‘How can I make my stupidity up to you?’ I asked Zandile when I saw her in the hotel lobby two days later.
‘Mr. Nkiti it was nothing,’ she said. ‘I behaved most ‘unprofessionally’. I should be the one offering to make it up to you, but even that sounds inappropriate to my ears.’
‘When do you knock off?’ I asked.
‘Wanna go out for a drink then?’
‘A drink? Maybe.’
‘I’ll check back around 6 then,’ I smiled.
‘No don’t,’ she said quickly. I’ll call your room.’ She smiled her dimpled smile and exposed pointy canines.
I walked on clouds for the rest of the day, everything soft and cushy. And slow. I must have checked the time fifteen hundred times before finally seeing the minute hand crawl hesitantly to point the hour.
‘Any minute now,’ I thought. My stomach was queasy, my heartbeat irregular. There was a whirring sound, and then a click.
I tucked my shirt into my jeans, brushed down the front with my palms and looked in the mirror.
I pulled the shirt tail out and rolled the sleeves, one eye on the phone.
I sat on the bed. Got up and paced the room. Walked into the toilet, zipper undone and standing over the bowl but nothing came out. I hurried back to the room – I was there alone, the others had gone out without me. The only sounds were from the central air-conditioning system and the tick-tick of the desk clock.
I sat back on the bed, a heaviness coming to rest in my stomach. I kicked off my sneakers and crawled under the duvet. I reached for the phone.
What number do I call? Should I ask for her by name? Will that get her in trouble? If she knew she didn’t want to go out for drinks why post me nau?
The shrill ringing of the phone woke me up. I knocked the phone over, then pulled up the receiver.
‘Sorry I got held up. Done now. Meet me up at Village Walk. You know Village Walk, right?’
I was instantly awake and rolling out of bed.
‘See you in 5 minutes.’
It was dark outside the window. How long did I sleep for? When did I fall asleep? I looked at the clock: 9:23.
Drinks led to dinner, and dinner led to a walk around Sandton Mall. We talked about random stuff, laughed at a lot of inconsequential things, and generally had fun.
At the maxi rank I gave Zandile a briefed hug, feeling her warmth through the fabric of both our clothes. I allowed the warmth envelope me and stay with me all the way to the hotel.
I played the evening back in my mind and could not remember exactly how it went, just how it felt. It felt good.
The next evening we went out for drinks again. Just drinks this time. The rest of the Knights of Camelot teased me about my “SA chic” to no end.
On the third evening, coming in from lunch, I ran into Tshepi in the hotel lobby.
‘Hello you, how have you been?’ I asked her, excited to see her again after so long.
‘I’m okay.’ Her response was cool and she cast a furtive look around.
I didn’t want to get her into trouble with her bosses so I let her go.
When I met up with Zandile that evening, I mentioned running into Tshepi, and the temperature in the bar dropped a few degrees.
Now, I had to get to the end of this mystery as it hit me that Tshepi’s behaviour earlier was probably not work related, but me related.
‘Why didn’t you tell me you were dating Zandile?’
‘Zandile. She says you’re her man.’
For a moment I forgot we were at the movies and drew attention to us with my laughter.
After waylaying her and threatening to keep calling the front desk asking to speak with her, I got Tshepi to agree to go see a movie with me.
The cinema was less than half full so we were able to take the seats at the back – away from the rest of the movie goers.
‘Zandile and I have only gone out for dinner and a few drinks.’
‘Well, that’s not what she’s suggesting.’ Tshepi said. ‘At the hotel’s Christmas event she called me to a corner and asked if I knew Bobo. I asked who that was and she said the Nigerian. I told her I know a group of Nigerian guys were staying with us at the hotel, but I didn’t care about them enough to know their names individually. A lie, of course. But I could not tell her I knew you.
‘Well, she said “I know you know him, but whatever. Just stay clear of him, he’s my man.”‘
‘When was this party of yours?’
She told me. It was the night we first had dinner. So, even before we had dinner, Zandile had already branded me “her man”, and she didn’t come back to the hotel to drop? Na wa o.
For the rest of my stay I avoided Zandile and Tshepi altogether. No one has time for drama like that.
On our last night, the guys decided to go out hard on the town. Wale called up a friend who came to get us. We started the evening at NewCafe taking shots and drinking flaming sambucas, then we went to Capitol where we learnt that it was Gays’ night in the club. We walked down the road to Moloko, another nightclub, and partied till 3am.
As we left Moloko, inebriated and exhilarated, a bit of shoving started between Scar and Phantom. Scar crashed into me, driving me onto the road where a car missed me by whiskers.
The screech of tires and the realisation that I almost just died sobered ed me up a little.
The car door was thrown open and out stepped the driver. She was shouting cusses at us and raised her index finger at me.
How dare she? She who was driving down the road like a crazed human being, well above the speed limit? Indignation coursed through me.
‘Keep it moving bra,’ Wale’s friend held me by the elbow, ‘she might be packing.’
‘Parking?’ I looked at him, residual alcohol fumes getting in the way of comprehension.
‘Packing bra, like heat.’ he held his index and middle fingers out together in a horizontal line.
‘You mean…’ all the alcohol was gone from my system and a cold breeze blew on the back of my neck.
‘Guy make we dey go o.’ Someone said and I didn’t even argue.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Murtala Mohammed International airport, Lagos.’
I heard the flight attendant’s announcement and I smiled. Clearly I didn’t have to travel outside of Nigeria to confirm that there are a lot of crazy women. The difference was, I could speak the language of the Nigerian crazies.
So it was two days to Christmas and I was still single, but if the passengers I saw checking in for this flight was anything to go by, it was only a matter of time before I snagged me an IJGB. Come to think of it, I just got back too.