You can know somebody your entire life and still not see them. Some of the stable’s clients are like that. Many of these people started riding when they didn’t even reach Tata’s knee. Yet even though they’re now tall enough to look him in the eye, they still say things like, ‘Groom, help me with my girth, hey?’

As if learning Tata’s name, Somizi Mlangeni, is not worth their time. That he’s just a pair of hands that can tighten the strap that keeps the saddle on the horse. It makes me angry, like there is fire in my belly. Yet he smiles, obliges their request, as if it doesn’t bother him. Musa is right, I’m not suited for the hospitality industry. Maybe my life is destined for the stars.

But I never saw Musa either, before. Didn’t really see him, as a person, with his own hopes, dreams, and fears. He was my brother’s friend, a neighbour, a horse rider like me who trains in the dark. He was the person who made me feel full of shame on that fateful day. The day when I was playing in Firefly’s stable, trying to re-enact a scene from a movie, as a secret princess.

But now I see that he is a watcher. He notices details about people, horses, and everything around him. Even came out to watch the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, not because he knew what it was, but because it was beautiful. For beauty’s sake, nothing more or less. It takes a special person to do that.

Mama often grumbles that English-speaking people wear words out, robbing them of their power. “Think about the word ‘awesome’, Kanyisa,” she once said. “What does it mean?”

“Cool,” I told her. “Or, maybe ‘epic’.”

She shook her head. “Poor ‘epic’ is being worn out, too.” She reached up to finger the meteorite that had dug a groove into the underside of her left forearm. Its shiny black glaze caught the light.

“Awesome used to mean something astounding,” she said. “Like the first time you see a baby born, or something awful, such as an atomic explosion. It was a sight that moved your heart so much your mind could not even process the words to explain it. But now it’s used for everyday moments, making the word weak.”

I nearly rolled my eyes at that, stopping myself in time. Because I thought of Venus and her four names: iKhwezi Lokusa, iKhwezi Lesibini, uCelizapholo, and uMadigngeni. I thought of the stories that surround these four meanings for one planet, and how good it feels when I spot her. Like a private game of hide ‘n seek: found you. And then she winks at me, like she knows and is glad to see me too.

Musa sees me. As he adjusted the stirrups to his saddle, he asked, “How’s the telescope project coming along?”

“I asked Mrs Haffajee and she’s booked me time to use a computer tomorrow. Told me this is something I should research myself.”

“Guess you’ll have something to tell me tomorrow, then.”

I could barely see him, the solar jar lanterns we used in the tacking up area gave off such a weak light. But I swear he winked.

The moment moved on; we went into the arena to practise our dressage test. It’s a pattern you do on horses, a bit like dancing. We move around the ring, going this way and that, making sure to hit key markers. There are many markers, but the foundation ones are taught to beginner riders by the phrase: All King Edward’s Horses Can Make Good Fences.

Personally, think it would be easier if they just made the letters follow alphabetically. But nobody asked me, or anyone else with sense.


Tell us: Do you agree with Khanysia’s mama that words get ‘worn out’? If so, which words do you think have lost their power?