“Molo,” she greeted as she sat down just a distance away from me.

“Ewe, sisi,” I replied. I could have answered in my mother’s language, Sesotho, but I avoided that because it would have been as if I was protesting the fact that she assumed I was Xhosa. It’s a common thing in this town for people to greet you in isiXhosa making it as though they have no knowledge of Sotho speakers living here. Funny enough, the name of the town is even said to have been derived from a SeSotho phrase, “Matata a ile” meaning the ducks left. The town is said to have been a ducks’ habitat ages ago. Some say it is now called Matatiele because that’s how whites would recite the phrase.

Eastern Cape is an amaXhosa dominant province.

“Thixo! This taxi is taking forever, baphi na abantu? Where are the people?” she exclaimed with what sounded like a rhetorical question in isiXhosa. Not knowing what to say, I just threw an ‘eish!’ in the air that sounded so hopeless it may as well have been a little baby birds’ cry falling from a nest.

She pulled out her smartphone from her small purse and made frequent vigorous thumb contacts with the screen as she texted on WhatsApp. An awkward moment of a short-lived eye contact hit as we simultaneously glanced at each other from the corners of our eyes. Quickly, she fixed her eyes back at her phone screen which aided in making the situation a little less awkward than it ought to be.

My nose suddenly flirted with the familiar scent of her perfume that had started to make its presence more pronounced in the taxi. I don’t think I had ever smelled a perfume as unique and as distinct as hers in ages, but I could tell it was familiar. It must be the expensive type, I thought to myself.

She was on the phone. I was scattering my sight around when I unexpectedly caught a glimpse of a couple of heart emojis, a voice note reply, “I miss you, babe”. Babe then smiled and texted back with more heart emojis and a voice note, “I miss you too, love”. Her face cheerful and a merry body language. She looked quite flattered, the guy must’ve been precious. I fancied I had a life that simple, mine was a rough patch at that time.

The breeze lingered, the goose bumps on the lady’s forearms was proof. She was beginning to feel impatient after sitting for about five minutes with no passengers arriving.

“Yoh, nge’ ndiyimele kalok le, I can’t stand this!” she said taking out her phone with determination – she scrolled down through her WhatsApp contacts and clicked on one of them. I could see her texting someone, her thumb movements were so quick it looked like she was not touching the screen at all.

That’s it! I finally recognised the scent of her perfume – my high school English teacher used to always wear it on. It was a top of the range female eau de cologne from Florence, Italy valued at about a R1000.

She put her phone back in her purse and took a small mirror and a red lipstick with the words Estee Lauder written on it. She carefully ran it on her lips and after that she took out a mini tissue-like cloth and pressed her lips on it as if biting it. She threw the tissue outside and thoroughly looked around her face in the mirror looking like she was readying herself for something.

I looked outside to see the cigarette, there it was lying flat having been squashed by the car! Out of nowhere, once again, a huge red Range Rover twin cab with a dual exhaust system stopped on the cigarette with the left hind wheel. The lady bid me goodbye and left. She went straight for the left back door and shut it closed. Vrooom! The Rover roared as it left with her. The driver was a muscular guy who I did not want to assume was her boyfriend. It was probably her father or maybe even her uncle or just a friend. But whoever so it was, it was also none of my business.

Where was the cigarette? Oh, there it was, stuck on the tire going round up and down in circles constantly kissing the ground goodbye.


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