The breeze slips through the car window and runs its fingers through my hair. The gin bottle jiggles in anticipation on the passenger seat next to me. I twist and turn the wheel through everlasting roads, trying unsuccessfully to hurry to the party. My headlights strike into the night. The Cape Town mountains are barely discernible in the darkness.
I slow down as I enter Muizenburg. Houses surround me and my sense of solitude drifts away. Amala, ever the mother, messages me to find out where I am. Almost there! I reply as I look for the house.
I see a cottage with a balcony spilling onto the pavement. Young people mill about with drinks in their hands, absorbed in each other. Hazy lights and the bouncy sounds of electro pop music accompany them. They are dressed in the uniform of millennials just about to break into the world of responsible adult life: jeans, dirty hair, languid movements exuding a whiff of anticipation. I park next to the party and walk away from it. It’s obviously too cool to be the one I’m supposed to attend. Away from the crowd, the street narrows and the sharpest sounds are barely heard before they get swallowed by the night. It is deserted. I square my shoulders and look for house number twenty. I walk further and further into the dark. I touch empty walls. The lights, the music and the people are behind me. I am alone.
I turn around.
“Michelle!” A madman at the party not only knows my name but he is waving his arms in a very enthusiastic manner.
Oh! I recognize the madman as Kieran, a fellow Psychology Honours student. It turns out the party I walked away from is where I’m meant to be. It’s our end of year party – where we celebrate the fact that we survived Psychology Honours. And where we acknowledge that we had given up our sanity in the process. Relieved, I run to the house. As I walk up the balcony steps, a small woman in a pink Power Rangers suit hurries to me.
“Julia!” I yell. She crushes me with a hug. Julia is the kind of person who uses the word ‘rad’ un-ironically – even in defence of her staunch feminist hypotheses. When we met, we bonded over our passion for feminism and our shared talent for being awkward. Everyone knows us as the two girls who sit in the back corner and never stop talking during lectures.
“Why aren’t you dressed up?” She glares at me. I was supposed to come as a Tinky-Winky from the Teletubbies.
“Friend, those costumes are insanely hard to find. But I did bring this—” I reach into my handbag for my pink diamond tiara and place it on my head. “Ta-da!”
I hug my other friends. There are twenty-seven of us in the class. We survived academic, mental and emotional torture and our elation is similar to that of soldiers who survived battle. We embrace in the way you do when you know your time together is ending. On the balcony, there is a spread of drinks and brownies. I grab one, the first piece of food I’ve had all day.
“Let’s get you a drink!” Julia says as I stuff my face.
I nod. “Wow, Nikki’s house is amazing!”
“I know, it’s right on the beach,” she says as we walk inside. It’s open-plan. The furniture inside the living room has been pushed to the side and a little disco ball is hanging from the roof. It throws pinks, greens and yellows onto Julia’s nose. A foosball table separates the living room and the kitchen. People play on it enthusiastically. Their elbows stick out at right angles and they pause only to take a swig from their precariously balanced beers between goals. The kitchen table is littered with more food and bottles of alcohol. Empty peanut butter, marmite and jam jars act as glasses.
Life, and all of its disappointments, sits in the corner, watching and waiting for us. But not yet. Not tonight.
“Mich, I was getting worried!” Amala comes over and gives me a hug. She is wearing what she always does: a golf t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Her thick black hair is shoved behind her ears.
“I’m so sorry! I fell asleep, then I overslept, and then obviously I got lost and then I tried to walk away from the party I’m supposed to be at, but it’s okay I’m here!” I hug her.
Malini smirks at me. Malini and I became friends because of our mutual love of sarcasm. We were drawn to each other but neither of us knew why. I come across as a cheerful, frivolous person and Malini tries very hard to come across as a bitch. We saw through the other’s façade with the ease of a person who has years of experience in putting on masks.
“Let’s drink!” I announce.
Question: Do you think the challenges of school help you make closer friends?