I look at the documents in front of me that contain their background information. Mam’ Zodwa started working as a cook when she was just twenty-three she had a long working relationship with a woman named Mrs Priyanka in Stanger and she speaks highly of her. She has four kids and two grandchildren and she resides in Waterloo.
Hloniphile has worked in several retail stores as a cleaner. There's nothing much about her. She doesn't have children and she lives with her parents. She's only 32 years old I have to stop calling her Aunty.
Ndabuko graduated in aeronautical engineering from Wits and he has actually worked with Airbus Industries for two years. A guy like him would have something a bit more concrete on his name but his past is just blank. All there's here is his educational background his residential address that points him at Umlazi and his age; he’s 27 years old. He's never worked as a gardener or a yard cleaner anywhere this is his first job of this kind and I can't help but feel sorry for him. Bantwana Holdings had already approached me and offered me a job when I graduated but I know the struggle most young South Africans go through even after obtaining higher education qualifications.
Now that I know a little bit about them maybe I should take Khosi's advice and try to be friendly and get closer to them. After all these people take care of my house and look after Andiswa when I'm not home. They're like family Hloni and Mam’ Zodwa have been working in my house for over a year now. It's Ndabuko who was hired a week after I left for Japan. He personally stood at the gate and begged Andiswa for a job and she ended up hiring him to look after the yard.
“There's a staff meeting at the reception just briefings from the management and disciplinary for a few machine operators.” That's Khosi letting herself in with her blabbering mouth already loosely opened. I lift my head up and look at her. She tosses my car keys to me. “Other than that you've reached the end of your schedule for the day you can go home and relax. Remember you're going on a date after tomorrow you need to rest so that you'll glow” she says and starts packing my bag. I'm only going on this date for her I just want her to buzz off I don't care about the glow.
“What's this?” She snatches the documents in my hands and briefly runs her eyes over them. Then she frowns and looks at me eyes-widened.
“He has a degree?” She's asking about Ndabuko. I was shocked as well I guess books cannot be judged by their covers for real.
“Aeronautical engineering can you believe it? And he's cleaning people's yards!” I release a sigh and push back my chair. It's been a long day I need a cold shower and a glass of wine.
“I’m not saying your yard doesn't deserve him he’s doing a great job there but I think you can help him find something more decent. He's capable of more” she says.
“I'll speak to Andiswa most of the times I get home after they've knocked off” I say.
“Yoh some people are unlucky the poor guy!” She claps her hands in disbelief and collects the empty tea cup on the desk and disappears.
I drive past Mount Edgecombe Plaza to get a few items and then drive home. Andiswa has a couple of friends over and their conversation is held in roof-bursting voices as if one of them has a hearing problem.
I drop the shopping bags on the kitchen counter.
“Hello guys and bye” I say and disappear into the spine-glass stairway leading to the upper floor.
I strip my clothes off and fold them into the washing basket. As if someone knew the exhausting day that I had there's a bottle of Hogan Chenin Blanc on top of the Filbook bedside pedestal.
I down a glass before stepping into the shower. I love the feeling of cold water running down the sides of my body like a waterfall and drenching every inch of my skin. My mind just fades into a different world; everything becomes a foggy illusion. It takes my mind off everything. I have an OCD and I spend most of the time worrying about things that don't matter to most people.
I slide into a fleece-lined hoodie cuffed joggers and slippers. I'm very lucky that I discovered that tranquil spot behind the yard this noise they're making here would've distracted me. I grab a box of grapes and a bottle of water from the fridge and make my way outside.
And then? Why is Ndabuko sitting on my tree stump? I thought he has left.
When he sees me coming he jumps off it and looks at me a bit shaken off.
“This is my spot” I tease. But he doesn’t get it instead he looks even more frightened. Am I that uptight that even when I try to crack a joke people look frightened?
