we started talking about the dance. I told him I didn’t have a date, couldn’t get a date, and wasn’t going to get a date.

“I can get you a girl to go with you to the dance,” he said.

“No, you can’t.”

“Yes, I can. Let’s make a deal.”

“I don’t want one of your deals, Tom.”

“No, listen, here’s the deal. If you give me a better cut on the CDs I’m selling, plus a bunch of free music for myself, I’ll come back with the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen in your life, and she’ll be your date for the dance.” “Okay, I’ll take that deal because it’s never going to happen.”

“Do we have a deal?”

“We have a deal, but it’s not going to happen.”

“But do we have a deal?”

“It’s a deal.”

“Okay, I’m going to find you a date. She’s going to be the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen, and you’re going to take her to the matric dance and you’re going to be a superstar.” The dance was still two months away. I promptly forgot about Tom and his ridiculous deal. Then he came over to my house one afternoon and popped his head into my room.

“I found the girl.”


“Yeah. You have to come and meet her.”

I knew Tom was full of shit, but the thing that makes a con man successful is that he never gives you nothing. He delivers just enough to keep you believing. Tom had introduced me to many beautiful women. He was never dating them, but he talked a good game, and was always around them. So when he said he had a girl, I didn’t doubt him. The two of us jumped on a bus and headed into the city.

The girl lived in a run-down block of flats downtown. We found her building, and a girl leaned over the balcony and waved us inside. That was the girl’s sister Lerato, Tom said. Come to find out, he’d been trying to get with Lerato, and setting me up with the sister was his way in—of course, Tom was working an angle.

It was dark in the lobby. The elevator was busted, so we walked up several flights. This girl Lerato brought us into the flat. In the living room was this giant, but I mean really, really enormous, fat woman. I was like, Oh, Tom. I see what you’ve done here. Nicely played. Tom was a big joker as well.

“Is this my date?” I asked.

“No, no, no,” he said. “This is not your date. This is her older sister. Your date is Babiki. Babiki has three older sisters, and Lerato is her younger sister. Babiki’s gone to the store to buy groceries. She’ll be back in a moment.” We waited, chatted with the older sister. Ten minutes later the door opened and the most beautiful girl I have ever seen in my life walked in. She was…good Lord. Beautiful eyes, beautiful golden yellow-brown skin. It was like she glowed. No girl at my high school looked anything like her.

“Hi,” she said.

“Hi,” I replied.

I was dumbfounded. I had no idea how to talk to a girl that beautiful. She was shy and didn’t speak much, either. There was a bit of an awkward pause. Luckily Tom’s a guy who just talks and talks. He jumped right in and smoothed everything over. “Trevor, this is Babiki. Babiki, Trevor.” He went on and on about how great I was, how much she was looking forward to the dance, when I would pick her up for the dance, all the details. We hung out for a few, and then Tom needed to get going so we headed out the door. Babiki turned and smiled at me and waved as we left.



We walked out of that building and I was the happiest man on earth. I couldn’t believe it. I was the guy at school who couldn’t get a date. I’d resigned myself to never getting a date, didn’t consider myself worthy of having a date. But now I was going to the matric dance with the most beautiful girl in the world.

Over the following weeks we went down to Hillbrow a few more times to hang out with Babiki and her sisters and her friends. Babiki’s family was Pedi, one of South Africa’s smaller tribes. I liked getting to know people of different backgrounds, so that was fun. Babiki and her friends were what we call amabhujua. They’re as poor as most other black people, but they try to act like they’re not. They dress fashionably and act rich. Amabhujua will put a shirt on layaway, one shirt, and spend seven months paying it off. They’ll live in shacks wearing Italian leather shoes that cost thousands. An interesting crowd.

Babiki and I never went on a date alone. It was always the two of us in a group. She was shy, and I was a nervous wreck most of the time, but we had fun. Tom kept everyone loose and having a good time. Whenever we’d say goodbye, Babiki would give me a hug, and once she even gave me a little kiss. I was in heaven. I was like, Yeah, I’ve got a girlfriend. Cool.

As the dance approached, I started getting nervous. I didn’t have a car. I didn’t have any decent clothes. This was my first time taking out a beautiful girl, and I wanted it to be perfect.

