Another pair of rejection emails, Skhumbuzo was getting tired of reading them. If he knew that life after varsity was going to be this hard, he would have continued to study; refining his craft and probably attain his Master’s Degree. Frustrated, he left the house in a state of sympathetic silence as his mother, father and grandfather seemed welded onto the lounge.
“Oh, my poor baby,” Nomusa cried before turning to her husband for a loving embrace. “It’s been 6 months now, and the only thing that my beautiful baby knows, is no. Why? He has a degree. He passed really well, so what is the problem? Isn’t what he studied meant to be in demand?”
“Graphic, digital what-what, I can’t keep track. Back in my day, you were either in education, construction or law enforcement. Simple, there was none of this having fancy qualifications, staying at home and not getting paid nonsense,” Bab’Madlala, his grandfather said before coughing loudly.
“Hayi wena, be nice. This is your son we’re talking about. Let him do what he wants to do, it should make you happy that he’s pursuing what makes him happy,” she slapped him gently on the arm before rubbing his chest soothingly.
Reggie cleared his throat, “Should we tell him?” He said but his question was met by looks of shock from his grandchild’s parents.
“About the cancer?” Nomusa asked.
Her father nodded.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea at the moment, for him to know that he’s father is dying, that’s not what he needs right now. The boy needs good news, not more bad news on top of bad news,” she said shaking her head slightly.
And so the conversation was never brought up again. Days and weeks passed and in them, more rejection emails from companies all across the country flooded Skhumbuzo’s email; each with the same old message. Then one day, he received an email that stated that he was shortlisted and a one of the candidates that were eligible for an interview. The words written in that email, stirred nothing but emotions of disbelief for him. His sense of relief was trumped by the happiness of his family his family at his good news after he told them.
The day of the interview arrived and he became more and more nervous as the number of eligible candidates for the position shark quickly from 25 to five. The interview process in itself had been a rigorous shakedown. Skhumbuzo had answered all the questions he was asked; whether he drank or used drugs, general questions and some specific questions pertaining to graphic design. He was told to answer them truthfully and that failure to do so would end up in him being dismissed.
After the interview was concluded, Skhumbuzo, excited and cheerfully called his friend, Menzi so that he could celebrate with him. What was meant to be a braai with a few friends quickly got out of hand; someone had brought weed with them to the party and people had started smoking it.
Skhumbuzo had tried it once in school but decided that it wasn’t for him, he had told Menzi to stay away from smoking it at all times. Menzi never listened to him whenever he said something important, that night he reeked of the stuff. He convinced Skhumbuzo to try it just that one time again; he did and ended up almost coughing his lungs out. Afterwards Skhumbuzo called himself an Uber and went home because the party wasn’t about him anymore.
The next day he woke up with the worst babalaas he had ever experienced in his entire life. His head felt heavy when he sat up and his throat was sore. The next day Skhumbuzo woke up and reluctantly dragged himself to the kitchen for a glass of water. As he turned the corner to the kitchen, he was stopped by the whispering voice of his mother. He sneaked closer and hid behind the fridge in order to hear what she was saying.
“That’s what I’m saying. Skhumbuzo needs to know. He’s father needs the treatment and being stubborn won’t make him any better,” his mother said before pausing. “No, a man called yesterday saying he tried calling him but he wasn’t answering his phone and said this was the alternative number he had left in case they couldn’t reach him, they wanted me to pass on the message that he got the job,” Nomusa continued, the phone between her ear and shoulder as she made herself some tea.
Skhumbuzo touched his pockets for his phone, but remembered that the battery had died soon after he had left with Menzi last night. His hangover gave him away as he bumped against the fridge in an effort to regain his balance, causing his mother to end her call. With his cover blown, he strolled to the tap to have a glass of water. As they sat in the kitchen, mother and son, she told him about the job and how the man on the phone had said they needed to do one last thing before contracts were signed and how he should contact him as soon as possible.
Skhumbuzo acted surprised, but his mind was elsewhere; trying to figure out what his father was keeping from him. He was sick, that much he had gathered, why else would anyone need treatment and what was wrong with him? His thoughts swirled in his head.
Skhumbuzo was in a cheerful mood in the days that followed; he had received and done everything they asked for then passed all the interviews and even did a drug test. But today was different and as a result, the day became exciting even before his alarm was silenced. Skhumbuzo never sang, but today, there was a tune he sang as he showered, got dressed and brushed his teeth. He was almost out of the front door when his grandfather asked him to take a seat, his entire family was around him, they looked sad. He sat down to listened to what they had to say.
“Skhumbuzo my son, your father is very sick,” Bab’Madlala said.
“What’s the matter baba?” He asked turning from his grandfather to his father.
His father tried to speak but and began to cough instead, opting to forfeit his chance to speak again with a slight shake of his head when it was returned to him once more.
“Your father has cancer,” his mother continued on his father’s behalf, holding his hand tightly.
“Well, how much is the treatment? Maybe we can take him to a hospital, get him Chemo or something?” Skhumbuzo asked before checking the time on his watch.
“The doctor said R60 000 in total, but the first stages of treatment would cost around 10 to 15 thousand rands,” his mother said, her voice soft.
“Not a problem, I can pay for it,” he said standing up and heading for the door. “I’m so sorry to leave like this, but if I stay any longer I’ll be late for my first day at work. We’ll talk about it as soon as I get back from work,” he said then closed the door behind him.
Nothing could dampen Skhumbuzo’s spirit, not the delays caused by the taxi, not the rain that had started to drizzle, not even the news of his father having cancer. He was determined to remain positive, until his manager appeared through the doorway of his office, catching him by surprise.
“Madlala,” Skhumbuzo said, calling him by his surname. “They want to see you in the boardroom. Now,” Madlala said then the man disappeared as quickly as he had appeared.
Shaken but not nervous, he pulled himself out of his workstation and headed towards the boardroom where members from headquarters and Cindy from Human Resources were seated around the big round table.
“Sit,” Cindy said, motioned to him after all the greetings were said and done.
“We are very disappointed in you. You were one of our best candidates; we had high hopes for you until this came back,” Cindy said as she pulled out a piece of paper and passed it along to the other board members until it reached Skhumbuzo.
“What’s this?” He asked with narrowed eyes.
“The drug test results. I’m afraid you failed and we are going to have to let you go, please pack your belongings and vacate the premises immediately,” Cindy said looking him straight in the eyes.
Skhumbuzo stared at the piece of paper that stated that he had tested positive for the use of marijuana. He didn’t know what to say so he got up and did as he was ordered. He angry and resented Menzi for pressuring him to smoke weed at last week’s party. As soon as he stepped into the house, his family was on him, in expectation for of good news.
“Your father went for his first dose of Chemotherapy today, we don’t have medical aid were so we paid cash for it,” his mother said.
Skhumbuzo’s eyes grew wide, he had forgotten about his father. “I have some bad news,” he said hesitantly hanging his head low and placing his hands behind his neck.
“What’s wrong?” His mother asked with a soft voice, making it even harder for him to speak.
“I… I,” he began before being overwhelmed by tears, “I was fired today,” he finished with a sniff. He had to relieve his 6 months all over again to try and find employment; all because of one or two puffs.
Tell us what you think: Has a friend ever influenced you to do something you didn’t want to do?