I am woken by the sound of a broom thumping against my door. The cleaning lady annoyingly sweeps the beach sand I left outside my flat. She knocks the door with her instrument purposefully to put me to shame. At the realization that the she was on my floor already I jump out of bed and search for my phone. 10am, I overslept. Anxiety brews from a dark languid place, encroaching, its presence finds a home in my chest. I’m not one to revert to drugs to fix my problems but some rescue remedies would have kept this feeling at bay for what I needed to do next. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6… I slowly breath as I count bringing my composure to steadier rate. I dial Sergent Sibeko. On the 4th ring he picks up.
“Er, Sergent Sibeko.”
“Hello this is Sanele Mthonjeni my case number is CAS 8854/10/2014.”
“Yes, how can I help you?”
“I’ve got a lead on the man who stole my wallet. I’ve got his address.”
“How did you get it?”
“That doesn’t matter, I need you to go arrest him and get my stuff. He made contact and threatened to sell my ID if I do not give him R2500 today at 5 at Cape Town Taxi Rank.”
“Sanele, if what you are saying is true I will need to investigate and unfortunately that takes time and we are short-staffed. So I will need for you to stall until say tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? I’m not equipped to do this. There is no way I can convince some thug who’s expecting money today that he should wait till tomorrow! He sounds dangerous, I need for you to do your job sergeant and arrest the crook!”
“Sanele, I am doing my job. I need you to comply and do as I say. Meanwhile give me his number and address. I will investigate it myself, call me once you have spoken to him; and whatever you do, do not pay the criminal a cent.”
Great, what was I suppose to do now? It was not Sergeant Sibeko’s life on the line it was mine, and he was basically throwing me in the deep end. I needed to act.
I called the thug and left a voice message confirming that I would meet him at 5 today as agreed upon. Mike was the only one who could help with the next part.
“Sanele, What’s up love?”
“Mike, I called the sergeant and he’s useless. I’m calling you because I have a big ask and you’re the only one who can help.”
“Eish, Sunny what is it?”
Eish is never a good response that coupled with him calling me Sunny. Nonetheless, I ground myself for the task at hand. He just needed a bit of a nudge which meant I had to stroke his ego and then surely he’ll be like putty in my hands.”
“I appreciated how you handled yourself yesterday with your private investigator skills. You took control and steered the situation in your favour when I was quivering like a lost little sheep. I thought to myself there’s only one person who is brave enough to do the job that even the police wont do and that’s you.”
“You’re right I am a bit of a resident hero and I have a lot of other skills that I learned from CSI. I could put them into practice.”
“I knew I came to the right man. So, I was thinking that we use the address to ambush the guy and get my stuff. I don’t know how we would do it though.”
“Leave it to me. I will leave work early and meet you at the taxi rank at 3pm. Between now and then what will you be doing?”
“I’m not up to doing anything until this blows over.”
“Sanele, we don’t know who we’re dealing with so make sure you don’t change any plans you had for today.”
“I guess, I could go to that Alumni event at lunchtime.”
“Perfect. See you later.”
Was Mike being a bit paranoid or was he right? I don’t know but I had to get my mind off of things so I will go to the event. I shower and am suddenly faced with a predicament. I have to look professional for the event as I would be writing about it and will need to question the speakers but I wont have enough time to come home and change in time to meet Mike. There was no way I was going to go on a dangerous mission in the ghetto in clothes that draw attention to myself. I decided to carry a change of clothes.
I catch a taxi to Lower and take a shuttle to Upper Campus. I’m a bit peckish so I head to the food court where I am confronted by posters that read
‘Is my blackness welcomed at UCT? #WeAreBlack’. Feeling like an intruder I look over my shoulder as I feel Cecil Rhodes’ disapproving Statue. I walk a bit further and see one that reads, ‘Why is my Blackness a problem to them? #WeAreBlack’. I question who in the ‘them’ in this sentence is? Maybe it would have been more powerful if it was a ‘You’, in that way the distancing that the power of discrimination holds is eliminated and as an individual you are forced to reevaluate your own prejudice black or white and question your own interpretation of what ‘Blackness’ is. I question black and white students who laugh at a student with an African Black Accent, just because it is not ever so posh as the Queen who colonized us.
I approached the food court and saw something wrong with this picture. As casual as students can be on campus, as an outsider, I saw the disparities of groups. The Pringles and Polos sat together while the Monsieur Price (Mr Price) and A C Kermans (Ackermans) mingled among themselves. Did the posters suddenly make me see race and class or is this a reality for most students at UCT? I wondered if the same problems were prevalent in other cities with universities WITS, Rhodes or UKZN?
I get a phone call. It’s him!
“Ja, ntombi. I hope you haven’t forgotten that we are meeting ngo 5. You better have my money.”
“Ammm, yes I have it.”
He hangs up without warning. I become distraught. Already late for the event and panicking about this unwelcome phone call, I decide to leave. Perturbed the situations as well as the lengthy wait for the late Jammie Shuttle to Hiddingh Campus to arrive, I snap at the driver who is oblivious of his shortcomings. By the time we reach Hiddingh I was on the verge of being late for my meeting with Mike. Trying to keep cool I start hopping and gradually begin running on the pavement towards town. Heads turn as the wind gets caught in my dress slowly slowing me down. Shit, I still have to change.
With no bathroom in sight I unashamedly run into a church. Once inside, the awe of the majestic building brings me to a halt and I humbly enter this beautiful Gothic structure. The quiet and ecclesiastical symbolism stares down at me as if disapproving of what I am about to do. I look around to make sure no one is in sight and silently enter the confession booth. As I close the curtain the veil of fear lifts and I change in there as I would an ordinary change room in a department store. To my dismay there is a sudden movement on the other side of the booth. I freeze as I hold my breath and feel my heartbeat drum through my ears.
“In the name of the Father and the whole lot. Amen.”, says the confessor on the other side.
Oh no… What do I say?
“Hello?”, says the man on the other side.
I guess I have to go along with it. In my deepest voice I reply.
“Ermm, I assume this is your first confession.”
“No. I’ve confessed a whole lot, just not to a priest.”
“So why here, why now?
“I don’t know. I had to get away from my girlfriend.”
“Is this girlfriend the one you have confessed your misgivings to?”
“Yes, partly. I no longer love her but not because she has taken off her mask and revealed who she really is; but because I imagine myself with someone else. A stranger I met in the night who has somehow lodged herself in my memory.”
The curtain concealing my identity suddenly opens and let’s in a light that makes it hard for me to see the figure in front of me. I immediately push my way out shouting sorry as I run down the aisle.
The guy on the other side of the booth comes out just as confused as the Priest who found me. The confessor squints his eyes and mutters, “It’s her.”