At dawn my mother waters her garden. Mrs Malinga stops complaining about the crop growth. My mother has planted red cabbage as well now. It runs the length of Mrs Malinga’s fence. It’s going to be bright in the winter.
Beno follows me to the taxi rank. The first time it happened I freaked. When I got into the taxi, the driver told him to voetsek. Beno did. He says nothing, he just watches me walk to the rank.
One day I get into the taxi and S’bu gets in next to me. We sit together. We say nothing. When we arrive at school I hear Alison coming down the corridor. She’s laughing. “Hey it’s Coffee Anon, get it? Coffee An –”
“Shuttap,” interrupts S’bu. I didn’t see him behind me.
“Whoa, the stick insect speaks,” laughs Alison.
And stick insect says, “You start with Dudu again and I’ll take action.” Alison smirks. S’bu smiles. “I know you cheat. I saw you cheating in your science exam in April.”
Alison pales, “Rubbish.”
S’bu smiles widely. “You wrote stuff on the hem of your skirt.” S’bu reaches to grab her skirt. She steps backwards.
“You, you … gangster.” Splitting on cheats is more like a hero thing to do than a gangsta thing. But hey, what’s in a title? Alison hurries off.
I can’t help it. I begin to laugh. S’bu turns to me. He isn’t laughing at all. “Dudu, from now on, I’ve got your back.” I want to cry. I frown instead. S’bu hugs me. It feels good.
S’bu walks home with me and I tell him about Beno. S’bu tells me he’ll walk with me to school and back. If things get bad, we’ll make a plan. After what he did today, I know that somehow we will. My mother is pleased S’bu and me are hanging out together again.
At supper I ask my mother if my father will ever write to me again. Mbali is sad. She hopes so. He is a nice man, funny too. Michael Bosch, the aid worker from Frankfurt. I want to go to Germany one day. I want to do so many things.
I take my mother outside and show her the Southern Cross. I tell her the Southern Cross is called the Crux. The brightest star in Crux is the Acrux. It’s two stars going around each other, but they are so far away that they look like one star. Maybe, if you look at South Africa from space, Sandton and Alex look like one place.
My mother stares at me. “What?” She smiles. “All this talk of stars and space. It’s not only because you’ve got a white father and a Zulu mother. You’re different in here.” She puts her hand across my heart.
“It’s tough, Ma.”
She laughs. “Being different when you’re young is hard, I know. But being different when you’re an adult is going to make you succeed in life because there are not as many of you as there are of others. I know that too.”
My mother and I go inside. I position my bed so that when I lie on it the last thing I see before I go to sleep is the moon and the stars.
Do you think if every individual finds something in themselves that is unique, the world would be a happier place?