A Blues for the Blue Suit

Hands deftly peel-open a peach coloured envelope whose outside is stained by three crimson red fingerprints. And to the opener the fragrant that emanate from it fill the atmosphere with jabs of memories that stirs even a harden heart to a wail. But he reigns in the urge to give into tears despite himself.

Dear Peo

(He reads)

I hope when you read this letter again we would have somehow had worked through the troublesome situation I have created for us. My heart has been heavy with guilt and merry with love for your coming during these past few months.

For matters to make sense to you I must start at the beginning. I owe you the dignity of explaining the skeletons in my closet for I am tired of lying to you. There are many wishes we women bring into relationships. Some women who have had good fathers they wish that their partners turn out to be like their fathers; good and gentle.

There are also those of us who wish that the man of their dreams should be hard enough worker to build them an empire. Needless to say these women most of them are a breed of who grew up in the face of poverty, they will do whatever it takes to get out of its clutches.

Some women would like to bring up babies for the man they love; often with the forecast to grow old with their partners. When it comes to us; I choose to be the last two women combined.

(He pauses: as he always does when he comes to this part of the letter he had read countless times – he resumes).

There has been another man lurking in the shadows of our relationship. I use to love him in the past but then it ended. Unfortunately for me I had crossed a path with a ruthless man who by an unfortunate twist of events ended up having a hold over me. Noko is his name.

We had met during my third year at TUT when I was studying the dramatic arts. It was beautiful, I might as well say that at the time I fell in love with him. But now it so happened that a misfortune befallen my mother and I and she could not pay for my tuition. I was going to drop out and never get the qualification that I have dreamt about for so long.

When Noko picked it up that I had become sad over the prospect of becoming a drop out he offered to assist. I was willing to pay him back once my career started to take off. Unfortunately with the arts one don’t just get a job, it is a hustle. Our relationship had seen two years by the time I managed to wrap up my studies with a specialization in performance. But our love had drained away by then. Noko had become hostile and pushy. I never dawned on  me that I was trapped until it was too ate and he was suggesting that i should be sleeping with other man in order to pay him back. I could not tell my mother, it would have destroyed her. She had worked too hard to deal with such petty issues, I decided that I would deal with the situation alone.

So the plan was that whenever there was a guy who was interested in me, I would date the guy under the pretense that I was interested in them and then make financial demands like in a normal relationship. After a while as prearrange Noko will walk in on us and make a scene as if I had been having and affair while I was his women. The poor fellows would get a terrible beating if they wanted claim that I was theirs and that they had the right to date me. I had turned into a modern day call girl with a twist and not because chose to but something ad to be done to repay the dept that I have made with this terrible man.

But then you came and a life that seemed normal was shook deep in its foundation. I realized that Noko would never release the hold he had on me. I needed out! I need out- but the bastard would not let me be.

I do not ask you to stay with me after all this has sunk in, however I would like you to know that it is because of you that I desire freedom to go on with my life without the constrains that had haunted me for the past two to three years.

If you never come again to see me, or call or e-mail me I shall wait. Perhaps you will find it in your kind heart to forgive me for ying to you. I have been protecting us, you. He is part of a ruthless gangster. If he were to ever know that we continue to see each other something terrible will happen.

I hope that we will see each other again after this letter.

Keep well my love

(Sniff, sniff, sniff)

There are no secrets anymore

Love

Nothando

*

At the corner of Prinsloo Street and Pretoria Street, just at the right hadn side when one is going up with Prinsloo or on the left when one descend with this street. At the corner of Prinsloo and Pretorius streets there is a theatre called Momemtum State Theatre. Right there on the wall of next to the intimate entrance a poster proclaims ‘A Blues For The Blue Suit’.

*

Scene 2 ACT 1: THE SILENT GUEST

Characters:

Matilda (from ‘The Suite’)

Philemon (from ‘The Suite’)

Ellen (from ‘The Passionate Stranger’)

Marta (from ‘Marta’)

Reginald (from ‘The Passionate Stranger’)

Mapula (from ‘Mob Passion’)

Linga (fromMob Passion’)

Maggie (fromNice Time Girl’)

Theophillus (from ‘The Nice Time Girl’)

Dora (necessary to push the narrative forward)

The curtain opens. The auditorium is instantly flooded by mild darkness, with the only light crowding the stage and throwing life on the elements on the stage. There is an instant just as before the artificial light penetrate the dramatic universe that we hear a Merriam Makeba classic – ‘Pata pata’ joining the performance text. The tune melancholically searches and stirs those fragile confines of those whose hearts have had the privilege to have lived the age that this tune was ushered; those who were fortunate enough to have experience the Sophiatown Renaissance.

We make out a man and a woman seated on a long table the dining room. Another woman, full figured and graceful, is moving about in the setting, she is arranging dishes on the table. There is a knock on the door.

KNOCK KNOCK!

The moving woman: Oh someone is knocking (with her turn of her wrist – palm up – she steals the time.) it must be th others (She exclaims)

The man seated with the woman: Aus Matilda I hope it is that dame of mine Ellen, so long I been waiting (he looks disapprovingly at the woman seated next to him, the woman throws him a snick and snips from the glass).

[Someone coughs in the auditorium]

The woman hitherto addressed Aus Matilda opens the door and six people pour into the room. It is four women carrying assorted calabashes each accompanied by two gentlemen. The gentlemen take off their hats.

Aus Matilda (she gives each of the women a hug and shakes the hands of the two gentlemen with a slight declination of her height): ladies and gentlemen I am so delighted for you support! Ellen, home girl, Reggie is becoming restless with Marta crowding him, you better get over there.

Ellen (looks around): Oh, is he here already? (the man seated with the woman across the table waves her over)

Aus Matilda (Nods vigorously ad smiles): He came in shortly after Marta arrived. You know Marta and hooch are moes… (she sows them two out-stretched fingers).

Ellen: Ok I will so long put my contributions on the table while I join my man.

Matilda: Bra Linga how are you? It’s so wonderful to see you and Mapula, please do come in it is much cooler inside.

Linga and the lady by his side: Thank you Matilda for hosting the stokie (they walk towards the table).

Maggie (holds MATILDA both hands): Hello Tilly, you haven’t been visiting me like you used to, you have me worried – I hope all is well with you and Bra Phil!

Matilda (looks the other woman over): Oh oh Modimo wa ka, you are pregnant Maggie…how long has it been?

Maggie: Five months, you know just between you and me, I think it has been a bit too long.

Theophillus(rubs her belly proudly yet tender): Yah, the Tillies I keep telling her that what she has in  the oven is a giant, a rugby player,

Auditorium: laughs

(Maggie pretends to slap him on the face; he ducks, she smiles at him) she thinks I am cursing her…

Matilda (points a finger at him): hey wena don’t you ever speak with that rude tongue to my friend! (there is laughter in he voice)

Theophillus: I know Tillies my old timer het my gesê the other day that I should be extra careful around her and be careful and go easy on her , eish sonny mara Mag’ can’t take a joke these days you know. Especially if it is about weight. Hey maybe I should change the subject – where is Bra Phil I can’t see him anywhere – is he joining us?