We’d moved to Highlands North when my stepfather’s garage went out of business, and he moved his workshop to the house. We had a big yard and a garage in the back, and that became his new workshop, essentially. At any given time, we had at least ten or fifteen cars in the driveway, in the yard, and out on the street, clients’ cars being worked on and old junkers Abel kept around to tinker with. One afternoon Tom and I were at the house. Tom was telling Abel about my date, and Abel decided to be generous. He said I could take a car for the dance.

There was a red Mazda that we’d had for a while, a complete piece of shit but it worked well enough. I’d borrowed it before, but the car I really wanted was Abel’s BMW. It was old and beat-up like the Mazda, but a shit BMW is still a BMW. I begged him to let me take it.

“Please, please, can I use the BMW?”

“Not a fucking chance.”

“Please. This is the greatest moment in my life. Please. I’m begging you.”



“No. You can take the Mazda.”

Tom, always the hustler and the dealmaker, stepped in.

“Bra Abie,” he said. “I don’t think you understand. If you saw the girl Trevor is taking to the dance, you would see why this is so important. Let’s make a deal. If we bring her here and she’s the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen in your life, you’ll let him take the BMW.” Abel thought about it.

“Okay. Deal.”

We went to Babiki’s flat, told her my parents wanted to meet her, and brought her back to my house. Then we brought her around to the garage in the back where Abel and his guys were working. Tom and I went over and introduced them.

“Abel, this is Babiki. Babiki, this is Abel.”

Abel smiled big, was charming as always.

“Nice to meet you,” he said.

They chatted for a few minutes. Tom and Babiki left. Abel turned to me.

“Is that the girl?”


“You can take the BMW.”

Once I had the car, I desperately needed something to wear. I was taking out this girl who was really into fashion, and, except for my Timberlands, everything I owned was shit. I was limited in my wardrobe choices because I was stuck buying in the shops my mother let me go to, and my mother did not believe in spending money on clothes. She’d take me to some bargain clothing store and tell me what our budget was, and I’d have to find something to wear.

At the time I had no clue about clothes. My idea of fashion was a brand of clothing called Powerhouse. It was the kind of stuff weight lifters wear down in Miami or out at Venice Beach, baggy track pants with baggy sweatshirts. The logo was a cartoon of this giant bodybuilding bulldog wearing wraparound sunglasses and smoking a cigar and flexing his muscles. On the pants he was flexing all the way down your leg. On the shirt he was flexing across your chest. On the underwear, he was flexing on your crotch. I thought Powerhouse was the baddest thing in the world, I can’t even front. I had no friends, I loved dogs, and muscles were cool—that’s where I was working from. I had Powerhouse everything, the full range, five of the same outfit in five different colors. It was easy. The pants came with the top, so I knew how to make it work.

Bongani, the other middleman from my CD business, found out I had a date, and he made it his mission to give me a makeover. “You need to up your game,” he said. “You cannot go to the dance looking the way you look—for her sake, not yours. Let’s go shopping.” I went to my mom and begged her to give me money to buy something to wear for the dance. She finally relented and gave me 2,000 rand, for one outfit. It was the most money she’d ever given me for anything in my life. I told Bongani how much I had to spend, and he said we’d make it work. The trick to looking rich, he told me, is to have one expensive item, and for the rest of the things you get basic, good-looking quality stuff. The nice item will draw everyone’s eye, and it’ll look like you’ve spent more than you have.

In my mind nothing was cooler than the leather coats everybody wore in The Matrix. The Matrix came out while I was in high school and it was my favorite movie at the time. I loved Neo. In my heart I knew: I am Neo. He’s a nerd. He’s useless at everything, but secretly he’s a badass superhero. All I needed was a bald, mysterious black man to come into my life and show me the way. Now I had Bongani, black, head shaved, telling me, “You can do it. You’re the one.” And I was like, “Yes. I knew it.” I told Bongani I wanted a leather coat like Keanu Reeves wore, the ankle-length black one. Bongani shut that down. “No, that’s not practical. It’s cool, but you’ll never be able to wear it again.” He took me shopping and we bought a calf-length black leather jacket, which would look ridiculous today but at the time, thanks to Neo, was very cool. That alone cost 1,200 rand. Then we finished the outfit with a pair of simple black pants, suede square-toed shoes, and a cream-white knitted sweater.

