Tainting Innocent Eyes

Thoughts come and go but memories stay forever, because if pictures fail to capture the moments, words will always speak life into them. Lately, I’ve been thinking of lost moments, the ones forgotten by the Universe, like cakes forgotten in the oven, leaving nothing but a cloud of smoke and black ashes.

PRELUDE

Thoughts come and go but memories stay forever, because if pictures fail to capture the moments, words will always speak life into them. Lately, I’ve been thinking of lost moments, the ones forgotten by the Universe, like cakes forgotten in the oven, leaving nothing but a cloud of smoke and black ashes.

 

Those first stares that never turned into second glances that would give birth to third looks. Those moments of meeting the right person in the wrong circumstances, so no matter how right she seems, she might never be right enough for you to put your right foot forward and leave your left-handed girl behind. Moments of stolen glances between a forbidden pair.

 

Life is a journey personified by different characters. Some enter our lives to change them, change the way we view each step we aim to take, change our ideals and ideas surrounding life and its forever changing dynamics. No matter how good or bad a situation in the end there’s a bit of positive in everything, because life is like a puzzle, in a bigger puzzle, so each moment just slides in and becomes a perfect fit for the bigger picture.

 

Everyday ends with a comma, at times you go to sleep with an incomplete sentence, because you close your eyes with deep thoughts dancing to the tune of the clock. Tick tock it goes, as sleep steals the day’s moments, with the chilly breeze blowing. Street lights glowing, with that “we own the night” look. See, I’m from the city that never sleeps, streets that never feel the loneliness of flying plastics, the blowing wind moving trees slowly.

 

To addictive personalities this life may be toxic. The sleepless nights of cramming books to mind, like cramped shelves as compartments in the brain, with early morning examinations, in the chase to leave the place we once dreamed of in record time. This is a challenge no one can prepare you for. Waking up with Monday hangovers, after Sundays of regurgitating all three meals of the day because of over indulgence in toxic substances, like love to a heart only taught hatred, one that’s been the canvas of the endless flow of blood diluted in salt water flowing down the cheeks of beautiful girls, with glowing eyes, that glow from the constant washing in endless tears that seem to be a permanent resident all because of the joys and sadness that come with big city lights.

 

Optional Monday morning lectures, unmissable afternoon tutorials, study time stolen to chill, blazing blunts, drinking bottles, with company personified by only a few regular links, poems of love, life, girls, boys, friends, friendships, lies, deceit and absolutely everything in between.

 

Musical notes that bring emotion to life, melodies only a few can fathom, accompanied by acoustic masterclass and buzzing bass, endless rehearsals for shows unplanned, performances that place them on greater stages. They are Students by day and Artists by night.

 

In this place, meaningless friendships are formed; the strength of others is tested. This is a place where secrets are stories untold, because telling one person could result in cutting the system of secrecy, as your words may come to haunt you in the form of transactions, with the level of secrecy being the only price, your pride being the victim in attempts to keep alive dead relations.

 

Set in a period that would unleash a historic generation. This is really a story of a young man making his way through life, which happens to be a valley that leaves him constantly floating on never ending drama. He always finds a way out and manages to find something funny in a sticky situation.

 

How I became a part of such a world, I still wonder. But technically I’m not a part of it, just an outsider looking in through an eye involved in the action. I’m like the observer of a chess game that is told how the pieces move and I just give advice as to what should have happened, laugh at the situation and wonder how so much can happen in one person’s life.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Enough of the endless riddles that we all relate to but seem to make no sense at this point, my name is Pauline, that girl that sits in the front of the class, had good grades till varsity opened its gates, now I just get enough to go by, survive another year and hopefully at the end get that CA (SA) at the end of my name.  This happens to be a story about the chronicles and life of a young, ambitious, prospective CA (SA) like myself. He’s not your ordinary kind of cool guy, he’s the earphones in, sit at the back of the class, talk to no one, till someone he knows walks up to him, and then he becomes someone completely different, like his personality changes from that weird looking dude, to this really cool guy smiles and all.

 

The World really is a small place, we first met in primary school, he was the weirdo that was always sweaty because he played soccer with every chance he got, average academics and we were never really close then. I changed primary schools in senior primary and we went to different high schools, so you can imagine the shock I experienced at seeing him in the same lecture hall after the first few days at Wits University. Even worse we were in a tutorial group together and he just didn’t seem to recognize me, till we were sitting together and he greeted me. “Hi, I’m Joe”, he said. “I can’t believe you don’t remember me”, I responded. “You do look familiar, Mondeor Primary, right? I’m sorry I just forgot your name”, he retorted. “Yes! I can’t believe you, it’s Pauline”, I said.

 

We went on a back and forth about how we’d noticed each other, he couldn’t remember my name and I was just scared he didn’t remember me. We had a chat about how we were in primary, how we changed in high school and how we landed up at Wits.

A few days of awkward conversations followed, till the awkwardness felt comfortable and a friendship was born. He had grown, still weird, but in a cooler kind of way. He was an interesting weirdo, the kind that gets women interested. Interested to know why he hardly gives anyone attention, why he only really interacts with those in his circle, why he just keeps his earphones in, sits at the back of the lecture leaves as soon as it ends. He was the kind of guy that would sit right next to the prettiest girl in the lecture hall and pay no attention to her. He knew his way around girls, was quite the charmer, though very picky in his choice of woman, he’d spent enough time with women to know what they want, how they react to certain situations, all based on their characteristics.

 

I’m just the normal girl, always fully dressed; many see me as your typical church girl, with my doek and below the knee dresses. So, we make a weird pair of friends and I’m pretty sure a lot of people question what we have in common, even though many of them don’t know Joe too well.

 

The awkwardness wore off sooner than I thought it would, we opened up to each other about the occurrences in our lives. He amazed me as he knew how well he knew woman, the power he had, yet he barely ever used it at school.

 

Every day from March till year end seemed to be a new episode of a drama in his life; I’d get my daily summary the following day. The first of these was about a night out, that lead to his third blackout in as many months.

 

It was a Sunday night; he went to Thomas’s apartment, with his best friend Faith, and Faith’s girl T. They got to Thomas’s place, with a 5-liter box of wine; all required contents of a hookah pipe and found Thomas’s roommates in his room.

 

They had it all planned but had not included the roommates in the scenario.  They invited Thomas’s lady neighbors to join the party. Two seemingly silent ladies of contrasting complexion walked into the room as the hookah was being set up. Joe looked up, greeted both ladies with a smile and continued with the conversation he was in with the boys.

 

The room was now filled with 8 individuals, 3 ladies and 5 guys; survival of the fittest was in full swing. Faith was in fire mode because he was set; his girl next to him, drink in hand and pipe floating around. It was a numbers game and 4 guys were in contention for 2 girls. Joe kept the conversation afloat, mainly directing it at Zee, the fair lady; she had obviously taken his eye. The roommates were laid back, showing that they were new to the game. Thomas, the host was the type of guy that made no moves but took whatever was left over.

 

After a couple of drinks, the scene was set for some games to be played. They started with a game called 7, moved to a sentence construction game and landed at what seemed to be the night’s final destination; spin the bottle. The drinks kept flowing, the game kept moving, and some kisses here and there, till the turning point.

 

The bottle spun and stopped at Zee and her roommate, no female to female kisses were allowed, so she had to choose a guy to kiss. She thought for a moment, turned to her right and said, “I feel like this guy’s been wanting me all night”, she walked up to Joe; they kissed and kissed, till they were on the bed that was behind them. The game paused; everyone looked in awe, waiting for them to stop until they decided to continue with the game as it became clear that the kiss would stay a while.

Joe and Zee, re-joined the game though seemingly still stuck in the haze of the depth of their kiss. Joe was tipsy now, nearing drunk. He was feeling nauseous so he headed to the bathroom; Zee followed him, worry clearly written in her eyes. He went from happy to down in seconds, hung his head over the toilet seat waiting for something to come out, but it just seemed to be like a phantom pregnancy with authentic contractions but no baby popping out. She sat there with him, begging him not to let it out, not to let himself throw up. He was out of it, could barely put logical sentences together, till he blacked out.

 

Zee left and ended up throwing up in her room before having her own blackout. The party continued without Joe, things heated up. The numbers had dwindled. Thomas’s roommates were the only ones without female companionship, with Joe and Zee having blacked out, Faith was with T and Thomas had Zee’s roommate.

 

There were 4 naked bodies, one room and 2 beds in use. The deed had been done. A trip to the toilet would lead to the discovery of an unconscious Joe, on the floor, surrounded by a rich red substance.

 

This was a scary moment. Was he dead? The intoxication between the boys died out, as they tried to figure out the situation. They tried to wake him up, Faith ran a shower for him and he came back to consciousness, although he was still quite drunk. Turns out he had woken out of his black out to bring back the wine through the channel it had entered and fell asleep in it.

 

Really nasty image, I tell you. He was lucky to have a best friend who barely over indulged, so he was there to ensure that he got changed up and taken to his place in one piece. Joe was speaking a bit but making no sense as they carried him to his place. They had a pit stop at Faith’s other girlfriend’s (Precious) place and spent a few moments with her and Thomas’s girlfriend who happened to be Precious’ best friend.

So, let us rewind for a little moment, just to give you a chance to get a better insight into this complex situation. Faith was involved with 3 ladies at the same time, in the words of Joe “The wife (Love), the girlfriend (Precious) and the side chick, T”. He was a loose cannon that had blown a few times, enjoyed the thrill of the chase and shared a lot in common with Joe. They were the same person, with different views of the World.

 

Thomas was introduced to his girlfriend by Faith, as Faith had met her with Precious and had unsuccessfully attempted to match her with some of his other friends, Joe included. She wasn’t much to write home about, not the prettiest flower in the pond, but not the worst either. She was athletic and Thomas seemed to have fallen for her, very deeply.

 

Back to the situation at hand, Joe was sitting there, drooling. They completed the journey to his place and dropped him on his bed. That night he drank like a man with worries, truth is he was a worried man. Joe had a girl (Mary) he had liked for a while, while they were both in other relationships, their relationships ended and they had recently started dating. The problem was that Joe had impregnated his recent ex-girlfriend, Red, just before he broke up with her. He wanted to try monogamy, but his timing seemed to have been the worst.

 

He was stuck because how does he go to his parents and say he impregnated a girl, after a week of leaving home, when his parents were against the move? Parts of him didn’t believe Red, how convenient was it for her to get pregnant when he had just left her? The story didn’t add up, till he realized that she had as much to lose as he did from the situation. It was a tricky situation because Joe barely spoke to her, as he was trying to keep his distance. In the end, she took the tough decision of not keeping the baby, keeping to her word.

 

Truth is they were still in love with each other, just too afraid to show it. Joe had openly sacrificed their relationship to stay true to a relationship he was unsure of, but hoped would last long enough to reach marriage.

 

Joe woke up on Monday morning, with half the details of the night before, a vague detail in his memory. He was in Faith’s t-shirt and wondered how that came about, Faith came through and told him how the events unfolded. The alcohol was still in his system and Mary was on her way.

 

He had to wash his bedding before she arrived because the stench of alcohol seemed to have been stuck on his sheets. Racing against time he rushed to get his life in order before Mary’s arrival. Luckily,  he finished just in time for a day of sitting on a naked bed with his girl by his side. He was feeling hot and cold, getting teased by his leading lady and told he should quit the bottle.

Monday blues gone. Joe had that effect on me, he’d tell me stories that sounded like they were only a reality in movies, but he’d own them so well that you’d know he wasn’t even creating the smallest of details. He made me question how dull my life was, because his was so colorful, he was always in the border of drama, he enjoyed the thrill of those moments.

 

“So, you were drunk, cheated on your girlfriend and your friends did the same?” I asked as I burst into laughter. “Precisely”, he responded, as if these events were meant to be a normal occurrence for all. “But, the cheating part is subjective you know…” he said, “how?” I questioned as I instantly snapped out of my laughter. “See cheating may not be the same thing to me and you, think about it, to me it’s only cheating for as long as the thought of the action lingers in your mind, because the longer you think of something, the more it’s given substance and the more likely you are of repeating it.” He said this and walked away from me, stood far enough to watch as his words were digested.

 

Joe had a point, though society may not agree with it. If something isn’t worth it you wouldn’t waste a thought on it. This moment instantly reminded me of a situation in class.

Joe was sitting on my left during a law lecture, a girl with light skin, slight acne and short hair was on my right-hand side. The lecturer asked us to draw a pig on a sheet of paper. In our minds we were all thinking, we’re here for accounting, not art but, we all obliged. Joe, like many of us precisely showed why he was not an art major. His pig was like a mixture of a dog and a horse, with a round body. It was hilarious, but madam on my right dragged the laughter for too long, as if to hold on to the piece of attention Joe was giving her, but he seemed to just give her enough to keep her at arm’s length.

 

After cracking a few jokes, on our walk to the gates, we landed on the topic of the fair lady. I asked Joe what he thought of her, his response was short to the point and quite accurate. He said, “she’s a 7, used to getting attention because she’s pretty so when a guy doesn’t give her that attention, she wonders why.” Now it made sense, his reaction, he barely gave her a glance after the pig situation. He went on to say that if a guy wants her type of girl, he doesn’t give her attention, she wonders why and by the time he gives her a bit of attention, she’s already taken.

