The recovery period was long and painful. For an entire year and six months I progressed slowly from being incapable of walking, to limping, to stretching every tendon and muscle with the help of a physiotherapist.
My friend Mpho recovered, too, to my relief, considering that the accident occurred after I had invited her over to go clubbing. And my friendship with Sibu grew even stronger than before. Maybe it was due to my now feeling indebted to him, but it was also a rekindling of the brotherhood we had, from back in the days of playing in the alley.
Now in the present moment, I narrate this story, seated next to my best friend. I’m at his wedding, to the love of his life. Whatever accolades I achieve at the top of my game as a scrum-half for the Blue Bulls, I always internally pass down that praise to my unsung, brilliant surgeon friend.
“We are going to pass the mic to Mr David Bokang Maatla, Sibusiso’s longtime, childhood friend. No-one knows Sibu like David. Please give him a round of applause while he steps onto the podium.” Uncle Mathabatha introduces me with a glass at hand, half-full of the expensive sauvignon blanc wine he’d sipped, while regaling us about how he used to change Sibu’s diapers.
“Uhm, thank you, uncle. Good day everyone. My name is David Maatla, as the esteemed uncle has introduced me. I’m not going to be long showering my friend Sibu with praise and tell you about the stories of yester-year. He’s a very important person to me. We’ve been together since we were in primary school, ever since that time in the park when I thought I was your Superman. But time has served to shine your name in every way brighter. You’re my superhero man! Hahaha, sorry Buhle, I sound like I’m his designated lover right now, but bear with me please …
“I remember when he still wore big glasses and I mocked him repeatedly for it. I can’t blame myself though. You should’ve seen him – his lenses magnified his eyes so brilliantly they looked like they’d pop out and shoot at you!”
Everyone laughs joyfully, waiting to hear more stories of friendship.
“I was saying. The man has grown to become a surgeon. A surgeon! Do you know how many people achieve that? I am maybe well-known for my exploits on the rugby field. But I know damn right who’s on my speed dial if I have a near career ending injury, and so should you. But money first, no freebies.” I pause as the guests burst out in laughter again.
“On a serious note. Sibu, I will never forget you in my life. For what you did when I was fighting for my life and career at the hospital. Your humility, and loyalty. We may have been each other’s rivals at times, even bitter enemies, but we really pushed each other to heights we never expected. Please Buhle, take care of my brother.”
I quickly return to my seat, followed by loud clapping, with Uncle Mathabatha clumsily walking back to the podium. And Sibu receives me with a hug.
“Till the wheels break off, my friend, I have your back,” he says, pinning me closely. And we feel the deep warmth beneath the soaring kite of our friendship, while we laugh. And the day is still long and merry, and we make a toast to the future.
Tell us: What did you think of this story? Do you have any friendships which have stood the test of time, like Sibu and David’s?