Matilda: Yes, my hubby will be joining us, he is busy in the study working on some new material. You writers and their typewriters. I will call him in a moment – as soon as the ladies finish help arranging the table for our feast. Please do some in and let us get comfy – shall we? (She gracefully waves them to the table and turns to the other women cradling calabashes) Dora I see you have brought a friend along with you…is Mickey showing up later

Dora (smiles): Aus Tillie I’ll like you to meet my squeeza here – Salome, Michael could not make it. He has an evening shift today. He could not switch with anyone.

[What a tender smile she flashes, Peo thinks to himself, his attention is fixed on the character called Matilda. He can not stop but silently applaud Nothando’s performance, she is the sole reason why he came to the theatre to see the play. Indeed her delicate handling of the Matilda character is exquisite. It is as if the woman does exist – she imbibes her with soulfulness]

Matilda: Sorry but better still, it is a pleasure to meet you Salome. (She turns to Dora) D and I go back a long way, we went to the same school, your brother and D met when we were doing J.C. Come and settle in gorl. Now that we are all her I’ll will call my hubby. (She closes the door, ushers the ladies inside, leaves everyone as she disappears through the door facing the auditorium. In the mean time everyone gets to settle on the table. Matilda returns with a man whom Peo take to be the man in question).

Linga (stands up a the man makes his entry) Bra Phil.

Theophillus: Heita Bra Philemon, I must consult with you dame for whatever it is that she is feeding, you look the picture of health man.

Philemon: She just know how to cook well that’s all or what Tillie? (he gets hold of Matilda who happens to be passing close by as she puts final touches to the preparations on the table)

Matilda: Yes Ntate (She giggles and gently loosens up from his hold for she is on her way to the third door opposite the entry door that everyone has used).

Linga (seated on Philemon’s right side): You know Bra phil I was with this cousin of mine the other day; on  sunday, on a visit, it being a long time since we have seen each other…you follow bra Phil?

Philemon: yes and then?

Linga: That homeboy takes me to this dive in fifth ave’, about a block away from main, after a mount of his woman’s midday cook. Anyways I was uneasy about this drinking expedition from scratch. Mara because I wanted to satisfy my kazzie you see

[Philemon gives a nod to encourage Linga to go on]

Who can insult the generosity of another man when it comes to hooch? Especially if its is another man paying (he chuckles to himself, despite his audience, shoulders shaking) what was remarkable (he continues) was that that evening I did see my self when we arrived at the joint, and I can remember the first few drinks of that awful booze my kazie bought but how I got home, jong that’s a mystery – beware of skokian: it will kick you hard.

[laughter from the audience]

When I woke up the next day to go to work, it was as if my brain was a lump of steal…

[more laughter]

Philemon (laughing and holding his stomach): eish! Khele! Tell us monna linga, do you still work for the law firm, what’s it’s name?…mmm, Hudson and Clifford. Are you still with them?

Linga: Yes Bra Phil I’m still with them.

Philemon: You should thank your ancestors the following day was Monday, any other day you’ll have messed up the filling. You know what boys? (looks around the table) after this kitchen party we leave the dames alone and you come with me because I will like to take you boys to a place that sell makoya, I mean real stuff not that skokian poison Lee sipped in the capable hands of his cousie (the three men laugh and nod their heads in agreement for the offer while their wives sneers at them.

Matilda: Shall we dish up Ntate?

[The is silence in the auditorium]

Philemon (with an air of indifference): Are you forgetting something Tilly?

Matilda (with a look of surprise on her face): What Baby?

Philemon (a trace of irritability masking his voice): Our guest Tilly, our honorable guest or have you forgotten all about him!

(an air surprise runs through their guest)

Matilda: Please baby, oh Phil not today toe – just this once don’t do this to me…(sniff), I have suffered enough.

Philemon: Woman you will do as I instruct, you will bring our guest to this table, right this now. Be so kind to also bring him a chair while you are at it.

(Mathilda stands up from the table and disappears into the adjacent room, she comes back with a chair which she gingerly shoves into the empty space between Salome and Theophillus. She thn disappears again into the adjacent room and moments later returns with a two piece suit which she carefully settles on the empty chair: the front of the suite facing the table. She then takes her own seat.

Philemon (voice harsh and dry): there you are love. It was not that difficult was it?

The drunken woman whom above we have referred to as Marta giggles mischievously.

Maggie: Matilda my friend what is this, what with the blue suit?

Linga: A-A-A-, yes bra phil what’s going on?

Philemon (adjusting  himself on his seat): Ask my wife she knows the chap better than I do.

Matilda: No, you people should not worry, this is a game that my husband and I like to play now and then. Please (she vigorously signal the guests to the dishes on the table)

Philemon: a game?

[The stage lights grow dim as they fade out the actors. The audience gives applause]

*

Tshwane stood bleached like grey linen. It was as if someone had mischievously covered its imposing buildings with a soft grey hue as a silent joke and then unnoticed receded into the margins. The sky and its streets belied this monochrome that was in all and reflected in everything as the young man walked through Sammy Marks Square. It wanted to drizzle, yet the sun vied with the clouds for attention. Its rays peered mercilessly through the clouds, and the clouds in turn blotted the illumination. So what was put on by chance as natural show was an occasional darkening down and then moments later a brightening up of the building that dwarfed the vendors, hawkers, queue marshals, the metropolitan police controlling the traffic, the business people passing through in their sedans, the taxis leaving for the townships and the ancient municipal buses booeing their way into and out of the heart of the capital.

The young man paid no attention these theatricals that nature was displaying to the discontentment of the Tshwanians, the sojourners and the passer-byes who had hitherto ventured to shop, to meet, to explore unwary purses and pockets or to do whatever that pleases human nature. It was a weekend and the end of the month. He darted about avoiding people in the packed mall until he emerged at the mouth of that mall at the busy corner of Van der Walt Street and Vermeuling Street. He crossed Van der Walt Street and to his fancy the corresponding robot was about to close when he reached the other side. This brought him to ear shot of the competing solo performances of the queue Marshals who were on the side that he was walking towards. It was here that along Van der Walt Street taxis were leaving for sections such as Ten Morgan, Matebeleng, Silverlake RDP and Oudstad Matebeleng were lined up and boarding people. Being an afternoon the queues were long and snakey. He caught the complaints of the people standing on queues complaining about the humidity as he turned to take taxis risking loadings near Lubners Furnishers and Webbers Outfitters who are next door to Bellem Confectioners. He was within strides of a group of people who have populated near enough where it will be swift to climb onto a taxi before the next patrol car of metro police shows up because it is illegal for taxis to stop here. Here he will catch a via Oudstad Taxi for he was bound for Blackrock. Choruses filled the air:

Ten Morgen – Matebeleng, Oudstad Blackrock. Where are you going mma, sestere where to…heita? Ten Morgen? Yah in here…heh! Nê in that one Sabona baba – Selbourne side, in that one timer, my toppie. Ou lady Mazakhele. Oudstad hier it’s coming nou nouWah that is not a good attitude sies, you choose taxis as if you have your own car, I have marked you my brother – the day it rains I will never pack you…ma’vrafesse sonny nxo strue…(and here fingers are crossed)

Sang the queue marshals

He was keeping the bakery, the confectionary that we have mentioned earlier on to his back, the fingers of the aroma of pies, cakes and breads born that morning caressed his nostrils. He turned his thoughts to his uncle in his mind and wondered what it was that he wanted to tell him. It has been ten years since he had been in Atteridgeville, to be specific Saulsville, for his uncle lived in Blackrock. He nudged near to the mob of people waiting to board a taxi. A black Caravella pulled over and most of the people took their seats in it. Excluding him four people remained waiting for the next taxi. Of these people there was one that stood out. For him to notice this particular person was not the fact that one of these people was an old lady well passed her bloom, nor was it the fact that the other with a baby blanketed on her back was carrying plastic bags of groceries nor the third who listening to what Peo took either for a portable walkman system or an MP3 Player.

