I jump up. “You did? I have? How?”
“My parents need someone to replace me, but full-time, and I recommended you.”
“I can’t.” I start pacing. “I’m not dressed for an interview. I’m not qualified for anything.”
“Haiyini, you look just fine, and you started studying remember? You have Matric and you have great ideas. You shouldn’t be on the streets.”
“Anyway, my mom believes qualifications are kinda useless. That it’s easier to get the qualification than it is for some people to implement what they’ve learnt.”
“But I haven’t learnt much. What will they ask me?” I start pacing again.
“Relax. She’ll probably ask you some things about yourself, although I told her everything I know. So, just be yourself.”
Be myself. That’s easy. I don’t know how to be anyone else.
“Come on,” Kitty grabs my arm as I pass her. “Let’s get coffee. Are you hungry?”
“Coffee, yes. I’m too nervous to eat.”
Kitty and I are chilling in the yard when her phone rings.
She doesn’t say anything to the caller, and ends the call. “They’re here. In the office.” She presses my hands between hers. “Go blow them away.”
When I step into the office, Mrs Tshobo and two members of the shelter’s Board are waiting for me. “Hello again, Ollie. How are you?”
“I’m fine, Mrs Tshobo. Kit … Khetiwe gave me a lift from the hospital today.”
“That’s good.” She introduces me to the two other women in the room.
“We’d like to hear a bit about you …your hopes and dreams,” says Mrs Tshobo.
I talk about what inspires and motivates me. How important education is. How I believe reading and sports can change the lives of the youth. I’m even bold enough to say that the shelter can be more than what it is now.
And the whole time Mrs Tshobo stares at me, not smiling. Perhaps she doesn’t like my answers. Then she asks. “What do you mean the shelter can be ‘more’? I’m interested.”
“Well, Mrs Tshobo, no disrespect, but–”
“Disrespect my left foot. Talk to me about the shelter. How can we improve it? Do you have ideas on making it self-sufficient? What makes you the right person for this job?”
Yoh, she doesn’t pull punches, so I speak up.
“The shelter is unused during the day. That’s like flushing money down the toilet, isn’t it? Also, being homeless myself … I want to help others like me. Not every homeless person is a thief or addict. Sometimes …”
I’ve got a helluva knot in my throat. I’m not a cry baby, but some things are hard to talk about.
“Sometimes bad things happen to good people. And people don’t treat you with dignity and respect, because you’re homeless. Lots of people wish they were the Bill Gates’s of the world, but nobody wishes to be homeless.”
Mrs Tshobo smiles. “I like how you think,” she says.
The other two women ask me some questions and I am confident answering them. Then I leave the room for them to talk. It’s not long before they call me back in and Mrs Tshobo says: “When can you start?”
I don’t even need to think about my answer. “Right now,” I say. At last – this is the break I need so much!
Mrs Tshobo bursts out laughing. “Great enthusiasm. I’ll send Khetiwe with your employment contract tomorrow. Standard three-month probation. Minimum wage, including accommodation and meals. What do you say?”
“Where do I sign?”
Tell us: Do you feel confident Ollie will be good at this job? Why or why not?