A Waste of Hearts
A WASTE OF HEARTS
She had nothing that I desired in a woman. To be precise, physically, she was unlucky in features that most men put value upon. Well, to be fair, she would get a second look from a man passing by her sometimes – but ten out of ten times, the man would be a certified drunk or a man under no illusion that a lady of any degree of style would be interested in him. Simply put, Dineo Tumi was not my cup of tea.
On this fateful night however, although I was fully in my senses, I had one mission only – to approach this same Dineo Tumi and win her heart! I had to make her mine, you see? And by all means for that matter; fair or foul! And what’s more, there was no iota of doubt in my mind that my task would be a simple one. I knew it would be a cinch as I sauntered towards the table where Dineo was engrossed in a tête-à-tête with a girl with a face of many colours.
I guess it all started on that fateful day I met Ntate John Baruti again. It was a hot afternoon and I was astonished to discover that I had no drink left in my refrigerator, whether hot or cold. This was a near disaster in my own book. I decided to visit a Shoprite store, just around the corner.
As I was returning from the store, and before the old community school by Kings Street, Ntate Baruti, ‘The Bull’, who was the then president of the Ficksburg branch of the Alumni Association of my Horla College of Technology, hooted three times in greeting and packed his tired bakkie by my side. I guessed the bakkie belonged to Jozi flour company he worked for.
‘Hey, my bru howzit?’ Long time!’
‘Ja. Long time indeed.
‘I’m just off to a shebeen; wanna roll with me, bru?’
‘No but thanks anyway. Gotta do some cooking.’
‘Eish – crisis of a bachelor, nê?
After more usual pleasantries, he gave me an invitation letter that he had planned on bringing to me the second day. It was to attend a Ficksburg Reunion party of the members. I promised him I would be there.
‘You gonna enjoy it, man. And, well…I’ll give you a shout before then anyway”
He then left leaving behind a haze of smoke.
I was not much of a party guy but I went on about it as if I would not want to miss it for anything. This was so because Lunga showed apparent excitement at the prospect. I did not want to be a spoilsport. But I was afraid it would be one of those terribly boring and disorganized parties and so I asked Michael to accompany me.
Michael was my best friend and he had just arrived back in Ficksburg from Midrand, where he ran a private security company. He looked worn out and I put it to him that I would not mind if he needed to rest. But I should have known better. He said that nothing short of a wild horse would keep him away. Later, it took another phone call and an hour for Lunga to join us at my place.
It was the first meeting between Michael and Lunga and I introduced them to each other. I caught a spark in Michael’s eyes as he adoringly looked at Lunga but I thought nothing of it – after all, you would have to be a certified misogynist not to be moved by Lunga’s beauty. She was quite a looker and I was proud of myself to have found a rare beauty that my best friend was in awe of.
I must confess that I had really not known Lunga for more than a month prior to the time of that party and besides her look, there was still a lot I was yet to discover about her. But I prided myself in understanding the opposite sex and in any case, I was getting tired of the loneliness of a bachelor and so I was nursing the idea of building my future life around Lunga.
The three of us got to the relatively quiet street rather fashionably late as Michael would put it. This was no thanks to Lunga who really took her time to freshen up on arrival at my place. We could not make out the name of the school, the venue of the party, from the sign board that had tilted backward a bit. Michael was positive however but before we could make any further decision, Lunga brought out the Invitation Letter to make sure we were not at the wrong place.
‘No. 1, Cnr. Kloof and Kort Street, Ficksburg, 9730.’
Lunga held me by the hand and dragged me a bit further to the street junction to check out the fading inscriptions of the street address. There was no doubt about it again as just against the electricity pole was hung ‘Kloof Street’ and on the opposite side of the road we could also make out Kort Street.
The aroma of the brine from the garden was nearly too much of punishment for my starving stomach. The party was already in full swing by the time we arrived, as evidenced by a good number of empty bottles all over the tables.
We exchanged pleasantries with friends: Notable among them were ‘Gogo’ Thethuoe Johnson with her fourth or maybe fifth husband – I had lost count! Looking at her pathetic style of dress, one did not need a sangoma to understand why she was unpleasantly called ‘Gogo’. Kefilwe Montsho did not look a year older than she looked in College; Kopano…Something, with whom she came to the party however could well pass for her father, even if he was just a year or two her senior at school. A brawler by nature, arguing on top of his voice over the inclusion of Benni McCarthy in the Bafana Bafana World Cup Team, was a guy that was accidentally named Mamello. Motheba Rakuoane, Maphillip, Keneuoe Mapesela, Angela, and a man who was fawning all over Motheba, a Jamaican, whose name I forgot, were also there all the way from Lesotho.
Before long, Michael and I were also getting pretty high. All sort of South African wine was yours just for the asking. Lunga was a bit tired and strung up at first but no lady could be bored with Michael Mohapi around. As he engaged Lunga in conversation, the two of them soon discovered a common ground. Lunga was more or less addicted to reading story books and Michael was more of a bookworm.
‘Well, I sincerely believe that Poirot is boring and Sherlock Holmes is impossible. I mean, who wants to investigate a killing when you…now, take the good old Hardy for instance…’
‘Hardy? Thomas Hardy? Oh no Michael, I read books for enjoyment – I don’t fancy authors whose interest is in the destruction of a high profile character of their own creation. This is the book whose cover I hated. Really you must have a heart of darkness to enjoy Hardy.’ And she laughed. It was a I-did-not-mean-any-offence kind of laughter.
‘A heart of darkness? No! And…anyway, I guess there are some other things a lady does for enjoyment besides reading.’
‘Well, let’s see…how about dancing for enjoyment? You may do some investigative dancing if you like. “By the movement of their legs shall a crime be discovered” or something of that nature, you know?’