She stood gracefully in her long cream dress, hair meticulously braided and gathered in a bun, and upon her torso a brown sweater cleaved to her form tautly sculpting her upper body with such majesty that time was held in its place for our young gentleman. It was as if he was beholding a mixture of the talents of Gerard Sekoto and George Mnyaluza Pemba on a canvas. He notice that her hands were bent at the elbows as if she was one of those opera soloists gathering enough air in her bosom to holler a silky note, a soothsayer – he suspected that the reason for the positions of her arms was owed to the bag she carried for this position supported it, as well as creating a safety link for the snatchers. He magnetically advanced towards her. He was about to say ‘hi’ when she electrically reached within the confines of her bag and brought out a cell phone.

‘Hello Noko’ (She listens): where are you, have you forgotten about our plans…? (She responds) ‘No I haven’t forgotten, I am coming, I am just waiting for the taxi. You know what it is like at the end of the month. (She looks about) transport is dry here, taxis are full-houses’ (she listens): You know I have been waiting for like an hour here and I’m getting tired of the waiting! I’ll just organise the stuff my self and I will drop in later.

‘Don’t be so harsh and rash about it, please wait up’

(Who will be so harsh to such a spectacle of serene beauty? [Our young man thinks to himself]).

‘We have been rehearsing the whole day, that’s why I am late, come on wait man?’

Could she be a singer, wondered the young man as he drank off her profiled facial features, she became aware of his presence.

‘Look I’ve got to go now. Just wait up? I shall see you later.’

She dropped the phone and shot a questioning look at him as she put the cell phone away n her handbag.

‘You sing opera?’ he found his voice, he was suffocated as well as intoxicated by the woman’s beauty. She was adorned by a wide forehead that swept into a small but a slightly puffy nose which in turn presented a thin lipped mouth. She shyly looked on the pavement and looked at him smiling; and opening her mouth:

‘No, I hate opera, the idea of someone screaming a note seems exhausting enough to the nerves. I act for a living. But tell me Jo’ is it your habit to listen to grown ups when they talk?’

Her melodious voice moved his universe. It had been a while since he had experienced such an effect. He was speechless. Her hand shot slightly up and she pointed up and at her command a stone grey Volks Wagen Caravella taxi came to a halt. He stood besides her and moved with her when she moved towards the taxi.

Yah Phelindaba – Atteridgeville get in sweetie!’ hollowed the queue marshal. He took a seat besides her in the taxi, a late 90’s Kwaito rhythm flushed everyone’s ears inside. It was not loud, it was bearable, the taxi was full now.  As it hummed the queue marshal came to the driver’s side and said

Is dolly van dag nê my broer? – go a spanega’ hand outstretched palm webbed to the driver

‘Sure Stevovo’ said the driver dropping two rand coins on the web of the queue marshal.

At the front seat sharing navigation with the said driver sat a fellow who had attended the same high school where our young man attended. He heard a familiar voice as the young man was conversing with the lady, trying to get to know her. By then the taxi was turning left in Proes Street, it had turned left at Schurbart Street and then right into the out-sprawling Church Street, facing west. The commuters, as if moved by some surprising force of nature jingled and shuffled monies to pay for their taxi fare. It was at the time that the young man was passing the collected money of the passengers seated behind him that the fellow at the front seat took the opportunity to expressed his greetings.

Heita my bra?’ started our young man wanting to get the attention of the fellow seated with the driver at the front to help him get the money to the driver.

Ao Peo, my bra, where have you been?’ exclaimed the fellow as he passed the money to the driver.

‘Zakhele!’ exclaimed Peo in turn when he recognized the fellow. These exchange of greetings hasten Peo’s approach to the lady in that she got to know him before he introduced himself.

‘Tell me mjita where have you been, I have not seen you in the Township for a while. I mean I see the others with whom we have attended high school but alas not ‘’ee’ pressed Moeketsi as he readied the money for the taxi driver.

‘The other day I saw short Todd’ he added

Yah mahn, I moved homes when we finished high school, I went back to live with my parents in Mamelodi’ He replied despite himself for he was in no mood to recall some of his high school days. The taxi passed Tshwane Events Centre which back then was called Pretoria Show Grounds. The driver gave Zakhele a sly look of disapproval and the latter subsided into silence, Peo appreciated the turnout.

‘I am Peo.’ he said half to himself and to her.

‘I’ve have just heard.’ She replied melodiously and momentarily turned to look at him.

‘Now that you know about my work, what about you?’ she asked

‘I am an assistant manager for an IT firm, EN Tec, you have probably heard about us.’ He replied.

‘Mmm I can’t say I have, the name doesn’t ring a bell. But perhaps if I see the branding I would most probably recognize it.’ She said with a smile. Peo thought that she was more informed more than she was letting out.

‘We are responsible for computer networking of some of the major corporations in the country as well as the government especially at the local level.’ He offered dreading the showiness of what he had just said.

‘That sounds interesting, although I am not that informed about technology besides serving the net.’ She encouraged.

‘It is but I am sure acting is interesting as well.’ He turned the conversation to her hoping to reveal more about her. She gave a soft laugh.

‘Acting, where can I start, for starters it is what I have always wanted to do from when I was a little girl. Of curse as a career it offers the potential for escapism in that one can entirely be submerged in the character that one portrays at any given time.’ She said musingly. Her passion for acting seeped through as she spoke and became noticeable to Peo.  He realized that he did not know who her name was. She continued

‘At the moment I am playing Matilda in an adaptation of Can Themba’s The Suite. Its on right here at the Spoornet State Theatre, have you read the short story?’

‘Err,’ he stumbled.

‘But you can call me Nothando,’ she introduced herself.

The sun dunked in the west drawing an ochre tint along the now blanketing horizon as the VW kombi taxi gently cruised along the longest street in Tshwane – Church Street.

The township’s hospital, Kalafong was visible further in the south-west of the hoziron, peeped out while the Indian suburbs, Louts Gardens, sprawled itself in the northerly west. Just behind the hospital a mosaic of rooftops embraced a hilly inclination of the township. These mosaics were a composite of new houses built in the eighties. This new area was affectionately called Hlalampja which means ‘where dogs stay’ for it was a an area quite settled by single persons, persons who were from broken marriages and professionally were trained as nurses, teachers and some were members of the police force. As the taxi left the longest street in Tshwane and drove left into Seeiso Street the mosaics at the hill advanced forward in a subdued jerk to reveal the houses. The taxi passed underneath a bridge that had the words ‘Atteridgeville it’s where you’re at’, a sign sponsored by Coca Cola. Children played at Moroe Park as the taxi took the curve besides the Total Garage. Some people stood at various street corners talking, some walked to the shops carrying empty bottles of soft drinks when the taxi passed near Rankie shops or Khomo or Sekhamorogo shopping complex to buy the last necessities of the day or entered yards carrying plastic bags as the taxi penetrated the Township’s interior.

