I’ve got all these feelings surging inside me as I walk back inside Xabiso Upstairs.
The first person I see is Thandoza. She’s the most popular girl at school, and she’s also the most beautiful. I’ve often imagined what it must be like to be her. Imagine having it all. Tonight she’s dressed to the nines and there’s something about her that makes everyone in the room keep turning to look at her.
She’s talking to Lindiwe and Gugu, who are hanging on her every word. I watch Thandoza as she throws her head back and laughs loudly, tossing her hair glamorously like a movie star, and then looking coy as the DJ fixes a spotlight on her for a moment. When he moves it away Thandoza’s eyes scan the room, taking in all the eyes gazing admiringly at her.
I’m totally amazed when the trio of girls looks over at me. Lindiwe says something and they all laugh. And then Gugu calls me over. I look over my shoulder to check she’s not calling somebody behind me, but I’m pretty sure it’s me she’s beckoning too.
Lindiwe hands me a bottle of Savannah as I reach them.
“So you’re not just a boring good two shoes, hey Buhle,” she laughs. “Nice to see you coming out of your shell a bit. And kissing someone…woohooh!”
I shift awkwardly from foot to foot, but when she clinks her bottle of cider against mine like she’s cementing a new friendship, I feel a rush of warm relief.
Everyone turns to the door as a tall man dressed in a snappy suit, tie and glossy Carvella’s steps into the room. A gold earring gleams in each ear. He crooks his finger at Thandoza and without a word to us she sashays glamorously across the room to him.
“That’s Thandoza’s Minister of Transport,” Lindiwe confides. “He drives a beautiful red BMW. Isn’t he gorgeous? He’s a businessman. Mmm…look at his tie and his spectacles.”
“Minister of Transport?” I repeat, feeling stupid that I don’t know what she means.
Lindiwe laughs. “You know, one of Thandoza’s sugar daddies. The Minister of Transport is the one with the car. Her Minister of Communications gives her airtime. And she’s busy recruiting a new Minister of Finance. Not any old businessman – somebody with lots of money. Thandoza’s got it all going for her. She’s someone everyone wants to know.”
The Minister of Transport slaps his hand against Thandoza’s behind. She jumps in surprise, and then she recovers and laughs as if it’s a big joke. They they leave together without a backward glance at everyone staring at them like they’re Khayelitsha’s hottest celebrities.
Lindiwe bumps me on the arm to get my attention.
“You know what Buhle, can I give you some advice?” Lindiwe doesn’t wait for me to answer before she carries on, slurring her words a little. “If you want to get ahead in life you need a man like that. It’s the only way to be somebody special. You don’t want to be kissing a school boy – what do you think he’s going to do for you? You’re gonna go nowhere with a young guy like that. I mean look at your clothes – I can tell you’ve hardly got any money. You can’t make it in life if you’re stuck in a poor rut. You know what I’m saying is true, don’t you?”
I nod, dazed as I hear the Minister of Transport’s car roar into life outside, and pull away with a squeal of burning tyres. Everybody cheers. My brain is feeling a little like those tyres right now.
Just then Themba walks into the room with a confused look on his face. I can see he’s looking for someone. He spots me, breaks into a smile, and waves at me.
My mind is spinning as I think about what Lindiwe’s just said about kissing a schoolboy. And about getting out of the poor rut and becoming someone. They’re right. Themba’s never going to be able to help me.
Lindiwe and Gugu are watching me closely. I look at Themba, shake my head in a ‘no’ so that he gets the message, and then I turn away. But not before I see the hurt in Themba’s eyes.
Lindiwe and Gugu laugh like co-conspirators and both chink their glasses against mine.
“You go girl! You’re on your way to moving up in the world!”
I tell myself not to care about Themba. These girls know what they’re talking about. If I want to be someone I can’t waste my time imagining being someone like Thandoza – I actually need to start walking the walk and talking the talk.
It feels good to be standing inside Xabiso with the right friends taking an interest in my life. Lindiwe grabs my arm and pulls me into the centre of the crowd on the dance floor. I let the rhythm take me. I, Buhle, am on the road to being someone.