chaos in us

I realised a long time ago that we don’t have any choice in anything that we do, it only seems that way. And if I could allow myself to look back, I am sure I will see that there is a first choice which I made in the long ago past which led to all the other choices, choices which began to look less and less like choices and more like necessities. When you are a drug addict, or addict of any kind I suppose, nothing seems like a choice anymore. Except of course the choice to quit. But that is an impossible choice, which makes it not a choice at all. So it might seem like it was a choice to you, when I proposed to sleep with a young boy for money. He wasn’t that young though, he was maybe in his late twenties. But I was old enough to be his mother, if I had had a child in my teens. I suspect though that his own mother was a teenager when he was born; and that he grew up neglected by her in favour of an older man whom he saw as a rival for his mother’s affections, because not only did he agree to my proposal, he seemed enthusiastic about the idea. But perhaps the fact that he was already slightly intoxicated had something to do with his decision; drunk men would find any woman beautiful. Not that I myself am an ugly woman, but I am not exactly beautiful am I? I am old, I have a few wrinkles, and not only in my face, I am super tall, a fact that most men find unattractive. Only tall models with beautiful shapely legs are attractive. I am neither a model, nor do I have shapely legs. At least not shapely in the right way. Knocked knees always look exceedingly awkward on a tall person. Not to mention the fact that I smoke cheap heroine, which by itself is not a deterring feature, but no one was lining up to marry me, or even seek a simple relationship, I don’t even know what that is. The last time I had a relationship was with the father of my daughter. But even that I could not call a relationship, I only thought it was. My eyes opened when my daughter was born. So the point is this; I might have been a beautiful young woman once, but I am not that now, certainly not the type to attract handsome young men.

And handsome he was, in a kind of nerdy and slightly vulnerable way. He was not alpha or anything, not that any of those still exist these days, but attractive, almost girlish in his attraction. Some girls like that kind of attraction, and boys like him know the kind of power they possess, therefore they are mostly to be found dating multiple girls at the same time. He did not seem like the kind of boy to be desperate enough to want to buy. Although, in my experience, men who paid for sex were not always desperate. Still, I talked to him almost in jest, being the one who was desperate to get money, and I cannot say that I was not surprised when he agreed.

His room was neat, obsessively so. Everything seemed to be in its place, even though there was very little furniture. He had a bunch of books stacked neatly in a corner, reaching almost to the ceiling. Which confirmed to me that he really was a nerd. I did not look at the titles. Words tend to get bleary when I look at them….

He had a single sofa in the room, an old wood sofa with fading cushions on them, and there was not a single piece of clothing on it. Which seemed odd for a guy living alone in a room this small. He had his laptop open on top of a small desk. The only other item in the desk was a pen, and a small notebook. There was also a white chest of drawers which I leaned against as I took off my jeans, and I was afraid I might soil it with my hand. The bed took up most of the space. My room was a pigsty compared to his. I got under the covers, there was too much light in the room coming from the window, and I was afraid he might be disgusted of my body if he got a full view of it.

“Don’t get under the covers,” he said “I want to see you.”

“Why? I’m sure there is no need for that.”

He did not wait for my answer, instead he pulled off the blanket himself. He spread my legs and looked at me, devouring me with his eyes, and I don’t know why, but I felt a bit embarrassed. I had to defuse this awkward moment with words.

“So, do you like older woman?”

“You have idea.” He said, before putting on a condom and getting on top of me.

I have never had sex with a guy that lasted that long. He seemed to go on forever. All the time insisting on looking me in the eyes, as if my body was not enough for him, he wanted to fuck my soul as well. And something that rarely ever happens when I am with a guy happened, he bought me to orgasm, three times. Afterwards I felt exhausted, and I could not quiet look him in the eyes because I felt that something had happened between us which went beyond just sex, and I could not understand it. He on the other hand could not stop looking at me, he followed my every movement. And I could not get dressed fast enough, I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

From that day he called me at least once a week. Sometimes I would go to his place, at times he would come to mine. Except when he came to my place he seemed a bit distracted, and he finished quicker than usual, leaving me unsatisfied, and seemed in a hurry to leave afterwards, as if my place offended him. I don’t know why that troubled me so much but it did. And every time he called to say that he was on his way I tried to tidy up my room as much as possible. But there was no way I could possibly get it to the obsessive cleanliness that he was used to. Eventually he stopped calling.

A part of me was glad. Every time that man was inside of me I felt myself transformed, and I did not like the particular inexplicable transformation that was taking place within me. And I also felt like I had been invaded, as if he had gone exploring into the deepest parts of my soul, and I did not know what he was looking for, which made me feel uneasy for days. I felt also that I was perhaps starting to fall in love with him, to care for him as a man, a human being, and perhaps, a lover. But this part confused me, besides the fact that love is a territory of the mad, there was something else that was not making sense. I could not exactly say who exactly I was falling in love with, because each time we met, he seemed totally different. As if with each new encounter I was meeting a completely different person. Even the sex seemed different. As if I was sleeping with all these different men who could all somehow bring me to orgasm. I did not like this strange territory into which my mind had been plunged. So a part of me was glad that he was gone, and I could allow myself to regain some sort equilibrium in my life, and get back to the familiar.

