I dreamt that the fallen angel came creeping in while I slept. He eagerly grabbed me by my ankle, and it burned … We tussled and brawled over my soul. Should I carry on down this twisted path I’d chosen into anger and bitterness, or was there another way? Suddenly I was jerked awake, drenched in sweat – torn between the gravity of what I had done and the opportunity to make up for it. Palesa still lay fast asleep next to me …
Life is a drama. A comedy. A story of suspense that continues to unfold. A thriller that keeps us on our toes. A theatre of endless possibilities. And we’re all props flashed and convened onto the stage, then disposed of. And it goes on and on … The limited control we have while we’re in character is to act as best as we can, with however little made available to us.
I woke up regretful about what I had said and done the day before. How could I have stooped so low to stroke my ego, the desperate need to salvage my masculinity, and gain a false sense of importance? How could I live knowing that I had a hand in taking bread out of the next man’s mouth and of depriving them of their hard-earned livelihood?
Still carrying the aroma of lovemaking and alcohol, I went to have a steamy bath. Palesa followed me. She paced out of the bathroom while I stared at her fit, small frame, and I wanted to take her again right then and there – she was a beautiful woman. Once we were dressed, we headed to the kitchen, only to be met by my mother.
“Hayibo! Hayibo! You don’t even eat breakfast. Tebuza, cheap, that’s no way to treat a lady. Sit down and dig in,” she said as soft as I had ever heard her speak in a million years.
This was my chance, the first step to absolve my behaviour. I had a mouthful of the scrumptious runny eggs and took a stab at it.
“Ma, I’m really sorry for how I spoke to you last night. You didn’t raise me to be a thief, nor to be so crass and without any proper direction in life … I’m really sor–”
She cut me off. “Don’t worry, love. Just promise me you’ll never do so again. If anything, I’m the one that’s supposed to ask for your forgiveness. I’ve been harsh on you when I was supposed to be supportive. I’ve compared you to your father when you’re your own person. Born with different abilities, appetites and in a different time … I saw on the TV. You’d better go join them with good intentions this time. Those kids are very brave. I feel sorry for your generation. I truly didn’t know that so many of you were battling to find jobs. Tebuza, my baby, I’m really sorry, my boy,” she said with tears sliding down her cheeks. She took me in her firm, warm arms and squeezed me.
After a breakfast with my mother and the gorgeous Palesa off home to sleep, I was to humble myself before Ahmed. I was resolved to spearhead my own destiny.
It was a long walk. I felt like Moses, feet steeped in sand, splitting the ocean. Only I was leading only myself to my own salvation. And there it was, written across a slanted hand-painted board: Ahmed and Friends Mini-market, and my guilt grew dense.
“Ah wena my friend, you see yesterday I told you it was nyiwa everywhere. Where were you? Ah, you sleep wena!” Ahmed said, with little trace of being wounded by yesterday’s sequence of events.
I mumbled and struggled, and finally let loose: “Ahmed, I’m sorry, man. I’m sorry for what’s happened to your store … Look, I was one of the thugs that did this to your store. I don’t know what overcame me. One thing lead to the next. Look, look my friend. I will work here in your store for two months for free to repay you for what I stole. I’ll help you get back on your feet. You don’t deserve this. You work hard for your money and have many responsibilities back home, I reckon. Look, take this money I took from your counter yesterday, it’s the little I can do for now … I was dumb and desperate. I’m sorry, man.”
He feigned to Mike Tyson me through the small opening, slid back, rolled out laughing, and replied, “Worry not, wena marn. My other brothers will help. But I’m very happy that at least you’re honest, my friend. I see in your eyes you’re hungry. Repay me and I’ll give you money next time. And you can work with me, until you find something somewhere, yeah?”
“Totally. Thank you. May Allah bless you,” I said, extending my hand to shake Ahmed’s.
A new leaf was turning over, and I felt at ease, and at liberty. It was a rite of passage into manhood. At last I was responsible to shape my life and the blame and glory was but my own.
Tell us: Do you think Tebuza will turn over a new leaf? Did you relate to the story and what do you think it tells us about young people in South Africa today?