“I'm kidding. I only found this spot last week. Did you bring this stump here? Was it painted and designed like this or you did it? I really like it. And it's next to the garden it's very calming…” Owkaaaaay. I clear my throat and stop.
He's been frowning the whole time that I was talking. Is it that weird when I talk?
“How are you?” he finally asks and for some reasons I have so many things to tell him. Like my meeting with Mr Jones signing two new clients and Hlomuka Logistics renewing their contract with us. How can I forget the fight between some guy from the maintenance and his babymama who showed up at the gate with the baby in her arms and yelled at him about his poor bedroom performance and small penis.
“And Khosi wants me to go on a date with some guy from Transnet this Saturday” I sum it all up with a sigh.
“A date?” His lip is curved up. Eyebrow raised.
“Yeap and she'll kill me if I don't go. So I'll just postpone taking Bab’ Mbambo out until next week.”
“The security guard?” he asks.
“Yes he's like a father from the workplace. I haven't really hang out with him since I came back from Yokohama” I say.
“Who is this guy? His name?” His lip is still curved up to express something I can't explain.
“Senzo Machi I think that's what is said” I say and shrug my shoulders.
He nods his head and continue staring at me.
He's not sitting on the stump I guess he’s letting me have it. I slide on top of it and open the box of grapes.
“Do you like grapes?” I ask and pull out the box to him. He only takes a few and returns it back. I guess he's not really a fan.
“You have the aeronautical engineering degree?” I ask.
He clears his throat and does a thing of scratching the side of his face with one finger. This man looks fine. I mean it he has the looks and beneath this dungaree is a model waiting to be discovered.
“Yes I do.” He lacks the pride. He has a whole engineering degree hello. But I understand there's no joy in bragging about something that's floating on the dust in your house and benefiting you with nothing.
“I'm not saying I have connections but I know people who know people from higher places” I say.
His eyebrow is cocked up the whole time.
“I know that you're capable of more than just cleaning the yard and doing the garden” I say. Hopefully I'm making sense.
“Oh okay.” He nods his head reluctantly and scratches his cheek with a finger again.
“Bring your CV certified copies of your ID and certificates and I'll see what I can do” I say.
He smiles but it doesn't reach his eyes. Then he rubs his palms together.
“I appreciate that Hlasekazi I really do but I don't want another job. I'm fine here and I enjoy doing what I do.”
This is strange. Why is he giving up on his dreams so easily?
“You'll earn more money Ndabuko” I say.
“It's not about the money” he says and shrugs his shoulders.
“What is about?” I'm really confused. Everything is about money in this world.
“It's about happiness” he says.
“You're happy cleaning someone's yard for the rest of your life?” He needs to be serious. We're living here not practicing to be living.
“Maybe” he says and smiles. His smile is contagious I also find myself smiling and shaking my head at his lack of ambition.
“Where do you live and how do you get there?” I ask.
“I live somewhere in town and a friend always picks me up” he says.
It's time I return the favour. This guy saved my life Monday and I haven't got the chance to thank him with anything.
“I will drive you home today” I say.
He freezes. Am I being too forward?
“If you don't mind” I add awkwardly.
He clears his throat and flashes that fake grin again.
“No I don't mind at all in fact I'd enjoy getting your lift. But I'm not going straight home there's somewhere I need to go first. Somewhere private.”
Oh! This is disappointing but I have to respect his decision. Maybe he's going to his girlfriend and he's scared that it will give her the wrong ideas.
“More grapes?” I ask.
He shakes his head.
“No thank you I need to say goodbye to Andiswa and go.”
“You say goodbye to her before leaving?” I ask in awe. I hope he's not trying to make funny moves on my little sister.
“Yes. She's a great kid by the way.”
I burst into laughter. Did he just call her a kid? Andiswa would die.
“Be safe” I tell him.
“Thank you Hlasekazi stay well.”
This…why doesn't he call me Ndondo like everybody else?
“Why do you call me like that?” My question stops him five steps away. He looks back with his eyes squinted against the sun that is setting down.