But as the weeks went by I began to miss him. I also missed the money of course. He always gave me double of what I asked for, sometimes he bought me drinks, but only when I was in his room, never in my room. Drugs he never bought, he did not even want me to smoke when I was in his presence. And now that he was not calling anymore I had to resort to desperate acts, anal sex with old men, all that stale sweat, and even giving blow jobs to the dirty boys who hung about at the park all day, sometimes for as little as five Rands. I missed him because I felt when I was with him, this innocent looking young boy who could have been my son, that there were unexplored parts of reality that only he could open up for me. I looked at him and saw possibility. And I also felt, and this also I cannot explain, that there was something unfinished between us. It was like waking up from a dream in which you were close to coming up with a unifying theory of physics and quantum theory, even though you know nothing of physics or quantum mechanics, or even what the word theory means. And when the dream ends you forget everything, but the residue of infinite knowledge lingers. He made me feel like I knew stuff I have never learned. And I felt like I had to see him again to end something sacred which he and I had started. It felt blasphemous to think of what he and I were doing as sacred, but that is exactly what it felt like.

I had to find him. But his numbers no longer existed. Since he was the one who had always called me I don’t know if they ever existed at all. I tried walking the streets hoping to find him. I hung out at the pub that we met at, but he was never there. He was alone when I saw him that time so I could not ask anyone about him, besides I did not want to raise suspicions about why I was suddenly so interested in the lone boy who looked like a geek. I don’t think he had any friends at all. I have never seen him with anyone. When I saw him that first time at the tavern he looked a bit lost, I think that is why I approached him. I could not go to his place, the gate was always locked, and I could not stand there and call his name, bringing such attention to myself.

And one day, when I had almost given up looking for him, he appeared.

And as always, he looked different. He smiled when he saw me, as if the sight of me made him happy. I asked him for money, and he didn’t hesitate in giving it to me, as if he was just helping out an old friend.

“I have missed you.” He said, looking up at me as if he meant it. As if he didn’t just miss having sex with me, but actually missed me.

“You could have just called.” I said.

“I know, but I lost my phone, and your numbers with them. You look good.”

“Do I, don’t play with me.”

“You know I do not play; I would not say something unless I meant it.”

“Well you never know.” And I laughed to diffuse the awkwardness I felt from his compliment

“I must confess that I missed you too. How about I come visit you tomorrow night? I have an itch that needs to be scratched.”

“Yeah why not, for old times’ sake.”

I don’t why he said that, for old times’ sake. It seemed like such a weird thing to say. It put me in a funk. I spent the whole day wondering if he really wanted me to come. I wished that I had asked him to explain himself. But I am not in the habit of asking people to explain themselves. I worried that because I had been the one to suggest it, he might not want to pay me, but I had done the same thing before. But things were different now, confusingly so. He was no longer a stranger, at the same time he felt more of a stranger than ever before. And I felt incredibly drawn to him. For most of the day I sat at the park in this anxious state. I took out the money I had and gave it to Tlhogi to go and buy some beers. Tlhogi was a friend of mine. Or rather he was my drinking partner when I felt like a beer. He knew what I did for a living, and he didn’t seem to mind. As long he had beer to drink he was content. So I bought beer sometimes even when I did not feel like a drink, just to have someone to talk to. On this day I did want a drink, badly. I did not feel like having a smoke, for some odd reason, and I did not feel any kind of withdrawal. But before he came back, my boy called me, and I had to leave.

The gate was unlocked, and I went in with slight apprehension. But I was also excited. I could not wait to have him inside of me, but on that day he was not very keen on being inside of me at all.

His room was different, not as clean as I remembered it. There was a cigarette on top of his laptop, and cigarette ash scattered about. Something which, in the past, would have driven him crazy. There was a half empty bottle of 1 litter beer on top of his desk. He took it and sipped carelessly from it as he watched me undress. He was quite drunk already.

“I have your money right here.” I heard him say, slurring his words a bit.

He picked up my jacket and put the money in the pocket of my jacket. Then he tossed the jacket in the pile of clothes scattered on his sofa. The sofa that usually looked so immaculate that I often wondered if he sat on  it at all. I picked up the jacket, took out the money and counted it.

“I like how you are always thinking about me.” I said.

It was three times the money he usually gave me, and he didn’t seem at all concerned about it. He watched me with a mysterious smile, sipping carelessly from his bottle of beer.

“You’re not getting undressed?” I said.

He usually wanted both of us to be fully without clothes when having sex. He even made me take off my bra because he liked kissing, sucking and fondling my sagging breasts.

