An Excerpt from “Hlomu The Wife” by Dudu Busani-Dube Part 2
5 Apr 2018 ARTS & CULTURE
Dudu Busani-Dube will join the Kaya Book Club, as hosted by Bridget Masinga for The B-Side this Saturday. Read part two of a two-part excerpt from Busani-Dube’s seminal book series “Hlomu The Wife” below.
I have to catch up on some reading so no TV for me tonight. “Five Quarters of An Orange”, that’s the book I’ve been trying to manoeuvre for the past three weeks. If only I could figure out what this woman is on about, because I can’t figure out if this is a cookbook or a horror tale about her creepy mother. Anyway, I have to write a review, so I have to finish it.
He calls me two times before I have to go to sleep at 10pm. And as I switch off the side-lamp, I realise I forgot to call the boyfriend. He’ll be strong.
I didn’t ask Mqhele if he’ll pick me up in the morning, but I know he’ll be here. Yes, he isn’t bug-eye, or idiot or stalker or taxi driver anymore, his name is Mqhele Zulu.
He is here. As I approach the gate, I notice he isn’t in the car, but inside the gate talking to Bab’Gumbi. He is not wearing his cap. Wow! This is the first time I see him without it. Okay, I’ve known him for about four days.
He has the cap in his hands and seems to be squashing it. He’s standing with his head bowed and his shoulder bent a bit. Bab’Gumbi seems to be doing all the talking, it doesn’t look like a friendly chat, it’s more like someone threatening the other judging by the way the old man keeps pointing a finger at him.
They stop talking when I reach them. Bab’Gumbi smiles at me, but his smile fades, turns into what looks like a “warning” face when he looks at him.
He opens the gate and leads me to the car, his hand on my back. This is the first time he’s touched me. I get butterflies in my stomach.
“And then? Bab’Gumbi?” I ask.
“Looks like he is not just the building security guard, he’s the women security guard too.”
I can’t help laughing.
“What did he say?”
“He said he’ll find me and shoot me if I do anything bad to you.”
“Are you going to do anything bad to me?” I ask. I need to test the waters here.
“Depends on what you see as bad,” he says.
The problem right now is that I don’t know if he’s serious or joking.
Not the answer I wanted, not an answer I’m comfortable with, not an answer I will forget about in future.
But I let it pass and move on to telling him about that musician who shot a man over a girl story. He finds it funny. He laughs, a lot, but I can’t help worrying that I don’t know anything about him, although I now own the front seat of the Sprinter these days.
My cellphone rings, it’s Langa.
“You’ve found a man, I can feel it,” he says.
What is it with these people who don’t greet, including this one next to me?
“Take your Ritalin and calm down please, it’s too early in the morning,” I say.
“Yeah right, call me when you get to the office, I miss you,”
“Will do, there’s something I need to tell you anyway,” I say before hanging up.
Mqhele is looking at me with a curious face. He wants to know who I was talking to, but he doesn’t ask.
“Oh, that was Langa, he drives me crazy,” I put him out of his misery.
“Langa? Friend or……” he asks.
“You are a twin?” he asks like it’s some form of disability.
“Yes, I have a twin, a boy twin, we are almost identical,”
I’m not sure what this look on his face means.
“Yeah I know a lot about being identical, especially me and Qhawe, we’re almost the same age,” he says.
“My brother,” he says.
Oh. Okay. Two brothers so far.
During the day he brings me lunch at work. Nando’s. Well at least it’s not Streetwise Two or pap and liver from the taxi rank. I’m happy about the lunch but I’m happier about seeing him, I’ve missed him and his tracksuits. I’m going to have to ask him at some point about his love for them.
Again, he just parks at my building gate and waits for me to get out of the car, no attempt to kiss me at all.
Yah no, it’s up to me now. I can’t have another Sandile on my stoep. Speaking of that one, I’ll dump him via SMS, tonight.
“Do you love coffee?” I ask.
“No, I love you,” he says.
The shock on my face!
He is looking at me, like he is piercing through my soul, that look…
But I’m a fighter…I get back up.
“Tea?” I ask.
He laughs and starts the car. I signal to the security guard to open the gate and we drive in. I’ve never had a man in my flat before. Well, I’ve never had a man in my life except this douchebag I’m yet to dump.