“Nomashingila kaBango. Do you want me to call you Nomashingila because you live to that one?” His question confuses me but I'm laughing. Ukushingila can be translated as flouncing off or modelling in a traditionally Zulu way which I think he's referring to. I do own the grounds when I walk and I can sell my confidence for a million. As a young girl I'd frequently get; “yaze yashingila bo le ntombi” wherever I go and pass a group of men.
He chuckles and jogs on leaving me bursting my stomach.
“Ndondo yegolide” It's Bab’ Mbambo making his way towards my car. “You're in a hurry today?”
“Urgh! I have a date. I was just dropping a few files for Mr Mavimbela” I say.
“Naziya! Sibisi also wants cows you young people think money and cars are everything. We want cows for our daughters we want to marry you off and go to our graves in peace knowing that we're leaving you in safe places.”
He was born in 1964 marriage still matters more than anything to him. I remember back in the days when Mr Ngidi was still the CEO and we'd sit by the gate and gossip about him. One thing he used to single out was that Ngidi will remain a boy because he has no wife. He'd say; “I don't care how rich he is or how many taxis his sons have to me he's a boy uyongcwatshwa ngothwalofu” (-he'll be buried at 12o'clock- a standard time to bury someone who is unmarried back in the rural areas.)
“Baba you still call nowadays men ‘safe places’ whereas thousand of women die in their hands daily?” I ask.
“It's this thing of not marrying I'm telling you. Nowadays men spread their seeds everywhere and leave children being raised by mothers single-handledl
I need to put these things inside the car I might leave after two hours. Lord why did I start this conversation?
“He guides the village men and protect them” I say.
He nods and steps closer with his hands positioned forward for explanations.
“Not only that. You know when selecting induna yezinsizwa we’d choose someone with dignity. Someone with the right voice and respect for manhood culture and traditions. In our time induna yezinsizwa called men for imbizo every month and we would groom each other and share advices. Let's say there's someone who's having marriage problems….” Lord why are we saying that? Khosi is going to kill me if I'm late for this date she'll think I did it on purpose.
“We'd never advise him to become Mike Tyson with the poor woman. Instead we'd give him strong mixtures of herbs that would keep him up and strong the whole night. Umfazi othola induku yethusi akahluphi umbhule nje.”
My stomach is going to burst and these other security guards will think we're planning something against them or mocking them for something. Most of them are new and not used to our relationship.
“But some men also raped and kill women in your time” I say.
“It wasn't fashion. Your agemates are doing these barbaric acts out of fashion and those stupid lawyers would be like ‘nywe nywe he's not mental stable’ nonsense man! If you're mental unstable start by pulling a cow's tail- donsa ishoba lenkomo then we'll see that you need help” he says.
“Only if someone pulls a cow's tail you believe that he's not okay upstairs?” I have tears rolling down my cheeks.
“Niyadlala nina Ndondo! What kind of a mental unstable man waits for the robot to turn green before crossing the road but when inserting himself in a woman without permission he's mental unstable? Mbhekeni lo hulumeni Ndondo. Mbhekeni!” He pushes his arms behind his back and walks away. Another duty; looking into the current government. He needs to be checked!!!
Oh hell Khosi and Nakho are already here. I'm in trouble!
“Seriously Ndondo?” She's pissed.
“Bab’ Mbambo kept me with his stories. Where am I meeting this Senzo and what am I wearing?” This whole date is hers. She'll determine what I wear and where I meet this guy.
“9th Avenue Waterside. Worry about getting this face fixed for now I'll get the outfit ready” she says and marches off.
Nakho impatiently pulls me down on the couch and starts scrubbing my face with a wet wipe.
“Now we don't have enough time we'll only do the basics. By 4pm you need to be at the restaurant Senzo will find you there” she says.
I have to drive myself there?!
“He's not picking me up?” I ask.
“He had to rush his mother to a sick relative. You can wait for him if you want to but know that the date will delay and you may be back home after seven.”
