Short Stories, Tale Africa

For the Love of the Game (4)

 

 

By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa

The days after Zitha’s alleged drug overdose passed by like a tornado – fast, dusty and overwhelming. Sibongile was running around like a headless chicken. She had to juggle her jobs with visiting Zitha every day. Her sessions with Njabulo were the least affected because he would go to the hospital with her and they’d use that hour to do some work. Zitha was slipping in and out of consciousness, and Sibongile seemed to be the only person there for her. This period made Sibongile realize just how little they knew each other. They’d been living together for over a year but didn’t know each other’s family. She figured she couldn’t call Zitha’s party friends in such a situation; Zitha would have to deal with her people when she woke up.

It’s been a week since Zitha’s collapse and Sibongile is exhausted. She is dragging herself to the city library when she ‘bumps’ into Njabulo. He’s been making these meetings seem like a mistake for days now. He would wait for her at Ethilomu before her hospital visit or just before she knocks off. In these times he would pretend to be shopping or just passing by, and decide to go with her instead.

“I’m tired Njabulo, can we skip today please?”

“You look bushed alright, you even missed Zitha’s visit hour.”

“You went there?”

Njabulo nods, placing his elbow on the tip of his walking cane. “She’s awake”

“Oh great!” Sibongile says sarcastically. “I missed that.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re not super human.”

Sibongile sits on the entrance steps of the library and takes a deep breath. She feels like crap. She just had to not go to hospital on the day that Zitha wakes up–just great!

“If it’s any consolation, Zitha said she heard us all those times we conducted interviews in her room. She said you’re a workaholic and that’s the reason she rested a bit more; we exhausted her brain with our football talk.”

Sibongile smiles, imagining how crazy Zitha sounded when saying that. Zitha has always been a joker, a careless somebody who only lives for today.

“Let’s go see her now.” Njabulo suggests.

“I have to clean”

“They won’t even notice the difference. Come on”

Sibongile hesitates. She is too tired to be moving books around and dusting shelves. But then…

“A city can deal with a dirty library for one day.” Njabulo says and offers his hand to Sibongile who takes it and stands. “How much do they pay you anyway?” He asks as they make their way towards his car.

“It’s not about the money.” Is Sibongile’s quick response.

“I don’t get it” Njabulo confesses

“I don’t expect you to. You’re rich so money is everything to you, unlike us poor people.”

“Ouch!”

Sibongile seems to be irritated once again so the drive to the hospital is silent. They don’t say anything to each other until they get to Zitha’s ward. This after Njabulo has charmed his way into making the nurses agree to let them in outside visiting hours. He had to sign a couple of autographs and take some selfies, and then they were told to take as much time as they need. Selfies with The Bullet! Every woman’s dream. Sibongile was silently watching from a distant, wondering how Njabulo deals with such attention. He seems to know how to switch with each audience he finds himself in. He could be arrogant and cold one minute, and sweet as fudge the next.

“The nurses are so jealous, they think I’m Njabulo Zulu’s mistress” Zitha says as soon as the pair walks into her ward. There are seven more women in the ward with her but she doesn’t seem to notice them. Zitha does her own thing, her own way, at her own time.

“I see you’re up and crazy as usual.” Sibongile says rushing to Zitha’s side.

“You beat me to it!” Zitha exclaims. “You became the mistress before I could, you damn sleek!”

Both Njabulo and Sibongile laugh. The elephant in the room is avoided until Zitha comes out and say it.

“I didn’t overdose–”

“We understand babe” Sibongile cuts in trying to bury the subject.

Zitha smiles and continues; “It’s okay babe. Yes I do take drugs sometimes but it’s nothing hectic, I’m no addict. That night we went out and hit a couple of joints. When I got back home I had a bit of a headache so I took some painkillers and went to sleep it off.”

“How many of those did you take?” Sibongile asks. Now that it’s out in the open she might as well ask. She’s scared for her housemate. What if she really is an addict? She’s also feeling guilty for not noticing the drug use before.

“I honestly don’t know” Zitha expresses honestly.

Njabulo uses her fingers as he counts; “Alcohol, weed, coke, and painkillers? Girl you gon’ kill yourself!”

Sibongile is shocked. “You took all that?” She exclaims.

“It was stupid, I know, I won’t do it again.”

Njabulo exchanges a look with Sibongile. They are worried that Zitha may be downplaying her drug problem but they are both careful to not upset her. Being judged won’t help her situation, they realize that.

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