He walks behind me rather slowly; I assume he wants to finish his cigarette before we reach the door.
As we walk, I ask myself a few times if I am doing the right thing. Who is this man by the way?
He stands at the door and looks around the flat. I realise how small my place is by the time it takes him to look around the whole place. But then, he has gigantic bug-eyes, maybe they move faster.
I direct him to the only couch in this house. It’s just before 6pm, still early enough for me to cook.
“You can sit I’ll make you tea,” I say and leave the living room for the kitchen.
“And dinner,” I say, peeping from the kitchen. He says nothing but I sense some approval when he leans back on the couch.
I had left a tray of chicken thighs to defrost in the sink when I left for work in the morning. The plan was to boil just two and have them with green salad for dinner.
This one doesn’t seem like the boiled chicken and salad type so crap, it’s chopping and spicing time.
I found muffins I had forgotten about in the fridge. I warm two and serve him with tea. I wasn’t wrong about him being comfortable, he’s even holding the remote now and on some sports channel I didn’t know existed. The audacity!
Chicken is marinated and goes to the oven, a packet of mixed vegetables goes in the microwave grill as I make savoury rice on the stove and some gravy on the side.
I’ll still make that green salad when I’m done cooking.
I decide I’m going to stay in the kitchen until I’m done cooking, not sure why. I move around frantically trying to cook four things at once but within an hour, I’m done.
I pour warm water in one of the bigger bowls, get a dishcloth and head for the lounge. He’s still watching sports. I bend next to him, put the basin in front of him, he reaches for it and washes his hands, takes the table cloth and wipes them dry. A part of me feels that he is shocked by all this, but his face and body language don’t show. I go back to the kitchen. He is a tad quiet than usual.
I come back carrying a tray with a plate of all the food I’ve cooked, a glass of juice and some chillies. I don’t even know if he eats them, or any of the things I cooked.
I’m not sure whether to join him or let him eat alone and have my dinner when he’s gone. But then again, this is my house, I’m gonna go sit next to him with my plate. He’s already eating.
“So where do you live?” I ask.
Oh good, I thought he was going to say Denver Hostel or something.
“By myself,” he says.
“I’m not married if that’s what you’re asking,” he says.
“Okay, that’s better.”
He laughs out loud.
“I hope you’ll be cooking for me every day, I’ve never had food this good,” he says.
I blush, and immediately remember that this guy is still trying to get me to be his girlfriend, he’ll say anything to make me happy.
“I mean it,” he says, as if he read my mind and discovered my doubts.
I want to know more about him.
“So when you’re not at the rank, your brother drives the taxi for you?”
“Sort of, but Sambulo is there most of the time as well.”
“Yep, my brother,” he says.
“Any sisters?” I ask.
“There hasn’t been a female born in my family in over 100 years,” he says.
That’s three brothers now.
“Well, I only have one brother, and a 14-year-old sister,” I say.
“Where does your twin live?” he asks.
“Cape Town, he’s still at University.”
“How old are you?” he asks.
“22. Good to know there’s something you don’t know about me for a change. And you?”
“27. You’re beautiful,” he says.
He is so random.
The next thing we know, it’s 10pm, he has to go and I have to clean up before I go to sleep. I walk him to the door. He walks out but turns and stands at the doorstep, me inside and him outside. He looks at me, his hands in his pockets and says: “I’ll see you in the morning,” before turning and walking away.
Let me conclude that he is shy, let me just do that.
I hear him driving out the gate and an SMS coming in. Where is my phone anyway? I still have to dump someone before I sleep.
“I miss you already,” the SMS reads.
I wish he’d come back, but I won’t say it.
“I hope you enjoyed the food and yes, I can cook for you every day if you want,” I respond.
“Goodnight. I don’t love coffee, I love you.”
I’m not responding to this one.
Now for that other SMS I need to send, yeah, “it’s over”.
I put my phone on silent and go to sleep.
I’m woken by a knock on the door.
What? 5am? How did this person get through gate security?
I put on my robe and walk to the door, but first I peep through the window, the Sprinter is outside.
“Hlomu, it’s me,” a voice says from outside.
Now I’m creeped out.
I open the door, then the burglar guard. He steps in and grabs me by the waist, pulls me towards him, and kisses me…
Featured image by Bridget Masinga. Read part one of the excerpt here.