“Of course I am.” he said.

He had all his clothes off  before I had even finished. I don’t how he did it so quickly. And he was waiting for me with a condom in his hand by the time I climbed on the bed. He was fully erect, but he showed no sign of putting it on, instead as soon as I was settled on the bed, my legs parted ready to receive him, he came over and started stroking my pussy gently.

“Wow, I have never felt you so wet before, you are literally dripping wet.” he said

“It’s pee.”

“What?

“It’s pee. I had just taken a pee before I came here.”

He didn’t seem to believe me though. Because as soon as I said that he did something he had never done before. He disappeared between my legs and started licking my pussy. Guys don’t usually lick your pussy when they don’t have to. Most guys I sleep with, in fact all of the guys I have ever slept with, did not care at all about my pleasure, they only cared about their own pleasure, I only mattered in as much as I helped them ejaculate. Besides, oral sex from the wrong person who does it wrong is far from being pleasurable. But here was a man bringing me to orgasms with only his tongue. By the time he put on the condom and finally got inside of me I was totally overwhelmed by pleasure. I didn’t know that such a thing was even possible. After a few minutes of intense thrusting I asked him to stop. I think I may have even pushed him off. I just could not take it anymore. I took advantage of his astonishment to quickly get dressed, before he took hold of me again, held me tight against him and made sure that I don’t get away.

“What’s going on?”

“Ahh…You know Tlhogi right, I send him to buy me some beers. And if I don’t get them he will just drink the whole lot. And I’m kind of thirsty today. So let me fetch those beers and I’ll come back okay?”

“But, we are not done, and I will lose this by the time you come back.” he said, pointing dramatically at his erect penis. I  did not want to look at it.

For a moment I thought that he would not let me go, there was something about his eyes that scared me a  little. But I was bigger than him. Even if I was not necessarily stronger, my size alone should be enough to dissuade him from trying to detain me against my will. 

“But you will be back right, you won’t just leave me like this?”

“Of course I’m coming back, so don’t lock the gate okay baby?”

He seemed almost heart broken that I was leaving, as if we had been lovers and I was unceremoniously breaking up with him. It was a strange feeling. But  that night was a night filled with strange feelings. It was only when I had left that I also got the feeling that he may have anticipated my wanting to leave in the way that I did. These … impressions were just too confusing. So I decided to forget all about them, forget about him and his strange ways, and switch off my phone.

I found Thlogi at the park,sitting at our usual spot, smoking a cigarette, with the beers I had send  him to buy standing between his legs, still unopened.

“You were gone for so long, what happened?”

“You don’t want to know man, lets just drink.” strangely I did not feel at all like a smoke still, on that day and all the other days that followed.

I didn’t know that when I left he also got dressed and followed me, that he walked some distance behind me without me seeing him. But there were some people who did see him, and thought it strange that he should follow in such a way, with such a crazed looked in his eyes. It was almost like he was a different person altogether, which of course, he was. At the park, he sat some distance away from us, watched as Tlhogi and I drank, and slowly grow merry as we got drunk, and more friendly with each other. He watched as I finally left to go home, and not go back to his place as I  had promised. He approached Tlhogi after I had left, offered him a cigarette, got talking to him, bought him another beer, and they stayed there, talking and drinking together until just after midnight, when the park was almost empty, then he killed him. After which he forgot all about it, as if it had never happened. At least that is what he claimed.

Of course all of that could not be proven. Tlhogi was found in the morning, strangled to death. And no one knew who had done it. But I knew.

The boy

The beginning is not always the beginning, but every story must start somewhere. Our story starts at a relative moment of innocence, in that both our protagonists were still in high school, and their knowledge of the world was still theoretical. Although every teenager likes to believe that they have a full knowledge of the world, and can effectively act out the part of the jaded world weary citizen, in reality they are full of fears and uncertainty, because the world is so big and so much that is new is yet to come, and not all of it will be pleasant, the teenager quickly learns that the world is not all fun and games as it were, and those who refuse to grow up have a much harder time of it.

We start off the story in an old kitchen. In the kitchen there is an old coal stove which still provides warmth in cold days, even though there are not much of those in the summer months of the sub-Saharan region, and this was the time when the people were ignorant of the quickly deteriorating infrastructure of the country’s electricity provider, so the coal stove had little occasion for use back then. In the kitchen there is also an unsteady table balanced against the wall. There is a two plate electric stove on top of the coal stove. There are three chairs in the kitchen, hardwood chairs that belong in the dining room but now find themselves in the kitchen. Two of those chairs are occupied by two young people, two teenagers, both sixteen years old. One is a boy and the other is a girl. The two young people sit facing each other, but the boy has his face down, and finds it hard to look the girl in the eyes. He has not yet outgrown his shyness, and the girl is at times fond of reminding him.