I will like to draw your attention to the fact that when this part of the world was proclaimed in the 30s it was reserved to be a white residential area. But then those in power decide that it will rather serves as another reserve area for the migrant workers who were working at Iscor and other industrial enterprises in Pretoria. And when the 1950s dawned when the resident of the cosmopolitan area like Marabastad, Banthule, Eastwood and Lady Selbourne were moved to their respective areas following group areas act it was a befitting an area to further the interests of apartness policy. By then this locale which saw itself be named Motsemogolo in its infancy, then later Atteridgeville, after a native administrative officer – Mrs. Atteridge, had been quite settled. The new arrivals were simply supplying its lifeline in prep for the generation to come. Parents of the this narrator have descended from the people who were relocated in Township

‘Tlale Street, please!’ bellowed a passenger at the back seat breaking the hypnoses of the kwaito sound wave within the confines of the taxi. Peo realised that since he had no idea where the woman will get off he had to make a quick move to get her contact details. He had to meet her again. If the scales of congeniality are pitted at him the lady may agree to lunch with him.

After the man got off a woman’s voice intoned ‘Ramushu Street, driver!’ to which the driver replied in defiant

‘Ok passenjara!’.

They were outside the fence of Atteridgeville Community Clinic. This Clinic diagonally faced the post office which in turn faced Sekgamorogo’s shopping complex which in turn faced Kgomo Butchery. This business establishments formed a circle and Seiso Street, on which the taxi was traveling by the way, passed across the circle.

‘Mgadi Bra Solly’ Nothando suddenly said without dropping a hint beforehand to Peo.

‘Ao Nothando my baby, how are you. Did you pay? I should not have charged you if I had noticed you. How is your mother?’ said the driver as he reached at the top of his dashboard to retrieve a Ten Rand note he tried to give it to her, but she declined.

‘Mother is fine Bra Solly, do not worry about the money – I was supporting you, you know – a little BEE’ said she as she decline the note and stepping out side of the taxi. She had a tail.

‘Can I walk you home?’ these are the words that Peo speak in his mind’s enactment of the very scene that was unfolding before him. He wanted the taxi to leave them now.

‘Hey laitie don’t mess with Pinkie doll – if you are dirty I’ll skin you alive my self sonny boy.’ Said the driver and the remaining passengers in the taxi laughed at this idle threat. They were in Mgadi Street as the taxi started on its way into the heart of the Township. They went up with Mngadi Street. As they were slowly walking up the inclination Nothando informed Peo that she resided in Manyorela Street. This fuelled Peo’s determination to advance further with the idea of organizing another meeting with the lady.

‘I hope you don’t mind me walking you home, I couldn’t help my self. I’m wondering if it will be possible to meet you again?’ said he as they turned left into Manyorela Street. Smiling, she stopped and looked at him.

‘What, is there anything funny?’ he asked his face was crisscrossed with awe. She shook her head.

‘I just want to get to know you that’s all, I find you interesting.’ He added as a matter of fact.

‘Really, you know Peo, I have heard this talk before and do you know what I think?’ Peo shook his head.

‘I think it’s plain lies most of the time because after you go into a relationship with a guy, the look of affection in their face is washed off. Especially after they have tested the waters.’ She said firmly. She held his gaze. But to his surprise the smile never left her face.

‘Look I am not out to mess you around or something, like I said I just want to meet you again, that’s all. If you suspect that it will be a bad idea I can leave with that.’ He said with resignation. She kept and eye on him. There was something different about this man from the lot she has crossed paths with.

‘Oh, I a going to regret this…’ she began

‘Regret what?’ He asked. She reached into her handbag, pulling out a pen she took one of his paws and began to scribble onto the hand.

‘Here are my digits jo’ She breathed. He watched her face attentively as she marked his flesh with her contacts number, he wanted to remember it. She Finished, replaced the cap of the pen and put it back into her handbag she saying

‘I hope you are right handed.’

‘Should I be to get to know you?’ Peo played along.

‘Not at all jo’, I’m just concerned about the number rubbing off.’  She indicated heartily.

‘Oh I see, I promise you this mark is that of an angel, it won’t rub off easily. I even have an urge not to wash my palm.’ He joked.

‘Well then Mr. Peo,’ she thrust her hand to him ‘It’s been nice to meet you, I am home now’ she added. They stood in front of a well looking house. One of those houses in-vogue in the early eighties when four room houses were transform into five rooms and eight rooms. The roofs were flat. Then suddenly in the beginning of the nineties a new form of roofing stole the attention. It was a mixture of zink and a sprinkle of river sand – sort of sand blasted, and it was available as slabs that had to be fitted in by a well trained constructor who worked specifically with that material. Nothando’s home had this roof that protruded with a sharp right angle at the sky unlike its predecessor that lay flat. A series of gutters conducted the water from the roof unto a well paved yard. And on one of the front big windows an electric sign proclaimed ‘Aus-Mapinkies Pub’ boldly, and underneath this bold writing another cautioned ‘no boys and girls under 18 Allowed’. She roused him from this taking in of the scenery of her home.

‘Bye bye,’ She spat gently and turned gingerly opening the small gate flanked by a well made front wall to the house yard, she closed the gate behind her and realise that he was looking and she maintained the smile as she turned once more to walk the narrow path way and disappeared around the house. It was only when she was not in view that Peo did the turning himself albeit in the opposite direction. He retraced his steps back to Mareka Street and caught a taxi to his uncle. ‘Indeed we shall meet again my dear.’ This words were said in Peo’s heart as he completed his journey.

**

A figure of a well built man staggers across the set. This figure, a moment ago, has thrown the main door open that leads into the darkened room that this theatrical performance will culminate in.

Herbert’s discerning trained eye strained across and traced the details of this fictive universe. All that he saw were objects. The door before it opened, the figure penetrated it, the heap on the bed, which in a few seconds will be pivotal to the conclusion of this curtain closure scene, the soft outlines of the head board and the wardrobe, even the grayish darkness that tinted the scene was a tool geared towards erecting an artificial reality against which his characters move. Of course originally these characters were not his. They were Can Themba’s, he was a borrower. They were on loan and this meant he could pay homage to their maker by affording them the opportunity to move and operate in a magnificent world and this he meant to do it with style.

The figure nudged on into the room. His light man had done a wonderful job for as the figure reached the centre point of this set a soft bluish light shade fell upon his face. The figure swayed drunkenly. He was supposed to be. For Phillimon was drunk when he came back home that fateful evening. Let us see how you handle it this time Thabo. After this, whether you pin it or not, we have to call it quits for today, he silently said to himself uncrossing and crossing his legs cushioned on his favorite seat.

