We’re hanging around the locker room after soccer and I tell Dumi what happened. He just shrugs. Then he tells me another plan. “Girls love it when you’re really good at something.” And I’m thinking that’s just great! I mean Dumi is one of the best soccer players at our school. During matches the girls practically throw themselves on the pitch and faint and scream when he scores a goal.There’s this cool thing he does with his eyebrows that gets them screaming for more. They all wait outside the changing rooms afterwards, tearing each other’s hair out to be the one who carries his sports bag for him. “Find something you are really good at.” Ja, right!

So that night I lie in bed thinking. It’s tough, you see I’m average at most things, but not outstanding at any. There is one thing though I am very good at but it’s really not that sexy – it’s algebra! But when I tell Dumi the next day his eyes light up. “That’s it,” he says “You cannot fail with equations!” I look at him like he can’t be serious.

“Think of the lines, bra,” he says. “Let’s divide our time together. I’d like you to be my latest addition. Let’s multiply, just you and me baby.” You see coming from Dumi they sound quite convincing and the girls would probably faint – coming from me, I’m not so sure. But I give it a try!

Every time Miss Nqweniso asks a question in algebra class my hand flies up – I practically throw myself across the desk. “Let me be the one, miss. Let me be the one!” What happens? After Maths Phathokazi comes up with her bodyguard Petunia in tow. Petunia stops in front of me. My heart is beating so fast I think it’s going to burst. I can’t believe it. I’m going to die before I get the chance of a lifetime- to be together with my dream girl! Then Phathokazi gives me this sideways look. Dumi’s giving me the thumbs up from behind the girls. And then I say, “Hi,’ in this squeaky voice. And Petunia says. “What was that about? We hate braggers, don’t we?” She turns the other girls and they all nod. ”We hate teachers’ pets!”. And then they flounce off. And Dumi is just there shrugging his shoulders.

You see none of these things Dumi keeps convincing me to try will ever work. Because it’s not about being good at stuff, or ignoring girls, it’s about the X factor! The X factor is like a gene you’re born with. Well I was born without it. It is nowhere to be found in Thando’s DNA! When I realise this it really depresses me. What’s worse is Petunia comes waltzing over the next day and says. “Give it up, skinny boy, Phathokazi has a boyfriend!”

I rip the page out of my book, the one with all the hearts, and I burn it. I know it’s quite a ‘girl’ thing to do, but it makes me feel better for a few minutes.

***

What do you think the X factor is? Do you think there is such a thing?