The taxi rank is heaving with queues of excited people lined up along the roadside, carrying huge bags and parcels of very shape and size. Sisipho and her family are nearly at the front of their queue.

“I wish you were coming with us Buhle!” says Sisipho, squeezing my arm.

She looks at me closely for a moment.

“Listen,” she says quietly, “I know it’s been a tough year for you, but I just wanted to say that the highlight of my year was meeting you and having you as my friend.”

“Thanks Sisipho. And I don’t know how I would have done it without you this year.”

“Oh come on Buhle. You would have been fine. You’re so nice, you never miss school, you always work hard, and you always do well in exams. You’ve got your head screwed on right. You’ll do fine wherever you go and whoever you’re with.”

I have a lump in my throat and I’m trying to think of what to say in reply to that when their taxi pulls up. It’s chaos as everyone pushes forward, piling into the taxi with all their stuff. And then the door slams shut and the taxi is speeding away, hooter beeping, with Siphiso waving out the window as it disappears from sight.

I feel an ache in my chest, standing there alone amongst all the crowds going home to their families. I try not to think of my mother but I can’t help hearing her voice in my head saying, “You’re someone special, Buhle. Hold on to your dreams and your hope.”

The dark thoughts crowd in again. That hollow feeling of having nobody who really loves me. That sick feeling of having time stretch ahead of me with no mother, no friend and no money.

An sms comes through from Siphiso before I’ve even turned to walk away.

I ms u alrdy

I want to tell her how much I miss her too, but I don’t even have a cent of airtime to send an sms.

The next taxi pulls up with brakes screaming and music pumping.

‘I’ve got a feeling, wohooh, that tonight’s gonna be a goodnight!’.

The words dance through the air, and the lyrics remind me it’s the 16 December. It’s party time, and I shouldn’t be sad.

“Xm.” I say out loud to myself. “Stop being such a baby Buhle.”

A take a deep breath and start walking back to the shebeen. I’ve dreamt of this day. And I’m going back to get my R50’s worth of alcohol. I may as well live a little while I can!

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Being on your own on special days can really make you feel vulnerable. Have you ever had that feeling?