Phillimon (Kneeling on the bed): Tilly? (he draws the bed sheets away and the figure of a sleeping woman is revealed. Holding her hand he lights the beside lamp and a patch of golden luminosity is thrown and engulf him and the woman. But his face is instantly contorted with a surprise look. He shakes the woman, his demeanor slowly changes, he transforms into a sober man. As the woman does not stir, he gingerly listens to her pulse on the neck and suddenly as if struck by a lightening akin to a soldier standing at the at the presence of superior ranking officer, he stands and gasps – face transfigured into a mask of gloom and fright,

[yes that is more like it: thinks Herbert]

grasping his head in his hands. Tilly?… Oh…no…no…NO! (He backs away a little and appears to be overcome by grief – falls on his knees) TILLY…(Then with shoulders shaking he cries)

‘Cut! extremely excellent Thiboes, magnificent’ interrupts Herbert.

The figure of the woman on the bed comes to life instantly and slid from the bed and walks towards Herbert who stands up from his favorite cushioned chair clapping his hands.

‘Tilly, Oh my dear, don’t you think that your husband was great, that he nailed it this time?’ he says as the woman reach him. She does not say anything but glare at him.

‘I think he was marvelous.’ He says this as if to reassure himself, jabbing with his head at the stage set where the actor rests on the bed drinking water talking to another lady who have just went up into the set as Nothando made her way to the director. However the face that Nothando presents to him shakes him out of his reverie. She glares at him with a questioning look.

‘And just what do you think you are doing?’ she begins, ‘You know Herbert I think you are being awfully hard on him, Thabo is one of the best actors I have ever worked with, he is just having it hard with the loss of his uncle.’ Says Nothando tucking at her gown.

‘Yes I now that, but that does not change the fact that we have work to do, does it?’ Herbert replies with indifference.

‘You can be cold at the worst of times Herbert, have you ever put your self in the situation of the people you work with or they are just puppets ready to swing in the direction of your will?’ Nothando’s question carries with it a hint of irritability. Herbert reflects on what she just said right then and thinks that that’s exactly how he sees people the moment he is directing them, he sees them as instruments that are suppose to work in harmony to produce the desired effect of what the dramatic texts intended the performance to do. He sees actors not as people but as pawns to be maneuvered towards the actualization of the dramatic content. Yes he has never seen actors as people; at least not during the performance. When the people who work with him step on the stage in guises of fictional characters he sheds them of their true nature and tints them with the personas and baggages of the playwright.

What he did not know was that the cast of the play he was directing were not going to bow to his force. They were not prepared to suppress themselves in the name of perfection. They have, each of them, silently said to themselves that next time he gets out hand – he is going to get a hint that he is not working with slaves. He answers

‘So what do you suggest Nothando, I mean…’

‘Herbert you want to kill us in the name of perfection, as discipline as you are, in case you weren’t keeping count, we did eight takes with the luncheon scene and with this one seven takes, we are exhausted.’ She said then turned and left him. He falls back on his favourite seat.

‘Any plans my friend?’ asked the lady who had been with Thabo at the bedroom scene as Nothando was walking towards the change rooms.

‘Not really Kgothatso, you know Herbert is a snob – someone had to tell him he is pushing us way to far, where are you guys going?’ she asks as they enter the changing rooms.

‘You know the Blue Scape is the place to be – there will be a live fusion band playing tonight’ says Kgothatso closing the door behind them. The door has the word ‘Cherrie’ written on it and the door next to it is written ‘Majimbos’.

**

Peo adjusted his weight a little on the chair while his uncle, silently smoking a pipe, sat close by. They had witness the curtain of the evening closing slowly upon them while they sat under a lemon tree. They had reached that point where minds subsequently locked together during conversations trail away from each other either in search of a new topic to bring under the spot light to advance the conversation or to reflect on what had just being said; or to populate a response. Their conversation was at that point when the mind recoils its self and seethe the impressions of what is being said and selects the essentials and expel the useless items.

They were sitting at the back yard of his uncle’s house. A chicken mesh wire enclosure was a little to the left of the lemon tree behind them, here and there roamed a chicken nibbling at the last remnants of grain or accidental droppings of bread crumbs and insects which by then   were becoming invisible in the graying tint of the night. The chicken made a clack-klak-clok sound of contentment.

Uncle Raditladi lived in an area called Mazakhele. When Atteridgeville was still in its infancy the people who were relocated here from the black-spots area marked by the nationalists government were only given plots and they had to build their own homes from scratch. Peo’s mother’s family had moved from Alexander to, the oldest Township in Johannesburg, in the mid sixties. They had come over this side of the world to start anew because where they lived at the time was crowded.

Raditladi, junior to Peo’s mother was still very young at the time, Now as Peo stole a glance at him smoking, (the outside electric bulb put on probably by Ma-Raditladi) and Peo could see the silver grey hair. His mouth inflated and deflated rapidly as he fed smoke to his lungs, his cheeks looked as if they were kissing each other as he sucked the smoke. Then with somewhat of a sigh he release a smoke. From the house came another stream of light coming through the open door of the kitchen; it streamlined itself geometrically and cut the surface of the yard into an indefinite diagonal two halves.

‘Nephew,’ barked Raditladi finally, he tilted his pipe, mouth agape.

‘Time is but a burning log of wood. I have asked you to come over here so that I can fulfill you father’s last request made on his deathbed before entering the world of the ancestors.’

‘Ee, Malome I am listening,’ Peo encouraged him.

‘Your father and I had a talk about you shortly before he passed on,’ said Malome Raditladi adjusting himself for comfort on the seat.

‘It was during the time when you boys were arrested after robbing that china man in Sunnyside.’ He continued and as if to punctuate what he had just said he puffed furiously on his cigarette now; he smoke both the pipe and the ciggies. The cigarette he rolled his own.

‘May the lord rest the soul of my brother in law.’ He spat sideways and looked into the new born stars of the overgrown evening. They shimmered at their accustom positions.

Peo found it very difficult to look at him and was glad for the grey evening light that surrounded them.

The night his father died he and a couple of his friends bust into a china man store in a robbery attempt, little did they know that the man will outwit them. Bredford, who was bulky of the three of them, asked the china man to open the cash register while Dexter bolted the door and he stood around. He wondered then what it was at the time that drove him to the extent of committing mischief.

‘Hey Jackie China, open the register wena man!’ he remembered that Dexter had shouted to the china man as he held a gun at him. The man pleaded that he did not have money, he had checked in. But when he saw the crazy look that Dexter wore he complied. It was he who was suppose to stuff the money into the bag that they had brought along for the purpose.

‘Stop flopping man and put the money in!’ Dexter barked, but he could not bring himself to do it. Bredford pointed out that they were wasting time. Dexter gun butted the china man unconscious somewhere on the head and he himself collected the cash from the machine. They were just about to make it to Bredford’s car packed outside in Essellen Street when police in civilian clothes surrounded them. The china man had somehow alerted the Law. Fortunately for them they were still minors at the time.

His father was troubled by the whereabouts of his son for several days because he had not been sleeping at home. They were staying over at Dexter whose parents were away oversees. And that is where the plot to get some money, which they really did need, originated. Dexter had always thought of himself as a gangster, a dog, a bad man: it could’ve been the pile of American gangster movies he collected that motivated the fabrication of the robbery. Maybe.

