My friends Yamkela and Atie
Abahlobo bam uYamkela noAtie

When the minibus taxi turned into the entrance road to Masiphumelele everything still looked familiar, although it was five years since I had left. Some changes had come in my absence: there were more tarred roads and brick houses and most of the streets now had names and lights.

‘Where is your mother to pay for your ticket?’ the driver asked in a grumpy tone once all the other passengers had got off. I had no idea, not even a clue where she now stayed. But Gogo had given me a small piece of paper with a cell number written on it. ‘That’s the number of her new boyfriend or husband or whatever…’ she’d said.

I asked the driver to phone the number and he did so. ‘She is on her way,’ he told me, obviously tired from driving through the night.

And suddenly there she was. She looked so much older and smaller than in my memory. Or was it only because I had grown a lot?

‘Goh – what a tall boy you are, Mbu!’ she said, and gave me a cautious hug. Despite the long time that had passed since our last contact and all her neglect over the years, I was just so happy to see her. After all, she was my mom. I thought about Mrs Naki and her siblings Ayanda and Andiswa; at least I still had a mom.

Molo, Mama – hello, Mom!’ I responded and kissed her on her cheek.

I was nervous about whether she could pay the driver. But she pulled some notes from her pocket and handed the money over.

Enkos’ buthi – thank you for bringing my son home.’ I could not wait to see my mother’s house. Judging from her neat appearance and clean dress she was not as desperate as she had been the last time I’d seen her.

‘I have a permanent job now,’ she told me confidently. ‘I do shift work in a factory, packing milk boxes.’

We walked to her house along the main road and turned into a yard with a brick house in the front and several small shacks behind it. The house was freshly painted; we passed it and walked to one of the poorer-looking shacks right at the back. I heard a small child crying inside. For a moment it was like a flashback in time – and I felt as if I was the baby left alone in the shack.

‘That’s Anam, your little half sister. She just turned one,’ my mother told me. She unlocked the old door and we entered the small shack, made of cardboard and wood with a plastic-sheeting roof, like most of the other shacks.

It was dark inside and the first thing I noticed was the smell of dirty nappies from the baby. Then my eyes got a bit more used to the gloom and I saw that most of the tiny shack was
occupied by a large bed and a small cupboard next to it. The floor was covered with an old grey carpet which had lost its colour.

‘It’s so good for Anam that you are here,’ my mom said; and, indeed, Anam did not cry anymore, but gave me a cute smile. ‘Do you see her first two teeth?’ mom pointed out proudly. Anam started giggling, exposing her two new top front teeth beautifully.

‘I’ve bought some bread and polony for you, Mbu,’ my mom said, handing me a plastic bag. ‘Please give Anam her bottle of milk powder mixed with water in an hour or so…’

Before I could ask any questions she put on blue overalls and handed me a key: ‘I will be back in the early evening. You might meet the father of Anam before my return as he is on day shift today…’

What do you think will happen when Anam’s father comes home?