 

This was too true, as girls we like the ones that don’t give us the usual. He was good at this game, but barely used this to get any girl at school. I saw it in her eyes that she was intrigued by him, but the way he continued to pay no attention to her baffled me at first, but it all added up when he shared his analogy.

 

Once again, he showed his understanding of the female species. He had just made a new female friend in his building, she showed interest in his writing and that’s how their friendship began. They became TV buddies until Joe introduced her to his room and roommate Ray. Ray’s guitar unleashed the singer in her, quite the raspy voice she had. Prudence was her name she was destined to become a lawyer in the near future.

 

Joe thought she was interesting and figured she was eyeing him. He’d find her waiting for him in his room after late night studying on campus. They were inseparable buddies, unsure of what this friendship would bring for them. Things were about to get interesting as this thought of feelings boiled up.

 

Friday night, party night in the bright streets of Johannesburg. Who would want to miss one they didn’t have to pay to enter? On this particular Friday, a kitchen jam session would have the better of Joe, who had a ticket to the first party of the year, a welcoming party organised by his off-campus accommodation to get their tenants to mingle. The acoustic sounds of a guitar backed up with soulful melodies and poetry being the cherry on top. His love for poetry introduced him to individuals that would reshape his destiny.

 

They came in the form of his roommate, the short, fair singer with a voice to pause every passing moment, Jasmine, a lady poet with thought provoking words that always left Joe wanting to respond, Samantha.

 

Samantha had something that captured Joe’s mind they had shared something more than just meaningless words on their first encounter. It all started in a weird manner, Ray was playing his guitar while cooking, and Joe had gone to collect his ticket as they were planning to have a few beers and party the night away but he returned to a mesmerized Samantha watching Ray play the guitar. He sat down, trying to figure out why this girl was so taken by plain old Ray playing the guitar, till she said, “you know what would sound nice on a guitar?”, “what?” Joe asked. “Poetry”, she responded. “I do poetry” Joe said and started freestyling. She happened to be the broken-hearted poet herself, they freestyled, till they decided to dialogue through poetry.

 

They shared moments of reality till the short Jazz, passing by, asked to sing something. She started a melody that got everyone in a frenzy and Joe and Sam continued their dialogue on top of these melodies. Jazz took Ray’s numbers so that she could know when there are other jam sessions. The night ended with the exchange of names, hugs, all round happiness and admiration seen by all between Sam and Joe.

That night was the beginning of interesting yet twisted relationships that would give birth to amazing sounds.

 

Amongst the spectators of that spectacle was Joe’s neighbor, nick named Einstein because of his electrocuted looking hair; he spent a lot of time with Joe and Ray but would turn out to be a failed Wolf in sheep skin.

 

Days went by, opportunity to broaden the sounds of this newly found dynamic group knocked and Joe opened. It was in the form of a building event called ‘Amateur Night’, Noble House’s very own unnamed band was to be headlining thanks to Joe being a part of the House committee.

He managed to put together the combination of all who were jamming the previous Friday, Ray (The Guitarist), Jasmine (The Vocalist) and Samantha (The Female Poet). They were running against time to make at least 5 songs in 4 days. As destiny would have it, contact was made; a poetry duet that spoke of prospective love was created by two souls with prospective intentions of falling in love. It became The Blunt’s very first song, Possibilities became its name. It was the story of Joe and Sam’s hope for each other.

 

They managed 4 songs that were set around the country’s happenings at the time. Joe was the MC, ever so talkative so the post was fitting; he ran the program by fusing the open mic section with the 4 songs to make 2 hours of fun. Many were amused by the comedy, dancing, poetry, rap and all the activities in between, but more importantly that was the night that gave birth to the ambitions and aspirations of a bright future for The Blunt.

 

I sat in the crowd, watching the show I had heard everything about yet it still managed to exceed my expectations. I had read some of Joe’s poetry, but the story being the final piece they performed that night, the chemistry between Sam and Joe, you could almost see the truth that lay between the words and the close kiss at the end nearly gave them away. They had a brilliant combination, Jazz could sing, Sam’s words cut deep and Joe spoke reality into his every word and it was all placed gracefully on top of Ray’s guitar. They were destined for greatness.

 

At the end of the show, Joe introduced me to all of them and I told them how wonderful they all were. I headed back to my residence at school and left Joe mingling with his newly found fans.

 

A night that almost ended with a kiss that brought thoughts that still linger on the minds of those that became loyal followers of these ‘students by day, artists by night’.

That night I noticed some strange closeness between Sam and Sleazy, one of the rappers of the night, they sat together when off stage. Their closeness seemed to be the type that would give the impression that they were lovers, but the chemistry she shared with Joe would derail you and my conclusion was that Sleazy was friend zoned in his attempt at asking Sam out.

 

Joe shed light on the matter on Monday afternoon and told me what they got up to after the show. In his opinion, Sleazy hadn’t made his intentions clear from the get-go which led to him being friend zoned and their closeness was slightly misleading. He further went on to say Sleazy was a charmer boy wannabe who tried to get with virtually every girl in the building, but was failing with all of them. Joe being a guy had as much insight into the mentality of guys as he did on that of girls. He had the ability to decipher situations to their most basic forms and in the process uncovering the truth.

 

“So, you like Sam?” I questioned, as we met at our usual spot on Monday morning with a slight giggle. He paused. Thought about the question poised, as if to look for the correct answer. “Maybe” he responded, the thought clearly still lingering on his mind. “What does that mean?” I asked. He paused again. This time it was like he had the answer, but was uncertain as to how he should bring it out. “There’s something about her that intrigues me, makes me give the thought of liking her, a second thought even when thinking seems wrong” he said. “Simple English please! And it’s actually a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question” I went on. “Ok, yes, I like her, but I’m not sure what that means” he retorted.

 

He was uncertain of his feelings because of his relationship with his girlfriend. He didn’t want to put his relationship into jeopardy for one that might never take off.

“Can we move on until I figure out what to do with her?” he asked rhetorically as he irritably walked away from me.

 

Joe, Sam, Sleazy and Penny spent the rest of the evening having fries and ice cream while chatting about their previous relationships, sexual interactions, or lack thereof. Joe had been his usual out there self, talking about how he had played the field to the best of his advantage. All this had been done in full view of the lady he had a thing for, Sam and her friend Penny, who was more laid back and down to Earth.

 

Joe was the type of guy to say the most meaningful things in passing, he liked to prepare his ladies for what was to come, the good the bad and the promiscuity. He was smart and subtle in his approach, kept the ladies in his life close enough to the danger for them to start running, but they were just never smart enough.

Sam showed some liking to Joe, usually Joe knew all the signs, hit all the right buttons but he took his foot off the paddle with Sam. He let those around him dictate the terms of their relationship and it shook Joe out of his comfort zone.

 

That night more than just The Blunt was born. A new energy was brewing within Joe; he felt the thrill of being on stage again, the exhilarating feeling of appreciation from the intimate crowd. It all got him feeling like he could make something out of his talent. He was alive again and was now able to make use of his writing.

 

There was a sense of uncertainty within him that I didn’t understand. I just let him leave and pondered upon his behavior. For once I had seen the look of confusion in reference to a girl in his very own eyes. It was unsettling; I hadn’t seen him in that state before. He was always on top of his game when it came to the ladies. There was something off about Sam.

 

You tend to lose track of days and dates when in Varsity, until exam time, but we weren’t there yet. It was Tuesday afternoon walking out of our Accounting tutorial when we continued our previous conversation. “So, you mentioned Penny yesterday, anything to tell me about her?” I started. “She’s Sam’s friend, enjoyed our show and is a chilled person…” he started his response.

 

She was like a mixture of Mary and me. He didn’t know her too well yet, but they would grow close overtime and neither of them would understand how. Sleazy just turned out to be a wannabe rapper who had a thing for Sam.

Interesting times were to follow…

 

The final piece of Joe’s puzzle came in the form of a girl he didn’t quite like. She was Ray’s friend. She went by the name Rose. All Joe saw in her were thorns; they were always at each other’s throats until an indecent proposal changed it all.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 2

 

That fateful night at Thomas’s place kept ringing in Joe’s mind. He felt a bit disappointed in himself. He was a young man, confident in his charm that let what they called “baking” get in the way of a clear score. He felt the need to redeem himself, but seemed to have been stuck in a bottomless pit of his own emotions, stuck in too much commotion to succumb to the pressures around him.

 

He had a good head on his shoulders and wouldn’t let his drama get to him, at least he tried not to show it, but I knew him so well over the time I spent with him that his emotions became see through. He was stuck between a rock, a hard place and heartbreak. The spirits were never his hiding place, but in those days, they became his solace. He was never one to talk through the bottle, called a spade a spade and stuck true to his words.

 

He was prideful, tried to stay joyful but I could see the internal breakdown that came with his predicament. He stood tall and proud in the eyes of the public but remained a shadow of the guy I know through my pupils.

 

“I think I’m going to call it quits with Red.” He unexpectedly blurted out. Good riddance, I thought.

“But, why?” I questioned, looking puzzled.

“I don’t think it’ll work out with her knowing about Mary, I think I’m really messing with fire here and I want to walk out unscathed.” He substantiated.

 

Joe had met Red through a friend, they’d instantly clicked and things heated up before Joe could make mention of Mary’s existence. She had this adventurous aspect that Joe found attractive. Her sex game was on fleek he’d always boast. She took him places he had never been and gave him all of her, with no exceptions, while Mary held back.

One thing led to another and they found themselves in bed on their first date. Talk about freaky. Red held nothing back, gave Joe the impression that she believed he was ‘The One’, though he tried to warn her.

 

“What if you’re not the only one?” He’d always ask jokingly.

“You’re always home, respond instantly to my texts and always answer when I call” she’d respond with a giggle.

 

She had a way of getting to him, making him feel all fuzzy inside. I never quite understood it, but he seemed to be coming to his senses now. He looked like he was turning over a new leaf, starting over perhaps. Monogamy seemed to be knocking on his door and I was glad he was now willing to open, but why now? I thought.

 

“Why the sudden change of heart?” I asked.

“Maybe it’s time I got on the faithful side of life, my girlfriend deserves it” he responded.

 

There was a sense of disappointment in his tone and he seemed to have been in a war with his heart and his mind.

“Are you sure about this?” I interrogated him.

“I don’t know, but why the interrogation, I thought you were against it from the start?” he went on.

“I know but you seem confused about the situation and I want what’s best for you buddy” he laughed as I ended my sentence.

“What?” I asked as I started giggling.

“‘Buddy’, that could have tainted my self-esteem if I was someone else” he said as we both burst into laughter.

 

He had a way of changing subjects, so smoothly you wouldn’t even question it. He had done it again and the topic of Red had drowned in the depth of our laughter and another day had ended.

 

I was still worried so I tried to tie the stories together. Joe had been unfaithful in most of his previous relationships, but suddenly wanted to be monogamous. It didn’t add up. This is the same Joe that had started a relationship with Mary while involved in another relationship; he subsequently ended it by mutual agreement, only to be in a confused state with his relationship with Mary and ended up adding Red to the mix.

 

The next day couldn’t have come any quicker. We had a bit of a gap between lectures and were going to have some lunch. Being the ‘popular’ kids we were it was rare to travel across the campus without encountering people we knew. One such lady happened to be a girl Joe had a short history with. Her name was Pretty, very fitting that she was one of the prettiest girls in our course. She was slim, with curves in all the right places and sought by many in the school.

 

With Joe’s track record I wasn’t shocked to know that he had a thing with her. It wasn’t really a thing though. Joe had met her through two mutual friends. He’d walked her to her residence, they had an interesting conversation that seemed to be leading up to a union and he had written her a poem for her birthday. Her popularity increased which meant more guys chasing her. That’s when Joe quit chasing.

“I didn’t want to drown in the pool of guys chasing her so I had to pull back, stay close but far enough not to become her friend” he said expertly in his defense for pulling out.

 

He had enough insight into women to make such statements. They spoke now and then but Joe just wanted to keep it at that, maybe one day he’d go back for her.

 

His drama was endless. While the thought of leaving Red was stuck in his mind, the prospect of Prudence having a thing for him haunted him. We spoke about her after class. She was a 3rd year law student, interesting to a certain extent, they were TV buddies who started spending a lot of time together and the thought of her liking Joe intrigued him.

 

He liked the thought but not the idea. The thought being; being admired by Prudence and the idea being; her admiration resulting in a relationship.

“So, if she likes you, what are you going to do about it?” I asked with laughter lingering in my tone. He laughed, paused for a moment and thought of ignoring my question but stopped himself and said;

“Nothing, I don’t like her like that and she’s not my type, but she’s older…” her age made him wonder, but based on their conversations she had little to no relationship experience and he wasn’t prepared to be the one to change that.

 

The next morning started with me asking, “So, how’s Red?”

“She’s okay, I guess” he responded lazily.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Things aren’t the same now that she knows about Mary” he said in a low tone. “Wait, when did that happen?” I asked as I laughed off my shock.

 

The power of social media is shocking. Joe had posted a photo on Instagram with the caption: ‘relationship goals’. Both Mary and Red had commented and liked the post. Their comments were both subtle but it was a comment from a friend that seemed to draw attention to Mary being the ‘main’ girlfriend.

