“Who was that?” Airtime asked as Song came back carrying a shivering Ithuba.

“Who knows?” she said, putting Ithuba gently down on the ground. Her phone buzzed, and she checked the SMS while Ithuba licked her feet apologetically.

“It’s my mom’s,” she said. “She needs me at home.”

“Aw,” said Airtime. “I’m just getting in to this.” He kept filming the match. Sbu’s team had a throw-in.

“Well, I have to go,” said Song, and hesitated. Airtime seemed to be filming well enough, and she needed more footage of the match if she was going to edit it together into a documentary.

“Look, if I leave the camera with you, will you look after it?”

“Hell yeah!” said Airtime.

“You promise you won’t break it?”

“What’s my name?,” said Airtime.

“Cool. I’ll get it from you tomorrow,” said Song. “And if I find that you’ve filmed an action movie on the tape, I’ll kick your ass!”

– – –

Sbu’s game ended and another two teams ran onto the pitch.

“Hey!” said Sbu, running up to Airtime.

Airtime threw him a towel. “Great game,” he said. “I got some great close-ups. I wonder if this camera can film slow motion?” He lay down on his belly, and tried to get ground-level shots of the players’ feet running past.

“Is K8 around?” Sbu asked, looking around. “Did she come?”

“My bad,” said Airtime. His voice was muffled. “I forgot to tell her you were playing.”

“Hayi, Airtime!”

“What’s the big deal?” said Airtime. “We’re going to see her tomorrow anyway, when we paint that mural. Why do you have to see her now?”

“No reason.”

Sbu still hadn’t broken the news to his friends that he and K8 were an item, and he couldn’t tell Airtime why he was angry without giving it away. He changed his shirt and got ready to go back home. Airtime was still absorbed in filming.

“Don’t stay out too late,” said Sbu, heading for the taxi rank.

– – –

The next match kept going until it was too dark to play. Airtime said goodbye to the players, and went to get a taxi home.

The taxi rank was more empty than he’d ever seen it. Without crowds of people there, it looked a lot worse than usual. There were wide, muddy puddles and empty chip packets and trash all over the place. One of the lights flickered on and off.

After fifteen minutes a taxi arrived, and he got on with three other passengers – two large mamas, and an old guy with a cough. Airtime sat on the passenger seat next to the driver.

It was a quiet ride home. The others got off one by one until it was just Airtime and the driver.

The driver looked across at the camera.

“What are you doing with that?” he asked. “Are you making a movie?”

“It’s not mine,” said Airtime. He told the driver about Song’s documentary and the refugee soccer team.

“Refugees!” said the driver, spitting out the word. “What are you making a film about them for? You can’t trust mkwerekwere, those Nigerians and Zimbabweans and Somalians. They’re a bunch of thieves.”

“Uh…” said Airtime. He didn’t expect so much anger from the man. In one of the rare moments in his life, he was lost for words.

He wanted to tell the driver that the soccer players were a great bunch of guys who were a lot of fun to hang around with. But he could see the driver had issues and wasn’t going to be convinced easily, and Airtime didn’t feel like fighting with a stranger right now, so he decided to let it slide.

He had other things to worry about, anyway.

“This isn’t the way,” said Airtime. “You should have turned left.”

The driver ignored him.

“I said-” said Airtime.

“Shut up,” the driver shouted. He stopped the car at the side of the road in the middle of a vlei.

“What are you doing?” said Airtime.

There were no streetlights. The only light came from inside the taxi and from a row of houses on the far side of the vlei. To Airtime, they suddenly looked a really long way away.

“Give me the camera.”

Airtime reached for the door. The driver grabbed his arm.

“Oh, you want me to break your face?” he said. “I told you to give me your camera.”

Airtime felt hollow inside. He unhooked the camera strap from around his neck, and handed it over.

“And your phone.”

Airtime took his phone out and gave it to the driver.

“Now get out,” said the driver.

Airtime got out of the taxi. The driver pulled away, and drove off into the darkness. He didn’t even drive away fast. He knew he didn’t have to. After all, what could Airtime do?

Airtime had a long walk home.

Image: Petervj, CC-NC-ND

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Do you think Airtime should have put up a fight?