“Hey, you.”

I heard a loud voice coming towards my direction. I looked at the direction where it emanated from, and then I looked around and then turned to my clan.

“Yes, you, who else,” he said.

I stayed quiet and calm. He was a red-haired chubby white guy with red eyebrows.

“Kaffir,” he said.

Nobody ever called me that before. We were in the sporting fields after a rugby training session one afternoon after school.

“Wow,” some students said.

Some students went about their business while others and a couple of giggling girls positioned themselves closer to witnes first-hand what was about to go down. I developed a passive-aggressive habit. In a confrontation, I showed no emotion, and that offended many people. I realized that many times bullies test the waters by a mere provocation then wait for an exchange as an excuse to start a fight. I was at the stage in my life where I could take any blow. I could not make sense of what the word “kaffir” meant, though judging by the reaction of fellow students and the way he said it, it showed that he was mean.

He threw a sweet on the ground.

“Come pick this up,” he said.

By the look of things, he planned to make me eat it. I had embraced insults before; I had swallowed bitter pills than an average guy; I had endured far worse bullying back in the days.

“Are you deaf,” he said.

(Whistling) The crowd made all sorts of noises. They expected us to exchange blows. The bully picked up encouragement from the whistling crowd, and then he furiously approached and attempted to hit me with a tennis racket. Two of my entourage flung in front of me; they caught the racket and threw it far. Trinity lifted him up by the collar.

“You stop this bullshit of yours now,” Trinity said.

He was beginning to turn red face.

“Do you hear me,” Trinity said.

He nodded. Trinity dropped him on the grass; he fell like an idiot he was.

“Scumbag,” Trinity said, “You leave him alone.”

(Shouting) The crowd screamed and booed him. He was defeated. He could not believe that a white guy, one of his kind, stood up in my defense. We were a united clan. He left with his tail in his ass. His entourage followed him murmuring to themselves.

“Sell out,” one of them said.

“Kaffirmonger,” another of his team said.

His group expected my entourage to bail out on me.

“You should try rugby next time,” Angelo said.

“Tennis is for little girls,” Trinity said.

“Black lover,” the bully said.

#

That afternoon I swallowed the incident by watching movies. I knew the word was derogatory to black people though I did not know the exact meaning thereof.

“What does kaffir mean?” I asked my guardian over dinner.

“Son,” he said.

Why does he call me son?

“You don’t need to know the meaning of that word,” he continued, “besides, it’s not a nice thing to say to people either.”

“What does it mean?” I asked,” I need to know why so I don’t use it.”

I was persistent as always.

“Do your research,” he said, “there’s a plethora of encyclopedia in my study, you’re welcome to borrow them.”

I was inquisitive and persistent to the extent that I would find the underlying cause of everything I needed to know without fail. I was involved and interested in concepts to give up on a first attempt. I was determined to find out. I vowed to myself that, to avoid embarrassment, I would direct my curiosity only to my guardian when bombarded with cryptic words.

“Why do I need to worry myself while I share space with the Oracle,” I asked.

“That’s your assignment for tomorrow, “he said, “Ask your history teacher.”

He stood up and left the table.

“That’s how we learn from our guardians huh,” I asked,” avoid and frustrate tactics?”

“I got some work to catch up on,” he said, “If you need anything, ask Sam.”

He left for his study, a better-furnished room than my principal’s office. I wondered why he even bothered to go to the office. His study got a telephone, a huge projector screen, and video conferencing facilities.

“By the way, what’s a butler?” I asked with a raised voice since he was a bit further in the passageway.

“Ask Sam,” he shouted back.

My guardian had interests in insurance and hotels. He also had a farm where he made charcoal from dried eucalyptus wood. His great-grandfather planted the trees decades ago. Legend has it that his great-grandfather planned to manufacture cold and flu medication with the eucalyptus leaves. Unfortunately, he never realized the dream since he died in World War I. The war hero was a self-thought chemist and accountant for some hotel chain. Apparently, my guardian came from a family of war heroes. His grandfather was also a World War II hero. His father served in the military at higher ranks.