“Why wont you look me in the eyes.” she says to him

He looks up momentarily, before once again bringing down his eyes.

The girl is beautiful, if only a bit overweight. Maybe more than a bit. Which makes the contrast between the two young people more stark. The boy likes to think that he grew up underfed, which may be true but does that mean that the girl was overfed? It may be genetic because most of her family is overweight, her mother, her grandmother, her uncle. Or it may be that the girls family is well off, and can afford more food than they need. While he on the other hand knows of days when there was barely enough to eat. But that is not what he is thinking about at the moment. He is looking down at the girl’s thighs. Her skirt is not too short but it rides up quite significantly when she sits, which gives his imagination a lot of room to roam. And he knows that this image will feed his imagination even further later on when he is alone, when he does things to her that he would not have the courage to do in real life, not even to suggest. He does not really know what their relationship is, or if they can became something else, or even if she wants anything to happen. Right now he simply accepts her presence, her random visits, and sometimes, her uncomfortable questions about girls that do not exist.

‘So what do you say, are you taking me to your matric dance or what?” she says.

“Do you really want to come with me?” he says.

“Of course, I wouldn’t ask otherwise.”

He does not know if he should tell her that he cannot afford to go to the matric dance. He has no one to pay for him, to buy him the clothes, and he also has the feeling that she expect him to buy her the dress as well. Besides, a matric dance is one of those events that he does not need to put himself through the discomfort of attending, not even for the pleasure of spending time with a girl. He wonders what will happen if she found all this out. Will she stop coming to visit him. And if she did, will he miss her coming? Will he miss the attention that she gives him? He has a feeling that it is only for the pleasure of being taken to a matric dance that she shows him any attention at all. Having already failed her grade eleven, he has a feeling that she may not make it to her matric at all. Another obstacle was that she attended an all girls school. Perhaps boys were not allowed even during their matric dance, and in her eyes that was no fun at all. But in either case the girl was using him. And he did not like the idea of being used. Little did he know that the world of adult relationships was all about men and woman using each other. And that if you have nothing to offer, no one finds you interesting. The girl would soon find out that he had nothing to offer, and move on to other people who had something else to offer. Little did she also know, that those people would also move on once what she had to offer them was used up, or they found something, or someone better than her.

It did not take long for him to find out that the girl had moved on, but not completely, because throughout the periods of their life the girl would come to ask something of him, if he could offer it, and he was always ready to offer it, because he loved her.

Thabo was a friend of his. He came not at the beginning of the year but almost at the end of the first term and the two boys found themselves sitting next to each other. And not because he was a particularly nice person, he helped Thabo catch up with his school work for the whole term, although admittedly not many people would have taken on that kind of commitment for a stranger. Later on he found out that Thabo  stayed on the same street as he did. And as more time went on, Thabo told him of the full figured girl who came to visit him, and the kind of sexual adventures they had with each other. He didn’t know if Thabo was telling the truth, he had never seen them together, although he suspected that the reason for that was perhaps because Thabo was ashamed of her, and did not want to be seen in the streets with her, or it might have been that she was ashamed of him, and did not want to be seen in the street with him. Although, the boy also recalled that when the girl came to visit him, she would often refuse to be accompanied home, as if she was afraid to be seen on the street with him. The true reason, however, could have been that she did not want to be seen on the street with any boy, in case any of her lovers and potential lovers were to see her. But she didn’t know that Thabo and the boy were friends, and that Thabo was a bit too fond of showing off. He told him all he did with the girl. He told his stories in such detail that the boy could not help getting a bit of an erection each time, as if he was there in the room with them, watching them, feeling jealous that it was not him who was touching, exploring her nakedness, turning her in all manner of positions, but at the same time being glad that he was given the exclusive priviledge to watch, or at the very least, listen in on them.

“But she does not smell good though,” Thabo always ended by saying “her thighs rub together the whole day because she is so fat, and she is always sweating down there. She needs to wash it at least five times a day. But she never washes it. But I don’t mind it that much though.”

So each time the girl came to visit the boy, it may not entirely have been his shyness which caused him to lower his eyes. And even though he could not look at the girl without thinking of Thabo taking her from behind, or imagine the sweat that accumulated between her thighs when she walked, it did not stop him from thinking about her when he was alone.

Legend of the homeless rich man

Legend has it, that he came to Joburg with his wife, a beautiful maiden girl, who was still a teenager at the time, only thirteen. In fact, he too was still a teenager, only three years older than his wife. But he conducted himself in such a way that most who met him thought him to be much older. He had old eyes you see, like one who has lived for centuries. Most people who looked at those eyes quickly looked away, because they had such a profound effect on people. They looked almost blasphemous in the face of one so young. He and his wife installed themselves in an obscure informal settlement in the backyard dregs of the city, living side to side with rats so big they were infamous for robbing drunks of their money at night. Only a week passed before Bra Thabo decided that the place was not for him. And he took his warmest jacket and left his wife behind and went to take up residence in the unfriendly streets of the city.

