The new year had started. It was only a few weeks after my initiation and I was back at school. It was just an ordinary Thursday, or so I thought. But I was wrong. That day was a special day, for one reason only – because of her.
She was one of the girls walking in front of my friend Yamkela and me. And there must have been some magic because I could not look anywhere else. I just had to look at her: at her back with the light blue school shirt, at her dark blue skirt that moved as she walked, at her beautiful legs that stretched on and on. I tried to look in another direction even up to the sky. Impossible. Like a magnet my eyes were drawn to her again and again.
I was concentrating so hard on her and how she walked in front of me that I almost knocked my head against the school gate. Yamkela burst out laughing.
“What’s wrong with you, Mbu?” I did not even know what to answer. I just pointed at the girls walking in front of us.
“Wow – all of them?” Yamkela smiled.
“No, man, only that one,” I tried to point her out to Yamkela. “Can’t you see? Don’t you have eyes to see the most beautiful one?”
Yamkela kept laughing. “Halleluia, brother ! Go and tell her, Mbu!”
But I was too shy. No way. I could not just go and tell her, “Hey, you are so beautiful can I look at you for the rest of the day?”
The only thing I knew about her was that recently she had been staying not far from the children’s home where I had my own space in a brick garden shed. I was told by others that she was staying with her auntie, but I did not know much more than that, not even their names.
In the end I did nothing on that day. I just kept walking. I even allowed the distance between us to become wider. Fortunately Yamkela kept quiet, and me too. Only when we finally reached the gate of the children’s home did he say. “I didn’t know that you are scared of girls, Mbu!”
“I am not, man!” I responded. But I did not know how to explain more. With this girl it was just so different. Different compared to all the hundreds of other girls I had seen so far in my life. And I had seen quite a lot, because I just had my nineteenth birthday and had started Grade 12 at the only high school in Masiphumelele.
The next day when I woke up I suddenly knew. It was today or never! I had to make a plan. I was determined to tell this girl what was inside my heart. I even arrived earlier at school than usual and only realized then that I had forgotten my lunchbox. I didn’t care. Only one thing was on my mind.
During break time I went to Yamkela’s classroom and asked him to come with me to a corner where others could not hear us. Here I told him in a low voice. “Today, Yamkela, you will see. Today it will happen. Today after school!” My friend nodded. He knew immediately what I was talking about. I didn’t have to say another word. During the rest of the lessons I could hardly concentrate on what the teachers were talking about. In fact I have no memory at all of what the subjects even were. The only thing I could think of was: Today or never!
Finally school was over. I could not get out of class quickly enough. My heart was beating faster than ever. Where was she? Here I was at half past two, in a grey passage of our school building and her classroom door was still closed. I said to myself, okay, this is time to practice. The first words would be the crucial ones: “What’s your name? We walk the same way to school, right? Have you seen me before?” I wasn’t sure what would work best.
My trousers and shorts were well ironed but my hands were sweaty. There was nothing I could do about it… AND HERE SHE WAS!
While I still tried to dry my hands on my trousers, she walked past me giggling with her friends. Did she not even notice me?
NOW OR NEVER!
I ran up to her, looked right at her. My first words were the most boring ones. “Hi, what’s your name?” I was so nervous that I even forgot to smile. I looked very serious and I felt a serious strong affection deep inside myself.
Fortunately, she smiled and answered with a soft voice that seemed to come directly from heaven, “Zombini, ndingu Zombini!” That was when I smiled at her for the first time.
And then the miracle happened. Once she had smiled at me, all my stress and panic disappeared. I felt a warmth and confidence which was beyond pure sexual attraction. We started talking as if we had waited for each other for a long time. I learnt that she also had a mother and a father in Masiphumelele, but that there were tensions and it had been decided that she would stay with her auntie. The parents even erred by naming her Zombini (two) because her mom became pregnant a third time after she was born.
The time went so quickly and suddenly we were in front of her shack and I had not even asked her the most important question. “Mamela, Zombini. Listen, do you know that I love you? Ndiyakuthanda, honestly!”
Now she fell quiet as if I had shocked her. “How do you know, Mbu?”
“I just know, Zombini, I know for sure.”
As she still did not respond I just continued. “You can ask my best friend, Yamkela! He never saw me so nervous with a girl. Now, since I am talking to you, I am so happy and not so nervous anymore. Must this not be love?”
Her voice was so low that I could hardly hear her. “Andiyazi, Mbu – I don’t know.”
“When will you know? Maybe tomorrow?”
“Mhlawumbi – maybe,” she said, but she smiled and that’s why I did not panic again.
“Sobonana, ngomso then – see you tomorrow!”
“Sobonana, ngomso, Mbu !”
I did not even put my school bag into my room. I just ran to Yamkela to share the good news with him. “Tomorrow she will tell me that she loves me,” I said to him.
“How do you know, crazy man?” he asked.
“I know because I am crazy, crazy for love, crazy for her!”
I did not speak to anybody else that day. But I must admit that I did a long prayer before I went to bed the same evening. I prayed with all my heart and just hoped that God would hear me – or maybe even she?