On Monday Nokubonga wakes up early and gets ready for the long journey to Jozi. She looks at her room one more time before she goes to her mom to say goodbye. She keeps her farewell brief because she can see MaDladla is starting to get emotional. She heads to the taxi stop and waits.

She gets the first taxi out of Nhlangwini to Stanger. There are only a few people in the taxi, all of them street vendors who sell various things in the Stanger CBD. She buys four bananas from one of the women when they arrive at the taxi rank. The sun peeks out of the darkness in the sky. More people flood into the city centre.

Nokubonga looks around. She doesn’t know where the taxis to Jozi are at the taxi rank. She is looking around when she hears someone shouting, “Jozi! Jozi this side!”

She follows the voice until she gets to the young man standing in front of a white Toyota Quantum taxi. There are many bags next to the taxi. Nokubonga leaves her bag with these bags and enters the taxi. Most of the seats are full – except for one, where there’s only one young woman.

“Hello,” says Nokubonga to the young woman as she sits next to her.

“Hello, Sisi. How are you?” says the young woman.

“I’m well. Just a bit drowsy because I hardly slept thinking about this long taxi ride to Jozi,” says Nokubonga.

She is looking straight into this young woman’s eyes. A sudden surge of a warm feeling floods Nokubonga’s body as she looks into this woman’s eyes. It is so sudden and out of the blue that it scares her. She suddenly looks away.

“Is it your first time going to Jozi?”

“No, I went there with my boyfriend last year, but not by taxi. We got a lift with his friend,” says Nokubonga.

Nokubonga can feel her heart skipping a bit. There are butterflies in her stomach. Warm affection floods all over her body. She is confused, because she felt the same way when she first met Zipho.

She snaps this confusion out of her mind as a few more people enter the taxi to make it a full load. The rank manager collects the taxi fare. An exercise book is passed around for all passengers to write their names and give contact details for their next of kin. The taxi is soon on the freeway to Jozi.

The sky is overcast, but it is hot and humid. The driver switches on the air-con. Soon most people drop their heads, trying to summon sleep because they had woken up so early to get the first taxi to Jozi. Hardly ten minutes after the taxi has left Stanger only the driver, Nokubonga and the young woman next to her are awake. Nokubonga hasn’t said a word or looked at the young woman again; she is still confused by what happened when she looked into her eyes the first time. The butterflies in her stomach, the affection she felt …

“My name is Sphindile Madlala, by the way,” says the young woman.

“My name is Nokubonga Mchunu,” says Nokubonga, looking straight ahead.
“My late sister’s name was also Nokubonga,” Sphindile’s voice drops. She looks out of the window.

Nokubonga looks at Sphindile. Warmth floods her body. “I’m sorry to hear that. What happened to her, if I may ask?”

“A car accident. She was run over by a drunk driver,” says Sphindile, her eyes glassy with tears.

“Did you ever get justice for her?”

“No. A case was opened but it never got to court. Detectives or court officials were bought to make the case disappear. The docket vanished.”

“South Africa and corruption!”

“You can say that again! Do you stay or work in Jozi?”

“No, I’m going to visit my aunt in Kempton Park. She has been ill for a while.”

“Shame. I hope she gets better.”

“Thank you,” says Sphindile.

They look at each other and smile. Nokubonga feels a surge of affection once again. They both look away. Almost instantly they are back to looking into each other’s eyes.

***

Tell us: What do you think is happening to Nokubonga?