“We picked these boys up by the four-way stop. They are here illegally,” the police officer tells me.

“Are you sure?” I want to stop him from poking Chino with his baton. Chino treated me like a friend this morning.

But he ignores me as another police officer comes over, dragging a frightened young man by his collar. “This one claims he has the correct papers, so we brought him back. If this is not the case…”

“Come, hurry up!” the other police officer shouts. “You say you have papers. So where are they?”

“Yes. My name is Chenzira. I…I…I came here in 2000,” the young man stammers.

“I don’t care. If you don’t have correct papers you must go.”

I feel like shooting this police officer with a million rubber bullets. If this is the way things are in Cape Town, I don’t know if I want to be here.

Chenzira runs inside and gets a piece of paper. The police officer takes it and grunts.

“But this one – he is coming with us.” He pokes the baton in the window at Chino.

“But I have papers. If you let me out I will call my sister. She has them…” Chino tells the officer. But he is already getting back into the driver’s seat of the van.

“Just wait! Just a minute…” Chenzira runs to the spaza and comes back with a loaf of bread. He hands it to Chino with a few green notes. Chino stares out at me. He is saying a lot with his eyes, but some of the things I can’t make out. And then I watch as tears come.

I go inside my house and stay there for a long time. I hate this. That’s what I know in my heart.

I am lying on the bed when I hear my sister’s voice. I run out to see her kissing a man at the gate. He pulls her up close. His mouth is against hers. Kissing. I can see his tongue.

“Sis!” I think. How can they suck the inside of each other’s mouths like that?

“Sisi, what were you doing with that man at the gate?” I ask her as she comes in. It’s the first thing I say before we even greet. I can’t help it.

“You must learn to close your eyes, wena,” she replies and then hugs me tight. It is good to see her. I tell myself that I will close my eyes next time.

“You want to get pretty?” she asks me as she gets a basin from outside. “I’ll do my hair then I’ll do yours. I am going out later.”

“With that guy?”

She just laughs. “You have to learn lots of new things, here in the city.”

I watch as she puts stuff on her face that makes her look powdery. Like a picture in an old book. She sprays her hair with hairspray that smells strong, like the cleaning stuff granny uses. The heat gun is brought terribly close to her hair and scalp as she starts to straighten hair. She sprays again.

The bottle says “Keep below 25 ºC” I think to myself, and wonder what happens if the temperature goes up to thirty one degrees. Now she’s looking at me in that certain way, like I need to say something about her hair.

“You look pretty my sister.” I force the words out of my mouth.

“Oh, thank you,” she says. “I will do your hair just the same.”

No thank you, I think. I don’t want to look like her. I don’t want some guy’s tongue in my mouth.


What do you think? Will Nana change now she is in the big city? Do you think she should let her sister change how she looks? What do you think of the story?