‘I’m sorry Mr. Ndebele but the bank cannot approve a loan on you.’ The bank manger said getting up and fixing up his suit, riding it of creases he couldn’t possibly see.
I knew the sign, this was the fifth time I’d seen it in one month. I made to walk out of the suffocatingly small cubical, his so called manager’s office. There was no way a manager like him could work in this small prison. It was small and it didn’t take much walking to reach each of the walls, which were a dirty beige carpet like design.
The manager made to lead me out the opening which made for the door but I cut him off. The painful sinking feeling of complete defeat had reemerged inside the pits of my belly. It was the same sinking feeling I’d gotten from the four other branches in the past month.
To fail yet again on something so surefire was awful. The loss didn’t physically hurt like a punch or being knifed, though right this. I thought to myself feeling breath getting short. I’d have preferred both rather than this awful sinking feeling. He couldn’t do this to me I had to make him understand.
‘Wait I don’t understand, I came to you. I did just as the advert said. My business plan is here! Written down! You have to understand what this means to everyone in my home. It would be a charity event that would be good for your bank. It will work!’ I pleaded.
‘I’m sorry Mr. Ndebele’ He said, I couldn’t see any real sympathy behind his eyes. I was determined not to stop until there was.
‘It’s Sbu. Call me Sbu.’ I said all but bouncing on my heals with desperations. I was getting truly desperate now. It was clear in my tone and in the way my chest heaved back and forth as the sinking grew more intense, it felt as though my lungs were being pulling into a black hole. My pleading, my desperation wasn’t doing anything though.
‘We can’t-’ He began. My eyes widened.
‘Take the risk?’ I exclaimed cutting him off ‘You can’t take the risk? You’re a bank! Damn it! There’s nothing wrong with my idea is there?’ I demanded. The manger sniffed and spoke in the exact same indifferent tone that drove me to such desperation.
‘We simply cannot take the risk on your hope. May I suggest some of the more local banks’ He continued.
‘I’ve tried. I’ve tried them but.’ It was his turn to cut me off.
‘Then why would we be any different?’ The manager answered in the same indifferent tone, there was an edge of amusement there too. I wasn’t sure if it was my imagination or not. I couldn’t believe what he’d just said. It didn’t seem possible for a bank manger to say such things to a customer. For a moment I felt like a child who’d just heard his teacher swear for the first time ever in his life.
‘You’re supposed to help people!’ I bellowed.
‘I’m afraid I’m going-’
‘I know the drill. You bastard shit.’ Was the answer that came out of my mouth. It wasn’t what I meant to say but I felt better saying it. I stared at the indifferent bank manger. I would have called it a race issue if he wasn’t black. It had been the case for the other banks but not this time. This was the first time I’d seen a black manager. He wore a brown power suit with shoes so pointy they could stab a hole in concrete.
The bank manager was black yes, very black in fact. His dark skin seemed to absorb all the light in the now silent bank. His pitch black skin and his black gums filled me with disgust. I was glad I had left my pocket knife at home now. His English was nearly as good as any white person I’d ever met. There was a touch of an accent that most definitely wasn’t of this country.
‘You’re all fucking cockroaches!’ I shouted as security guard grabbed my shoulders and pushed me out of the thick glass doors of the bank with force. I nearly tripped off my own feet but I pulled myself up in time.
I was left standing outside the mall staring at the manager who almost immediately had moved on to the next customer. The customer was white and the manager’s expression had changed to a much warmer one. The manager led the customer to a different room, a bigger one. I wanted to scream and throw up at the same time.
I didn’t linger outside the bank.
No, I would never give them the satisfaction of knowing they’d successfully destroyed my spirit. I took one last glance the thick glass doors, life inside the bank had continued without a hitch. There were still people shooting me the odd glance. It made sense. My special navy blue suit was a now a mess and my hair was even worse, and worse off it was still morning, the day had just begun with the end of life. I needed to fix myself up again, not that it mattered anyway. I was done for the day. There was only so much complete and utter humiliation I could stand in a day.
I was standing at the bottom of the Crystal City mall in Table view. Rich people came here to relax and poor people dressed up have fun in a classy place so they could pretend to be rich for the day. I didn’t have to look for long to see the general pattern of it. [Continue here ]Everyone there pissed me off. The high roof and golden rails gave the massive mall a golden aura that radiated throughout the mall pissed me off too.