Peo’s father whom Raditladi revered was in his late fifties, he had remarried after Peo’s mother’s passed away and Peo had rebelled against this move. He suspected that his father did not love his mother. He loathed the woman that his father had married despite her efforts to along. He was not interested.

This absence from home was one of his way to rebel against his father. His father had been diagnosed with a weak heart. Being a committed business man as he was, he had been advised to reduce his work load.

Finding himself in a foul smelling police cell and the thought of the real dungeon of New Lock – Pretoria Central Prison turned his stomach and he remembered his father. That is the person he called when they were allowed to make calls to their families.

‘Ntate?’ he pleaded into the receiver because he had become silent when he had told him where he was. He could hear that he was still there – for his breathing had become shallow but perceptible.

‘You have outdone your self this time my child, I am disappointed…I am coming’ he finally answered.

But he never made it to the police station. His heart gave in before he could make it out off the driveway. The news of his father’s passing shocked SNS Mamelodi. Out on bail, thanks to Malome Raditladi overseeing to his bail, he was able to attend his father’s funeral. After they had descended the body to its last resting place at Phelindaba cemetery; and the people queued to have lunch served back at the house: there were many of them for his father was a well known man, there had been speeches also from quite a handful of them paying respect to him by stringing praises after praise for the work he had done in their community. As they stuffed themselves with the food of the after mourning hushed tones pointed out that if his son never was part of the wrong crowed the poor man will have been alive. He was to be blamed. Some concluded that that the boy must have smoked pot ‘food of the cows’ or cannabis mixed with heroin the concoction of which is called nyaope which brings the worst out of its victims. Why else will he close his ears when his father spoke to him? Was he not grateful for having a father like Matapola Motsamayi? They enquired to the universe, to themselves silently and in hushed tongues to one another.

After his father was laid to rest Raditladi took it upon himself to clear the dirt. He said he was carrying out the duties of an uncle to his nephew. Upon their appearance at court, the case was dismissed after the boys were given five years suspension. They had kissed the backside of juvenile penitentiary and succeeded in getting out of its clutches. The boys understood this very well as the presiding judge barked that they were lucky the china man was a peaceful man who felt nothing but mercy for them. His last words were etched on Peo’s troubled mind that cold morning at the hearing

‘You boys must concentrate on education and stop tormenting your parents, I do not want to see you again here.’ Said the judge

The reality that he had only his uncle to turn to now sunk in when a couple of hours later he sat with his uncle under the very tree and he gave him a set up of how his life would then be without his father, he assured him that he could always count on him and his aunt. But his last words were also forged on his mind as if forming another sentence below the one stated by the judge.

‘You are not be blamed for my brother in laws sudden death, never carry the burden of it upon your shoulders – it will topple you.’ His uncle had said

Raditladi presently sighed and this brought Peo ten years into the future.

‘I am not your father, but I will tell you something – and this is what your father said I should say to you when you are older and a man enough to get a glimpse of the real world. He said to me that I should tell you that by the sweat of his brow a man eats, he must not defile his well for with it he is fortified. Have a vision, he said.’ Raditladi paused to build a cigarette, skillfully leaning forward to take advantage of the streaming light from the opened door of the kitchen. Dishes clanked with each other in there as they were cleaned by Ma-Raditladi. Peo craved to have a smoke too simmered by a light laager to smother the dish of chicken feet and pap that they had for supper.

‘Now nephew listen,’ said Raditladi as he lit the cigarette.

‘Lent me your ears boy, you did very well to resume with your studies after the dismissal of your sins by the court of law. Look at you know heh? You have good job, perhaps soon you will be able to buy a motor car like the other youngsters your age. What you need to do now is to keep away from those tsotsi friends of yours for when they go down they will take you with them.

Peo nodded to him and said ‘Ee Malome’

He silently wondered what happened to those two, it was ten years since the incidence and it was about six years since he had seen either Dexter or Bredford. Their silence resumed once more.

Raditladi flicked the half smoke cigarette across the streaming light and the chickens scattered away from the amber that landed next to a crumb where the fowls had been click-clocking.

‘Dumb bastards!’ he hissed

Peo looked at him with a slight turn of the head. He wondered whether the insult was aimed at him and his old friends or the fowls.

‘Motlogolo you are not a child anymore – you have a beard to shave now. Watch your step the son of Mma Letlapa who is the offshoot of the Batlaping. The north western’ said old man in preis of his late sister the mother of our young man.

**

Peo sat on Nothando’s bed. He let his thought waves sweep him along without any effort to curb them. He felt good and in all honesty he could not remember the last time he had felt that content and fulfilled. Through a door open ajar he could hear Nothando humming one of her favorite gospel tunes from the bathroom. She loved gospel music. If the walls of that room could speak right there and then they could reveal the intimacies that they have shared sealed in that room, he thought to himself.

She, Nothando, always hummed a note whenever she bathed. It started when she took off her sleeping clothes and ended when she was done washing up and was back in the bedroom on the edge of her bed after looking at herself fixedly on the mirror for some time. She would don fresh clothes for the day, usually simple combinations of long skirts – she hated trousers and jeans, she said they invited unwanted attention to her full figure.

She purred one day when he asked her how come she never wore jeans ‘You know a man can make love to you by just looking at you. I want it to be difficult for them.’ His respect flew to her.

She will stroll back into the bedroom, still humming, whisk a skirt and a blouse from the built in wardrobe and dress and when done she will work at her face in the mirror applying moistures to her precious skin she always mocked it that it was an ordinary face of a girl trying to get famous in her vocation; it was a face of an actress unknown but to be known. She would muse. All the time While still humming! Then when the moistening ritual was done she would abruptly come to quietude and slowly rotate her face from right to left and then reverse the movement and purr to his reflection on the bed side mirror

‘I am exercising,’ and laughed when he screw up his face baffled by the girlish sensitivities.

Nothando. Where his streams met, Nothando where they anchored and sprouted to unfamiliar tantalizing impressions and set the heart to lightness and heaviness simultaneously.

She always hummed when she came out of the bathroom drying her self. She started when she was about to step out of bed. A slightly off tune hum akin to the gospel tunes she liked to listen to on the Sunday television gospel programme. We say listen to, for she never actually looked at the images. Her hand would snake out to the remote which by some unexplained force would always be lying somewhere on the floor next to the bed, and switch the television on. And because the SABC has a few channels she would effortlessly stumble upon the right one. Her gospel programme will be on. She would then pull the covers over her head and listened. If he was there with her she would rest her head upon his chest and occasionally drummed his chest with her feather light fingers. Nothando.

‘Peo’, she will call him, as she was putting the final touches to her over all look back in the bathroom; there was a wall mirror in there.

‘Peo…Peo…How do I look.’ She sang out to him. And she would emerged. He was never disappointed.

**

Today she is wearing a light denim shirt with polyester pressed skirt. The fabric complements her. Her feet, whisked into flip-flops moccasins, negotiate the fur-carpeted terrain. She comes and sits next to him while she holds her braids into a bun. Her cell phone rings. She looks who it is on the screen before she answers. A quizzical look crosses and spreads her face. Peo continues to lie on his back and watches her through half closed eyes.

