“This afternoon at the Fourways Market, a drunk taxi driver shot and injured nearly fifteen people. Sources say that he found out that his girlfriend was cheating on him with someone she claimed was her cousin.”
Mzamo looked at the TV screen. The bar that he worked at was still empty. He was preparing for the night shift as he wiped the counters clean.
“He went to confront her, but in anger, he took out the firearm and started shooting at the civilians. Two people died on the spot, five are in critical condition and eight are injured.”
“People like him are the reason foreigners don’t want to come to South Africa.” Cory, Mzamo’s co-worker said.
Mzamo nodded in agreement. “He should have just broken up with her and,” his phone started ringing, “found a new girlfriend.” The number was unfamiliar. He answered. “Hello?”
“Mzamo, you have to come,” the voice on the other end sounded panicked.
“I’m sorry, who’s this?”
“I’m Sonke, August’s friend.”
“What can I help you with?” Mzamo continued wiping the counters, knowing that if his boss came in and found out that he was talking on the phone instead of working, he’d be in trouble.
“There was a shooting. Kholwa’s hurt,” and then everything else stopped being audible. He left the cloth on the table and went to take his belongings.
“Hey, where are you going?” His co-worker shouted at him, but he couldn’t be bothered.
“Which hospital is she in?”
Mzamo blindly ran through the hospital halls searching for Kholwa. He asked the nurses for emergency patients from the Fourways shooting patients. When he saw distressed August, he ignored him, choosing to ask his more alert friends.
“Where is she?” He asked.
“She just came out of surgery.” One of them said. “She’s in the ICU but we’re not allowed to see her.”
Mzamo thanked them and then went in search of the ICE. He was her guardian. After making the nurse aware, he was allowed in, telling him that he couldn’t take long because she needed to rest.
It wasn’t the first time that he had to go looking for Kholwa in the hospital. The first time, he bared bad news. Memories of that time flashed as he slowly walked up to the bed that she was in. Last time she looked much worse with bruises all over her small body. Her leg had been broken, and it had been elevated. She had a lot more machines connected to her before. At that moment, she looked better. Other than the machine connected to her mouth, she did not look hurt. She looked like she was sleeping.
“Khokho,” he choked out as he fell onto his knees at the edge of the bed. He held onto her hand, wishing that she would reciprocate. He cried, not caring who would see or hear him. It was not the time for such. “I should have been with you. I should have been the one to take the bullet.” Because she already had enough on her plate.
She was already fighting her own losing battle, why did this have to happen too?
Days passed. Mzamo visited her every day, although he still went to work. He had to work so that when she woke up, everything would still be normal. She will be confused and in too much shock if she came back and he didn’t have a job.
He didn’t even look at the designer last time. He did not even want an explanation. He didn’t blame him. He couldn’t. He blamed the stupid guy who decided to go around shooting people because he was angry at his girlfriend. That guy, he deserved to go to a place worse than hell.
That day, Mzamo thought he saw her move. He thought her fingers moved, so he called the doctor.
The doctor said it was normal. The only normal thing apparently, since she was supposed to have woken up a few hours after surgery, but almost six days had passed.
Mzamo was getting noticeably skinnier. He was worried that she would never wake up, even though the doctor said that chances of her waking up were higher than of her not. That was the only hope he had. That small hope, he’d keep it close to his heart and hopefully it would not falter. Especially not in front of her family.
They arrived the day after the shooting. They drove four hours after the call from Mzamo. It was her mother, father and younger sister. They have always expected to get a call from Mzamo, but never because of a shooting. A shooting never passed through anyone’s mind.
Her father and little sister went back after a week because her father could not afford to be fired. Her mother didn’t care. She just wanted to be by her daughter’s side at all times. She wanted to hold her hand when she got the chance. She wanted to wash her face every morning and make sure that when she woke up, she’d be clean and as beautiful as she always was. She always refilled the humidifier, right before it ran out of water.
She opened and closed the windows timely. She spoke to Kholwa almost all the time. Asking her to hurry and wake up. She told her that summer was coming, her favourite season. She should wake up so that she could go swimming with her family.
