As Wani and her father got into the delivery van, Wani asked him if he would drive past the salon on the way home, saying she wanted to wave goodbye to Sibu. Of course, her father didn’t hesitate to make the turn down the street for his daughter to greet her ‘friend’.
As they passed the salon the two girls she had seen earlier crossed the road right ahead of her. Wani felt the impulse to tell Mr Tongo to step on it, but she held back and looked at the girls, analysing their dress style, and wondering who they were.
Before Wani could tell him not to do it, Mr Tongo hooted, waved and flashed a big, toothy grin at Sibu, as if they were a family. Sibu had a cup of tea in her hand, but she nodded right back at them. For years Wani had believed that Sibu was her closest black friend. Today she realised that she was just a customer, like everybody else who walked into that salon.
Wani felt so alone. She usually entertained her white girl friends with salon stories, but today she only felt like doing homework. At least, that’s what she told Auntie Refentse when she got home, and Auntie reminded her that she had a shopping date with Lisa and Chantal.
Walking into her bedroom, Wani stripped down and stood in front of the mirror wearing nothing but her Gucci shoes, panties and a bra. Now, “Who am I?” she wondered out loud. “And who will I be without this?” Wani asked herself, as she stroked her newly-sewn-on weave.
It was a Brazilian weave, the best on the market, made from long, expensive, smooth black Brazilian hair. It had cost her father R3000, that he gladly paid. For a moment Wani had the impulse to cut it all off. But then her eye caught a picture on her bedside table, of her next to her two best friends, Lisa and Chantal. Both of them had dyed their hair black to look as stylish as hers. Wani felt she could never let go of that hairstyle!
There was a knock at her door and before she knew it, her Auntie was lingering in her doorway. Auntie shook her head and said, “What do you think you’re doing, standing around half-naked like that?”
Wani looked straight back at her aunt and before she could stop herself she asked, “Do you think I try too hard to fit in?”
Auntie Refentse shook her head, saying “Fit in? Who do you want to fit in with? Oh – you mean those white girls you’re always sucking up to?”
Now Auntie had crossed the line. “I don’t suck up to them! They’re my friends!”
To which Auntie replied sarcastically: “Then why ask, if you’re so sure?” She slammed the door closed behind her and walked her slow waddle back down the passage to the kitchen, calling over her shoulder: “Dinner is ready!”
Indeed Wani could smell the aroma of pap and sauce, with chicken of course, all the way from the kitchen. She put on some casual shorts and a T-shirt to ensure nobody would probe her with any further questions about going out to show off her latest weave, and walked to the kitchen.
“Not going out, my girl?” asked Mr Tongo.
“No Dad. I feel like getting serious about my studies.”
“In January!” Auntie Refentse scoffed at her. “What could you be studying in January?”
But Mr Tongo was always patient with his daughter, and was impressed that she didn’t just want to go out and spend more money. “Oh don’t discourage her. Grade eleven is as tough a year academically as Grade twelve.”
“But do you even have textbooks yet?” Aunt Refentse interrogated her.
“I have a few,” said Wani. “Besides, it’s all about being prepared. I need to cover some files and plan a study schedule for the year. I have to come out at the top!”
Tell us what you think: Is Wani trying too hard to fit in?