Ships that pass in the night

By Drum Digital
01 August 2014

Mmegi woke up beside a man who didn’t know her name

Mmegi slipped her earrings back in and applied some lipgloss. ‘Intimate Moments’, it was called. What had she been thinking – buying lipgloss with a name like that? She didn’t exactly spend much time having intimate moments these days. She told herself that she didn’t really care about the man on the other side of the bathroom door. They were just two strangers who had shared some time together, two ships passing in the night. They meant nothing to one another.

Why, within a week or so, she would probably forget she had even met him. Mmegi opened the bathroom door and closed it carefully so it made only the quietest click. She went to sit beside him. He had turned over in his sleep and was facing away from her now. His breathing was deep and even, despite the sunrays coming through the curtains.

“Right,” Mmegi told herself. “Time to get on with my own life. Just as soon as I get home, I’m going to phone Lindi and accept her offer. Yes, that does seem like the sensible thing to do.” Lindi was Mmegi’s fourth sister, six years older and recently widowed. Lindi was a nursing sister and mother of four: two preteens, one six-year-old and one toddler. All four of them idolised their Auntie Mmegs. For months now, Lindi had been begging Mmegi to come and live with them. “It would be perfect,” Lindi said. “I have that huge extra room.

You really shouldn’t live in a flat all alone. Being alone isn’t good for anyone. Life is a journey, Mmegi. A long, long journey. You don’t want to travel it without companionship . . . And of course, it will be great to have you babysitting when I’m on night duty.”

“Yes,” thought Mmegi as she searched for her bag and checked that everything was safely inside. “Yes, tomorrow I’ll start packing up my things. By next week, I’ll be with Lindi and the kids and that will be that!” It was time to get real, time to stop hoping for miracles that never happened. She had to accept it: life and love had passed her by. She was just the unmarried sister, the husbandless aunt. That was her position in life and she might as well get used to it.

But before she could make a move, Vusi (or was it perhaps Vuso?) was beginning to stir. He turned towards her and slowly opened his dark eyes. “Good morning, Beautiful,” he said. But he was probably only calling her that because he had no clue what her name was, thought Mmegi. And he was probably too embarrassed to ask.

“Morning, Vusi,” she said. “Did you sleep well?” It seemed like the safest thing to say under the circumstances. He looked at her with a mock-tragic expression. “Vuselele. My name is Vuselele. You mean to tell me that we spent the whole night together and you aren’t even sure of my name?” Then he smiled to show he was only teasing and she smiled along with him. It was hard not to, despite everything. Vuselele stretched now, muscles rippling along his arms. He said, “Wow, my back hurts. It’s not much fun sleeping on a bus, is it? Even a luxury bus like this one.”

And just then the bus driver’s voice came through over the intercom: “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We will be arriving at the terminal in Johannesburg in about half an hour. We trust you have had a pleasant journey from Maun. We hope to welcome you onto Mahube’s Luxury Coaches again soon.” Vuselele took her hand now. “Only half an hour! I will have to move fast. What’s your name? What’s your cellphone number?

And what are you doing this evening? Is there any chance you’d agree to spend some more time with me?” Mmegi smiled. “I thought you’d never ask,” she said. And at that very moment, she decided she wouldn’t phone Lindi and she wouldn’t start packing up the stuff in her flat. Not yet, anyway.

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