Walking off in a huff I stopped outside an antique store. I stood staring at my reflection. My dreads were a mess. I tried to fix them up when I realized that the proposal was still in my hand.
The plan was clearly bad or at least not good enough. Even though I was sure it was an easy cash cow. The bin behind me made a loud clanging sound as my proposal bounced off the edges and inside.
Just fuck it.
It wasn’t going to work out. What was I even thinking? I kicked the bin hard drawing attention to myself for the second time in one day. Took the lift two floors up to the ground floor and stepped out side. The harsh South African sun hit my eyes burning into my brain. I shielded my unadjusted eyes until everything regained its focus. The parking lot was full, which made sense it was a Friday morning after all. There were a lot of nice cars, too bad none of them were mine. Up head there were minibus-Taxi’s filling up to go. I rushed after one of them.
She had been wrong I thought to myself as I marched to the minibus-Taxis still in a huff. Great! I’d missed the only Taxi that was heading for Langa. The rest were headed to town or Guguleto. So I had no choice but to wait for another Taxi or catch a passing one. Nothing was working for me at all. What I bullshit day. She was so very very wrong.
I waved my arm and pointed to myself with my armed fully curved as if I was holding an invisible watermelon. It was the symbol for Langa that taxi drivers understood. A few taxis passed each shaking their head at me. Frustrated, I looked at the street corner and saw a self built barber shop consisting of a chair and a tent filled with posters of heads and hair styles. The music that played was of another land probably Nigerian. I assumed it was since its always Nigerian shit playing in barber shops. It was the sound I’d always hear wherever I went. They were everywhere taking everything away from my homeland, My South Africa.
‘Those fucking Cockroaches spreading their AIDS and their drugs but not before they took our jobs and money.’ I muttered.
A minibus filled with at least twenty people stopped. It would be a tight fit for me but my money would a have a lot of space in the driver’s pocket. There was no doubt about that. At least the driver was working hard earning his money. I just hoped I’d be able to do the same for the woman of my dreams and the mother of my hopes. Today she’d been wrong yet again. There was nothing working out for me in anyway. Just for the people who jumped out of their own broken and shitty homelands and into the jobs hard workers like me deserved. I would never borrow from a loan shark. There was no way I’d ever do that, my dad had died because of sharks. There was no way I would kill myself for a shark. The minibus crossed the perfect roads in CenturyCity and trundled along the dirty streets of Langa as I passed my money along to the dozen faceless people in front of me. We turned of the main street that divided the black area and the colored areas. Shacks littered the whole area with seven shacks for each house. The shacks were made from scrap metal with no water, no electricity, and no toilets. Shacks were so vast in Lang and Guguleto that they made their own communities. Right up until a fire broke out then it was every man for him self and it was guaranteed that you’re house would burn down. Fucking Governments best solution was to install taps and toilets around settlements. I still thanked God everyday that I was gone from there.
I took a breath and tried to clear the unjustness of the world out of my head and thought of my love. She’d been wrong about her prediction but maybe she wasn’t. I tried to recall what she had said exactly. It wasn’t too much to remember.
When I thought about it, the message was more ominous than I’d thought.
“Tomorrow you will get everything you ask for and more.”
It seemed clear to me at the time exactly what she had meant. After all today was the day of my interview. She’d been wrong though, completely wrong. Maybe something was wrong or maybe she was trying to protect me from something I wouldn’t be able to understand. I hoped that wasn’t the case. I’d been as understanding as one man could be. The taxi drove past my area.
‘Robot!’ I shouted quickly. The taxi came to a stop as the robot ahead turned red.
Finally I was out and feeling relieved to be out of that stuffy taxi. Looking around I felt the usual twinge of hatred that I always felt when ever I came home. It was a dump. A five floor set of flats made by government to beat the unbeatable.
I hadn’t cared at all when we’d first moved here. I didn’t understand her gift and I wanted to do everything to understand her and be a part of her life. She was the best part of my life.
