Too many stories these days don’t start with the tradition of the character introducing themselves because it is somewhat too common and cliché. But the more the writers ignore the tradition the more the new way of writing will also become common and cliché as well. So I will begin my story by saying—

“Tapiwa! Come and wash the dishes now!” my mother cries, interrupting me trying to get my essay done before the next door shebeen starts it’s “night shift” I call it. I get up from the bed and leave my pen in a place I will not look for, when I come back. I count two steps and move the curtain dividing our house into two rooms and there I see the dishes of five people, looking like we had a feast, but all we ate was sadza (pap) and mukaka (condensed milk).

I take my time washing the dirty dishes and stress about the essay I still need to hand in. I am already a day late and Mr Sodladlo is not the friendliest teacher. When I finish the dishes and as I am about to take my two steps back into the bedroom my mother calls me again, this time to go buy something by the Somalian shops. My heart skips a beat. Not that I don’t want to go but because I don’t want to go!

Being extra dark toned, thin and a foreigner is the perfect target for gangsters and guys from around here. I know they are part of the community and a community is one. And it being one is proven by how everyone gets involved in killings skollies, which are caught robbing people. Yes, everyone is involved in that.

“Can’t Natasha go mama?” I ask hoping she would let me stay.

“No!” she shouts.

I don’t say anything. I take the few coins she gives me and she tells me to go buy bread and tomatoes. I leave in peace and tell myself to be confident and not look back if any of those gangsters call me.

As I am walking to a nearby Somalian shop, which today feels much longer than usual, I hear them whistling at each other. I know they are trying to get my attention so I repeat to myself “Don’t look back”. I said don’t look back. I rush inside and I take what I need and pay for it in a rush and leave. I hear laughing in the background and words I recognize and they rhyme with “weary, weary “. I know exactly what it means.

It’s now 22:56 and the shebeen noise is at its peak. The dogs are barking and I hear women screaming, probably some Malawian woman being robbed. I lie down facing up staring at the rusted zinc and notice the holes in it and I think to myself how I ended up where I am. Is there a bright future for me or furthermore this community?

Now I know stories like mine are supposed to end with a happy ending but mine is far from that. In fact, I feel like my life is just beginning. I mean I will finish high school and go to university and after that work and try to open a library in this community. But as I think about it more, looking at that rusted brown ceiling I realise that those are just dreams and dreams don’t always come true.

“My name is Tapiwa and this is my story.” I pick up where I left off with my essay and hope that Mr Sodladlo will like it.