 

“Ok, but how does that mean she knows?” I asked still trying to digest this interesting piece of information.

“Well, she thinks it’s the case and if she asks then I’ll tell her the truth, that way we move on with our lives” he responded as he walked into class.

 

What a way to start your morning. The movie just keeps unfolding before my eyes like endless petals on a thorny rose. Joe was at a crossroads with two girls to choose from. One gave him all of her while the other held back pieces of her as if she was a game with different stages. Oddly Joe seemed to enjoy the stages more than all at once, “A little means a lot” he would always tell me. This is a concept I could never grasp. How could you love one that holds back more than one who would go to the ends of the Earth for you? I mean it’s common sense that you want to maximize what you can get out of a relationship. Joe and I were just travelling on different trains of thought on this one.

 

Time seemed to choose Mary. Over the weekend Joe had lunch with both Mary and Red, separately, and a day apart. He managed to brush off questions about Mary by saying “If you search for something you’re bound to find it so ask no questions hear no lies”. This statement seemed to tell a tale that Red thought she wouldn’t like as it seemed to be heading in the direction of proving her suspicions correct.

 

Joe was sleek with Red though. He had practically told Red everything without her noticing. He had told her the story of his love life, including significant exes and Mary. Mary’s story was left incomplete and if Red kept digging the story would be completed along with other things.

 

This was the news that began my week and showed how long 3 days are in the life of Joe. I barely had drama in my life but there was this guy I kind of liked. He seemed to be the slow kind of guy, expected me to play hide and seek with him and I’m not that kind of girl. I like guys that are direct, real with me from the beginning and mature enough to tell me if they like me.

 

He seemed to have missed the memo because he was doing all the things that were ticking the incorrect boxes and I was over him quicker than lights out during load shedding. When I told Joe about this prospective lover, he looked at me, thought for a moment and asked where this guy came from. I looked back at him and laughed.

“Is that what you’re going to ask me after I just told you an essay?”

“Yes”, he responded.

“He lives at Res” I responded in my incomplete laughter.

He stopped, looked at me and said, “No wonder” as he burst into laughter.

It was in that moment that I enjoyed having Joe as a friend and not encountering him as a potential partner. He’s insight into a situation he barely knew was astonishing. It was as if he was within and with me in my interactions with the guy.

Joe had a tendency of getting carried away when he was on a roll. He went on until I told him that he had no leg to stand on until he fixed his lady situation. That ended another eventful day with Joe.

Sitting alone in the evenings always gave me moments to look back on the day’s events and analyse them. On this day Joe had just highlighted how little some guys knew about girls. He was the rare kind though, one of those that knew a lot about the ladies. Some of his knowledge was from experience, other came from his ability to analyse people and situations as he was a very critical thinker and the balance was plain old logic.

 

The week continued, embodied with short conversations about nothing, my relationship that never happened and Red’s drama seemed to be reaching its pinnacle. It ended with talk of a steamy weekend at her place.

 

Varsity came with more than just the prospect of a piece of paper stating that a person is qualified in a certain field after 3/ 4 years of consistently passing and failing tests but getting enough to move on to the next module at the end of the year.

 

Braam was our city, the land of the semi grown adults. This is the city that never sleeps but is filled with dream walkers. There is a high level of independence and freedom in this city. Most unlock it, but a few use it responsibly.

 

Joe had unlocked his freedom but was the center light of responsibility. He had it in parts. That weekend highlighted his lack of responsibility. It started on Thursday when Red went to his place. They got steamy as usual, spent the night together and headed to her place on Friday afternoon to continue the fun there. Three days of naked bodies, breakfast in bed a bin full of used condoms that amounted to less than the rounds of sex had.

 

That was a reckless era, but what brought fun into it was that a certain girl kept interrupting them, while they were at Joe’s place, Rose was her name. She would just knock and attempt to open and when asked who it was, she wouldn’t respond. This was the third occasion on which she had done this and Joe was irritated. He thought she had something that drew her to his place when Ray wasn’t there and he happened to have a lady friend. I laughed as he described the situation and his facial expressions seemed to be worsening my laughter.

 

Joe was boiling, the fusion of Rose’s barging in, and Prudence’s growing affection which was evident to all around him and the axe standing over the ties that join him with Red. More drama was brewing in the pot, burning in the city and it was starting to boil over and seep out.

 

Times like these were the reason for my good girl image. My closed off image with my see-through walls that few had the courage to walk into. It was times like these that made me glad that my life was drama less. I wouldn’t be able to handle the pressures of balancing relationships, a buzzing social life and still face my academics with the courage to complete my degree in record time.

 

When Joe’s steam blew off he laughed at the situation and marveled at the amount of drama he had brewed for himself in less than 3 months of the academic year.

Prudence was getting comfortable at Joe’s place, even visiting when he wasn’t around. Joe came to me at the end of class.

 

“Who on Earth waits for you at your place till midnight?” he asked looking shocked. “What are you on about?” I asked feeling lost.

 

After Joe explained the story, I burst into laughter. His expressions, the look in his eyes and the story itself, were a combination of funny that would result in a burst of laughter. Joe was naturally animated, the type of guy that spoke through gestures that make even the most serious of matters seem like the funniest of stories.

 

When I contained myself, I had the time to digest the situation. Joe was working on a group assignment till late night. He only got to his place just after midnight. To his shock he found Prudence in his room with Ray. Apparently, she had told Ray that she wouldn’t leave until Joe arrived.

 

“It was creepy, no actually it still is, I feel like she has a room and could have just told Ray to tell me to let her know when I get back, but for her to physically be there…” he continued with disgust in his tone.

 

I continued laughing, but when I finally cooled down, I understood Joe’s point. They were barely close enough for her to start doing such weird things, so his disgust was understandable even though his delivery was hilarious. We always look down on guys for trying too hard but Prudence just proved that sometimes even girls do the same. Day ended in awesome fashion.

 

The rest of the week came with plans for Joe to redeem himself, more episodes of Late nights with Prudence as well as his usual relationship drama. The following week seemed to be coming with news of an intriguing weekend.

 

Monday Blues blew with the cool breeze that blew with the end of summer in sight. It was evening when Joe and I finally got the chance to indulge in the conversation carrying drama that I would never allow to elude me.

 

So Red hit Joe with a surprise visit on Saturday morning. Sadly, she wasn’t carrying great news. She shared thoughts that were the consequence of the events of the previous week’s shenanigans. The product could be expected in 9 months though it wasn’t certain at this stage as Red was going to have a blood test the following week.

Joe was panicking.

 

“What if she’s pregnant?” he said frantically.

“Calm down” I said in an attempt to console him.

“How do I tell my parents? It’s just been 2 months since I left home” he continued.

“You know cycles change, especially when you’re sexually active, I’m sure it’s just that so don’t worry until you get the blood results” I said as I tried to console him.

 

He moped for a short while then got back to his usual bubbly self. Telling me about how he started on the quest to redeem himself by going to Zee’s place with Thomas. They indulged in a few ice-breaking exchanges. These opened the path for Joe to go for the jugular and discredit Zee’s love for her boyfriend like a lawyer discrediting a witness on the witness stand, she was speechless and he had her where he wanted her.

 

Joe was manipulative; he had the ability to open the place you thought you had caged up. He’d open it from the inside, as if that’s where he had been his entire life. He used his debating skills to the best of his advantage. He knew the right angles to attack and before you know it you’d be in his corner, with your back against the wall and arguing in agreement with his point.

 

That was the first stage he said with a wry smile, he would disappear from Zee for a while and in their next encounter, he’d paint himself into her portrait, not as boyfriend but as a prospective ‘fun partner’.

 

He had a way with words and it didn’t help much that he was a poet. He was manipulative in a subtle way. As crazy as he was I was glad to see him cheerful and smiling even though I knew that his intentions weren’t noble.

 

Trouble was looming, like a dark cloud grouping light ones in preparation for a storm. The brewing storm was more than the naked eye could see, it was more than his usual girl drama and it was bigger than him.

Joe was alive again, not just breathing. He was excited by the birth of The Blunt and its amazing dynamics with a different musical sound. He was working on new material constantly and growing closer with Sam, but each moment spent with her increased the pressure for him to pursue something more than a friendship or a working relationship.

Joe still had Prudence looming over his shadow, but started to believe she was a pathological liar. It started small, but her stories never seemed to add up. It all came back to Joe when she summoned him to her room. She had a special announcement to make. “She’s finally willing to admit her feelings”, Joe thought. She admitted more than just feelings on that Saturday morning. She was in a relationship. Her partner was Ray.

CHAPTER 3

 

What a revelation. It was life changing and explained the late nights. “For how long?” asked Joe, doing a bad job at hiding his disappointment.

 

“It’s been a month now”, answered Prudence as she tried to stop Joe from walking out.

“Let me go”

“not while you’re like this, let’s talk about this”

“what’s there to talk about? Huh? How the 2 people closest to me have been having a relationship, right under my nose and didn’t care to let me know for an entire month? Or how my roommate allowed me to tell him how much I think you like me and I don’t feel the same for the past month?”

She stood solid, not knowing where to start as he continued his scathing attack.

“so where shall we start?”

“Joe, I knew you liked me…”

“NO! I never did, ask your boyfriend if you don’t believe me”, he interjected.

“but we didn’t want to hurt you”

“look if I wanted you, I would have gotten you, a while ago, trust me I’m not that slow”, he said as he attempted to storm out, she held his arm.

Pulled him back just as his hand reached the door handle. He turned. Looked down at her. She pulled him closer. Eyes gravitated towards each other as their lips met. They kissed. With thoughts of the brotherhood that lived in his room, Joe pulled back and stormed out without uttering another word to Prudence.

 

Joe didn’t care about Prudence’s relationship with Ray, he was disappointed that Ray had not mentioned it for an entire month, while supporting his views of how Prudence appeared to be feeling about him. Each night came with something new she had done that added to their archives of evidence that she was into him and like little boys with a secret in common, they’d laugh as they deciphered each piece every night before shutting down, but now not only was she in a relationship with Ray, she’d shared a kiss with Joe.

 

This was all too overwhelming for Joe. He was never one to hold back his feelings or hog his emotions, so to stop himself from blowing on Ray he showered in a hurry and headed to school though he hadn’t planned to. Ray was shocked at this act, clearly sensing a difference in the guy he had been living with for well over 2 months.

After a few hours at school, hunger forced Joe to go to the one place he dreaded, His room. He knew he’d find them there and wasn’t sure he was ready to breathe the same air as them, but he couldn’t let himself starve all because of them. The thought of the kiss lingered on, he couldn’t take back the fact that he’d now tasted her soft lips, so what was he to do now? Would they talk about it or brush it off like it never happened? Joe preferred the latter, talking would just add to the complications.

 

He walked into his room to find them there, cozy and it seemed as though his presence reminded Prudence that Ray was bae as she threw the word around like an irritating stench that refused to be blown out of the room. Irritably Joe got his pots and immediately headed to the kitchen, hoping that cooking would help him in more ways than one.

 

Joe relayed the story to me and I felt as though I had been with him in each second of the events unfolding. I had never seen that look of disappointment in his eyes till that day, but it seemed to slowly disappear with each additional detail.

 

“So, Ray and I spoke about the issue last night, but of course I didn’t mention the kiss, I’m baffled though, because according to him, it’s only been 3 days, but Prudence is adamant that it’s been a month, so I’m still trying to figure out who’s lying and why, the whole thing is just confusing”, Joe continued.

“I didn’t see this one coming. And you just had to kiss the girl? Are you insane? I mean you’re no different to her and Ray now”, I responded with shock in my eyes.

“Ey, life happened, but it’s not something I think I’ll repeat, it was a mistake made at the heat of the moment”. And with that said we parted ways at the end of yet another interesting day.

 

They say trust no man. I guess whoever said this knew what men are capable of. I wonder what men had done to warrant this saying though, but truth is if that occurrence was half as bad as Joe’s then it deserved the depth that the statement carries. For a moment, I started questioning whether Joe’s reaction was just about the dishonesty, I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe Joe had a bit of like in him for Prudence and the kiss strengthened this thought. I felt as though the disappointment may stem from Joe liking the idea of being liked by Prudence and her new relationship may be the spark to kill what he was becoming so accustomed to.

 

For the first time Joe was caught off guard. It was interesting to see how he would react and bounce back from this moment, but neither of us knew at this moment that more surprises awaited Joe.

 

Just as I thought I had seen enough drama from Joe in a single week, it appears he and Sam’s situation was heading closer and closer to its climax. Joe’s view of the situation had changed. He felt like she wasn’t ‘side-chick’ material as he bluntly put it. He was of the view that it was either Mary or Sam, it couldn’t be both.

Through the Sam situation Ray and Joe managed to calm the tension in their room. It brought another common ground for the two who were still trying to work around Ray’s newly found relationship.

 

Back to this ‘side-chick’ situation.

“She seems like too much of a prize, for her to even consider me, knowing that I have a girlfriend and the poetry’s got us really close, you know, working on new material and stuff”, he justified his position.

“So, I take it she’s ‘main-chick’ material?” he nodded in response.

“I doubt I’d be able to keep my relationship away from her, but with, I think I need a bit more time to get to know her, because now there are a lot of outside forces influencing the situation” he continued.

“Outside forces?”

