I thought Simphiwe would be in our room when I woke up; thought he would be asleep fully dressed and snoring as he usually did, his socks stinking the room up. I was so convinced that his thin self was concealed in the bedding that I called out – to nothing. I also thought I’d wake up to Ma away from home and in church as usual, but she was in the lounge on the sofa, her eyes red with worry.

“Ma, did he return?”

“No he didn’t. Did you not find him yesterday?”

“No, Ma.”

“He is worrying me.”

“Don’t worry. He probably lost track of days – the wunga he smokes does that. Are you not going to church today?”

“No, we will visit the sickly instead.”

“I heard he was seen at the wunga merchant in the shacks on Friday. I’ll look for him later.”

“You could have done that yesterday. What’s wrong with you?” Ma asked.

“It was late when I heard the news. I could not risk going there at night with the muggings in the neighbourhood.”

“What’s holding you back from going there now? Alcohol steams off you with every answer. That child is watching you: that’s why he is this loose!”

“I don’t smoke wunga and Simphiwe doesn’t drink,” I retorted.

“That’s all you know? To answer me back?!” She was mad.

“What did I do, Ma? Every time Simphiwe does wrong you blame me.”

A taxi stopped at the gate.

“We’ll continue this when I come back,” she snapped, closing the front door.

Through the lounge window I watched Ma get into the taxi. For the first time that weekend she smiled as she greeted her friends from church. Then she settled in her seat and just as quickly was again casting a sullen gaze out the window as the taxi drove off.

With Ma attending to her church stuff, and Simphiwe out there chasing, Sunday mornings were perfect for studying. Ordinarily I was efficient in the silence. I’d planned to study for the last tests of the semester coming up in the week, but on that Sunday thoughts of Simphiwe crammed every cube of the empty space.

My books were open on my lap, but I stared out of the window, looking at nothing. When I looked back into the room it was to our wall unit with Simphiwe’s trophies for running and karate. His school picture showed him beaming – a smile I had not seen in months. I tried to study, but thoughts of Simphiwe darted through my mind.

I tried to nap, but couldn’t take my eyes off his drawing on the wall in our bedroom. On white A4 paper Simphiwe had sketched a lake, using two shades of pencils. I was so deep in the drawing that the lake seemed to ripple and shimmer.

When I came back to reality, I opened the kitchen door and went out looking for my brother.


Tell us what you think: Where should Khulekani look for Simphiwe?