I walked up the stairs to our home on the third floor. I stepped over toys and ducked under the clothing lines of people too wise to use the lines outside. I greeted everyone in my path with a smile that was so forced, I felt as though my cheeks would remain in the same position for life.
Opening the door to my home felt good. Even though I hated it with every fiber of my being. It wasn’t much better than my shack.
Me, the refugee on my own land. I thought begrudgingly as I entered into a completely dark house save the light from the door. I hadn’t expected such darkness since it was so bright outside. The door slammed closed behind me making me jump. I found myself enshrouded in darkness and blinded from the shock of switching from light to such an extreme dark. When I eyes made their second recovery for the day, I saw my love. My love’s face was hidden in the darkness of the door way. One light shone blue until it split into two smaller ones. I held my breath as my eyes fully adjusted to the dark viewing her bright blue eyes. White fangs appeared as she grinned. My mind fumbled for options of things to do next, running was the label that looked the most attractive and stuck in my mind. But I couldn’t. I stood frozen on the spot as my love drew nearer, slowly and carefully but full of confidence. She was a predator that knew her prey was cornered. Even she was stalking me everything I loved about her outshone everything I feared about her. I loved her voice, the same voice that hissed at me. I loved her every movement even now as she stalked towards me. She jumped or pounced, I couldn’t tell. I caught her tight as she bit into my neck. The warmth of my own blood drew cold as it ran down my back. She bit hard trying to pull meat out of me but I didn’t care. I held her tight and squeezed as hard as I could. She jerked her head up and I felt the cold of her flemm along with my own blood against the side of my head. I squeezed still, harder and harder as she struggled against my bear hug. I shut my eyes as she clawed at me face. I shut my eye lids even harder as she aimed specifically for them. They’d nearly given way to her sharp nails that were jagged at the end from endless nail biting. Finally she fell silent but I knew her. She was my love after all. I squeezed harder and turned her from left to right jerking her around. She woke up fully and attacked again. I adjusted my hand so I held her lower ribs with my hands digging into her diaphragm dropping myself down the struggling stopped abruptly as her whole body froze in pain. I pushed down harder until I was on my knees and her knees were behind her back bending her spine even further. It was hard to do as the loss of blood was finally getting to me. I felt the air change and a sudden searing pain that covered my neck and face became numb. I was now immune to death, immune to every thing but my need to be with her. Her head fell onto my shoulder and the rest of her body fell limp. She was still alive, I knew the drill she would be fine in a few minutes and life would carry on for her. I didn’t understand it. And I most likely would never understand but I would try until I died. I would do anything for her. She who loved me as much as I loved her. I picked her up and placed her on the bed watching her sleep. On the bed she woke staring into my eyes. I knew she wasn’t looking at my eye but rather my soul. I blinked awkwardly to hide the tears that constantly threatened to run free whenever she woke. She was oblivious of everything that had happened.
Her words were soft and full of concern. How could any man be angry at her?
‘How did it go?’ She asked.
‘You know how it went’ I shrugged and she nodded and tears brimmed in her eyes. I was always stunned at how easily she cried.
‘I’m sorry they said no to you.’ She cried.
‘Don’t’ I said feeling awful and not knowing why. It didn’t matter. She was crying and I just wanted to do everything to save her. I pressed my lips against hers ever gently. She matched my kiss and fell back into the bed. Undressing me as I worked blindly on her ripped up top. We undressed with our lips touching constantly unable to part for even half a second, only breaking contact to move her top over her head. I felt ripples in my spine as she moaned softly. The light brown of my skin against her pale white skin moving constantly. The contrast in color only added to the beauty of our carnal act. Her cries and moans were getting deeper as I pushed on rocking and switching. The darkness of the room unable to hide the beauty of her exposed body as it touched, rubbed, pushed against mine. Our breath deepened as our movements intertwined and increased in speed as we raced towards the height of our passion. She held onto my body tightly and she cried as I continued to push harder and faster. I sped up and her gasps and moans increased steadily until she let out a gasp that imploded within it’s self to come out as she silent scream. I felt myself exploding too as her nails dug into my back. I fell exhausted under her grip as she still pushed herself into me. As if trying to enter my whole body. I didn’t question her actions. I knew better than that. All I could do was listen and be a comfort to her. I could see the sweat glistening off her naked flesh even in the darkness we lay in. I wanted nothing more than to open a curtain and see her in her full beauty. My idle thoughts cleared completely as she quivered and as she continued to press her face against my chest softly biting me as she spoke. ‘Si-bu please don’t. Don’t it.’ She whispered as she pushed herself onto me. She never seemed to say my name right. It was one word but she said it as two. Yet she could say the full name, Sibusisu. She had no problems with that.