“Yeah like I know what everyone around us thinks, but I’m yet to find out what she feels and I’m a little afraid to tell the truth”

“Afraid? Of what?”

“What if she doesn’t like me”.

 

That was the moment that caught my attention. This girl must be something special to get the mighty Joe afraid. There was something genuine in his eyes, like a tiny sparkle that told no lies, he really liked her.

 

We parted on this note. I was left thinking about my non-existent love life. With friends like Joe, no wonder I pushed any hint of romance away. He was my eye into the most dangerous of guys our age and I feared that I’d attract no guy any less harmful than he was. Don’t get me wrong. Joe was a good guy. With a good heart. He just had parts of him he hid well from his partners. Parts his friends would be well aware of.

 

He believed that what one doesn’t know can do them no harm and that was dangerous thinking. A mistake waiting to happen. Like a bomb waiting to implode. He was digging his own grave, yet remained blind to it as if YOLO was dust particles stuck in his eyes.

Word of The Blunt slowly began to make the rounds. Joe became a mini celebrity, with girls giving glances, smiles and some even openly approaching him. People were shocked at the discovery that Joe was a budding poet. To me this was nothing new as I’d read his poems long before the existence of The Blunt so I did not understand the hype.

 

The performing platform was open for The Blunt, they got pre-booked shows, from beauty pageants around Braam to Weddings in Pretoria and corporate gigs on Johannesburg’s sky-scraping roof tops.

 

Penny went from number one fan to manager in moments. She set up the band’s social media accounts and administered the shows they were booked for as well as their rehearsals, which happened to be almost every night at the infamous room 105.

 

Joe and Penny seemed to have more in common than they realized. They soon realized this as they spent more time together. Turns out Faith and Penny had a thing during the previous year. Joe remembered this when Penny made mention of knowing a Faith, so Joe had heard of Penny long before he had met her and this drew them closer.

 

Before they knew it, they were spending most empty minutes together. Laughing at Penny and Faith’s situation. Making fun of how they first met as well as their first impressions of each other. Penny thought Joe was a real pain, but an interesting pain, she disliked the way he treated women because of the promiscuity he had detailed the first time they interacted. To Joe she was just another good girl waiting to be corrupted, she had her head screwed on straight, he felt and he understood why Faith had been attracted to her, yet was baffled at how he fumbled things with her because Faith was clinical much like Joe.

 

When Joe remembered his situation with Sam he understood that there’ll be a time where one girl comes along and makes you forget everything you thought you knew. This was evident in his interactions with her. This helped put Faith’s situation into perspective.

 

Basically, Faith liked Penny and didn’t hide it, he made his intentions clear to her, she felt the same but like any other girl she had other promising options. Faith as usual also had other girls on call, in a moment of paranoia he thought Penny found out, so he took his foot off the pedal and she was scooped up by another guy.

 

Until she met Joe, Penny was unaware of this occurrence and to the same effect Joe managed to put things into perspective for Faith.

It really is a small world.

With Joe performing all over the show, test week in full swing and much needed studying, we barely saw much of each other as our lives got busy, well more hits than mine, for the few weeks to follow.

 

The April break gave me a much-needed breather. I went home for the week to refresh and take a break from the fast-paced life engulfed by the City. Pretoria was more peaceful as a visitor, I got to appreciate it as I knew the hard work that awaited me upon my return to the city of gold. Dry autumn leaves had fallen and as the wind blew them in circles I had time to look back on the season that had passed with the school’s first block.

 

With Christian holidays all round, church visits were almost daily and when the sermon got boring memories of short walks with long chats strolled across my mind. Three months had done a sprint on us, but they went quick enough for us to catch summer’s glimpses. The burning sun on bright leaves and blossomed leaves left us in a constant search for shade.

 

As the wheels turn, I couldn’t help but wonder what drama autumn would blow our way. Would it rewrite summer’s script or would new scenes enter the fray? Only time would tell.

 

The week took time to end. When it did I made my return to Braam, back to reality, results awaiting, old stories refurbished in the new block. I was ready, but I wondered if Joe was.

 

School resumed and in classic wits fashion we had results week and as had been my culture, I’d done enough to pass. Joe was excited to see me. He had a lot to share.

At lunch, we got a chance to chill.

 

“So, what did you get up to on your long weekend?” Joe asked with a wry smile on the border of his lips.

“Just church, nothing special, and you?” I responded excited to hear about his week off. “Well, where should I start? Uhm, we had a wedding performance in Centurion, the treatment there sucked, we didn’t get paid and I said the man’s vows for him. Like can you believe it?” he said as I burst into laughter.

“Wait, why did you say the man’s vows for him?”

“he wanted me to make them poetic, that time it was hot, we didn’t have a table at the reception, our name wasn’t even on the program and to top  it all off the couple walked out on us as we were performing for them as if we begged them for a spot to perform while they came to us a month before their wedding to ask us to perform” he responded as I laughed with each added detail.

 

I was officially back and what better way to welcome me than Joe’s drama.

The image I had of the Centurion wedding kept me laughing till tears straddled my eyes. Joe was touched and more animated than ever. He spoke fluidly, not missing a detail. It sounded like a bad episode of one of the local reality TV shows that chronicled weddings across South Africa. The descriptions kept coming till the tears stopped falling but laughter wouldn’t stop and frustration took control of Joe’s face as the disappointment of wasted sleepless nights practicing for unperformed songs, a Saturday wasted on a free meal and two songs that the crowd couldn’t hear because of the lack of quality equipment.

 

“Now I understand why artists get called divas for not wanting to perform, like how can one be expected to perform in such conditions? We need to get our own equipment and if our demands are not met then we aren’t performing” he grumbled on.

“Are y’all even big enough to be making such demands?” I asked.

“If you want to be taken seriously, you’ve got to take yourself seriously. Enough about that drama though, I’m tired of talking about it.”

“So, how’s the band doing? Besides the disappointment of that performance”

“We’re good, it was a good bonding experience, the type to turn people into drunkards” he joked, “We’ve got a new feature now actually he’s a bassist and he’s really good” He continued.

 

Joe played me a rehearsal clip he’d recorded on his phone, the way the bassist just seemed to blend in, as he improvised into the songs the band already had before his arrival, was amazing. Gift was his name, he was calm, kept to himself but fit like a glove into the hand that was The Blunt.

 

On our walk to class, Joe told me about how Gift would be a feature for about 6 months before he would be considered as a permanent member of the band, as the band was trying to prevent having people that would just have 2-minute cameo roles, become too busy with life then disappear as had happened in the band’s infancy. They were currently preparing to perform at Noble House’s annual beauty pageant, Mr. and Ms. Noble House.

After class Joe asked me an unexpected question.

 

“So, how’s your new boyfriend?”

“What boyfriend?” I responded in shock.

“Don’t play dumb with me, word on the street is someone’s got your heart”

“How did you find out?” I asked with a smile and in that moment, he knew he had me right where he wanted me.

“That’s beside the point, who is he?” he asked with a wry smile.

 

Moments with Joe had a weird way of making me forget about myself, like the drama that engulfed his life sucked me in to a point that I’d snap back to reality once his presence left me. That’s how the thought of my newly found romance never seemed to make it into our chats, but how he found out about it still baffled me.

 

“He’s a prospective engineer, church mate and I’m still not sure how I landed up in this relationship, let alone with him, but I’m actually enjoying it so far” I said when I finally mastered up the courage to respond.

“Oh, interesting, he must be something to melt your iced-up heart” He said jokingly, “But I’ve got to rush, see you tomorrow” he continued as he rushed off.

 

Later that evening, I got some ‘me time’ and did some thinking. In just about 4 months my life’s dimensions had changed, in the last month I’d entered a relationship with a guy that used to be a friend. He is nothing like Joe, he’s calmer, older, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say wiser, what I’m certain of is that they were cut from different cloths and as I usually say I’m glad they were on opposite ends of my life.

 

Another day gone. More results known. Only the heavens know what tomorrow holds.

 

“So, how’s Pru?” my opening statement to Joe the next morning.

“She’s okay I guess, she’s just been trying to stir up trouble in my room and flaunting her ‘bae’ in my eyes each chance she gets” he responded with irritation in his eyes. “Why is she stirring up trouble?”

“I wouldn’t know, but it seems she’s trying to divide and conquer, Ray says he feels like he’s consolation, I was the main prize so she’s trying to get us to hate each other, so that maybe I’ll go after her”

“Interesting, so is it working?”

“No, we’re too smart” he said as he walked to the back of the lecture hall, knowing that my eyes wouldn’t allow me to follow him.

 

It was a lecture filled day, we only caught up at the end of the day.

 

“So, Mr. Engineer?”

“What about him?” I responded, dreading this conversation.

“When did it start? How did it happen? Alles girl” He asked.

“Well, I’ve known him for some time now, we were friends, grew close over time, till about a month ago when he asked me out, told me he likes me and I thought why not give him a try”

 

Joe looked at me with intent as I spoke, intrigued by the smile on my face.

“Look at you, you’re blushing and glowing” he said as he laughed, “So have your views on love and having kids changed now?” he went on to ask.

 

I’d never given that question much thought as I had always been of the notion that love doesn’t last for a long time, people just get attached and learn to accept each other’s presence in one another’s lives. Hence, I wanted nothing to do with long term relationships or kids for that matter. But I couldn’t find any other way to explain what I felt for Charles. It had to be love and for once I didn’t care how long it would last, I’d just savor the moments.

 

“I’m not sure anymore, like what I feel for Charles is different, I’m not sure if it’s too soon but I love him and honestly, how long it’ll last is irrelevant at this moment, he wants a family so over time I think I’ll feel differently about having kids” I responded, filled with certain uncertainty.

 

Joe, just looked at me, smiled and said, “See what love does to you?” and that was his closing statement for the day.

 

I hadn’t been involved in a lot of relationships in my lifetime, this happened to be my third, excluding my light shaves at puppy love and the endless crushes my friends would call my boyfriends all because they were aware of the lustful thoughts I had about them. But something felt different about Charles. He knew what he wanted, had his life in order and valued me like no other man had and this sense of appreciation gave me the impression that this is what love must feel like. Authentic, raw and untamed. Or maybe I was still stuck in the honeymoon phase.

 

With each week, exams drew closer, winter became closer and Joe became scarcer. When he eventually made his long-awaited return, he was packed full of drama, which was more theatrical than usual. But I’d been asking myself a few questions because I felt left behind on a few of Joe’s bends.

 

“So, what was the conclusion with Red?”

“Oh, turns out it was a false alarm, the blood tests came back negative and we agreed to split amicably” He responded with a smile, as if it was a great achievement.

“And Mary?”

“She’s still around, very happy now and I’m happy to say, she’s the only woman in my life, but what’s with the interrogation?” he asked giving me a confused look.

“Just trying to catch up, phela it’s been a while since you made mention of any of them” I responded casually.

“Anything else you’d like to catch up on?” he asked sarcastically.

“How’s Sam?” I asked cheekily.

“Eish, it’s not so great on that front, I actually did one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done and it’s all Ray and Einstein’s fault” he responded unimpressed by what he was about to say.

“What did you do?” I asked with a laugh bordering my throat.

 

So, Joe had written Sam a poem in which he was borderline pouring his heart out to her, telling her how he feels about her, under the influence of Einstein and Ray who kept telling him that he was 5 minutes to entering the friend zone. He slipped the poem under her door and in a mixed physical and written response Sam basically put him down easily, like a sick animal in need of permanent release.

 

Joe was gutted but he wouldn’t allow his personal issues to tear the band apart, so they continued working like nothing had ever happened, with chemistry burning between them they wrote more songs that chronicled the reality of their relationship.

 

The Blunt’s star was rising rapidly. Their performance at Noble House’s beauty pageant had gotten them a paid performance in one of Braam’s grandest and tallest skyscrapers. Their first corporate gig would open doors for more such performances and it was exciting times for this young band.

 

As the days continued to unfold, autumn blowing winter into place, I entered a new phase, one unknown to me as romantic companionship had always been foreign. I was used to the comfortability of platonic relationships, but his love was resounding, the kind that comforts the soul during the calmness before the storm, fully aware that thunder would strike it apart, so the heart knows not to worry as his love will remain unchanged at the end of the tunnel.

 

Basking in the warmth of his warm bold eyes, admiring his fair skin, smile with cracked teeth in misplaced beauty. Taller than the average Joe, his words were golden as he listened more than he spoke. I was officially in love. The kind of love I’d known in parts as I grew up. Ours was as tender as his skin so good it felt like a sin.

 

Enough about my infant love story. As exams made their way onto our shores, a new player entered Joe’s game in the most unexpected way. Joe had been studying for an upcoming exam when Rose entered his room, they had a love-hate relationship which led Joe to not take her to mind. The usual welcome of a warm hug ensued and to Joe’s surprise she whispered, “I want to have sex with you” into his ear.

 

Surprised, Joe asked when this was to take place to assess the seriousness of the request. “Now!” Was her astounding response.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 4

 

“Why though?” asked Joe.

“Because I need it” responded Rose.

“Why do you need it?”

“I was watching a movie and it aroused me”

“Isn’t your boyfriend supposed to be the one to suppress those arousals?”

“Well, my ‘supposed’ boyfriend is at work and he’ll only get here in two hours”

“I don’t mind waiting with you” Joe said with an innocent look glaring straight into her eyes.

