I get home. Anxieties hovering over me like a shadow. I pace back and forward as if a magnet pulled from the polar opposite ends. Scattering the remnants of the peace that once was from the beach, I stomp my feet ridding them of sand as if that was the biggest problem that plagued my mind.Grinding my teeth on my nails I chip my nail polish. I sit down,stand up and sit down again. Feeling as if I’m losing my breath, the room closes in on me, exorcising me of my peace, my stability and finally out of the flat. As if a spirit was chasing me, I am galvanized into a space of panic and run to the emergency stair well. I don’t know where I’m going but my feet lead me to Mike’s door.
As if I did not know what was behind this door I hesitate knocking on it. I gather my courage and politely knock on the door.
“Twice in one day? I’m in luck.”
My mouth speaks faster than what my mind can process, leaving Mike confused.
“Woaw, wait love. Come in and start from the beginning.”
He pours me a glass of water with ice and immediately it finds it resting place, whole in my mouth. I ask for another one.
“Babe, does my presence make that thirsty? You know I’m kidding. What’s wrong?”
I scoff, and begin telling him the whole story starting from the one nightstand to the criminal who was holding my identity ransom.
“I just don’t know what to do Mike. I don’t want to end up like the real Faye Webb whose identity was stolen by that UK terrorist.”
“That Webb woman, I found it on a website on my back home when I was googling identity theft. I also looked up tracing the number through RICA but there wasn’t much information about that.”
“Ok, don’t get your knickers in a knot love. Slow down. I know a guy, give me that number.”
Mike speaks to someone on the other end of the phone whom I gather works at RICA (Regulation of Interception of Communications and provision of communication-related information Act). I hear something about a warrant but Mike dismisses it saying that the guy owes him a favour.
“Ok, thanks chap.”
“What’s going on Mike?”
“I know where to find the idiot. How stupid can one be, using his own number to commit a crime?”
I look at Mike suspiciously.
“Don’t worry babe I watch a lot of CSI.”
“Ok, so give me the address and I will hand it over to Sergent Sibeko, the assigned officer on my case.”
I call Sergent Sibeko to no avail. It’s 7:45pm, I need to make a decision. I have to call the culprit.
“Sanele, I think you should just call the guy and tell him that you will give him the money to buy time.”
I agree, deep breath, dial the number.
“It’s Sanele. Where and when should I meet you to give you the money?”
“I’m glad that you have decided to co-operate ntombi. Since you did not call me sooner, I want R2500 now.
“Bhuti, but I don’t have that much money!”
Hey wena! Shut Up! You will never see my face. Just do what I say and we will both walk away with what we want.”
Flabbergasted, I listen intently while Mike stares at me, searching my face for answers.
“At 5pm I want you to put the bag with the money inside in the middle blue toilet at Cape Town Taxi Rank close to the Kensington Taxis. Inside the toilet you will find a plastic bag with your ID. If the money is not all in there I will find you and you don’t want to know what will happen when I do.”
He hangs up. I feel discomfort gnawing in the pit of my stomach, I suddenly feel mortal at the thought of a threat made to my life.Overwhelmed, I start sobbing. Poor Mike, what has he gotten himself into?
“Ammm love, never thought that the end of Generations would mean the soapie would happen in my own living room. It’ll be fine.”
The guy was a douche but he knew how diffuse an intense situation.
“Listen Sanele, tomorrow morning I want you to call that sergeant fella and give him the address. The police can ambush him before your meeting. Meanwhile, I want you continue with whatever it is that you do. Continue per usual. You hear me love? You can’t let this thing drive you insane, you’re too cute for that.”
Mike also had a good heart. It’s rare to find a sense of community in the suburbs. This place suffered from the ‘Every man for Himself Syndrome’, but Mike being a Xhosa guy from Khayelitsha never learned of such a thing. I thought him forward and over bearing once when he popped in for just about everything. But now I understand that in principle, we create the communities that we want to live in. Going to schools like UCT we share spaces with rich kids who grew up in houses with high walls, kids who only speak English at home and get a car as present for their 18th birthday. We try conforming and assimilating to this borrowed lifestyle, throwing away what we grew up knowing. I don’t know what it is. Perhaps being away from home, away from everything that does not resemble this Eurocentric city makes one believe that adaptation by all means necessary will make you more acceptable even if it’s at the expense of your cultural selfhood.
Take oQaqamba who become ‘Q’ or even more humiliating Cucumber; and what about other Saneles I know who allow their pale peers to call them Sunny? It doesn’t matter how many times you use ‘like’ in a sentence, or speak with a nasal English accent you cannot change who you are for a place that will turn around and call you in the words of Helen Zille an ‘education refugee’. Dear black child, your identity, heritage and parent’s struggle is not worth the syndrome percolated by this suburban bliss. Honour it by a victory far greater than assimilation. Honour it by a way a life that cannot be fully understood and expressed in English- Ziqenye ngobuwena bakho because your spirit understands it more than you do. You know this because it just feels right.
Even with his education from UCT, Mike never lost this part of his upbringing. It took him visiting my door several times and helping me in my time of need to remind me of this sense of community because Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu (No man is an island, we all need each other). I shared this moment with my neighbour and went back to my flat with a sounder mind than before.
I thought about calling my mom but she was always perceptive of a putrid situation. Telling one of my girlfriends would not help the situation either. So I kept my troubles silently nested in me careful not to plague anyone else. Is it possible to be lonely in paradise? I guess with all that he had, this is how Adam felt in the Garden of Eden without a companion. I buried myself in a book and dosed off to sleep.