Love across class lines

2009-04-01 00:00

It was a bleak evening; one of those when you regret having gone out with your friends, but you’re out of town in the car of someone who has a lot more disposal income than you have.

We had been to a hip hop event in Durban and were deciding on the next move. As usual, due to the competitive nature of the event, I’d endured hostility along with the overzealousness of rich, marijuana-addicted students who expect too much attention. Someone had a bright idea to go to this “coloured nightclub”. This is where the so-called coloured people party and generally are not very friendly to the only race below them. I’m not harping on about the past, but we all know that most South Africans, including blacks, still subscribe strongly to old apartheid standards. I don’t enjoy myself too often at such places, although they are sometimes the only places that play the kind of music I like. You see, the pretty girls won’t dance with or talk to me, and I’m usually quite accustomed to attention from the fairer sex.

As I expected, the music was great and everybody was dressed way too nicely. I felt insecure, having not planned to go out after the hip hop performance. Other than my grumpiness and tipsiness from the prior event, I had with me some men of an economic class a notch higher than mine. We were looking like freshmen, dancing nervously and buying drinks when I saw this group of girls who were, well, something to see. My lady-killer instinct kicked in and I made it obvious that I was looking at this one girl in particular, only to be sobered by the fact that she was one of those “Jennifer Lopez look-alikes”, so I didn’t have a chance. Just for fun, I took out my outdated cellphone, wrote an SMS and showed the screen to her: “You are live as hell. I’m from outta town. Enjoy. Peace.” I didn’t expect a response, but she smiled and said something to her friends; a response that got the much cooler guys I was with very interested and impressed by what I’d done. I waved farewell as we left a short while later, proud.

At university the following February, it took seeing her for the second time to finally connect the dots and remember where I knew her from. “Yes, I was at the club in December and I remember the guy with the phone. Was it you?” she asked. Yes indeed! She was transferring from Cape Town because of a family member’s illness and I was repeating the first semester of my ill-fated final year as an undergraduate. And so began a unique relationship caught somewhere between friendship and romance. She was sad about leaving Cape Town. We started to bond and we spoke a lot about everything, including each other’s lives. I could not believe I was actually so close to this woman. Eventually, she would wait and change clothes at my flat before disappearing to meet her lift.

One of the reasons I never asked her to be my girl was because she once recited some prose to me that I may teach my own daughter one day. Its message was that, being high maintenance, the guy who wanted to marry her would have to match what her father was doing for her, including the university studies. Dating was different she said, but she expected a lot more than attention. This woman, who now calls me “friend”, showed me what it would be like to be with her by sharing her stories of flights across the country to parties and speaking a language I heard in soap operas. My life had different characteristics, so I was always apprehensive about pursuing her.

Over the years, she helped me to let go by often not arriving at lunches and dinners I’d arrange at places of her standard. She always apologised and I felt guilty for being mad at her. Yes, this was a romance of a unique nature, where we were both privy to certain confidential information about each other, sometimes squeezed hands for comfort in tough times and shared many intensely personal moments. I was an excellent repellent to her admirers. You’d be forgiven for not understanding it, because neither of us understood anything either, except that we loved each other.

• Brian Khoza is a local rap artist and poet.

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