Nathi heaved a sigh of relief as he made his way down the road. It was the semester break of his second year at university. The two day long journey from Johannesburg to his home-village of eMlando had sapped all his tolerance for commuting. That and the persistent pounding that ploughed into his head pained him. His feet also hurt. However, occasionally his worries found a way of melting into the background of eMlando, thus softening the chains of his mind. All he had to do was eavesdrop. All he had to do was see.
Birds of all creeds sang the sweetest melodies of which nature had taught them – a unison of which the human race struggled to master. The greenery around him soothed him as its roots stretched down into the grains of earthy soil, which helped cultivate food for his community. This coupled with the fact that he would be meeting up with his best friend, Xolani again made him realise that this was his home. This was eMlando.
Nathi carried a duffel bag with him. Inside he had a few clothes, some toiletries and a few groceries. He knew his grandparents would appreciate the few food items he had bought. He decided to stop by Saleef’s tuckshop to buy something for another family member, who was dear to him.
Nathi had heard about the recent xenophobic attack against Saleef from his grandfather. Angry residents of eMlando had attempted to torch Saleef and his tuckshop, claiming that ‘people like him’ were stealing their jobs. Luckily the police intervened, but Nathi could tell that Saleef was still affected by the attack. Saleef normally engaged in lighthearted conversations with his customers. Nathi even considered him to be a friend of his, but the smile he once wore was gone. At the counter he demandingly asked Nathi what he wanted to purchase, before slamming his goods on the counter. Nathi left and made his way home.
“This one is bright”, thought little Lukhanyo. Stones that glistened often fascinated him. They reminded him of the time his older brother would make firewood in the winter. How he missed his guidance. They would sit by the crackling fire and stare up at the stars in the sky and name them. Since then Lukhanyo always collected these hidden gems to remind himself of previous winters. He placed his stones in Kwezi – a bottle he had found by the river. He recalled quickly snatching it before it was swallowed away by the river where some of the woman of eMlando did their washing.
Suddenly, Lukhanyo heard something. There it was again, ‘klink’. His young ears knew that sound. He raced up to the gate of the homestead where his elder brother, Nathi, was entering. Nathi hugged his little brother before giving him a fruit and some orange juice. They walked down to the rondaval to see uGogo no’Mkhulu. Later on, Lukhanyo told Nathi about how he saw Xolani with his own Kwezi but he could tell that Nathi did not understand him when he said this.
Nathi made his way to Saleef’s tuckshop again. Nightfall had come and they were out of candles. As he approached it he heard an argument going on between two men who’s voices sounded familiar. Nathi rushed over to stop the argument.
Nathi ended the fight between Saleef and Xolani. As a drunken Xolani fell to the ground, Saleef went back into the tuckshop. Xolani then began to vomit.
“Get away from me!” he screamed at a shocked Nathi who tried to help him.
After a while Xolani painfully admitted to losing his job and subsequently being involved in the xenophobic attack against Saleef, which lead to his arrest. At that instant Nathi snatched Xolani’s bottle of liquor away from him. His friend cursed him, before stumbling out into the darkness of which Nathi knew he could not save his best friend from.
That night after dinner Nathi prepared firewood for him and Lukhanyo. Just like winters past, they gazed up at the myriad of stars.
“Wow!” exclaimed Lukhanyo. He pointed at a peculiar star that changed colour frequently. “What shall we name that one?” he asked Nathi.
“Let’s name it Xolani”, he told him. Nathi then remembered how he had taken Xolani’s bottle of alcohol and thrown it into the river. Just like the river he hoped that life would find a way of washing his friend clean of his addiction. He prayed it would.