‘HELLO,…fine,…o batlang?

(Silence)

‘What?’

(Silence)

‘No, Noko please I beg you, no not this one.’

(Pause)

‘…fine’

But Peo does not catch anything. Her mind turns back to where she is now. Suddenly her face is etched with a grave mood. Her heart feels heavy. Her face turns away from the man she loves. Can she explain to him that he had originally been part of a plan? That the intention was to suck money from him and leave him? She has ended other relationships swiftly but this one she could not think that it would be possible to end. She committed a mistake, she had fell for Peo.

That’s why Peo I have written a letter to you, so that one day you may get to know just how much you meant to me. That after our storm when I meet you on the street, or at a mall or at a party – only God knows where – I may have that dignity that at least, that I have disclosed the information to you that I had no control over my life. That I had to drop you unwillingly. You should know this when, one day I am famous and you encounter a poster of a production that I am a part of or you see me on television. Otherwise if I do not do this Noko will kill you. He is cold. He is not loving, open and warm as you.

This is what Nothando is thinking as Peo’s stands up, noticing the change in mood with her. Gently he takes her hands in his. She looks on the carpeted floor and then to her left. She feels guilty.

‘What is wrong?’

She gently pulls away from him and backs a few paces away not looking at him and turns.

‘It’s over between us’ she whispers looking away.

Peo’s warm smile evaporates.

‘What did you just say now?’ he asks.

‘I said it’s over.’ She says grasping her hands before her, by so doing invoking the manner of her posture when he first saw her for the first time at Vermeulen Street.

‘No, no…how…’ he stands in front of her face trying to look at the unfocused eyes for validity of what is happening.

The door rattles as someone from the outside inserts a key and opens it.

‘’Thando?’ says a man’s voice outside and the door swivels open.  A man about the same age as Peo enters. He wears a street fighter cap, the shade flap lowered. He dawns a checked peach shirt accompanied by what Peo takes to be a Brentwood slack. His feet are kicked into finely polished two-tone shoes of different shades of browns with pointy nostrils. Stepping in and majestically striking a pose within a feet or so from where Peo is standing. Peo’s ears ring with disbelieve and the mind is bewildered.

‘So it is you who I have heard stories about.’ He snarls as his eyes coming to settle on Peo after he had look Nothando for some time. The orbs are remote and gives away nothing. Peo stands his ground.

‘Who is this?’ the question is for Nothando. She advances towards him. Tries to touch him, She hate herself right now, before she makes contact with him she grudgingly withdraws her hand.

‘I am sorry.’ She whispers

‘What?’ Peo thought that he heard her say something. He is angry and confused.

‘Look here sonny, you must go now, this woman hasn’t told…’

‘Shut up Alaska!’ Snaps Nothando overcome by anxiety. She really did love him. In fact she has never thought that she was capable of loving until she met Peo. She had never loved any of the others. But Peo. Not even Alaska who has claimed possession of her.

Alaska likes to tell her that he owns her. That if it was not for his financial support she would not have graduated from drama school to become Phelindaba’s promising talent.

‘Look my laytie I do not want to whit with you too much jy moet net vamoose, undertsand? Says Alaska stabbing his chest with his thumb and with the index fingering at Peo who is boiling with anger.

‘Peo I am sorry, but you will have to go now.’ Interrupt Nothando coming around and forcing herself between the she man loves and the man she hates.

‘How could you mix me with another man, I thought you loved me’ Peo asks her.

‘I did not mean for things to get to this point, I never meant to hurt you. Please believe me one day you will know the truth. She says wringing he hands. She rocks to and fro on the balls of her feet as she holds her hands. It is first time he sees her not in control. Then suddenly as if struck by an electrifying idea she rushes to the chest of drawers on the other side of her bedroom and extract from the topmost of the draws a peach coloured envelope.

‘Take this and leave please’ she pleads searching his eyes.

Noko/Alaska – I see she never told you what she really is, heh!’

Peo – is that right, have you been lying and playing me?’ His head spins with madness.

Nothando – (she shakes her head).

Noko suddenly pushes Nothando away and slaps Peo hard across the face. Peo retaliates with a punch and grabs the other by the shirt and repeatedly punches him with all dear madness that envelopes him. Noko manages to push Peo away and like lighting brings out a pistol from his waist and points it at.

Nothando – Please Noko let him go, I will do anything for you.

Noko – Shut up this moegoe thinks he is hard nut to crack. Now who is tough heh?

(Freeze)

The term ‘pistol’ was used for small knives and daggers which could be concealed in a person’s clothing in the fifteen century, however by the eighteen century the term came to be used exclusively to refer to hand-held firearms. What the gentleman hitherto introduced as Alaska (and subsequently revealed as Noko) holds in his paw is a semiautomatic pistol – a gun with the ability to self load itself with every shot that is emitted until the chamber is empty.

(Unfreeze)

They wrestle. Peo trying to knock off the gun from Noko

I will kill you my laitie…

No My bra’ why…Nothando…you have. NO…’

(STOP IT sssStop it!)

BANG! The bullet goes into the chest of drawers. And a fired cartridge THUDS on the fur carpet

(YOOOoooo stop it, stop) but they cannot hear the huddled Nothando at the foot of the bed.

Peo is scared that he is going to die, that Noko or Alaska is going to kill him. Perhaps when he is finished with him he will kill Nothando. Flushed with this realizations he wrestles with all his might. He manages to punch Noko while deflecting the hand holding the gun by grabbing unto the wrist. Peo moan in pain as thousand bolts of pain explode in his groan from Noko’s knee blow. Freeing himself Noko staggers backward and his finger involuntarily from the released tension squeezes the trigger…

A fresh bullet loads into the chamber and finds its way into the barrel.

BANG!

THUD

Peo rolls forward…

And another bullet squeezes through and wheezes by.

From an unsteady hand – BANG! (THUD thud a fired cartridge from the chamber unto the carpet): the bullet tears hole in Peo’s shirt creasing him, but Nothando…

He stands up and rushes against Noko before he gets the chance to fire the next bullet which will bring death; they both breathe heavily with rage as they struggle against each other.

‘Oh my sweetness’ breathes Noko as he sees a third eye on Nothandos forehead caused by the last fire bullet. He struggles no more as he realizes what had just happened. The gun has killed Nothando. He has killed her. Peo turns like lightening as he realizes what might have happened in the process of their struggle their duel. And what he sees is terrifying. Nothando’s forehead gapes with a crimson red hole. Her facial features are contorted into a frozen scream as he collapses forward. He rushes to her side and Noko rushes outside fleeing.

‘Baby, baby! Nothando!’ says Peo as he cuddles her. Unaware aware of the other’s flight, he rocks her lifeless body to and fro as the warmth of life leaves it. Thinking: I should have left when you told me to. Oblivious of the flowing blood at the back of his beloved Nothando he silently moans.

