By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa
“Njabulo” she whispers again, this time accompanied by sobs. “Njabulo come on wake up” she is crying now but Njabulo isn’t moving.
Sibongile takes her phone from her bag and tries calling Christopher but there isn’t any signal in the area. She curses and gently gets out of the car and crawls towards the back. She feels the car moving and screams.
“Damn it!” She shouts.
The car wasn’t moving, her imagination is working overtime and in the process bringing her fears into life. She crawls further into the gravel road and sits herself roughly on the ground before crying out loud, like a goat being slaughtered. The road is completely deserted, there isn’t even one house on sight.
“Is this it?” She screams pointing at the car. “Is this your surprise Njabulo? Damn you!”
Another crying episode follows before she decides to check her phone signal again. Not even a single car has passed this road since their accident. ‘Emergency number only’ the screen reads. She quickly dials 112, with her hands shaking like she’s having drug withdrawal. The questions the operator asks her simply irritate her. She doesn’t know where she is, she doesn’t know how far they are from the city, she doesn’t know anything! The call operator tries to calm her down as she tries to locate them.
“I’ve got your location, the ambulance and tow truck will be there in about 30 minutes…”
Sibongile interrupts; “Just great!”
“Please don’t try to move the car Miss Mkhize, stay put.”
Sibongile doesn’t respond.
“I can stay on the line and keep you company if you want,” the friendly operator offers.
“He said it’s a surprise…”
“Your boyfriend is in the car?” The operator asks calmly.
“He is probably dead”
“Keep an eye on him please, be careful he doesn’t move the car. Many people have fallen off that cliff and it’s difficult to pull them back up.”
“Are you trying to freak me out?” Sibongile asks calmly, to her own surprise.
“I’m sorry…tell me more about your boyfriend” the operator starts a conversation she knows usually softens people up.
“He’s a fool” Sibongile sobs.
The operator successfully diverts Sibongile’s attention from the accident and the emergency vehicles arrive sooner than she expected. She stays on the line while the towing people try to carefully pull Njabulo back to the road. Sibongile let’s out a sigh of relief as the car safely lands on the gravel road. The first aid people then try to bring Njabulo back to life. Sibongile thanks the phone operator for going an extra mile for her and decides to ask for her name. Who gets the operator’s name at the beginning of the call?
“I’m Puleng Zulu” the friendly operator answers, quite amused that this is the last thing Sibongile is asking.
Sibongile gets uncomfortable, the name sounds awkwardly familiar. “Mrs. Njabulo Zulu?” She asks.
Puleng laughs innocently before responding; “Guilty as charged”
Sibongile feels like her saliva has dried from her mouth. “You’re an emergency call operator?”
“Yes sisi, footballers’ wives work too. Well I work and I really love my job–”
Puleng is interrupted by Sibongile chanting; “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God”
“What’s wrong Miss Mkhize?”
Before Sibongile responds, Puleng has a realization. “Is Njabulo the boyfriend that is stuck in the car?”
“Yes” Sibongile manages to say, feeling all sorts of guilt consuming her whole.
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