Her mother met August, but on a few occasions. She’s never really wanted to make conversation with him. She just greeted him back when he greeted and then carried on with taking care of her daughter.
She assumed that August, just like Mzamo, was one of her friends.
On his way to the hospital, Mzamo found the letter that Kholwa wrote for August. He picked it up and looked at it, wondering if giving August the letter at that particular moment would be a good move. Kholwa asked him to give it to August when she was in her last stages. Mzamo shook his head, August deserved to know.
At the hospital, he found August sitting on one of the chairs. He sat next to him. August looked up, tears suddenly filling his eyes. Mzamo took the letter out of his bag and handed it to him.
“Here,” he said, seeing the confused look on August’s face, “it’s from Kholwa. She wrote it a while back. Read it whenever.” He stood up, patting August’s shoulder. “I suggest reading it when you are alone. Don’t worry too much, okay? She’ll wake up.”
The last line, that was a lie. Mzamo, as much as the doctors repeated that line, could not find it in himself to believe it. No six days have felt as long as those without Kholwa.
Kholwa’s machines started loudly beeping. Her mother panicked as the doctor and nurses started to fill the room. Mzamo stared at his best friend, praying that she would go back to normal soon. Hoping that whatever was happening, the doctors would be able to help her through it.
We just came back from skydiving. Today, I was more anxious than any other day as I was jumping out of the plane. I was scared. I thought that you would never want to see me again because I am so crazy.
But you said you liked it, and that made me really happy.
Since you’re reading this letter, I’m guessing I never really got the opportunity to tell you the truth. I’m sorry, I didn’t tell you sooner.
I’ll start two years ago, when my friends and I, including Mzamo, planned a trip to the sea for the holidays. We were so excited to go. There were five of us, the perfect number. We figured out how much money we’d need for petrol and expenses and managed to divide it amongst ourselves.
At the last minute, Mzamo cancelled. We were disappointed, but his father wanted him to attend to matters concerning their family business. We were sad he didn’t come, but we still managed to enjoy ourselves, even though we were missing a friend.
On our way back, there was a car accident. I’m not sure how it happened, I was sleeping in the backseat. When I woke up, I was in the hospital, in pain and I was asking where the others were. Only Mzamo was by my side the whole time and I wondered if the others stopped caring for me.
It was when they thought that I was sleeping, my mother talked about my friends. They all died in the accident. I was the only one who survived.
I fell into depression. I knew that Mzamo was also upset since he felt like the outcome could have been different if he had been there and they had taken turns driving. He was just as depressed as I was, but he never showed it. He was just trying to help me through my own depression.
I thought my situation could not get any worse. How could it possibly get worse than losing most of my friends in an instant?
I found out that the accident did something to my DNA. It messed it up and, just like my friends, I would also be dying, but it was much slower. The doctors also didn’t understand. All they understood was that my health was slowly deteriorating, no matter what I did.
They do not know when, or how, but I will also die soon.
I’m sorry this is so late.
I tried to stay away from you and not get involved, but I’m becoming more and more selfish as the days go by. I feel like if I keep on seeing you, I won’t be able to hold back anymore.
As I write this letter, we are still friends, and I hope we don’t become anything more. I don’t want to hurt you. If, in the future as you read this, we are dating, I’m sorry. I must have gotten too selfish.
Forget about me, I was never a good person to begin with.
Find a girl who will love you and who won’t die young.
In the hospital, the doctor was looking at Kholwa’s vitals on the machine. He pressed a button and then the machine quieted down, but the numbers on it were still higher than they’d ever been.
“Is she okay?” Her mother asked.
“Yeah, this happens...” The doctor stopped talking when the numbers on the machine disappeared and they were replaced by dashes and the machine flat-lined.
“Doctor!” Her mother shouted.
“Take them out of the room.” The doctor told one of the nurses. “Bring me the defibrillator.”
“Kholwa!” Her mother cried. “Kholwa!” She was pulled out of the room along with Mzamo, who was at a loss for words. He watched the doctors from outside her room, while Kholwa’s mother cried besides him.
But he could only hear the sound of the doctor trying to revive his best friend.