‘No. I think the only crime to discover here is if you should decide to write a detective story.’ Now they both giggled. ‘But it’s a deal – let’s dance – 50 cent should not be wasted.’
The track I think was ‘In Da Club’ or something. Michael laughed heartily again as he lifted her off her feet and led her to the dancing floor. I might not have been there!
Okay, so you say I probably saw it coming, don’t you? Yes, I did. I not only saw it coming but I also went to meet it head-on as it were.
It was about half an hour after their dancing that we escorted Lunga to the taxi rank as she had to return home early to avoid the wrath of a pious Catholic grandmother. I gave her a goodbye kiss and…well, it might have been my fancy but it seemed there was a kind of nervous tension about her. When Michael and I got back to our table, I continued hitting the bottle – real hard.
‘There’s a swell baby there, man!’
‘You are telling me.’ Then I added, ‘You two seemed to be getting on fine there, weren’t you?’
‘You bet – your girl is blooming okay, hey?’ He probably noticed something in my tone as he asked, ‘Hey, Lebohang Baby, don’t tell me you are getting jealous!’ And he laughed.
‘Jealous? Me? You should know better, boet.’
‘Oh come off it – I think I recognized the look on your face when we were dancing.’
‘Ag no man! Me? You seem to have been away for too long, Mickey. Pretty babies grow on trees here in Ficksburg, you know.’
‘No, not Lunga. This particular one is no home-grown; she’s imported and if you haven’t realized that by now, then shame on you, bru.’
Now search me if I knew why I made the next statement. Was it ego? Pride? Was it a bottle too many? Anyway, I said, ‘Just one dance and you think my girl is dying for you. Now tell you what! Just to prove to you that I’ve been in this market long enough to know you are barking the wrong horse; if you can have her, take her – she’s all yours.’
When I woke up the following day, it all came back to me like a dream, but alas! I had given my words and Michael had accepted the challenge. I put on the I-don’t-care attitude in his presence and soon, he started working on the girl and I must give kudos to him – quite a work she did on the girl.
I went for a three-month, in-service training in Johannesburg and I returned in November. I could even have sworn that Michael saw me as I nearly bumped on the two of them. But then, maybe he did not because he was too busy fondling her long hair with an adoring smile on his face. She did not kick him in return nor did she make a dash for it. Rather, she lifted her mouth for a kiss. As I feared, this invitation was not turned down either and at that moment of stolen passion; my heartbeat took a rapid jump.
It took several unanswered phone-calls and some silly excuses to convince me fully and to accept the reality that my girl had slipped away from me into the scheming hands of the one I regarded as my best friend. People said you never knew the value of what you had until it was lost. How true! I realized then that in my own way, I really loved Lunga – I did. But all the same, with time, I did survive the accident of a careless lover.
It was about two years later and the love between Lunga and Michael had long gone up in smoke. I was not base enough to take Lunga back of course. Michael also moved on. But as he was carrying on in years, it was with great joy that his family accepted the news of his engagement to Dineo Tumi. There was nothing to forgive Michael for – I guessed I only had myself to forgive, and with time, I did. But evidently, I could not forget. The opportunity came and I decided that it was time to hit back – where it would hurt most.
Michael had shown me her pictures during the very few times I visited him after we somehow patched up the relationship. He had also talked a lot about Dineo Tumi. It was all we could do to keep a simple conversation going between us. We did not have much to talk about again – the sign of a scar left behind by the blow of the challenge. But I had never met her face to face by then.
I had three whole months to spend in Johannesburg on the ticket of Techno Computers for an in-service training on networking programmes. The trip actually turned out to be more like entertainment break for me than duty. If there was anything I had in abundance, it was time. My subtle but unrelenting inquiries paid off. I discovered that Dineo was attending a computer course at a stone’s throw to where I was attending the in-service training – the third year running, in Johannesburg.
It was a dinner party and it was definitely a party I would ordinarily love to miss even if I were to be paid for attending. The only thing that I noticed was enough and indeed in excess was the irritating rain outside. There was shortage of chairs, shortage of foods and shortage of drinks. There was also shortage of ideas on the part of the short D.J. with a mournful face who kept playing Brenda Fassie’s ‘Weekend Special’ over and over again.
I was not feeling like food but I picked up the plates with the cutlery and joined the queue all the same. My legs at least came alive again with sounds of gratitude after a long time of idleness in the cold. I went for roast pork with lentil and vegetable salad – nice food indeed but I just went through the motion of eating; it might as well have been a mashed face towel, soaked in paraffin and garnished with snails and I would not have noticed the difference: I was on a mission.
Where I chose to sit, it would be difficult for her to avoid eye contact. I engaged her in silent communication. I gave her all it took – a bored impression to begin with, then with nervous drumming of the fingers on the table and wandering eyes; a staged picking her out with a Oh-my-God-here-is-someone-I-can-connect-with-after-all kind of a look; As the music played, I found my way to her side and asked her for a dance. She accepted with a big smile.
After the dance, I confidently moved my chair to her table, carrying my drinks along. Her friend with a face of many colours staged a tactful disappearance and I continued working on her. She continued to give me the it-would-be-wonderful-to-know-you-better look and my mission turned out to be a piece of cake as planned.
It was the best-kept secret between Mrs. Dineo Mohapi and me. It suited me. It was a secret revenge – or was it? Anyway I had the last laugh. But again, did I? Is it not true that what one never feels never hurts? After all, Michael never felt that anything hit him, whereas I took his own punch full in the heart – with a broken heart to show for it. No doubt Michael ended up with a broken door of a wife in the foolish contest in waste. But what was my own gain? Now I wonder!