She was just joking, Joe thought as they sat beside each other with the thought of proposed sex lingering in the air that surrounded them. It felt surreal as there was a glint in her eye that led Joe to believe that for that moment she may have been truthful. But why would a girl who had walked in on him with 3 different girls on 3 different occasions be interested in being embroiled in the turmoil of being a number, just another hole to his golf stick?

 

“So, we’re not going to do it?” Asked Rose in an attempt to talk the elephant carried by the awkward silence out of the room.

“You’re actually serious?” Joe responded.

“Do I look like I’m joking?”

“But what makes you think that I’d want to indulge in that?”

“Well you always have different girls over, so I thought you’d jump at the opportunity”.

Joe walked over to his chair realizing that the comfort of the bed might fool him into considering her request.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m going to wait for Ray to return and resume my studying” he responded.

 

A knock on the door interrupted the moment. They both moved towards the door. Joe opened the door. Penny’s face popped up as Joe saw Rose’s back as she walked out.

 

“You won’t believe what you just walked into, or rather what just walked out” Joe said as he moved back to his chair, with Penny settling on his bed.

“What?” asked Penny with a glint of surprise in her eyes.

“She just asked for my chops” Joe responded as calmly as he could.

Penny broke into laughter, till she realized that the seriousness in Joe’s eyes meant he wasn’t joking. “And what did you say?” She asked as her laughter subsided.

“You know I can’t take her seriously, but something in her eyes tells me she was being for real”

“So, you said no?”

“Not in so many words, but yes”

“Where’s Ray?”

“I’ve been waiting for him, he left to go get some cola, but it’s been too long now”.

Joe left his room to go get some water from the communal kitchen, only to find Ray chilling with the gents, Cola in hand and it clicked! Ray was in on Rose’s action, he set Joe up, hence he hasn’t bothered going back to the room. Sly laughter ensued as they saw each other.

 

“So, you chickened out?” said Ray.

“You set me up” responded Joe.

 

After a back and forth Ray made Joe realize that there was some truth in what he saw in her eyes, so he rushed up to her floor and found her as she entered her door. She was teary eyed, felt like a fool for putting herself out like that. Joe looked at her and said, “You know where to find me if you still need me” she just looked at him turned to open her door and closed it silently behind her.

 

It was all moving in slow-motion, movie style, that moment where she places herself on the floor behind her door and drops some tears for her foolishness, as he stands in front of it, hoping to hear it all unfold and if he’s lucky she’ll reopen the door and let him into more than just her room.

 

The night moved along as if the indecent proposal had never happened. Students did what students do, attempt to study, sleep late and hope to rise early enough for 8 o’clock classes.

 

The sun rose with Joe deep in thought, he was absent minded for majority of our morning class.

“I don’t get it” he finally said as he slipped out of his trance.

“What don’t you get?”

“This girl, she knows we’re always at each other’s throat, but suddenly she’s after my chops”.

 

I didn’t know how to respond, personally I’d never put myself in a position of such vulnerability in front of a guy.

 

“Maybe she likes you, didn’t know how to approach you and decided to put it out in a manner that could be turned into a joke if it doesn’t work out.” I finally responded after moments of pondering. Joe looked at me, with wondering eyes, almost as if he was looking through me, looking at something beyond me.

 

“Do you like her?” I asked trying to gauge the direction his mind was taking on the matter, he had the same look he had after he felt he’d let himself down at Thomas’s place.

“I’m not sure, I mean she’s pretty, but I’ve never thought of her in that sense, she’s always been irritating till I decided to stop fighting with her, now I’m not sure if I’d say no if she returned with the same proposal.”

Her change of heart confused him, the more he tried to figure it out the less sense it made to him and I understood where he was coming from.

 

As the day ended, it hit me that Joe has a girlfriend. I was surprised that his last two close calls with other girls had led him to overlook this fact. If Sam had responded positively to his poem what would have happened to his relationship? Would he drop Mary? After leaving Red to stop his promiscuity, why was he allowing himself to fall into the same trap?

 

“Where’s Mary?” I asked Joe at day’s end.

“She’s around” Joe responded, with a confused look in his eyes, almost as if to ask why I’m asking about her.

“It’s just that you don’t talk much about her nowadays, it’s like there’s always a replacement in waiting” I said in response to his look.

 

He paused. Searching for an answer to appease my appeal. He found something close and said;

“Nothing exciting has been happening on that front, it’s not great but it’s not bad either, we’re okay, I’m just battling to fight off my own demons”. With Joe’s words, our day ended as we went our separate paths, both wondering what the next day had in store for us.

 

As I embarked on a walk to Charles, that had now become routine, I found myself drifting away at thoughts of how a guy can detach from a relationship without even noticing it. Over the past few weeks I’d watched Joe think of entertaining other girls without giving his girlfriend’s existence a second thought. He was drifting further away from Mary than he was willing to admit. Thoughts of fear entangled my mind as Charles told what he believed to be an awfully hilarious story, judging by his laughter, I heard none of it but managed to crack an almost convincing giggle.

 

I was lost in my thoughts. Charles had been waiting for the right moment to ask what was wrong when I asked him if he was happy. This question left him baffled as the seriousness in my eyes said there was more to the question than I was letting on.

 

“Why are you asking?”

“I’d like to know”

“You haven’t answered my question” he asked as irritation flashed across his face.

“Neither have you” I responded holding firm.

He sighed. “I am” he said calmly. I remained quiet, looked at him as if to say, ‘go on’. “Are you happy?” he returned the question.

“I am. I’m just making sure, I had a conversation earlier today that just left me questioning a lot of things happening in my life, I guess I just needed the reassurance.”

Relief flashes across his face before his mouth opens.

“I love You”.

 

Really? Now? Does he have to be such a sweetheart in the moment that I’m questioning my entire being? Why must he melt my heart when I’m trying so hard to remain open-eyed? It’s the first time he’s said it and I can’t help but melt. I love him.

It’s in these unexpected moments that I end up waking up in his arms. Waking up to his fresh scent, his touch, with my head on his chest and hormones questioning why I’ve kept my legs closed this long. Yes, I’m 20 and a virgin. I never thought I’d fall in love and stay 3 months without feeling as though I am just tolerating his presence in my life.

Joe and I always had these arguments about how I was baffled at people’s ability to remain in marriage for years and still claim to love their partner.

 

“I think one day I’ll find that one woman that will make me change my ways” Joe would say when we started discussing love.

“I doubt that will ever happen, you’ve got a good girl yet you’re almost hell bent on messing it up”

“I’m just trying to save time, just because she’s good doesn’t make her ‘the one’, and I’m still young so monogamy will find me as I grow”

“Or you’ll just learn to be content in being with one person, much like our parents”

“That’s the type of love that makes me skeptical about marriage” he’d always dismiss that part of the conversation with the usual shrug and walk off.

 

It’s funny how time runs like a ticking bomb waiting to blow. It’s exam season. The streets are fuller, lawns emptier, libraries carry the unbearable air of stuffed students trying to cram months of material into sleepless nights. The city is alive as some drink their sorrows away to points of forgotten exam dates that lead to a rush for sick notes in attempts to prolong the preparation time.

 

Joe was never one to run, he’d drag himself to the exam hall just to get the writing over and done with. “Why prolong the inevitable?” he’d always say with that signature shrug. I’m all about preparation, but with this course you can never prepare enough, so we’ve seen them come and go.

 

“Any plans for the holidays?” I asked as we walked off after our final June exam which amounted to 5 hours of writing.

“Nothing special, just time with bae, some rehearsals, a performance or two and of course, some much needed rest, when are you going home?”

“Tomorrow, why aren’t you going home?”

“There’s nothing for me there, it’s boring AF and I don’t have space to do me, like it’s back to asking permission when I’m so used to just doing, plus I’ve outgrown the place”

“Hmmm. I’m pretty sure there’s more to that story than you’re letting on, I mean, I’m sure they’ve barely seen you this year.”

“It’s not as bad as you make it sound.” He said with a laugh.

 

Hugs ensued and half the year was gone.

For me it was back to dusty Pretoria. Playing catch up on almost 3 months of stories, which is funny because I’d seen my mother at least 8 times over the past 3 months, but we always had something new to discuss, something we’d forgotten.

I wasn’t too excited to answer any questions poised about Charles, I mean it’s bad enough that she’s already met him twice, which will more than assure her that her daughter is as attractive as she’s always believed. Poor Charles is already answering questions about lobola, I can’t save him from that and can’t help but laugh it off every time the awkwardness of the question grows.

 

For once I have a bit of drama to rival that of Joe’s, can’t help but think about him as I pack, he’d be making fun of how girls over pack, not to mention how tedious it is to live at res in times like these.

 

There we are. All packed and ready to go. Holidays are now in full swing as the road trip home begins. Mom is driving, Beyoncé is blasting in the background, with the heater on to keep us warm while we sing along. I’ve missed this.

 

The winters have become warmer over the last few years so we get a few days of short sleeved shirts, in between the chilly nights that carry the cold mornings, that sometimes echo into the sunlight that moves with daylight.

 

This is one of those days so I’ve swirled myself up in the couch, channel surfing to find something worth watching as I sip on my rooibos tea and like most of my holiday, I’ll eventually fall asleep after watching half of one of those old movies I’ve watched time and time again.

 

Today Charles’s decided to save me from myself, so we’re going out for lunch. If it were up to me we’d just eat in and cuddle, but with mom’s schedule so unpredictable, I wouldn’t want to risk it.

 

I remember one afternoon she’d said she’ll be home late, so I took advantage and invited a few friends over. We weren’t up to anything we shouldn’t have but we felt bad when mom showed up unexpectedly because her meeting finished early. We had to endure endless lectures about boys being bad because they bring babies.

 

A day warmer than those that preceded it made for a romantic afternoon. After two weeks of not seeing each other, it was beautiful to be in his presence again. I’d missed him. His calm nature, goofiness, irritating comments and absolutely everything in between. By evening I’m on my phone smiling like a love-sick puppy and mom need not ask who I’m talking to.

 

“He better bring amalobola soon if he’s going to keep up with that glow”-Mom

“Aah mama, why though? We’re not that far yet.”- Me

“Have you guys had sex yet?”- Mom

Silence. I raise my eyes shyly.

“An answer, perhaps?”- She continues looking directly at me.

 

I can’t believe she’s choosing to start this conversation now.  You see, my mom had always known me to be a good girl, which prevented her from having these kinds of discussions with me. Since she made the discovery of my current love affair, she’s slowly beginning to unleash the shell of my innocence before my eyes and like a dog after a bone, she won’t stop till she’s satisfied with the answers she gets.

 

“No” I say hoping the question would go away.

“When you do, just make sure you’re safe, I’m sure you know what that means” She says as she walks to her room leaving me shocked in the lounge.

 

I’ll just go curl up in my blankets till the awkwardness of that short conversation about my none existent sexual life evaporates, or I pass out, whichever comes first.

 

A few days till I make my dreaded return to the city of Gold. Mom’s been stressing about getting me more winter clothes because apparently, I don’t have enough and there are more cold fronts approaching Jozi, so that means more blankets too. I just want to curl up in my bed for all the sleepless nights my results will bring. The long nights that will follow as I attempt to work tirelessly on assignments to try and cover the gaps in my marks, but she’s having none of it.

 

We roamed sunny Pretoria till the sun fell and settled for an early dinner. Luckily for me, mom wasn’t in a sexual mood today so lobola talk wasn’t touched, condoms were missed and it was almost as if Charles isn’t in the picture.

 

I zoned out as I nibbled on my dinner. Drifted into the mysteries that carry Braam right now, I wonder what madness Joe is up to right now, who’s life he’s twisting upside down. I can’t help but miss the city at this thought, like I imagine the city without school being a factor.

 

The chill level would be too high, but we’d probably starve to death. I mean, jobless in an expensive city, how would we live? But one can’t help but dream from time to time.

Before I knew it, sleep was calling, so was Charles, his call was answered before sleep. The yawns forced us to cut the conversation short and call it a night.

 

The sun rises, rays struck my window brightening the room as I wake to mom pulling the curtains open.

 

“Are you no longer returning to Wits?”

“Ma it’s only 6a.m, there’s still time?”

“No, my child time has been eaten by the dogs, you still have packing to do and before you know it, it’ll be 2p.m and you’ll be late for your bus”

 

Said like a true prophetess, one who’s seen this happen time and time again, who could blame her, she knows me too well, so I rise and slowly start to piece the necessary bits that will make the remainder of my Johannesburg stay bearable. Oh, I can’t pack enough comfort food, this semester will be one of the most stressful of my schooling career, one of the few lessons learnt from my first year.

 

The rush to the bus ride ensues. Mom’s forced packing has me carrying half the house, I wonder how I’ll make all this fit in that matchbox I call a room. At least Charles will be there to help me pack, so it won’t be that dreadful.

 

I just settled into my window seat. Earphones in. Music playing. Social media surfing. Jozi is calling. But the brother on my left won’t let me flourish, like why can’t some people understand that earphones are in because I’m not trying to talk to anyone?

 

“Hey”

“Uhm, hi…”

“How are you?”