No one knows what he did when he got there. Years passed without anyone hearing anything about him, as he quietly made his money. But his legend slowly grew in peoples minds, at least the minds of those who lived side by side with him. He was the rich man who still chose to live in the city streets, although he had enough money to be able to afford a mansion in the suburbs. In fact he did buy a house in the suburbs, after he married his second wife. We don’t know where he met this woman. We only know that she was a famous woman who appeared on peoples television screens almost every night. We of course had never seen her. There are no televisions to watch on the street. We tell our stories in much the same way that we do every night, like we are doing now, huddled around the fire as the cold wind creeps into our backs, and we tell these stories to entertain ourselves, or to forget where we are, or to remind ourselves of the legends that we meet on these streets, like the legends of Bra Thabo.

We did not know that Bra Thabo’s second wife was a famous lady of the screen, but we had heard it been said, with no absence of awe, from the people we knew. And we wondered how this man, who lived life very much like we did, had managed to find himself such a wife. And why, with all his money, was he still living on the city like a pauper? And why his second wife did not insist that Bra Thabo leave his life behind and come and live like a normal person, in their big house in the suburbs. It would have been easy to dismiss the story of Bra Thabo’s wife as one of those stories created from the minds of bored men trying to make the nights go faster. But we had no choice but to believe the story, because one night Bra Thabo did take us to meet her.

But before we tell you about that night, first let us tell you about how we came to know Bra Thabo.

We were just young boys living in the street, Njabulo and I, when we heard about him, the rich man who lived in the street. He was already a grown man by then, in his thirties I believe. He had a reputation for liking young boys. Whether or not he slept with them we did not know at the time. We only knew that he took really good care of them. He bought them clothes and gave them money. So much money that some of them left the street, and found apartments for themselves to rent. At which point he found another young boy to take care of. It sounded like a fairy tale to us, but we had nothing to lose by trying to find out. We were no strangers to men who slept with boys who lived on the street. And although Njabulo and I had never done it, we knew well what went on during these meetings. I was thirteen at the time, and Njabulo was fifteen. You could never tell that he was older than me because he had such an emaciated body. He looked like a child, not like a teenager close to manhood. He had stunted growth you see. Its not easy for children who have lived on the street their whole lives to develop healthy bodies. Also, he couldn’t read, and in many ways he was as innocent as a child. But in the ways of the street he was well versed, after all he had managed to survive so well on his own, long before I came along, after my mother died and her family, who were not really her family but her in laws, sold her house, my father’s house, and threw me out. My father had died a few years earlier, and my mother was accused of killing him. And because I looked so much like my mother, they said that I was not my father’s son, and they wanted nothing to do with me. Anyway that is all in the past, it does not bother me as much anymore. We all have our stories, but my story is not nearly as interesting as that of Bra Thabo.

It was Njabulo who met him first. He found him at Joubert park one Sunday afternoon. Playing chess with those giant chess pieces with the chess board drawn on the ground. A small crowd had gathered to watch him play. Apparently he was unbeatable. His style of play was mesmerising. He looked at his opponents with those old, unsettling eyes and forced them to make mistakes. And when he moved his pieces he did so as if he didn’t have to think about the moves at all, as if he had played that game a thousand times and knew exactly what his opponent was going to do long before he did it. It was like playing chess with a prophet, the game is lost before it even begins. It was a hot day, and many in the crowd were sweating. But he wore this big jacket made of thick wool. The kind you see worn by people who live in very cold climates. It was not the kind of jacket that one usually wears on such a hot day without sweating profusely. And yet, judging by the way that he held on tightly to that jacket, it was as if he was cold. Either that, or the jacket held something precious within it which he did not want to lose.

After the game, when there was no longer any opponents who wanted to challenge him, he came to where Njabulo was sitting, and looked at him with those famed old eyes. They seemed to have aged even more, like those of an old man whose eyes had outlived him, and were loosing their sight. But he saw just fine, saw more clearly than most people.

“Usually, when people look for me I am the one who finds them. Most of those who find me are at times not ready to meet me, and they let their preconceived notions of me cloud their understanding. But understanding is such an imperfect beast, I only ask that you see me, and try not to force an understanding which you do not as yet possess.” he said to Njabulo.