Once we had the outfit, Bongani took a long look at my enormous Afro. I was forever trying to get the perfect 1970s Michael Jackson Afro. What I had was more Buckwheat: unruly and impossible to comb, like stabbing a pitchfork into a bed of crabgrass.

“We need to fix that fucking hair,” Bongani said.

“What do you mean?” I said. “This is just my hair.”

“No, we have to do something.”

Bongani lived in Alexandra. He dragged me there, and we went to talk to some girls from his street who were hanging out on the corner.

“What would you do with this guy’s hair?” he asked them.

The girls looked me over.

“He has so much,” one of them said. “Why doesn’t he cornrow it?”

“Shit, yeah,” they said. “That’s great!”

I said, “What? Cornrows? No!”

“No, no,” they said. “Do it.”

Bongani dragged me to a hair salon down the street. We went in and sat down. The woman touched my hair, shook her head, and turned to Bongani.

“I can’t work with this sheep,” she said. “You have to do something about this.”

“What do we need to do?”

“You have to relax it. I don’t do that here.”


Bongani dragged me to a second salon. I sat down in the chair, and the woman took my hair and started painting this creamy white stuff in it. She was wearing rubber gloves to keep this chemical relaxer off her own skin, which should have been my first clue that maybe this wasn’t such a great idea. Once my hair was full of the relaxer, she told me, “You have to try to keep it in for as long as possible. It’s going to start burning. When it starts burning, tell me and we’ll rinse it out. But the longer you can handle it, the straighter your hair will become.” I wanted to do it right, so I sat in the chair and waited and waited for as long as I could.

I waited too long.

She’d told me to tell her when it started burning. She should have told me to tell her when it started tingling, because by the time it was actually burning it had already taken off several layers of my scalp. I was well past tingling when I started to freak out. “It’s burning! It’s burning!” She rushed me over to the sink and started to rinse the relaxer out. What I didn’t know is that the chemical doesn’t really start to burn until it’s being rinsed out. I felt like someone was pouring liquid fire onto my head. When she was done I had patches of acid burns all over my scalp.

I was the only man in the salon; it was all women. It was a window into what women experience to look good on a regular basis. Why would they ever do this?, I thought. This is horrible. But it worked. My hair was completely straight. The woman combed it back, and I looked like a pimp, a pimp named Slickback.

Bongani then dragged me back to the first salon, and the woman agreed to cornrow my hair. She worked slowly. It took six hours. Finally she said, “Okay, you can look in the mirror.” She turned me around in the chair and I looked in the mirror and…I had never seen myself like that before. It was like the makeover scenes in my American movies, where they take the dorky guy or girl, fix the hair and change the clothes, and the ugly duckling becomes the swan. I’d been so convinced I’d never get a date that I never tried to look nice for a girl, so I didn’t know that I could. The hair was good. My skin wasn’t perfect, but it was getting better; the pustules had receded into regular pimples. I looked…not bad.

I went home, and my mom squealed when I walked in the door.

“Ooooooh! They turned my baby boy into a pretty little girl! I’ve got a little girl! You’re so pretty!”

“Mom! C’mon. Stop it.”

“Is this the way you’re telling me that you’re gay?”

“What? No. Why would you say that?”

“You know it’s okay if you are.”

“No, Mom. I’m not gay.”

Everyone in my family loved it. They all thought it looked great. My mom did tease the shit out of me, though.

“It’s very well done,” she said, “but it is way too pretty. You do look like a girl.”

The big night finally came. Tom came over to help me get ready. The hair, the clothes, everything came together perfectly. Once I was set, we went to Abel to get the keys to the BMW, and that was the moment the whole night started to go wrong.

It was a Saturday night, end of the week, which meant Abel was drinking with his workers. I walked out to his garage, and as soon as I saw his eyes I knew: He was wasted. Fuck. When Abel was drunk he was a completely different person.

“Ah, you look nice!” he said with a big smile, looking me over. “Where are you going?”

“Where am I—Abie, I’m going to the dance.”

“Okay. Have fun.”

“Um…can I get the keys?”

“The keys to what?”

“To the car.”

“What car?”

“The BMW. You promised I could drive the BMW to the dance.”

“First go buy me some beers,” he said.

He gave me his car keys; Tom and I drove to the liquor store. I bought Abel a few cases of beer, drove back, and unloaded it for him.

“Okay,” I said, “can I take the BMW now?”


