BLONDIE

You’re not from around here, are you?’

I squinted at the name badge pinned to her off-white satin blouse.

‘No Zandile, I am not.’

***

My boss has a suite at a hotel in SA, what do you say we go there this Christmas? Wale posted in Camelot, a BBM group I belonged to.

I perked up a bit, but then thoughts of the logistics hit and threw a damper on things for me.

Following my break up with Keme and Max’s attempt to hook me up in a bid to get my mind off the break up, I decided a vacation was what I needed. But where to go to was a problem.

Earlier in the year we had planned a vacation together and now, every vacation spot I thought of reminded me of her. Besides, I would have to go alone, and that was not a prospect I looked forward to.

When Wale mentioned South Africa, although Keme and I had talked about going there, I didn’t mind since I would be going with friends.

Guy, isn’t it rather short notice? Not all of us have dual citizenship like you. There’s a thing called visa that some of us have to apply for. I said.

Bobo don’t mind the hediot. Scar, so called for his leonine head, gaunt frame and scar from a childhood injury that split his left eyebrow in two, said. He will just be making suggestions without checking guys’ schedule. Well, I’m free for the period, so it’s fine.

Another reason we called him Scar was his slinky nature reminiscent of the character ‘Scar’ in the Lion King animation.

Make una no vex o. Na as my Boss say hin no dey travel this Christmas atink say e for good if guys go flex SA small. We all go soon begin marry. Let’s go have one last hurrah.

That na for una wey wan marry. I countered. Me, na the single life get me.

This drew loooools from the rest of the gang.

Look, Bobo I know a guy who knows someone who can arrange visas for peole who need it.

And the phantom appears! Scar said in response to the new participant.

Okaka was first called ‘Phantom’ instead of his preferred ‘Kaka’ by me. I also gave Scar his name. Kaka would disappear for days and weeks, not participating in any conversations, then one day out of the blue, he would pop up.

Scar hafar nah? Kilon pop? When are we looking at for this getaway? Phantom asked.

Whatever we do, we have to be back before 27th o. I jeje told them. My leave was for two weeks terminating on the 28th, but I wanted to be back with one day to spare – just in case.

It took us the next two days to firm up arrangements; accommodation, the most important had been taken care of by Wale so that left visa application for me and Phantom, and tickets for the six of us going from Camelot.

***

When we arrived O. R. Thambo airport, Johannesburg that morning, we packed ourselves into two maxis, as their regular taxi cabs are called, and made our way to the Sandton Hilton hotel.

Scar, Phantom and Etim wanted breakfast, but after going through the in-room menu, decided breakfast was too expensive.

I wanted to sleep – I stayed up for most of the flight and now could feel my system shutting down. Wale, Olisa and Oladele wanted to sleep too, so we agreed to nap for three hours before going out in search of food.

The next three days passed in a whirl of activities: window shopping and movies at the Sandton City mall during the day – complete with photo sessions at Nelson Mandela square – and club hopping at night.

We got back to the hotel on the fourth day after an evening at the movies – I was with Wale – and I stopped at the reception desk to chat with Tshepi, the jovial receptionist. Tshepi wasn’t there, and in her place was a smallish lady. The thick lens glasses perched on her pinched nose gave her an owlish look.

‘Good evening,’ I said. ‘Please is Tshepi working tonight?’

‘You’re not from around here, are you?’ she asked, not answering my question.

‘No Zandile, I am not. Tshepi, is she working tonight?’

‘Where are you from then?’

‘I’m from Nigeria.’

‘You don’t sound Nigerian.’

‘How do Nigerians sound?’ I’d heard that before, and the answer never varied.

‘Afriken Magic.’ she said with a smile that dimpled her cheeks.

‘So tell me, is Tshepi not on duty?’

‘Look at this man,’ she turned to Wale, her accent more pronounced. ‘A sister is trying to get with him and he’s busy asking about another woman.’

All I could say was ‘Oh,’ with a stupid look on my face.

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