“I’m alright”

“Oh, I’m also fine…” “So, you are also going to Johannesburg”

“Uhm, I think so…”

“Aah so where do you stay in Jozi”

 

Wait, can we pause a bit. I’ve barely met you and already you’re trying to get my address? Is it just me or is this guy just a creep? So, I shake my head, place my earphones back in my ears and pretend like brother creeps doesn’t exist. Lucky for me he gets the message and focuses on his phone till we hit Jozi maboneng, the city of Gold. Oh, how I missed this place, besides the not so nice smelling parts of course.

Then we have the corner boys, chilling and whistling at every skirt that walks past. Such bores. Cowards who hide behind name calling and lack the basic respect of approaching a woman with some sort of dignity.

 

Whew! Finally! My single bed. Throwing myself onto it to tell my room that mama’s back. Let me text Charles so that he can come help me unpack, he got back early because he has some assignment due in the second week of this semester. While I’m at it I’ll let mom know that I’ve landed safely.

 

“Took you long enough”

“Wow! Is this how you welcome someone that’s about to help you unpack the whole of Pretoria?”

 

I can’t help but laugh with him, he’s so adorable and he’s mine. Never thought there’d be a guy to soften me up the way he does, he just has this way of making me not take myself so seriously, just let loose and be comfortable in my being. I guess that’s what love is, finding someone who makes you question how natural things you never thought you’d do feel when they’re around.

After hours of unpacking while playing catch up, we finally got a chance to chill. An impromptu ice cream date ensued. To McDonald’s we went. In the middle of the night, with lights glowing, life beaming and music in every corridor. The city that never sleeps was wide awake and we were at the center of it.

 

On our way, back to res we bumped into Joe, he was with a girl and McDonald’s packaging in hand. We exchanged greetings before I dived right into his fries. Charles pulled back, almost as if a touch of intimidation was creeping in. This is his first interaction with Joe, who I constantly talk about and suddenly Charles is shy, almost as if we hadn’t been chatting up a storm before this interaction.

 

Joe was owning the moment as usual. Introduced me to Penny, who I remember from Joe’s first band performance. We all ignored Charles until I returned to him when I’d had enough of Joe’s fries.

 

I don’t get why Charles started acting up. Is it a guy thing? Intimidation? Or just not liking the fact that I’m almost as comfortable with another guy as I am with him? I struggled to figure it out and didn’t bother to ask, I mean, it’s been a good day so I don’t want to be the one to end it on a bad note.

 

 

 

CHAPTER 5

 

“So that was him, huh?”

“Yes, that’s Charles”

“He looks like a good guy, quite shy too”

“He really is hey, like I’m still amazed that there’s a guy that can make me feel the way he does”

“That’s surprising, he melted the ice princess”

 

The usual laughter ensued as we settled into class for the first time in the second semester. We were re-energized and ready to go like refueled race cars.

The energy was short lived as the lectures kept coming, they were at such a pace that we spent lunch in class, there was no point in going out just to return in half an hour.

 

“So, you and that girl from exams?”

“Which one?” Joe responded with a smirk on his face.

“We know there’re a lot of them, but you know the one with the indecent proposal, man”

“Oh Rose, she’s good, got back from the bundus about a week ago, no roommate till last night, so…” He said with a wry smile that even Handy Andy can’t remove.

“I’m still waiting for the juice, ‘so’ is not enough” I said with frustration masked in a touch of excitement.

 

That’s when our lecturer walked in and silence followed his presence like the cemetery at midnight. In the chaos of my thoughts I couldn’t help but think about how hypocritical human beings are, I mean, I can’t even imagine how I’d feel if I ever found out that Charles was cheating on me. But, here I am, enabling Joe, excited to hear about his escapades, side-lining the fact that Mary would feel as excruciating pain as I would if she ever caught wind of Joe’s escapades.

 

I’ve zoned out when packing up ensues. The lecture is over, an hour earlier than planned, it’s back to reality. A Reality that self-introspection won’t save me from.

 

“So… Rose?” and hypocritical me is back.

“Long story short, we were chatting for the entire holidays, slept over at her place since she got back from Mafikeng, just chilling watching series and eating junk, with some make out sessions in between, nothing major”.

 

Joe was good at summarizing, especially when he knew pretty well that you want the finer details. He’d just skip through the juicy parts to get your mind off the topic by making you believe that he’s given you the full story.

 

I’d learnt his tricks so it’d take a lot more than that tiny summary to get me off the topic. After a while of Joe’s unsuccessful attempts at avoiding any more talk about Rose, he eventually gave me the ‘juice’.

 

Turns out Rose had taken a liking to Joe because of spending quite a bit of time with him. She’d been wondering what all the girls she’d seen with Joe want from him, what he has that keeps them going his way. Joe had capitalized on these thoughts, as usual, and used them as a chance to get into her sheets.

 

Upon Rose’s return to Jozi, she called Joe over and he ran to her place like a love-sick puppy. I laughed while Joe relayed the story, painting funny pictures in my head to make the story look as soft and mushy as it could possibly be.

 

Joe arrived at her place to find her waiting for him, wrapped in a towel, as he entered the sheets with her he realized that she had no clothes beneath the towel. They watched series, Joe’s first interaction with it, an experience he says he has now repeated long enough to have completed a few seasons.

 

They got cozy between the sheets, till it got too heated for either of them to concentrate on the laptop in front of them. They placed it aside and foreplay was in full swing. With no condom in sight the temperature could only go as high as letting Joe get blue balls. To the series watching they returned.

 

For that night, they let it slide. For that night, they allowed their bodies to wait patiently for the moment they had been yearning for, since that first kiss. That moment that spoke of a chemistry shared between two souls that never thought they’d ever find themselves intertwined.

 

They continued spending day and night together till Rose’s roommate made a return from the bundus. Joe doesn’t seem to quite like her. He says she’s obnoxious and feels awfully entitled to respect from those around her, so her entrance meant his exit.

Surprisingly Rose and Joe are yet to engage in intercourse.

 

That’s another day gone by, a reminder of why I missed the city. The calmness of my part of the world, the cup of tea I’m sipping on as I reflect on life, the light shining in the lonely streets that symbolize the insomniacs embodied by this very city.

 

The sun has risen and set a few times already. Joe has been on one of his scarce trips. Haven’t seen him in class or anywhere on campus. It’s strange to not have interacted with him for an entire week, disappearing for so long is so unlike him, but I guess it comes with level of independence the tertiary institution system is built on. We practically come and go as we please.

 

I’m normalizing into this love thing, so my weekend comes and goes with nothing to write home about besides Charles’s constant presence, which I’m learning not to whine about.

 

“How nice of you to finally grace us with your presence”, I said as I approached Joe.

“Missed me?” he responded with a glimmer of a smile.

“Well that depends on who you were in bed with for an entire week”

He laughs.

“I wasn’t in bed with anyone, I was just trying to do my job”

“What job?”

“I was organizing a building event, it’s quite time consuming, especially when your team is unreliable”

“So, you spent a whole week planning an event?”

“The planning was done already, it was just piecing together the pieces needed to ensure that the event happens without any mishaps, so we were making props, getting material, organizing performers… the whole shebang”

“Sounds like a lot hey, did you manage to pull it off?” I asked as we settled into class.

“One of the best events in all of Jozi’s events actually, so I think so”

 

And with that our focus was moved to the invaluable lecture on tax. The walk was carried by details of the past week’s escapades which sounded stressful enough to warrant the week off. Something hit me as Joe and I parted ways that day.

 

There’s something different about him since we reopened. His energy seems drained, he’s lost the glint in his eyes and just always looks drained. Maybe I’ll ask him about it tomorrow. I’ll just find a way to slide it into the conversation, because there are so many superficial friendships on this campus, that it’s always about how dope the weekend was so nobody bothers, to ask the next person about what they’re truly going through. I just hope he’ll open up and not try to act strong about it.

 

“Oh, so we were chilling this past weekend with the band, enjoying some bad habits, and I realized that Sam is so about me under the influence, she says I’m different when I’m high, I’m mellow and cooler, blah blah blah…”

“And how does this make you feel?” I responded trying hard not to crack up at the sight of the look on his face.

“I don’t know, I just think there’s so much going on and I don’t think I have the energy to entertain her mixed emotions, I mean, why can’t people just say what they mean and mean what they say? Is that too much to ask?”

“People don’t always know how to express their inner emotions, so sometimes they let things slip knowing that they can blame intoxication when reality kicks back in their soberness and I think by now you should know that about her.”

“Why do you have to make so much sense though?” Joe asked with a flash of disappointment across his face.

“How are you?” I asked in the middle of my laughter.

“Are you okay?” I continued.

He sighed. Then smiled. In the smile I saw inner sadness, almost as if the smile was just placed to say, “I’ll be okay”. All he gave in response was a nod that acknowledged the question. We walked in silence till we parted ways. I knew what the silence was saying, it was an acknowledgement of concern, an appreciation for seeing that some chords in him weren’t hitting the right notes and as he walked away, his body was saying he’ll tell me when he’s ready.

 

These nights carry less time for leisure, but somehow Charles and I see each other every day. I guess it’s true that we make time for the people we truly care about. We find ourselves in the same room just to feel each other’s presence. Studying besides each other. Grasping concepts by explaining to each other, it’s gotten so deep we’re used to a lot of the jargon in each other’s courses by now.

 

Something about late nights spent with him brings an unexplainable calmness to my soul. He humbles me. He’s my little proof that God has a special place in his little heaven for me. My happy place.

 

“I think we should get married”

How does an undergraduate that’s still struggling to get her degree even begin to answer this question?

“Huh?”

“I didn’t stutter” Charles continued, concentrating so much on his work that you’d think he hadn’t just asked me to spend the rest of my life with him.

“It’s probably just the exhaustion talking, I think we should call it a night”

 

With that statement, we said lukewarm goodbyes and I walked him out. The silence was deafening. My heart was beating at the speed of sound, with the power of thunder. I can’t believe he just dropped that on me, I don’t think I like the fact that I have to be with myself all my life, now he wants to add himself to the mix permanently?

 

I tossed and turned. Thought of people to confide in and remembered that I don’t have too many girlfriends. I guess I’ll just grapple with this on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I love him, but he’s got his life together and I’m struggling to piece the broken parts of mine together and I swore never to be a burden to a man on this earth, so I’m not sure I’m ready for what he’s asking of me.

 

The next few days had Joe and I walking out of class like distant companions. Zombies. Tired, silent but comfortable in each other’s presence. Carried by class topics, tips of gossip and silence till we parted ways.

 

“So, my mom is sick, again.” Joe finally said when the silence became too much.

“Charles proposed” I said in return, as if we were sitting in a circle at an AA meeting, revealing the pain we’ve carried in silence.

“What?” Joe asked with a confused look on his face.

“Well, at the moment I’m not even sure if we’re still together, because we haven’t spoken since”.

“Wait, what?” He asked again, as if I’d just said the statement for the first time.

“Let’s start with your mom” I said, glad that we’d finally gotten to a point where we were open to release.

“She was admitted to hospital last week, I’ve been going to the hospital each evening to see her, I’m actually on my way there now so we’ll talk more tomorrow” He said rotating out of the turnstile.

“I hope she gets better soon” I said.

 

My words followed his trail, like a tail stuck to his bottom as he walked on. I was left troubled. Trying to piece together the broken pieces of what I knew to be Joe’s life.

He’d spent half his life without his mother who was working in the USA, faced physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father who spent a month in prison for it. After over a year of counselling, family court and family meetings, Joe returned to stay with his father. All this happened before he was 14 years old.

 

At 15 his mother made her return to South Africa, for once her touch didn’t come through a phone call or a distant memory. Her presence enforced positive changes in Joe’s life who now had nurture. His academics picked up, in a year, he went from the dirty boy who’s always chasing a ball to a nerd in need of glasses to complete the look.

By 17, his mother fell ill. Lost weight. With his father being a long-distance truck driver, he was left to take care of her, in between school, extra murals and the little rest he got. Still he survived.

 

Passed matric with 3 distinctions and 3 B’s. Part of the top 10 in his school. His mother was proud. Getting better even though no doctor understood her condition. Sick with no clear diagnosis, little funds for Joe’s education meant Joe’s first year in varsity was a continuation of his matric year.

 

It’s times like these that show that the joy those around us bring to us can at times be meant to mask their inner pain. They’ve learnt the inner dealings of pain so much that they don’t want the next person to feel it to the extent in which they’ve contacted it.

Joe was such a person. Always jolly, you’d need to get really close to see the inner scars that are still wet on the edges. The ones hidden in caring smiles, jokes that will have you laughing from retrospect and just his warm aura.

 

Caught between his personal struggles and the academic struggles of a young black person born in a system that leaves much to be desired when it comes to bridging the gap between high school and varsity. You could see him drown, in too much work and too little time, to a point of acceptance. It’s in such situations that we learn not to judge the next person, because you never know what they’re going through, where they’ve been or what they’ve seen.

 

I finally spoke to Charles. We’re still together, just facing a touch of awkwardness since his proposal attempt. I had to explain to him that I’m still too young to even consider what he’s asking. Almost felt like I was just saying, “it’s not you, it’s me”. I just hope he doesn’t get me wrong, we ride the storm and things eventually normalize.

 

When Joe made his return to my scene, I explained my complicated but stable relationship situation to him. He says, his mom is getting better which brightened my day and in no time, he was back to being the crazy guy I’ve known him to be.