‘Si-bu don’t take them, please don’t. Don’t leave me. I don’t mind living like this really. Just please don’t. I’ve-I’ve’ she paused to kiss me ‘never blamed you for it never.’ She continued to kiss me. I didn’t expect this. This had never happened before. Her pleading like this, she could get tearful. Yes but she’d never done this before.
It was a first and I found myself in unfamiliar ground. Normally it was safe to ignore her but right now I just didn’t know.
Her movements slowed as she fought back a yawn. I was relived She must be dreaming or something. She continued to talk.
‘I did this for…’ I didn’t get to hear the rest. She fell asleep.
I couldn’t and wouldn’t dare to move for even a second. She needed her sleep and I wanted to give it to her. So I lay there for a while. I felt restless on the bed as she slept peacefully. She went though an endless stream of issues. There was Demon possessions, night terrors, future sight and other amazing things no one had ever seen before. Yet I still hadn’t figured anything out to help her or at least absorb the pain she felt. I was helpless, useless and pointless to her.
I could feel the frustration bubbling inside again and the sinking feeling that I had from that fucking Nigerian who thought himself better than the world. If I could I would transfer my loves sorrow to him and multiply it by ten.
‘All I want is capital to open my business. Then we’d be free of the hole me and my love live in’ I pleaded to God.
There was a change in the air. I could feel it as filled my nostrils I knew what bore that smell.
“Ghost…” I began.
Before I could move my love woke up and threw up on my chest. If smelt and felt rancid. The heat of it trickled down both mine and her skin as the vomit flowed gently down in the line that linked me and love. I held her as she feebly struggled to clean it up off me and the sheet. I held her tight trying my best to ignore the vomit that was now sticking to my skin as it flowed down slowly. The stream of vomit froze on our bodies. Picked her up moving along with her until we were off the bed and within reach of a towel. I wiped excess vomit off us and led her to the toilet and with a wash pot. I washed the puke off her soft skin thinking about the spirit that had just come. It wasn’t likely it would return. They rarely did since I set up all manners of crosses, tribal charms and dream catchers. I got up and look at my kitchen. There was rotten food everywhere even in the fridge. It had all rotted as soon as the spirit had walked past. I hadn’t eaten so there was nothing in my stomach to affect me. At least that’s what I understood of it. In the case of my love the devil must have rotted the very food in her belly making her throw up. I took the duvet and the sheet rubbing the extra vomit off me. I threw everything into a stinking pile, including my favorite beach towel.
Shit. Shit! Shit!! SHIT!!!! Fuck! FUCK!!
I spat out the taste of vomit that the smell had created inside my mouth. I took a cold bath with the same pot and got dressed. I apologized to my love and locked behind me. I leant against the door as it shook under her constant banging. She yelled after me and then she screamed. I rubbed my face of a tear and adjusted my dreads. There was a hoot on the ground floor. The banging grew more intense as I peeked over the rail. In front of the flat were two of the only people I could truly call friends. They weren’t used to English but they were used to me speaking it constantly. So they let me speak English and they spoke in Xhosa. I ran down to the ground floor and waved.
‘Heita!’ Shouted Tsepo. He stuck his whole body out the window of his Citi Golf. Tsepo idiotic grin was a welcome sight.
‘What you guys doing here?’ I yelled back.
‘[Visiting you obviously.]’ Replied the much sharper Tolani. Who sat back in the drivers seat.
‘Well it’s good timing’ I said getting in the car.
‘[Something wrong with you’re white woman?]’ Tolani asked his eye brow raised.
‘Don’t call here that.’ I answered dismissively.
‘[It’s a better name than bitch]’ Tsepo said as the music in the car blared so loudly that any talking was out of the question. They drove fast and wildly attracting the attention of anyone with hearing range of the custom speakers that were Tolani’s pride and joy. They stopped for alcohol before driving again. I felt good and I was having fun. We crossed the townships then we went past the industrial Uppington area before town. After a while we drove to the more posh parts of town where big houses were everywhere and there wasn’t a piece of litter to be seen.
