Whenever I was with Anele my burdens disappeared. Even Simphiwe was forgotten in that walk, if only just for that while.

“You must eat something,” she insisted, when we were in her room. I bit into a sandwich but struggled to swallow.

“I have to return these books due today. I’ll be back in thirty minutes, and we’ll work on the paper then,” she said.

I worked on the test paper while she was at the library. This was part of my charm offensive: she’d return to a man with all the answers. I was done in twenty minutes.

I did my best to quell drowsiness. I went out to the garden and smoked a cigarette, paced about the room, opened her album, snooped, lay on my back on her bed and read her celeb gossip magazines. The softness of her fragrant bedding won. I napped.

I woke to soft strawberry warmth in my arms – Anele, up close at last. Out of her window the day had gone, the afternoon shaded by the setting sun. I looked into her eyes and saw a galaxy. We cuddled, both of us fully dressed. Sparks in our eyes set off a series of time-stopping smooches. I was lost in our kisses. The electricity between us rose to too high a voltage. She stopped.

“You can answer that, you know,” she said.

I had not heard it. Twelve missed calls from the same number – Sango’s father. I ignored it and got back to kissing, but he was persistent. At this perfect moment to seal the Anele deal, I took a call I had to take.

“They were beaten by people in Claremont for housebreaking. Blood curdling mob justice. Your brother escaped earlier on in the beating. My son, Dumisani – he was beaten badly. He was close to death when the police arrived. We are with him at Westville Hospital. He’s unconscious but stable. The doctors told me there’s heroin and Jik and rat poison in his blood. This wunga of theirs drives them crazy,” he said, distressed. The phone line was crackly and I struggled to hear.

I did not believe what I had thought I heard; convinced myself that my mind had made up the words he had just told me; that maybe the bad phone connection somehow distorted his speech. I called him right back and Sango’s father told it exactly as he had done a few seconds earlier.

On the taxi ride home I worked out many ways of telling Ma, but when I saw the pain in her eyes I told it as bare and gritty as Sango’s father had told me. She called him immediately, and broke down when she heard it first hand.

As her sobs pierced the walls of our home all through the night, I whispered angry questions and a prayer into the darkness of our bedroom.

Why is Simphiwe this lost? Why did he inhale that first wunga drag? Why did I have to witness my mother breaking down? Why did my father die and leave us? Where are you, little brother? Please God keep him out of harm’s way, wherever he is.


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