 

“So, Rose and I finally hit the sheets”

“What? When? How?”

“Wow! Which of those questions should I start with?”

“None of them, just tell me the story from the start” I said with excitement written on my face.

“About two nights ago we had a rehearsal at my spot, she sat in on it till we finished, we stayed in bed, Ray stepped out with his guitar, things got heated and before I knew it, we were half naked, the door was locked and we were going with the motions”

“Ha! Poor Ray” I said with flash of sadness.

“He understood that I had to do what I had to do, even used his condoms” Joe said, covering his face in shame with a slight giggle.

“Ah! You don’t respect him shame.”

 

We laughed. We hadn’t shared such genuine laughter in a while. I got updates on The Blunt which is starting their own Sunday sessions at a hotel in the heart of Braam, they’ve been getting a few paying gigs here and there and the constant rehearsals keep them ready for anything that might pop up.

 

They actually had a phenomenal impromptu performance the other night. Joe says their building had gone dark. No lights. No electricity. They went to the restaurant downstairs, guitar in hand and asked a random table to perform for them. Little did Joe know that in the crowd was a high school mate of his. By the end of the performance she was in tears. In awe of the beauty of what she had just witnessed. Those were the moments that kept him going.

 

The moments when his art spoke for him. In that moment, nothing else mattered, he’d let his truth out without the fear of judgement. His heart would be at ease, even as he spoke of his inner hurt.

 

I’m still in search of my own escape. My moment of peace. That place that will truly put me at ease. I often find myself surrounded by judgmental people, who just won’t allow one to truly be themselves, I don’t know if there’s a term for it, but in vernacular we call it ‘bazothini abantu syndrome’. It’s a ‘FOMO’ of sorts. I used to think church would be that place, but the older you grow the more you realize how two faced even the most devoted Christians can be.

 

These are the thoughts that carry my body to bed. Where my thoughts get in tune with my soul. Where the inner aches reveal themselves. My moment of peace before eyes shut reveal subconscious thoughts. In that moment, I become one with myself.

 

“I just had a déjà vu moment”

“What?”

“You know like when something happens and you feel like you’ve experienced it before?”

“Joe, I know what a déjà vu moment is” I said in annoyance

“Yeah, that girl over there…” He said pointing at a complete stranger

“… The way she walked into the room, went to her friend, the red coat with the white top and sling bag, it’s like I’ve seen that entire scene before”

“Or you’re just seeing things and being all poetic about it” I said laughing at Joe who kept his eyes on the mystery girl, determined and certain that he’d seen every bit of the motion in the previous scene before.

 

Whew! Whew! Whew!

The fire alarm went off unexpectedly. We ignored it as being faulty, having nothing to do with us, as we usually did. Till two students in red t-shirts stormed in, planks in hand.

“It’s a shutdown! Everybody out!”

“Out! Out! Out!”

 

The students in red said as we obliged. Fees Must Fall had finally reached the dry shores of Wits University and who would believe that it had been just a week after our last study break, with exams set to start in less than a month.

 

We walked out in confusion. Directed to what we’d been told was a meeting point where we would be addressed. Phones bleeped as emails popped in saying classes had been suspended for the rest of the day. Videos on rotation showed students sitting at entrances to block people from entering or leaving the campus.

 

“Amandla!”

“Awethu!”

“Awethu!”

“Amandla!”

“Comrades, we are gathered here today to discuss the way forward, after the University declared that there will be a 10 percent increase in fees in the next academic year. It is crucial that we do not accept this outcome as majority of our fellow students are already drowning in debt as we speak, our fellow students have been financially excluded and many of us have no idea how we will pay this year’s fees.”

 

Those were the opening remarks made when we all gathered at what would later be called Solomon Mahlangu House. A gathering with thousands of students captured in images that would be quoted as a few hundred in emails sent by the University to try and downplay the magnitude of this uprising.

 

Large debates grew in the background, as some felt the uprising infringed on the rights of students who wanted to be in class preparing to write at the end of the year, while others argued that everyone stood to gain from the imminent victory of the uprising.

This was just a snapshot view of South Africa as various other institutions had also been up in arms. The so-called lost generation had finally raised their voice and decided to say enough is enough. They were choosing to be heard.

 

As days passed. School paused. The country watched. Eager to see what the next move would be, who would flinch first. Which side would come out tops. Institutions shutdown as talks with leaders ensued.

 

Life as a student became awkward. We had no clue on whether to study, protest or do both, as each day came with emails that belittled the protests in hopes that class would resume as usual.

 

Before we knew it, we had become protestors by day and students by night. Campus had turned into war ground. The lines had been drawn. Private security and the police on one side. Student protestors on the other and onlookers caught in between.

 

“So, do you think the protesters will get what they are demanding?” I asked Joe as the second week of protests ensued.

“Yes, I believe they will because the protests have gone on for too long for the protesters to give in, they have government in a corner and they see that zero percent is so close they can almost touch it.”

“Hmmm. Do you think that the government could have stopped it?”

“Since when are you a journalist?” Joe responded in laughter

“I’m just interested in your views, because you’ve always had an interest in politics”

“Well in that case, I think that had government/ wits offered a 5 percent increase after the first day of protests, we’d be back in class right now, but they’ve forced the students to continue with the protests because they don’t seem to be taking the matter seriously. So yes, government could have easily stopped the matter from getting this far but now it’s too late, the students won’t go back to class for anything less than a zero percent fee increment.”

 

It’s funny how we excluded ourselves from being students or protestors each time we had these conversations. We always played the role of the onlookers because we sympathized with the protestors but only joined them on the streets on a part-time basis.

The free time in between the marches we decided to partake in carried a bottle of mixed emotions. Mind would debate with body on whether to study or relax. Questions of what happens if government wakes up and decides to agree to a zero percent fee increment flew around.

 

Joe was living his best life. Maximizing the use of this free time with constant rehearsals for the performances that were coming The Blunt’s way, left, right and center. Entertaining his girls with all the time he could spare.

 

“So, I was in a bit of a dilemma the other day” Joe said as we were walking the streets of Braam, singing struggle songs with some chatting in between.

“What did you do?” I responded, intrigue written across my face.

“Eish, so the other day I was chilling with Mary, then Rose came over while I was still with Mary. So, the door was locked but from the second there was a knock I knew it was Rose and just thought to myself, how am I going to deal with this one?”

“Eh, so what did you do?”

“I just opened the door wide open to ensure that she sees that Mary is there as soon as the door is open.”

“Aah! Wow Joe!” I said as I broke into tamed laughter.

“Iyoh! Solomon” The crowd was singing in the background.

We paused the conversation till there was another break between songs.

“So, how did Rose react to Mary’s presence?”

“She was a bit smart about it actually. She made up some story about her friend having her key and phone, so she needed me to call her phone, but I didn’t have airtime, then as it became a bit awkward I introduced them, then Rose left.”

“And Mary didn’t pick up any vibe?”

“It didn’t look like it, all she said was ‘some of your friends are rude’, so I doubt she picked up anything”

“Why did she make that comment though?”

“Rose didn’t greet when she walked in”

“That girl is trouble.”

 

We made our way back onto campus. The leadership addressed us, saying that we should be united in this struggle. That party politics had no place in the Fees Must Fall protests and that students should refrain from wearing any political party regalia at the marches. As usual, the floor was opened and students put their views on the table. Some on point, others redundant and some provocative. The only certainty reigning across all statements was that we will accept nothing less than a zero percent fee increment.

 

These meetings had a tendency to take too long, hunger and exhaustion would creep in and numbers would slowly dwindle. That’s normally when Joe and I would leave, we’d find someone to catch us up on anything key that was said after we’d left.

 

“How was your day?” Charles asked at supper.

“It was alright, went to the mass meeting which was tiring” I responded.

“I wonder why you guys are wasting your time, government won’t budge so you better just focus on studying for the upcoming exams”

“And if government does budge? Then what?”

“You win, exams start the following day and a lot of people fail.”

“You’re such a pessimist.” I said with slight irritation.

“Well, I’m just realistic, the system is out to make its money and it doesn’t really care that its bound to make it at a black child’s expense”

“How was your day?” I asked, completely ignoring the depth of his last statement.

“It was good, got some much-needed studying in.”

 

Charles’ words were ringing in my head when I got to bed, ‘the system is out to get its money and it doesn’t really care that its bound to make it at a black child’s expense’. It speaks volumes about the type of society we’re living in, so even if we get this zero percent fee increment, the failure rate will compensate for the money lost. As Steve Biko said, “Black child, you are on your own”.

 

Ever woke up sad without real reason? This morning was one of those days. I guess last night’s introspection still has me feeling down. It’s been weighing heavy on me and my ideals want me to believe that a victory in these protests will be a victory for the black child.

 

“I don’t think it’s a racial struggle we’re fighting against, it’s more of a classist struggle, but in the country we are living in, the wealth lies with the minority and that’s where the lines between class and race become blurred.” Joe said in his increasingly philosophical persona.

“I guess that’s what confuses us into making it all about race”

“And some of these white people are acting sympathetic when they don’t really understand what we’re going through, like some of the white liberals during apartheid.”

Things were quickly escalating. The protests were starting to be seen as the new age June 16. People were asking why a democratic country was finding itself facing struggles similar to those it had seen during Apartheid.

 

As the end of the second week of protests approached, there was still no sight of an ending to this winding tale. Some students grew frustrated as they were at the end of their degrees, so all they needed was to write finals and graduate in order to get jobs and uplift their family’s financial standing.

 

“You know all I need to do is write my final exams so I can go work, but with these protests, how am I going to do that, I mean when am I going to graduate?” said a girl standing next to Joe as we waited for the mass meeting to begin.

“Think of it as an investment, your sacrifice will help your younger siblings and even your own children. It’ll prevent them from facing the challenges that have put the pressure you carry on your shoulders on you.” Said Joe in response.

“It’s a catch 22 though, because I already have a job lined up, but without my degree, I can’t start next year and I am not willing to go through another year of Wits.”

“Trust me you won’t, you’re not the only one with that dilemma and this situation is not unique to Wits so government will make a plan and your employer is also aware of what is currently happening so they wouldn’t leave you unemployed because of it. These are just the tools that are used to deter us from proceeding with what is right and just, for our people.”

 

Said like a true comrade. A small crowd was forming from the people that were in hearing distance of Joe’s little speech. Turns out the lady Joe had been talking to had already submitted her thesis and was done with Wits. She said she was speaking other students’ truth, as some of the people gathered here are facing that struggle.

 

Spending a lot of time with Joe has surprisingly taught me a lot about women. I’ve learnt that there are different shades to a woman. In Joe’s interaction with the lady at the mass meeting, I saw her intrigue at the sight of Joe before she even started conversing with him. She dragged the conversation to ensure that their interaction was not short lived. It was starting to feel as though Joe had the kind of aura that attracted such women as I’d seen these motions in action time and time again where Joe was involved.

 

The resolve at the mass meeting was that, wits students would join forces with students from various other institutions in the Gauteng province in a march to the Union Buildings to call upon the president to put into effect a zero percent fee increment. The leadership will also call upon the Wits vice chancellor to have a shutdown in support of the march to the Union Buildings.

 

Amid all this drama. Joe still had relationship issues. He was slowly falling for Rose, who was preparing to leave the country and his relationship with Mary was crumbling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 6

 

Smoke rises as tires burn. Rubber bullets are chasing the hundreds of students now scattered across the lawns at the Union Buildings. They’ve grown impatient at waiting for the president to address them. In their frustration, they began pushing the barricade that had been put up down. In no time, the police reacted and rubber bullets started flying.

 

It’s, chaos created in wait of a man who stood before the crowd for no more than 5 minutes to tell them that government would do as they’ve asked.

What now? That became the question on everyone’s mind as leadership returned and remained mum on the way forward. On the other hand, Universities started sending out communication of adjusted exam timetables, resumption of classes and their two cents on the zero percent fee increment that had been approved by the highest man in the land.

 

It was a historic time. Oh, what a time to be alive? The country was indeed rising into the words of one of Drake’s hit singles at the time. In the wake of this commanding victory that would be remembered by generations to come, confusion veiled our minds.

Mass meetings were held. Students were no longer as united as they’d seemed before the pronouncement of the zero percent fee increment. The main argument being that the protest was for a call for free quality, decolonized education in our lifetime and that had not been achieved. Others claimed that the protest was for a zero percent fee increment and since that had been achieved, students should return to class and prepare for the incoming exams.

 

In the confusion, Universities made attempts to regain lost time. Where possible, parts of the curriculum were left out of the exam as those parts had not been covered in lectures. A small portion of students tried to continue protesting for free education, but the lack of numbers meant they were quickly shut down.

 

We were strong enough to fight the system, to keep the fees as expensive as they already were. But too weak to take the fight to a different battlefield. Hopefully we’d live to fight another day and on that day, may we be brave enough to sacrifice for the benefit of those that follow us.

 

We were back to reality and reality came with its own troubles.

 

“… And in other news, my future ex-girlfriend is leaving the city”

I laughed, “which one?” I said in-between my laughter.

 

“Possibly two of them, actually” Joe responded cynically. “Sam is either returning home or heading to a university in Pretoria, while Rose got an overseas job offer that she’s taking since she’s finishing with school this year.”