What? No. I'd rather drive myself there than to be home that late. I don't want him to get the “sleep-over" ideas.
“I thought as much. Fold your lips for me.” She's not a professional make-up artist. Some people just know how to do these things naturally. I can put a mascara on lay the foundation perfectly and do my eyebrows. But I don't know how to trim them I can't glue the eyelashes on and I don’t think I'll ever be able to do the eyeshades.
“I don't want to be too bright” I tell her.
“I know babe. Can you keep your mouth and eyes shut?”
I'm probably getting annoying. I follow the instructions and sit still for almost twenty minutes. Beauty doesn't only come at a price it's time consuming as well.
“Done. Look at this doll!” She's satisfied with her own skills. I grab the mirror from her hand and stare at the reflection of my face. I don't recognize myself. My nose is sharper my cheeks look like sand walls and the eyelashes are too heavy and moving rhythmically when I blink.
“Are you happy?” she asks.
“I love it but I wouldn't survive on this heavy make-up on daily basis I feel like a walking painting” I say.
“Women are art babe. This guy better compensate all these effort with a mind-blowing orgasm and lot of cash.”
I wouldn't mind the ‘lot of cash’ but the mjnd-blowing orgasm can miss me. I'm not opening my legs for every Dick and Tom that I go on a date with. It'll take more than one date for us to get there.
Khosi forces me into a thigh-revealing
“Go represent us girl!” She kisses my cheek and starts taking pictures. I have a feeling that this won't turn out the way they're expecting.
I'm not that punctual myself but I do respect people's time. What kind of a man in his right mind makes a girl wait for him for over thirty minutes? I'm on my second drink now and this Senzo guy is nowhere to be seen. To make this even worse he has switched his phone off after calling me and asking me to order.
The food is here and turning cold. Where the fuck is he? I have better things to do with my time.
“Ndondo” the voice comes from behind and startles me.
I turn around and find this sweaty man walking barefooted and looking like he just jumped out of a moving train.
“And you are?” I ask.
“Senzo Machi. I'm sorry I'm this late something….” Lord! Lord! Lord! What is this? His head is a horrible mess. His hair look like it was cut with a scissor and some parts were shaven with a hair-remover. Do I look like a joke? What happened to the Tinder guy I saw in the pictures? He did look like this but he was a decent man. He had a car neat afro and colgate-white set of teeth.
“I will explain what happened. Can I get something to drink first?” he asks.
I give him a “suit yourself” shrug. He downs a glass of beer I ordered for him and proceeds to my wine and gulps it all down. It spills on his creased shirt as he tries to swallow it all at once.
“I was hijacked” he finally says.
I think I know this story. I've read it on Facebook a couple of times in those worst date threads; a guy gets hijacked on his way to the date and the lady ends up paying for everything and giving him money for the transport back home.
“A taxi with three guys pulled up in front of me. They took my car keys cellphone wallet and shoes. Then they roughed me up with slaps and shaved my hair like this.”
“Have you ever thought of writing for Mzansi Bioskop? You're really good Senzo” I say and tap my fingers for the waiter.
“You have to believe me Ndondo. I've been looking forward to this day for months I'm not spinning you a story.”
Deep breath Ndondo! I lift my eyebrow and look at him while taking a bill from the waiter.
“Are you going to pay for this food? How are you getting home?” I ask.
He rubs his neck and gives me a puppy look.
“I will pay you back I promise” he says.
Funny! I settle the bill and toss him a R50 note. I hate men who do this. I wouldn't be surprised if that whole Transnet story was a lie as well. He's going straight to blockville.
“Ndondo please believe me. I was hijacked by some taxi idiots I swear.”
“I believe you and it's okay. I'm just going home please do enjoy your meal.” I pick my bag up and find my way to the exit door. I can't believe I came all this way to feed a man and give him transport money. He's never seeing my face again he'll only see it in the pictures.