“What do you mean ‘no’?”

“I mean ‘no.’ I need my car tonight.”

“But you promised. You said I could take it.”

“Yeah, but I need the car.”

I was crushed. I sat there with Tom and begged him for close to half an hour.





Finally we realized it wasn’t going to happen. We took the shitty Mazda and drove to Babiki’s house. I was an hour late picking her up. She was completely pissed off. Tom had to go in and convince her to come out, and eventually she did.

She was even more gorgeous than before, in an amazing red dress, but she was clearly not in a great mood. Inside I was quietly starting to panic, but I smiled and kept trying my gentlemanly best to be a good date, holding the door for her, telling her how beautiful she was. Tom and the sister gave us a send-off and we headed out.

Then I got lost. The dance was being held at some venue in a part of town I wasn’t familiar with, and at some point I got completely turned around and had no idea where I was. I drove around for an hour in the dark, going left, going right, doubling back. I was on my cellphone the whole time, desperately calling people, trying to figure out where I was, trying to get directions. Babiki sat next to me in stony silence the whole time, clearly not feeling me or this night at all. I was crashing hard. I was late. I didn’t know where I was going. I was the worst date she’d ever had in her life.

I finally figured out where I was and we made it to the dance, nearly two hours late. I parked, jumped out, and ran around to get her door. When I opened it, she just sat there.

“Are you ready?” I said. “Let’s go in.”


“No? What…what do you mean, ‘no’?”


“Okay…but why?”


“But we need to go inside. The dance is inside.”


I stood there for another twenty minutes, trying to convince her to come inside, but she kept saying “no.” She wouldn’t get out of the car.

Finally, I said, “Okay, I’ll be right back.”

I ran inside and found Bongani.

“Where have you been?” he said.

“I’m here! But my date’s in the car and she won’t come in.”

“What do you mean she won’t come in?”

“I don’t know what’s going on. Please help me.”

We went back out to the parking lot. I took Bongani over to the car, and the second he saw her he lost it. “Jesus in Heaven! This is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. You said she was beautiful, Trevor, but this is insane.” In an instant he completely forgot about helping me with Babiki. He turned and ran back inside and called to the guys. “Guys! You gotta come see this! Trevor got a date! And she’s beautiful! Guys! Come out here!” Twenty guys came running out into the parking lot. They clustered around the car. “Yo, she’s so hot!” “Dude, this girl came with Trevor?” Guys were gawking at her like she was an animal at the zoo. They were asking to take pictures with her. They were calling back to more people inside. “This is insane! Look at Trevor’s date! No, no, no, you gotta come and see!” I was mortified. I’d spent four years of high school carefully avoiding any kind of romantic humiliation whatsoever, and now, on the night of the matric dance, the night of all nights, my humiliation had turned into a circus bigger than the event itself: Trevor the undatable clown thought he was going to have the most beautiful girl at the dance, but he’s crashing and burning so let’s all go outside and watch.

Babiki sat in the passenger seat, staring straight ahead, refusing to budge. I was outside the car, pacing, stressed out. A friend of mine had a bottle of brandy that he’d smuggled into the dance. “Here,” he said, “have some of this.” Nothing mattered at that point, so I started drinking. I’d fucked up. The girl didn’t like me. The night was done.

Most of the guys eventually wandered back inside. I was sitting on the pavement, taking swigs from the brandy bottle, getting buzzed. At some point Bongani went back over to the car to try one last time to convince Babiki to come in. After a minute his head popped up over the car with this confused look.

“Yo, Trevor,” he said, “your date does not speak English.”


“Your date. She does not speak any English.”

“That’s not possible.”

I got up and walked over to the car. I asked her a question in English and she gave me a blank stare.

Bongani looked at me.

“How did you not know that your date does not speak English?”

“I…I don’t know.”

“Have you never spoken to her?”

“Of course I have—or, wait…have I?”

I started flashing back through all the times I’d been with Babiki, meeting at her flat, hanging out with her friends, introducing her to Abel. Did I talk to her then? No. Did I talk to her then? No. It was like the scene in Fight Club where Ed Norton’s character flashes back and realizes he and Brad Pitt have never been in the same room with Helena Bonham Carter at the same time. He realizes he’s been punching himself the whole time. He’s Tyler Durden. In all the excitement of meeting Babiki, the times we were hanging out and getting to know each other, we were never actually speaking to each other. It was always through Tom.