Epilogue

At Ga-bobazooka’s a delicacy called spatlo is sold: a spread of Mango archer salad, a slice of cheese, French polony, and a handful of fried potato chips. As it is tradition it is served wrapped in old newspaper or sometime with the promotional paper for furniture. There are other joints where spatlo is sold where light transparent plastic bags may usually be used to wrap the delicacy, this approach to packaging is clinical. But there is something special about this delicacy when it is wrapped in a newspaper or furniture shop promotional print:

Two friends sit under the shade of Ga-bobazooka’s veranda munching on their spatlos. People enter the yard and pass to the back, where the kitchen is, to place orders. The two friends admire the ladies that passes by and assess the garb of the gents that come in either solo or accompanying the ladies. After finishing their food they sit back to sip on some cold drinks.

‘The spatlos would’ve gone down good with beers’ says Cornelius a he unfolds the news paper wrapper to peruse the old news.

‘Nah man, you can’t drink bear after eating bread – if it was pap and vleis, yes’ disagrees I-za-kase. Looking over at the back of the newspaper that the other is reading. He lights up a cigarette and dangles his arms at the back of the seat with contentment and absent mindedly tracing the complicated lines of veranda’s ceiling.

‘E e-e my bra…’ cries Cornelius with a whistle, his face hidden from I-za-kase by the newspaper.

‘What my broer’ chuckles Cornelius guessing that his friend has seen a new automobile model for that is what he does when he sees cars or, better still, one of those feature girls who poses with nothing but bikini on them.

‘My brother remember that actress who made a guest appearance on Generations last summer (his companion shakes his head), you know her. The one who is a stage actress as well man’ exclaims Cornelius.

‘Who are you talking about? I still have no clue. A lot of people make appearances on that soapy mfuwethu, even you yourself if you were something of a fitness fanatic and have managed to build some muscles, spoke English with a model C accent, they would hire you.’ countered I-za-kase chuckling with mockery. He flexed an imaginary bicep. The latter ignores him and gently four fingers the article across the greasy table to him so that he can read the article himself.

‘I am talking about that angelic-full-figure-all-ladies must have dame that lived among’ your cousins in Manyorela street mfana son. Read my laitie read.’ He drew on his cigarette with a melancholic look strewn across his face. He had always enjoyed that lady’s performances. He had seen the play Circumcised Voices and thought that the she gave an outstanding performance.  And of course he worshiped her when she was making her appearance on the television soapy despite the fact that she was portraying a psychotic character. His mocking friend reads the article in silence:

‘PHELENDABAN’S STAR DIES’ proclaims the headline.’

He reads on:

Many of us will remember Nothando Mapheega in the performance she gave in the hit stage play Circumcised Voices where she played a supporting role to Pamela Nomvete. Set in the rural Limpopo during the seventies the play was about women circumcision and its consequences among the GaMothe clan. Following several women’s death, women banded together to rebel against the young maidens to continue to observe the ritual, especially a group of friends whose daughters were suppose to be the next in going through with the ritual in the following season. Art reviews and critics writing for the Witness Newspaper concurred with one another that the actors gave the theatre goers an outstanding performance. The play sold out in its second week run at the Momentum State Theatre in Tshwane. By then Nothando was fresh from her drama studies at the then Pretoria Technikon Arts faculty – Drama department, now Tshwane University of Technology  – Drama Department.

Nothando Mapheega was born in Atteridgeville – Pheli’ short for Phelindaba on August 3, 1982. She was the only child to a single parent Gladys Mapheega. Gladys Mapheega the shebeen queen ran a tavern at their home in Manyorela Street in order to be able to afford the living for the two of them. Details regarding her father are obscure, rumor has it that he left them and moved in with another woman in Eesterust, east of Tshwane. Nothando’s upbringing on the whole was not that different from that of other children in the neighborhood. She played diketo, kgathi, skop die bal as well as skomborikie.

She attended her first schooling at J.J. De Jong Primary School, then Patogeng Higher Primary School and then the prestigious catholic high school – Holy Trinity. After matriculation she enrolled with TUT Department of Fine and Applied Arts to major in Dramatic studies for her B-Tech qualification. She graduated bout two years ago and right then, fresh out of varsity, she auditioned for a part in Generations in which she exhibited her ability to immerse herself wholeheartedly into the portrayed character. The role was that of a nurse fresh from Nursing College working in a private hospital who falls in love with one of the patients.

When her character in the soapie disappeared, thanks to the plot. You would not even see her on commercials, as is the norm with some of South African actors who also make bread by being featured in commercials to endorse products.

The Phelindaban Star resurfaced in the blockbuster stage production Circumcised Voices As maiden called Mahlaku she starred alongside the veteran actor Pamela Nomveta. It was in this role that, for the discerning theatre goers, she affirmed her magnificence. At the time of her death she was playing the role of Mathilda in Herbert Greenwild’s The Memoirs of the Suit presently running at the Momentum State theatre, scheduled for Cape Town thereafter. A parody of Can Themba’s The Suit

Why did she have to die so young? According to the police spokes person, Legoli Lekalakala, her mother heard gun shots in her room after Nothando’s old boyfriend enquired to see her. Nothando was using extra quarters outside the main house, these quarters came very handy when she got back from late performances at night, exhausted – they served for her privacy and quitetude said her mother. That way she did not have to put up with the people her mother’s customers in the Shebeen. ‘My Thando and that terrible boy weren’t an item anymore, affirmed the aggrieved mother when I interview her. She did not think he could do such a terrible thing. He had taken her Nothando from her, she wept. When the police arrived at the scene of the crime they found the empty body of Nothando cradled in the arms of her new lover, Peo Tshebang. Her angelic eyes which she often battered in Generations starred into nothingness with the accompanying crimson eye still gaping just above them. There police are investigating, the case is in the hands of hot shot cop detective Rampayi.

Herbert Greenwild and the cast of the The Memoirs of the Suit are devastated. The show had entered into its last week and had done very well at the Momentum State Theatre. One of the members of the cast in the production who wishes not to be named pointed out that the play will probably go on after the actress’s funeral….

Eish that dame is gone my bra’ exclaims I-za-kase crumbling the greasy newspaper article into a ball. He took a long drag from his cigarette, saddened by the old feature.

‘That cruel fool was very jealous of her former squeeze to such an extended that he had to kill her when she did not want to joll with him anymore – hy het haar sat gemaak…sies’ snickered Cornelius.

And so the people come in and go out into the fast food joint. Cars pass by, for Seiso Street is a busy street. It is the lifeline of Phelindaba, just as Church Street it is of Tshwane. But for some, hearts sag with a loss. But soon the heart appreciates death as the borderline that lies in the horizon of our existence, an inescapable instant, other event surely come in our lives after loss due to death and we get into them and flood the creases left by death with vitality of living as paths crosses paths continuously.

About Mmutle Arthur Kgokong/mmutleak

I am based in the City of Tshwane, South Africa. to a greater extent my writings cover the Visual Arts with a focus in documentation and archiving of artists' lives. To a lesser extent some of my writings cover television, movies and sometime Music that I find interesting. Occasionally, when I get the itch, I pen opinion pieces on matters of public and socio-political interest. Over the last few years my work has gravitated towards working with artists to build their biographical archives with an aim to preserve their contributions to South African art both in audio and transcripts under the Intraparadox series. View all posts by Mmutle Arthur Kgokong/mmutleak

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