You can imagine that these words were astonishing for Njabulo to hear, he could not quiet make sense of them. I would ask that Njabulo tell you of this himself, but he is not one for words. As perhaps you may know, those who have a story to tell often do not want to tell it, or are unable to tell it. Fortunately, the universe, in need of a witness to its own existence, has given birth to people like me, who have time to contemplate the events of existence, even if our telling is at times imperfect. Njabulo was able to tell me because he and I have know each other for so long, that our communication does not need words. You may have experience of this, if you have allowed your soul to open to that of another human being, to the point were to hide yourself from them would be impossible. You see we hide from each other all the time, this is the kind of world we live in. Njabulo and I were lucky to have found each other, living in a world that was constantly hiding behind itself, while we were barely able to hide our own vulnerabilities. There is something about suppressing your vulnerabilities which gives them a vulgar power. The culture of victim-hood which the human world currently finds itself living under, is partly as a result of people who have spend centuries trying to present a false image of themselves, in an attempt to fit in, to conform to the dominant imagination of humanity. What results is a sickness, a festering wound which can never be healed. All these things Bra Thabo taught us. Taught Njabulo. His bizarre and enigmatic life was as an attempt to escape this dominant imagination. And try to imagine a different reality for himself. And for the boys who he met on the street, who will one day become men capable of imagining their own realities, or in truth, connect to the reality which they had long imagined for themselves, before the world stole their imagination from them, and replaced it with something limited and crass.

Njabulo and Bra Thabo spend that night together. Mostly walking the street and looking at the people going about their lives. The life which somehow transformed itself at night, as if it was a different reality all together. The people you meet at night are not the kind of people you can ever meet during the day. You can never tell if people become more themselves at night or they find it easier to put on different masks under cover of the shadows of the lights. But the truly interesting things were the things that happened in the true shadows, in the places were light didn’t penetrate, in the dark alleys, in the parking lots, behind nightclubs where men either debased themselves, or found enlightenment. The line between these two is thin, and you can never know where enlightenment could be found. But it was not necessary to spend ones life seeking enlightenment, the process could drive you insane. It was only enough to let life take you where it must, without too much resistance, to look and to see. Bra Thabo’s eyes had clearly seen more than the things of this world, yet he did not tire of it, this constant looking. He said there was always more to see, even if you looked at the same things for centuries and centuries, there was always more to see. Those who understood somehow saw more than most. To understand is not the most important thing. To open yourself up to the process of life was. To follow whatever destiny that you have chosen for yourself. No matter how senseless this might seem to others. When Bra Thabo left his first wife behind to lead a life in the street, it was not sense that he was following, or even an understanding of why he was doing what he was doing. When he made his riches and still decided to live in the street, what sense could there be in that? But it was the very thing his soul wanted to do. And he had decided a long time ago not to resist the desires of his soul, no matter what other people say. When he married his second wife and left her to live in that huge house all by herself, somehow, even beyond his own understanding, his wife did not question it. Christians believe in free will, but even they must understand that this Will goes beyond the personal desires of a human being. And yet, if the will is strong enough, a person can easily escape his destiny. Whether that destiny was decided by themselves before they were born, or decided by the society in which they are born into. The difference is that one needs a lot of work, while the other does not need a lot of work at all, but courage.

The will of most people is decided by fear. All those people, hiding behind their four walls, were controlled by all kinds of fears. The fear of losing what they have, the fear of not having what they want, the fear of not fitting in, the fear of failing, the fear of succeeding beyond what they imagined was possible, the fear of been seen for what they truly are by the world, even  when they desire to be seen. The fear of violence, of violation, of exposure and condemnation. The fear of their own obscure lives. Humanity is a species suffocated by fear.

By the end of the night Bra Thabo was in love with Njabulo. He expressed that much to him when the veil of fog which had enveloped the city slowly lifted, when they stood in the middle of the Mandela bridge, watching the city change into the reality of the day. His eyes, which usually looked so old, now looked young, almost like those of a baby, the whites of his eyes incredibly clear, and his pupils were as dark as a starless night. This had the most curious effect on Njabulo. His whole body tingled with an energy he had never before known. He felt as if he had been transformed into a ball of light. And he might explode into a million pieces from the smallest touch. They parted, promising to meet again when night fell. When I saw Njabulo on that day, I was amazed at how different he looked. And for some reason, his need for words had diminished even further. Of course he had some money with him, two thousand rands, and he gave me half. I had never had so much money all at once. We went and bought new clothes, ditching our old rags. We bought them along the street stalls because they did not allow us inside the shops, even though we made sure to bath at the park station toilets, like we did sometimes. We bought new bags and shoes. We bought food that could last us a week, then we sat at the park next to the Joburg Municipality building and invited some of the guys to eat. Some of you might remember, we feasted like kings, then we fell asleep on the grass, some of us with sore stomachs. When we woke up the money was gone. You bastards had robbed us! But that is all in the past isn’t it…

Njabulo insisted that I come along with him to meet Bra Thabo. He said he wanted to meet me, since it was my idea that we should seek out Bra Thabo, and ideas are not mere coincidences, they are proof that the mind is connected to something outside of self, especially when they come seemingly from knowhere. So I went, my mind filled with high expectations, to meet the man who had so transformed my friend. I wondered if he would transform me in a similar manner. Although I had my doubts, I decided to keep an open mind, an open soul in the manner that I had done with Njabulo.