The music played softer and Tolani’s driving became more deliberate.
‘What are we doing here?’ I asked in a whisper. I was whispering and I didn’t know why.
‘[Giving back to the black community of South Africa.]’ tsepo laughed.
‘[And Sbu’s white woman]’ laughed Tsepo
I ignored him and bit my lip. Nervous at the prospect that WASN’T being offered to me at all. Backing out would end three years of friendship in a very deadly way. As if to confirm my suspicions Tolani pulled out a gun and passed it to Tsepo before pulling out a gun of his own. We were parked outside a white house with a wall that stood at double our heights. It was toped with electric wire. I knew the main weakness of most houses. It was common knowledge to us as Tolani pulled out a jack from the boot. He attached it to the edge of the gate and turned the Jack. At first the wall it’s self cracked but it held as a whole and the gate gave way to the strength of the Jack. I went in first and Tolani followed with Tsepo taking the rear. Tolani then took out a crowbar and started powerful but slow work on the door. It opened and the gate gave way letting us in without waking a soul. I felt something chilled brush my hand and I jumped in shock. It was Tolani holding a bolt of petrol with a cloth on top before he gave it to me. It was a petrol bomb with sand at the bottom for sticking power. I didn’t ask questions but rather moved on. We worked the entertainment room before working though the unused rooms. I walked into a room that turned out to be the master bed room. The bed was larger than life. With two people fast asleep on the bed. There was a muffled cry outside the bed and I found myself running out of the room and following the sound. It was Tsepo. I shut my eyes as the cries came in quickly but repetitively. Tsepo was fucking some kid in the other room.
I felt sick thinking about it but he had the gun. As sorry as I was for the girl I needed to stay alive for my love. I cleared my head of the muffled screaming as went to look for Tolani. I thought about my loves kind and wise words before she’d been taken over. She was a historian in the making she liked doing all kinds of research. She had said the in the forgotten book of Solomon. She said Solomon had been given not only wisdom beyond measure. He was given the ability to control the very demons of hell. They had mined his gold as his people prospered. She’d said that as soon as Solomon lost his path with God the demons had cursed all the gold. It was a bullshit story but it helped me forget. I found Tolani inside the master bedroom.
‘[Sbu you still got that bottle?]’ He asked
I gave him the bottle but he didn’t take it.
‘[No Sbo this is for you to do. I know how much you hate these life stealing “Cockroaches”]’ Tolani laughed no longer whispering at all. The noise woke up the people on the bed. They’re words were cut off by Tolani’s gun cocking. They stood up by the sides of their beds. They’re faces where invisible in the dark all I could tell was that they were black. The room lit up slightly as the bottle in my hand lit up. I dropped it in shock and both me and Tolani jumped away from it. To our relief it didn’t explode.
‘What are you doing!’ I shouted at.
‘[What? Why did you-]’ Tolani began.
The man made his move at Tolani’s gun. I saw his face and nearly fell over in shock. It was the bank manager. Before he could get the gun he took a bullet in the stomach. He stared directly at me before the bottle flew back into view and exploded on his head. Tolani had kicked it with skill that reflected a past of soccer bliss. The managers black skin lit up against the flame. He reached around lighting up the master bed. He nearly caught me but I avoided him in time. Tolani kicked him into his wife who’s nightgown caught alight. She screamed as she beat at him and at herself. It would have been comical if it wasn’t happening but it was. But it felt too unreal too inhuman. Like a tour of hell. She managed to get him of her as he fell to the ground rolling too slowly to put the fire out. She ran away only to end up in Tolani’s arms.
‘Tolani don’t’ I tried to tell him to stop.
‘[Don’t worry. I know I’ll get sick if I fuck this cockroach.]’ He stepped back as he placed the gun against her head. She screamed the whole time until the gunshot silenced her forever. Blood covered my shoes as it poured out of her skull. It was as if the blood in her head was pouring out.
‘[Keep searching for money]’ Tolani ordered waking me from my trance state. The blood had stopped pumpi