Thando's Strength

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13

Vusi was now officially unemployed and it hurt. Having something you had no control over change your life so drastically filled his mind with nothing but what if’s. Each one seemed more tortuous than the other because they’d all come to the same conclusion. He’d still have a job. Being in the house was depressing but being in the street was even more depressing as people moved around him with purpose, paying him no attention. He was invisible, a nobody, after being a somebody and the days that were so could still be counted on his fingers. Off to the neighbourhood bottle store, he bought himself something to drink and decided to head back home. He found the street corner where he used to sit with his friends empty and decided to sit there, for old times sake. I mean even they were doing something with their lives for them not to be there, he truly was useless. He sat down, lit his cigarette and took a nice long drag, surveying his hometown and wondering what it would look like if everybody had jobs. Sure the houses would be bigger, a bigger yard and better maintained roads but it would still be a township, just more houses with tiled roofs and working cars parked in the yard. He was startled by Thabo who joined him, stealing his cigarette and started smoking,

“And then, why aren’t you at work?”

“My contract there ended.”

“Oh, so now that you’re back here, you’re finally going to acknowledge that we exist?”

“You can be so dramatic,” Vusi said.

“So what’s the story with you and that black X6?”

“What black x6?”

“The one your sister used to get in and out of all the time.”

“Oh, that was my sister’s boyfriend’s car,” Vusi said. Finishing off the cigarette.

“Did he date you to?”

“What do you mean?” Vusi asked, confused.

“Because you were in and out of it a lot. More than your sister, come to think of it.” Thabo laughed. “I never pictured you to be another man’s bitch but people will do anything to survive. What, did he give you money, a job, a place to stay in exchange for you to bend over?” Thabo cracked, almost choking on his own spit.

“Tsek.”

“Don’t get angry, I’m only asking.” He said, rubbing Vusi’s head.

This was one thing Vusi didn’t miss about being here. Being picked on for the sake of other people’s amusement, and chances are once everybody else had joined them they would go to town on his demise so Thabo was doing him a favour by adding salt to the wound now.

“Come to think of it, this guy’s been through your whole family,” Thabo said, drawing his friend back to reality and stroking his chin in thought.

“What do you mean?”

“If he wasn’t here romancing your sister or pimping you, the nigga visited your mother a lot. Made a lot of them before she died come to think of it.”

“And you would know this how?” Vusi asked after some time.

“It’s a black X6. In the township, it’s bound to get noticed.”

Thabo did have a point there. Even as Vusi sat there letting his best friends’ words permeate the most interesting to pass was a taxi with dropped suspension and went across the thousands of speed bumps sideways. There were thousands of customised cars but none of them screamed wealth and even when one did arrive like your Range Rovers and G-class’s, they were more often than not visitors than permanent residents.

***

Thando ended up with cold feet when the time came for her to go see the loan shark recommended by so many to alleviate her problem which meant that she had nothing. She had reached rock bottom and was at a dead end. She had nowhere else to go and in a little over two weeks time, the back would take away everything she’d worked hard for, leaving her as broke and useless as the person that slept beside her. If she was still with Mandla he might’ve given her the financial advice to avoid this entirely. MANDLA. Why didn’t she think of him earlier? If anybody knew business, not only her struggle with starting it but how much it meant to her, there’d be no better person. She looked at the time, he’d probably be still at work but she took a taxi to his place anyway just to avoid the afternoon traffic. She didn’t mind waiting for him until he got back, besides, it would give her time to work on her pitch. Even if he said no it would be fine, at this point all that mattered was that she tried every single possible option there was, no matter how crazy it seemed. She sat in a bar nearby, instead of waiting outside like some estranged ex until he got back. Thando enjoyed the attention she received from a few men and remembered the perks enjoyed by single people. A soccer match and a few drinks and she’d almost forgotten the reason she was here. It was starting to get dark and although the neighbourhood wasn’t dangerous. The reality was she was still a female in South Africa at night. When she got to Mandla’s she asked to be buzzed in but was taken aback when a woman answered the intercom, followed by some chattering before the gate buzzed open. Thando climbed up the steps toward his apartment and wondered if it had changed. She knocked on his door and waited for him or her… whoever her was to open but nothing happened. After a little while, she knocked again and she was attended to by the person she had come to see. Mandla. “What are you doing here?”

“Hello to you too,” she smiled, pushing aside the door and squeezing herself through whatever space was left open between the doorframe he tried to block.

Thando spilt onto the lounge whereby she was greeted by Mandla’s guest or more appropriately phrased, the lady who answered the intercom.

“Thando,” she said with an outstretched hand.

“Zama,” she responded with a firm handshake.

“Pleased to meet you,”

“Likewise,”

“And so, how do you two know each other?” Thando asked, tired of where the small talk was headed.

“She’s my girlfriend,” Mandla said, putting an end to his loitering behind them.

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