We were to meet at the spot where they had parted. At the foot of the bridge a car stopped besides us, a dark car of an obscure make. When the window rolled down it was Bra Thabo in the drivers seat. We had heard that he owned a car, several cars in fact, but he didn’t usually drive, so it was clear that this was to be a special night. We got in. With apprehension tightening my throat, but Njabulo was at ease, like you would be when you walk into your mothers house, assuming of course that you have a nice mother, and that your father is not a monster waiting to devour you as soon as the door is locked.

We drove north. With neither of us saying anything for a few minutes, simply watching the buildings of the inner city recedes behind us.

“So, you guys lost your money? It happens. It helps to have a bank account. I’m not a fan you know. I prefer using a cash house. I like to know the people I pay to keep my money safe. If they steal it I can at least look at them in the eye and see them slowly descend into hell. You can’t do that with regular banks. The bastards are constantly stealing your money, and there is nothing you can do about it, because they have convinced us that it is the price to pay if you want to keep your money safe. You see money is an illusion, but the thing about this illusion that we call money is that the masses believe in its power. But you don’t need money to have power. You need power to have power. But power, like money, is also an illusion. Anyway, today I am going to see my wife. I am sure you must be wondering why I have a wife, not only one, but two, when I don’t even like women. I wonder about that myself, but I must follow the desires of my soul, even if I do not understand them. I know one day I will, and the revelation may be profound, or it may be a mediocre truth, not at all worth the trouble. But so what, the whole of existence is not worth the trouble if you really think about it.”

He may not have said any of this at all, but this is the impression that I got from him. Njabulo got a completely different impression. He spoke Venda you see. I know many languages, but Venda is not one of them. My mind refuses to absorb it, or perhaps I have not tried hard enough. Yet when Bra Thabo spoke, I understood what he was saying, or at least I thought I did. This ability of his to speak an unfamiliar language, and make himself understood in different ways by the different people listening to him, was one of those enigmas that defined his life. It is for this reason that his legacy will forever remain contested. Understanding him was not about understanding him at all, because understanding him was impossible, his life was not made for understanding. It was about understanding the self. Which may seem like a monumental task when you see just how little of the self we have allowed ourselves to acknowledge. At times denying the self altogether, for an image that pleases us, but ultimately does nothing for us.

His wife was not surprised to see us. It was clear that she was used to her husband bringing strange homeless boys to their home. To the home which he didn’t live in. Because he refused even to spend a single night in it. We saw the pictures of her on the wall. All the pictures on the wall were pictures of her. Which wasn’t such a bad thing because she was really beautiful. Some of the pictures were taken by a camera, others were painted, or pencil drawn. It was clear that the artist, or artists who did the pictures really admired her, maybe even worshipped her as a goddess. For indeed she was a goddess. She looked more of a goddess in those pictures than she did in real life. Her presence next to those pictures produced a strange dissonance, like reality splitting in two. The pictures were a mesmerizing sight.

“Thabo did all the paintings.” she said when she saw me staring at them “They are beautiful aren’t they? They startle me sometimes. I feel that the woman on the pictures is not me. Almost like I was playing a role when I posed for them. Its the same feeling a get when I see myself on television.”

She spoke slowly, quietly, breathing out the words, like the effort of speaking was too much for her. Her words drew you in, made you listen more intently, made you search for hidden meaning in everything she said. I had no idea that  a person could wield so much power simply by the act of speaking, or indeed, posing for a picture. Is this what Bra Thabo meant when he said that you need power to have power. Because the source of her power was in her very being.

However, I sensed that Njabulo did not like her, did not like her pictures, thought them to be ugly and vulgar, and if he could, he would burn them all.

“You guys have never seen my wife act have you? Its an experience. And you’re in luck, because her show is on now. Ill leave the television on for you, me and….my wife, have things to do.” said Bra Thabo.

I saw the light in her eyes fade a little, but she still allowed herself to be led by him up these winding stairs to what I could only assume was their bedroom. Njabulo I felt was still seething. When he turned towards me he had this light smile on his face, and I could not understand it. But I had felt this since we got into that car, that the connection between us was fading, whether it was because of Bra Thabo or not I could not tell. It bought an uneasiness to my heart, seeing him drift away from me, seeing him hidden behind a thin veil where only his shadow was visible. Perhaps it was not meant to be that two people should be so connected that words become obsolete. Perhaps the whole experience of life is so that we can master the art of explaining ourselves to others.

Njabulo threw himself on top of the big wide black leather sofa, with the flat screen television opposite, attached to the wall. It was a monumental thing, and the people in it looked so real that I expected them to leap out of the screen any minute. We didn’t have long to admire it though, because there was Bra Thabo’s wife, in all her splendour, adding yet another layer of reality to her being. She played a villain. And it seemed that the whole show was centred around her, as a feared nemesis. Her performance was so raw that it made me flinch. She commanded a whole other different kind of power. She spoke with a serpentine voice which pierced needles through my skin. Even Njabulo felt a kind of fear from watching. Living on the streets we had conquered many fears. But here was a woman behind the giant screen introducing us to yet another kind of fear. We even began to suspect if the woman we had seen was the same woman that we were watching now. It seemed inconceivable.