“So, you’re entering the last fragments of your little fling, that’s good for your actual relationship, you know and the other one is just good riddance that Sam girl never quite knew what she wanted.” I said, hoping that my words would somehow find reason in Joe’s brain and make him stay committed to Mary without further engaging in other relations with ladies.

“Well, something like that, I don’t know about good riddance but, our vibe is very much different now, even the band isn’t the same since she left.”

“Wait when did she leave the band?”

“When she told us that she’s leaving the city”

“So, what does that mean for the band now?”

“We’ll remain a four-member band with the world’s best bass player joining us, after playing with us as an extra for a few months now.” Joe said in excitement.

“So, you’ll be the only poet in the band? And there’ll be one female in the band?”

“Yes!”

“And how do the other band members feel about this shift?”

“We’re all happy that Sam is leaving, she’s been distracted since she got a new boyfriend and the band has been suffering in silence, so we all see this as a chance to regroup and move on with a fresh perspective and new-found purpose.”

“That’s beautiful and how have the hotel gigs been?”

“Soulful Sundays was a great idea, each week brings new fans and I think we have a growing pool of loyal fans, oh and the hotel wants us to be the resident live band on Sundays, so that’s growing income on its own.”

“Wow, I’m definitely dragging Charles to your next show”

“That would be appreciated” Joe responded with a smile.

 

The last few weeks had been draining and the weeks to follow would be exhausting. Joe had a plate filled to the brim with family drama pouring in, the pressures of school, his rise to fame and his over pouring pool of girls. I wondered each day how he does it, I struggle to keep it intact with one relationship and school, one always finds itself suffering at the hands of the other.

 

Exams have a way of separating people from each other because we all have different coping mechanisms. Some people can find time for those important in their lives despite how busy they are, while others assume that they will become an extra burden if they squeeze themselves into their partner’s busy schedule. Charles and I have always been the latter, with so much hanging in the balance because of the current exams, the cracks were starting to show and we were drifting apart.

 

These thoughts reminded me of a story Joe had told me, about one of his exes. She was a grade below Joe and each time school became taxing she’d pull away from the relationship. She’d even do this when she felt that Joe was under pressure. The thing about Joe is, he’s always about making time for those that matter, so he’d sacrifice study time to be with the people he cares about.

 

“Life’s too short to spend doing the serious things, we’ll never have time lying around, so you’ve got to make time” Joe would always say whenever I made excuses about not seeing Charles. He’d say that all it takes is two days of no communication and the next time you see each other, you’ll be strangers.

“Trust me, all it took was a few days without talking to her and by the time I saw her, I didn’t even know where to start after exchanging greetings”

“Are you sure you’re not exaggerating, much? Phela wena you’re a chatterbox.”

“I kid you not, it was like talking to a friend after years of not seeing each other, but you’ve grown so much apart that you no longer like the same things, so make that time girl.” Joe would warn me.

 

He had a tendency of being wise when it suited him, like most of us he often gave advice he’d never follow, he always knew what was write but loved the thrill of doing the opposite. “It’s all in the beauty of the chase” He’d say. With these words, you’d know that a new girl was in the picture.

 

“So, what’s her name?”

“We’ll call her ‘Midnight’, short for ‘Midnight dates’”

“Wow, a whole ‘Midnight’?” I said, before bursting into laughter.

“Well, at the moment that seems to be the only time we’re able to see each other, so it’s quite fitting if you ask me” Joe said in his defense.

 

My laughter continued, as Joe saw absolutely nothing wrong with terming a person, ‘Midnight’. It made her sound like some sort of witch who starts operating at midnight. When I eventually regained my composure, Joe described Midnight as a Zulu goddess, who had taken his breath away after he saw her at an event planned by a friend of his.

It was a Stokvel of sorts, where the soccer and netball players were being auctioned for an hour date. Joe had been helping with final preparations when he saw her with her squad. She was the calmest in the crew, peaceful in her friends’ chaos and from that moment he was intrigued.

 

After a few sleepless nights with her in mind. Surprising that a person in a long-term committed relationship would have sleepless nights over another girl. But, anyways, that’s beside the point. They bumped into each other a few days later and she initiated contact which got Joe thinking that maybe she’s also been thinking about him. They exchanged numbers and late-night chats ensued, with each point of contact Joe fell deeper and deeper into intrigue.

 

While Joe was adding and subtracting from his relations, I was struggling to keep hold of the only one I had. As he had said Charles and I were drifting apart. When the pressures of exams decreased and we had some time, the vibe was no longer the same, we had turned into perfect strangers, tip toeing in conversation with an elephant no one was willing to confront, sitting comfortably in the room.

 

Days passed and we found ourselves comfortable in the awkwardness, just going with the motions, stagnant but pretending like we were moving. The pressure returned and we fell back into ourselves, hoping that things would normalize on their own, that something profound would come up and remind us why we started this relationship in the first place.

 

“I’ve been thinking”

“About?”

“About us”

“And?”

“Are you happy?”

“I’m okay”

“I asked if you’re happy!”

“I said, I’m okay.”

“So, you’re not happy?”

“That’s not what I said”

 

This was my first time experiencing these sorts of texts. I’d never thought I’d be the one to ever start such conversations, but in the silence, that followed I thought tirelessly about what to say next.

“I don’t think this is working out for me.” I started

“What do you mean?” Charles responded

“I mean, things aren’t the same, we’ve drifted apart. At first, I thought it was exam pressure, but I’m slowly starting to realize that neither one of us is willing to try.”

“I’m lost, I thought we were fine.”

“No! We’re not! We’re far from it. I mean, we can barely go beyond ‘how are you?’ before finding awkwardness.”

“Babe, I’m sorry, I didn’t notice. I’ve just been stressed out about the exams. You’ve got all my attention now.”

“That’s the problem. Are we going to drift apart every time we’re facing pressure in our life? Are you going to push me away every time you’re facing challenges? We’re supposed to be a couple and work through things together, so if you can’t talk to me, then who are you turning to?”

“I’m really sorry babe, I never meant to push you away. I just didn’t want to involve you in my stress and have both of us worried about things that will soon be fixed. It’s just a phase, and I’ll try to not push you away when I’m going through stuff love.”

 

These exchanges got me thinking, do all such conversations end in people reminding each other why they fell in love in the first place? Joe laughed when I told him about it. He said the last such conversation he had, turned the girl into an ex.

 

“That girl wasn’t serious, she pulled that line on me on the 31st of December, a whole New Year’s Eve and she somehow expected me to fight for her.”

“What did you say?”

“I asked her what she thinks is the best way to deal with the situation and she said, ‘I think we’ll be better as friends’ and my response was, ‘oh okay, buddy’”

 

We both burst into laughter, as usual Joe made me forget about my troubles by turning the whole situation into a joke. He comforted me as we said our goodbyes, said my relationship had stood the test of time and we were doing well although the biggest test was on its way, December is its name.

 

We’re writing our final exam for the year today, so much has happened this year and with some days before the majority of us head home, this year might still have more surprises in store.

 

“How’s Ray doing?”

A surprised look stroked Joe’s face before he responded.

“He’s good, I think, why are you asking?”

“Been a while since you mentioned him, so, I was wondering what happened between him and Prudence.”

“Oh, konje there was that drama. I really don’t understand that relationship. It’s on and off, Ray has even started relations with a girl that lives opposite Prudence’s room. It’s so deep that I’ve been spending more time with Penny.”

“Why is that?”

“Well, she’s actually quite a chilled person to hang out with and the only person who doesn’t make me feel awkward for chilling in her room until ungodly hours.”

We laughed.

“Oh, and Mary doesn’t like Penny, she has it in her head that she likes me.”

“I think she might just have a point.”

“How though?”

“As girls we see these things, we’re able to tell when another girl is trying to move in on our territory, it’s just instinct.”

“But, there still should be some logical reasoning behind the instinct, I mean you can’t simply dislike a person you’ve never taken the time to get to know.”

“I hear you, but also hear her out, try to see things from her perspective before you do your own thing, but from my interactions with you and Penny, there might just be something there.”

“It’s not that deep, but still I’ll look at her perspective if she decides to give Penny a chance, it’s the only way it makes sense.”

“Anyways, how are you dealing with Rose leaving?”

“It’s a tough one. We’ve grown closer lately, the emotions are stronger, even though it got a bit awkward after the interaction she had with Mary. Oh, and she has a boyfriend she’s constantly complaining about.” Said Joe before bursting into laughter.

“Wait, she complains about her boyfriend to you?”

“Yes, she does just that. She even told me about a guy that was trying to get with her around the time we started doing our thing. Apparently, the boy is emotional and delusional, he thinks they’re an item.”

“How though? That’s so much drama.”

“Well the guy asked Rose if I was the guy she once told him she also like and her response was a stark, yes! And since then, the guy no longer talks to me. It’s like we’re having a cold war and every time we’re in the same space, it’s a war of silence.”

“Wow!”

 

This would be the last time I see Joe this year and neither one of us wanted to leave. Joe would still be in the city till next year as he’d gotten a holiday job as a call center agent. It would keep him from spending too much time at home, get him extra coins and allow him to get ready for next year. By the time we parted ways, I had an update on every character he had introduced me to over the year and the biggest juice was that he was going to be a godfather.

 

My relationship had returned to honeymoon phase, that little pep talk helped us to reconnect and I think we found each other in a better space. That elephant finally found its way out and love just couldn’t wait to replace it. Tonight, is date night, we’re going to go have some steak and yes! I’m watching my figure, but sometimes a girl has got to let her man spoil her.

 

I’m starting to think that places like restaurants have such an influence on the way people dress. Like if he’s taking you to KFC, of course he’ll be in shorts and flip flops, but if he’s taking you somewhere serious. He’ll be quarter to wearing a suit at worst and Charles was no exception.

 

We enjoyed the food, non-alcoholic drinks, laughter and wonderful music. He further stamped his love for me and it hit me, we’d been together for exactly 6 months to the day. Neither one of us had remembered but the fact that we were having a good time just told us that it was meant to be.

 

We spontaneously decided to go clubbing after dinner, just so we could tire ourselves and jump right into bed when we got home. For tonight’s purposes, Charles’ place was home, funny I’d never spent the night at his place, but tonight was special. The dancing was indeed tiring. But it didn’t stop the passion we had locked up for the duration of our relationship from exploding.

 

His kisses were tender, his touch soft and our bodies were dancing as one in no time. It would usually get heated till clothes were off, the urge high, but we’d stop it. Tonight, I let it go on, we let it flow and the release was amazing. My first time. At 20 my chastity belt had finally broken and I couldn’t have chosen a better and more caring person to break it.

 

Ever woke up in high spirits, but with a bad feeling? That was me on the morning after. I woke up to the fresh scent of freshly made coffee, fully naked, in his sheets and it felt good. I wrapped myself in one of the sheets and was about to follow the aroma when it found me. He walked in, tray in hand and just like that I was being served my very first breakfast in hand. I could get used to that.

 

The day progressed slowly, we were in bed, tied to each other and repeating bits of last night’s scenes. In that moment, I just wished that this would last forever.

Charles left to go get us a few cooking supplies for lunch. He forgot his phone and as usual, I’d crush some candy to squish the boredom. Right in the middle of my game, the message bubble popped up and all it said was, ‘love’.

I’m packing, I won’t take any explanations, I’m leaving. I can’t believe that this is happening. I’m pacing around the apartment, looking for anything that belongs to me because this will be the last time this place will ever see me.

 

I come to my senses and decide to confront him, I deserve an explanation, at least then I’ll get some closure. That’s if I don’t go crazy on him.

 

My bag is all packed, I’m sitting on the bed when he finally walks in. He’s excited, is heading straight to the kitchen, when he notices my bags. He changes direction instantly, his face has changed, there’s a hint of sadness in his aura.

 

“Babe? What’s going on?”

“You tell me”

“How should I know, when you’re the one that’s all packed and ready to go, did I do something wrong?”

I hand him his phone and “I can explain”, is the first thing that pops out of his mouth. I’m not ready for his lies, so I pick up my bags and head to the door. He springs onto me.

“Baby don’t go, please hear me out.”

 

I look him dead in the eyes, slightly push him to the side and head straight to the door.

Hours passed as my phone ringed, nonstop, it was him. I couldn’t bring myself to pick it up, I couldn’t bring myself to do anything since I got to my res room, I just placed myself on my bed as tears flowed uncontrollably.

 

How do you prepare a heart for heartbreak? That was the question ringing in my mind. It was 99 to 1 as Joe would say. He’d say people are good to us 99% of the time, but all it takes is one wrong for us to never look at them the way we used to.

 

Yes, Charles had been good to me, ever since I met him, but what if that other girl has also been in the picture from the start. I’m not even sure who was here first, all I know is that he was my first.

 

The tears keep flowing. The phone keeps beeping and ringing, till I switch it off. My eyes shut down, I pass out from the drainage caused by my tears.

 

I am awakened by a knock. It must be him, I don’t know how he made it to my room, but I know it’s him. I lay still on the bed, I won’t move till he leaves.

 

He’s calling my name, apologizing and I think I heard him holding back tears somewhere in between. I’m paralyzed by heartache, for once I thought I’d found the one, the one I didn’t need to protect myself from, but every time I give someone a chance they seem to give me less reason to trust the next person…

34570cookie-checkTainting Innocent Eyes

Leave a Reply