The Tigers’ play is scrappy and has no heart, as if they are embarrassed. Their defence without Lisa’s speed is weak. The Hawks score in the last two minutes.
Kholeka comes panting to the side after the final whistle. She studies her friend’s leg.
“Oh no. You can’t drive.” She asks her teammates, “Who else has a licence?”
They all shake their heads. Kholeka asks me, “What about you, Langa?”
I only have a learner’s licence, but I drove my brother’s car in Soweto.
“Where do you stay?” I ask her.
I have no excuse. I share a flat near Fish Hoek station, for easy travel on the train. I can drop her and jog home myself.
I get into the driver’s seat with the girl, Lisa next to me. As I drive the other four players back to Masi township, she asks me quietly, “How long to fix it?”
For a second I think she means the whole of our angry South African history. But she is pressing on her injured hip.
“Ten weeks at least. You need to go for an X-ray today.”
“Who will fetch you from the hospital?” Kholeka asks, from the back seat.
“My mom’s working. I’ll try my brother.”
“Let me come with you.”
“No don’t, Kholeka. Seriously. It’s not necessary.”
When we have dropped off the others, Lisa says sincerely, “Sorry for embarrassing you.”
There is something about her honesty that plucks at my heart strings. I shrug. “This country.”
I’m not sure if she is fighting back tears of humiliation, or of pain from her torn hip.
“How far do you run, between soccer practices?”
She shakes her head, says, “Nought kilometres.”
“That’s asking for trouble. You need to do at least ten kays.”
“I don’t have time. I have to practise guitar.”
“What guitar?” I can’t help asking.
“Classical. UCT. They want you to practise in your sleep.”
I hide my surprise. “I’m final year jazz.”
“Oh!” she says, startled. I feel her studying me. “I haven’t seen you.”
“Different buildings,” I say, shrug off her interest.
She sighs. “You’re lucky. Classical’s killing me.”
I park at the Casualty entrance of the local hospital and fetch her a wheelchair. The sooner I get rid of this girl the simpler my life will be.
My very last loyal deed to my soccer club is to take her in my arms and lift her from the car seat.
But some kind of electric pulse strikes through both of us, and only recedes as I drop her in the wheelchair.
“Thank you,” she says shakily, as I hand her the car keys. “I’m fine from here.”
She swivels and tries to roll her wheels over the steel ridge of the door frame. She rocks back and forth, scrabbling at the wheels. The security guard and I smile at each other over her head. I give her wheelchair a little nudge. This time she makes it through. She rolls to the Reception window but she is too low for the man there to see her. She waves to him in vain as he continues with his computer work.
I am considering going in to help her when a Xhosa woman untangles herself from the long patients’ queue and takes Lisa’s identity document from her. She puts it on the counter and speaks in Xhosa on her behalf.
I get out of there.
Tell us: Do you think Lisa was right to apologise to the Hawks’ goalie and to Langa? If so, why?