I live with my mother’s sister Resego and her daughter Bibi. Aunty Resego tries her best; my mother left me with her when I was only six months old. Aunty Resego already had three-year-old Bibi at the time, but she struggled to raise us both. My mother comes around every few years and about twice a year she sends me R200 through Western Union. What she’s doing all the rest of the time is difficult to pin down. She seems to work on the farms when there’s work and then disappears into the townships around Joburg or Cape Town until her money finishes. My mother likes a good time, she always has, and raising a kid did not fit into her definition of ‘good time’.
Aunty Resego is the opposite. She believes in responsibility. She believes the world is a dangerous place and the best thing is to lie low and hope the baddies don’t find you. She doesn’t accept that good things happen – to her every good thing has a bad lining which will show itself soon enough. She’s tried to raise Bibi to think the same way. So this is why I was not surprised by their reaction when I told them about Bonolo.
“No ways!” Bibi said. She was still wearing her Shopway uniform. She’s been working in the butchery section since she dropped out of school, nearly eight years now. It was a job. She expected nothing more from life than to sweep up rotten meat from the floor at the back. It didn’t even scare her that she’d likely spend all her life there, working with meat all day and sitting in her mother’s house watching TV all night. Until she died. She didn’t care about boys anymore, mostly because they didn’t care much for her. She was quite fat, kept her hair cut short, and never got around to buying make-up or any clothes other than too-big T-shirts and track pants. She just didn’t care anymore.
“Yes, it’s true. He took my number; he says he’ll phone me.”
“He’s not going to phone you,” Aunty Resego said. “A handsome, successful man like Bonolo must have all sorts of women in Joburg. He probably dates singers and actresses. Rich, successful women.”
“You don’t know that,” I said.
“It’s just how it is,” Aunty Resego said, sitting down at the table with her tea. She worked as a cleaner at the clinic and usually came home exhausted, especially in heat like this.
“Well, he asked me for my number. We’ll see, one way or the other,” I said. I was used to Aunty Resego. In a way it was a kind of love, a way for me to keep my expectations low so when good things didn’t happen I wouldn’t be disappointed.
Bibi followed me to the room we shared. She lay down on her bed and looked at me.
“What?” I asked.
“What if it’s real?” Bibi said. “What if he really loves you? What if you date and get married and you move to Joburg and get all rich?”
I sat down on her bed next to her. Even though I’d been thinking the same thing, I didn’t want Bibi to get all excited. For a long time, Bibi has been living her life through me. Her mother’s way of thinking was so strong that Bibi was too scared to dream even the smallest dream. But she somehow found it safe to dream for me, but in secret, away from her mother.
“He might call, he might not. We might go on a date, we might not. It’s no big deal. I’ve got plans; I have no intention of marrying anyone, not for a good long time – not even Bonolo.”
“I don’t believe you. If he asked you, you’d say yes. Any girl would.”
“Maybe, but not me.”
Bibi changed out of her uniform. It was a Thursday, not a normal night for going out, but I needed a distraction. And besides, it was the holidays. “Let’s go out to Jojo’s.”
“Nah, I’m tired and Generations will soon be on.”
“Come on, Bibi. You never do anything. Let’s get dressed up and go to Jojo’s and dance and be silly. I’ll call Poppy. She’s always up for some fun.”
Bibi, after much persuasion, finally agreed. I decided no T-shirts and track pants. I dug around in her wardrobe and found some jeans and a nice blouse. I pulled her hair out with the straightener and found it was nearly as long as mine, reaching her shoulders. I applied make-up and suddenly Bibi looked like a young woman of twenty-three instead of the forty-year-old she pretended to be.
Bibi looked in the mirror. “I am.”
We snuck out without Aunty Resego seeing because neither one of us needed any of her negative comments.
Jojo’s was the local hangout. Just a bar with an outdoor garden where they usually had a DJ. By the time we got there the night had cooled things off and people were starting to move around.
“Did he call yet?” Poppy asked, before even saying hello.
Poppy shook her head. Despite her usual optimistic take on life, she didn’t believe Bonolo wanted any of us girls in Nokeng. We were below his standard.
“You look good, Bibi. Let’s dance.” Poppy grabbed Bibi’s hand and pulled her out to the dance floor. I watched them, but I also watched the men in the crowd. They all loved Poppy, that was usual, but a few here and there were giving Bibi a look and that made me feel good. After that first dance, Poppy came back to the table to join me, but a man from Shopway, one of the packers, asked Bibi to dance and she stayed out on the dance floor for two dances in a row with him.
Poppy flopped down next to me. “You may have released the beast,” she said indicating Bibi dancing like a wild woman on the floor.
“Let the beast enjoy herself.”
Just then my phone rang and I dug it out of my bag. “Hello?”
“Hi Viv, it’s me, Bonolo.”
“Hi … Bonolo.”
Poppy’s head whipped around to look at me.
“I wondered if you’d like to go out tomorrow. Maybe catch a movie, something to eat?” Bonolo asked exactly like he had a thousand times in my dreams.
“Out? Tomorrow? Sure.”
“I’ll pick you up at eight.”
Tell us: What’s your opinion of Aunty Resego’s attitude? Is it better to dream big even if it means disappointment, or to have small dreams you’re sure you can achieve easily, just so you won’t ever fail and feel bad?