The morning following the incident, I was more determined to find out the meaning of the word “kaffir.” My history teacher recapped on apartheid history for over thirty minutes to relay just one meaning. Maybe if I had known the meaning by the time it was uttered, I might have possibly responded vigorously. I guess that was fate. That was the way the Almighty prevented other events from happening for fear of it spiraling out of control.

#

“Hello young sister,” I said over the phone.

I called Bongi a couple of weeks after settling in my new life.

“How’re you doing?”

“I left last week,” she said, “didn’t they tell you?”

“Left what?” I asked.

“Aunt Sophia’s place,” she said, “I ‘m with Aunt Rosy now.”

“Why?”

“The squabbles were way too much for me.”

Although most of the quarrels were not for her, they took a toll on her schoolwork, she said.

“Hilda lost some of the money, “she said.

“How?” I asked.

“Her boyfriend stole it,” she said, “he came up with some scheming business ideas.”

I could not believe that such a brilliant woman could fall prey to old tactics in the book. She was a self-respected woman who never depended on men for success. She was self-made and thought on her feet. Apparently, the boyfriend seemed legit, and they were in love before he pulled the fraud. He pulled the usual knight in shining armor card that vulnerable women kept falling over for thousands of years. He swindled my cousin sister out of half of the pension money. The younger sisters fought to take control of the remaining cash. I thought it was fair, though it was not my call to make. Auntie Rosy was the right person to diffuse such disputes.

“I started at Moroka High, it’s cool,” she said.

“Any friends?” I asked.

I was new at my school; she was new at hers. It was a challenging and sad situation for the both of us. Unlike me, she did not make friends that quickly.

“Um yeah,” she said, a bit hesitant, “I guess so.”

“Come clean with me, “I asked, “either you have, or you don’t.”

“I have a friend okay,” she said,” a boy,”

“Don’t -,” I said.

“Before you eat me alive, it’s just platonic.”

At least there was hope as she told me about a tough guy who was fond of her and therefore protected her against the rogues at school.

“I’ve my house at the back,” I said,” it’s bigger than Aunt Sophia’s house.”

“Wow,” she said.

I did not sense the envy in her voice.

“My bedroom has a shower and a bath,” I said.

I learned the hard way that rich people ate protein while poor people ate carbohydrates. It was a sad contrast nevertheless the truth. The first thing one notices out of poverty was food, clothes, and space, the very same thing Maslow preached about many years back.

“We eat Brussels Sprouts, Asparagus, and Brangels as the main dish, “I said.

I did it once again, not sensing the desperation and envy in her voice.

“Same old same old just like at Aunt Sophia’s, “she said with a depressed tone, “If you’re lucky there’ll be rice, and on month-end maybe KFC.”

“Enough about me, “I said.

I got it that time around.

“Tell me about your new friend.”

We talked more about her setting, which was far better than at Aunt Sophia’s. For me, it was pure luxury. There were people employed to assist in the house from a cook to a butler, two gardeners, two drivers, one for me and one for my guardian, and two cleaners. The life of the rich caught up with me.

#

“Winston would you please take her to her sisters, “I called for my driver on his intercom.

I usually bribed him to take my one-night stands to wherever they wished in the early hours of the morning.

“You naughty,” he said, “another one this week!”

“I can’t defy nature,” I said, “I need to feed my desires from time to time.”

“Luckily, I ‘m a one-woman man,” he said.

“Are you married,” I asked, “any kids.”

“Yes,” he said, “two.”

Those days a black man easily got into trouble by just being in public in the company of a white girl. I heard horror stories of guys who were in prison without cause. In most cases, the girl’s father coerced the daughter to press charges. Since my driver was white, I was better off letting him do the dirty work.

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” he said.

“A man got to live,” I said.

I took out my wallet.

“Yah, I guess,” he said.

“I had an excellent time,” I whispered.

I put three fifty rand notes into his shirt pocket and patted him on the left cheek.