Fucking Tom.

Tom had promised he’d get me a beautiful date for the dance, but he hadn’t made any promises about any of her other qualities. Whenever we were together, she was speaking Pedi to Tom, and Tom was speaking English to me. But she didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Pedi. Abel spoke Pedi. He’d learned several South African languages in order to deal with his customers, so he’d spoken with her fluently when they met. But in that moment I realized I’d never actually heard her say anything in English other than: “Yes.” “No.” “Hi.” “Bye.” That’s it: “Yes.” “No.” “Hi.” “Bye.” Babiki was so shy that she didn’t talk much to begin with, and I was so inept with women that I didn’t know how to talk to her. I’d never had a girlfriend; I didn’t even know what “girlfriend” meant. Someone put a beautiful woman on my arm and said, “She’s your girlfriend.” I’d been mesmerized by her beauty and just the idea of her—I didn’t know I was supposed to talk to her. The naked women on my computer, I’d never had to talk to them, ask them their opinions, ask them about their feelings. And I was afraid I’d open my mouth and ruin the whole thing, so I just nodded and smiled along and let Tom do the talking.

All three of Babiki’s older sisters spoke English, and her younger sister Lerato spoke a little. So whenever we hung out with Babiki and her sisters and their friends, a lot of the conversation was in English. The rest of it was going right by me in Pedi or in Sotho, but that’s completely normal in South Africa so it never bothered me; I got enough of the gist of the conversation from everyone’s English to know what was going on. And the way my mind works with language, even when I’m hearing other languages, they get filtered into English as I’m hearing them. My mind stores them in English. When my grandmother and great-grandmother were hysterically praying to God to destroy the demon that had shit on their kitchen floor, all of that transpired in Xhosa, but it’s stored in English. I remember it as English. So whenever I lay in bed at night dreaming about Babiki and the moments we’d spent together, I felt like it had transpired in English because that’s how I remembered it. And Tom had never said anything about what language she spoke or didn’t speak, because why would he care? He just wanted to get his free CDs and get with the sister. Which is how I’d been dating a girl for over a month—the girl I very much believed was my first girlfriend—without ever having had a single conversation with her.

Now the whole night came rushing back and I saw it from her point of view, and it was perfectly obvious to me why she didn’t want to get out of the car. She probably hadn’t wanted to go to the dance with me in the first place; she probably owed Tom a favor, and Tom can talk anyone into anything. Then I’d left her sitting and waiting for me for an hour and she was pissed off. Then she got into the car and it was the first time we had ever been alone, and she realized I couldn’t even hold a conversation with her. I’d driven her around and gotten lost in the dark—a young girl alone in a car in the middle of nowhere with some strange guy, no idea where I was taking her. She was probably terrified. Then we got to the dance and she didn’t speak anyone’s language. She didn’t know anyone. She didn’t even know me.

Bongani and I stood outside the car, staring at each other. I didn’t know what to do. I tried talking to her in every language I knew. Nothing worked. She only spoke Pedi. I got so desperate that I started trying to talk to her using hand signals.

“Please. You. Me. Inside. Dance. Yes?”


“Inside. Dance. Please?”


I asked Bongani if he spoke Pedi. He didn’t. I ran inside to the dance and ran around looking for someone who spoke Pedi to help me to convince her to come in. “Do you speak Pedi? Do you speak Pedi? Do you speak Pedi?” Nobody spoke Pedi.

So I never got to go to my matric dance. Other than the three minutes I spent running through it looking for someone who spoke Pedi, I spent the whole night in the parking lot. When the dance ended, I climbed back into the shitty red Mazda and drove Babiki home. We sat in total awkward silence the whole way.

I pulled up in front of her block of flats in Hillbrow, stopped the car, and sat for a moment as I tried to figure out the polite and gentlemanly way to end the evening. Then, out of nowhere, she leaned over and gave me a kiss. Like, a real kiss, a proper kiss. The kind of kiss that made me forget that the whole disaster had just happened. I was so confused. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. She pulled back and I looked deep into her eyes and thought, I have no idea how girls work.

I got out of the car, walked around to her side, and opened her door. She gathered up her dress and stepped out and headed toward her flat, and as she turned to go I gave her one last little wave.



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