Sleep finally comes to Bhekani. His racing mind finds peace for a few hours and he wakes up feeling fresh.
But as his mind looks to the day ahead he gets a sinking feeling. He unlocks his cellphone and opens the SMS from the bank. His salary has been paid. Most people would be happy but Bhekani is sad. He knows that payday means more problems.
He sighs and takes a few minutes just lying in bed, before getting ready for work. He tries to think happy thoughts but finds none in his mind. He searches deep and hard for happiness but all his thoughts end up with him being a failure of a man. He finally drags his body to the bathroom and gets ready for work.
Bhekani finds his family having breakfast in the kitchen. Sbongile gives him his sandwich and orange juice.
“I’ll go shopping for sofas later today after I knock off work. We’ll shop for the kid’s winter clothes at the weekend,” says Sbongile.
Bhekani doesn’t reply. He bites into his cheese and bacon sandwich and sips orange juice. He concentrates on the tastes swirling in his mouth. He’d rather everyone just remain quiet.
“Do you still remember what we spoke about yesterday?” Sbongile asks.
“Yes, I still remember. I’ll give you the money for the sofas when I come back from work,” says Bhekani.
Bhekani picks up his bag, the remaining pieces of his sandwich, and the car keys.
“Why are you going before finishing your breakfast, Dad?” asks his daughter, Siphokazi.
“I’m in a hurry, my girl. Dad will see you in the afternoon, after work.” Bhekani runs to his car. He is at a traffic light when his cellphone buzzes in the centre console. The SMS is from his mother.
We are waiting, Son.
I need to go to the market early
before it gets full.’
Bhekani makes an instant payment to his mother on his banking app.
A silver Mercedes-Benz GLA stops next to his Toyota Corolla at the traffic light. The Mercedes is his dream car, but in his dreams the one he drives is black. He smiles a bit thinking of himself in his dream car. The light turns green, the Mercedes-Benz GLA takes off at speed. The stark reality of Bhekani’s money situation hits him hard because he realises that it will take him years before he can afford his dream car … if ever.
His cellphone rings. His sister, Khethiwe, is calling.
“How are you, big brother? I hope you didn’t forget me and my baby on your payday. Things are bad. I need you to help me with a bit of money,” says Khethiwe.
“Things are really tight for me this month. I need to buy sofas for home and take care of other things,” says Bhekani.
“But you have money. Both you and your wife work at good jobs.”
“The cost of living is just too high, Khethiwe. And it doesn’t look good when the man of the house doesn’t contribute to the running of home. Let me fix what I need to fix this month. I’ll only be able to help you from next month.”
“Your problem is that wife of yours who wears the pants in your house! That woman has you wrapped around her finger! Is it right that just because you are the only one who is successful in our family, the only one who has a job, you have forgotten about your family?” says Khethiwe.
“Khethiwe, I just deposited money to Ma. You guys will be able to buy groceries and electricity with the money I sent!” Bhekani shouts into his cellphone.
“You mean the money Ma just told me you sent?”
“That’s just change, Bhekani! You get paid way too much money for you to send us change!”
“Teachers don’t earn as much as you think. Besides, you should be thankful that I send you money. Some families can’t even buy food and keep the lights on.”
“So it’s true when they say it’s better to trust a stone than to trust a human being! Now I see it’s true because you have changed, Bhekani. It was you who told us you’ll always take care of us!”
Bhekani remembers the promise he made to his family when he graduated from university. He has kept his promise because he has built a house for his mother and siblings. He has bought furniture for that house. And he gives his mother money for food and electricity every month, without fail.
The problem is that they want him to give them so much money he ends up not having enough for his own needs.
“How much money do you need, Khethiwe?” Bhekani’s voice is full of sorrow.
“R2000, big brother.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” says Bhekani.
“That’s the big brother I know! Thank you!”
Tell us: Is Khethiwe right that he must support the family to this extent?