Just then we heard her scream, but not from the television. It came from upstairs. It was long and pained. I got up, with the intention to check what was going on, but Njabulo held me, and shook his head. Just then I realised that the reason why I had felt disconnected from him was because he was connected to another human being, to Bra Thabo, and his nature was such that he couldn’t stay connected to two people at the same time. It was such a deep and poignant scream that tears fell down my cheeks, and I could not bid them to stop. Njabulo seemed unaffected, like he understood something I did not, like he was in on the conspiracy. And, although we were the same size, for the first time I began to see him as a person older than me. A person who had grown older simply from being exposed to Bra Thabo. For the first time in a very long time, I felt lonely.

When they came back down there was a slight limp in Bra Thabo’s wife. She wore a flowing white night dress that reached down to her knees, which ballooned away from her body, making her seem like one of those old ghost from movies, living in a haunted mansion, or a haunted mental institution. Once again I got the impression of her splitting reality into different pieces. And Bra Thabo, walking behind her, also seemed changed.

When she sat down in a couch opposite us, with her legs spread apart, her dress settled and hugged her legs. And almost immediately blood stains appeared on her thighs. Blood stripes that went down to her knees. I looked at Njabulo and he seemed not to notice it, his attention completely absorbed by Bra Thabo. I hated him at that moment, I hated Njabulo and I hated Bra Thabo for the way he treated his wife and for taking my friend away from me.

“My wife has an award show she has to attend tonight. She has been nominated. We must leave her to get ready. Let me drop you guys off okay.” said Bra Thabo.

His wife showed no sign of moving, or indeed a willingness to do so. She just sat there and looked drained, staring at us with empty eyes. All her power was gone. Perhaps Bra Thabo was a vampire, who married her to feed on her blood, and her power. Perhaps that is why he lived on the streets, despite the fact that he didn’t need to. What did he do to young boys anyway, was he going to use us for some kind of sacrifice? Was that how he made his money, by sacrificing young boys living on the street?

When we left his wife was still sitting listlessly on the couch. My heart was pounding the whole time, not knowing what to expect. When I looked at Njabulo he looked happy, smiling like a child, and I didn’t know if I should feel reassured. Bra Thabo did not say anything the whole trip, but the way in which Njabulo was looking at him, the energy which radiated from him, made me think that perhaps they were communicating in the way that me and him used to communicate, and they were shutting me out from their world. But Bra Thabo looked distracted, occupied by something. Finally he stopped his car on the outskirts of Hillbrow, and told us that there was somewhere he needed to be. Njabulo was disappointed, I could tell that there was something more he expected to happen, some undefined event that only he and Bra Thabo knew about. On my part I was glad that nothing bad was going to happen to us.

“It is not the best of times for us. Maybe when I come back I will come and look for you. Hopefully you will not have forgotten me.” he said.

He gave us a bag full of money. Enough that we would not need to struggle on the street anymore, at least for a few years, or months, depending on how we spent it, provided that no one stole it.

“Don’t use it all at once. If you want you can go back to my wife, she will take care of you. And you can take care of her.”

With that he was gone, and we knew that we were never going to see him again. With him gone my connection to Njabulo came back. It was as if a spell had been lifted from us.

We heard that on that night he went back to his first wife in the squatter camp. We don’t know what happened when he got there, but we know that the shack that she was staying in burnt down that night. Those that were there swear that they saw Bra Thabo’s face in the flames as they devoured the shack. A face that roared with rage. Afterwards the people of the squatter camp went around with sticks and garden tools and other self made weapons looking for him, fearful that he was going to burn down their shacks as well. They went up and down the whole night, but they couldn’t find him. In the morning, when they searched the burned down shack, they did not even find any bodies inside, or any ashes of burned bodies. It was like he and his first wife had just disappeared. Once again, Bra Thabo had left an enigma behind him.

For years I have been trying to make sense of this enigma. The enigma of Bra Thabo’s life. I have considered that there were certain things which I did not see, and those things gave me an incomplete understanding, much like all those wavelengths of light which we do not see, and our not seeing them makes life less beautiful, our perception a lot more poorer. But we do not know that, we go through our days thinking the beauty we see in our natural environments is all the beauty there is. But if our perceptions were to shift, for even a little bit, a whole new astounding world would open, and we would wonder how we have lived all our lives so blind. I am waiting for that time, when my perception should shift, and this enigma will be understood, and a whole new world of beauty revealed. But whatever else happens, I know that this life, like all our lives, was an experience in time, in place. Perhaps that is all that matters.