Short Stories, Tale Africa

For the Love of the Game (12)

 

By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa

“Zitha collapsed again, she’s…” Thabo rushes to Sibongile while the paramedics and nurses fuss over Njabulo. Puleng remains where she was standing with Thabo.

“On my God Tee! Can this day be any worse?” Sibongile says softly as she allows herself to be dragged by Thabo towards the ward where Zitha is. She pauses next to Puleng, who seems confused as to what she should do next.

“I’m sorry,” Sibongile whispers to Puleng.

This seems to melt the ice that had taken over Puleng’s body. She quickly embraces Sibongile and they engage in a quick, soft conversation that Thabo cannot hear. The hug seems to last forever to the nervous Thabo who keeps glancing in their direction. He feels guilty as if he is the one who is married to Puleng and is cheating with Sibongile. After what seems like a decade to him, the ladies let go of each other and Sibongile says loudly; “Go to him, I’ll quickly check on Zitha”

Puleng nods and rushes to where the nurses had disappeared with Njabulo. Thabo looks at Sibongile I’m disbelief until she snaps; “What? Why are you just standing there like a Mandela statue? Take me to Zitha!”

“Crazy day” Thabo says shaking his head as though he is trying to make sense of it all. He has been going crazy since discovering Zitha lying ‘lifeless’ in his friend’s pool house. He keeps saying lifeless even after everyone has told him she isn’t lifeless because she is still alive–to him she isn’t. She isn’t alive if she isn’t talking to him, laughing and dancing with him…that’s his reasoning.

“So you guys went to these wild parties of yours again? Thabo you know she’s an addict, you know she’s not supposed to be going to these things.” Sibongile is shouting, taking all her frustrations out on Thabo. “I’ve had a day from hell, I can’t deal with it.”

“Sibo it’s not my fault, why are you acting like it’s my fault?” Thabo says softly.

“It’s never your fault is it?”

“Habe!”

“It’s never your fault, you men do whatever you want but the consequences are never your fault!” Sibongile is raving mad at this point.

“Hhayi Sibongile, I didn’t introduce her to drugs. I don’t even use these things…” Thabo looks at the unconscious Zitha briefly before continuing; “This isn’t about me or Zitha is it?”

Sibongile sits on the bed next to Zitha and slowly caresses her face. She’s just lying there, perfectly still.

“It’s about Njabulo and that accident you had,” Sibongile hears Thabo saying. She has zoned out of their conversation and is wishing she could be the one lying in that bed like Zitha. To her she appears to have momentarily escaped all life’s complications and is painless and worry-free.

“Do you think she’s in pain?” She asks Thabo without removing her gaze from Zitha.

Thabo shrugs and mutters; “I don’t know”

“What did we miss? There is obviously something wrong with her Thabo, why didn’t we pay more attention?”

Sibongile is asking these questions knowing very well Thabo doesn’t have any answers to them. He is also asking himself the same questions. The doctors tried to drain some of the drugs from Zitha’s system and now all they could do is wait for her to wake up and hopefully convince her to go to rehab.

“You should call her parents” Thabo says as he takes a seat on the chair next to Sibongile, very close to the bed. It seems as if they would both be sitting on the hospital bed if it wasn’t so small.

“I don’t know them.”

“What?” He exclaims in disbelief. “How can you not know them? You’ve–”

Sibongile interrupts; “Dude I know okay; don’t rub it in.”

“Okay now I know you are all crazy!”

“Judge away Mr Perfect, why don’t you? You’re perfect right?”

“Look, we’ve all had a bad day, don’t take your nonsense out on me.”.

They start a bickering match that is broken by a whisper; “Yerrr, yessess”

The two stop arguing and stare at Zitha as if they are making sure that the whisper came from her. Her eyes are still closed and her body is still in the same position.

“Zee?” Thabo whispers

Zitha answers, without opening her eyes; “What a rude way to wake a girl up, jeez!”

Sibongile lets out a nervous laugh and looks at Thabo.

“You’re awake you freak!” He exclaims. “Can you open your eyes?”

His excitement cannot be contained, he feels like jumping up and down like the yoyo he used to love so much as a kid.

“I can, I just don’t want to look at you.”

The laughter is more relaxed now, both Sibongile and Thabo speak cheerfully as if they are at a joyful reunion. Nobody mentions the overdose, not even Zitha after she eventually opens her eyes. After some carefree conversations Sibongile decides to go and check on Njabulo on the other side of the hospital. She has been dreading this because a huge part of her is still angry with Njabulo, even though she’s not sure why. Puleng had said she’s not angry at her and this comforted her somehow. She’s not nervous about having to face her again, but is scared of what she might do if she sees Njabulo.

She’s consumed in these thoughts as she strolls along the hospital corridors. She’s not sure where Njabulo is so she is casually walking through the male wards without asking for assistance – killing time. She is surprised to see Puleng sitting on a bench outside one the private rooms, sipping on a hot beverage. She looks relaxed for a person who might be losing her beloved husband. Upon seeing Sibongile, Puleng smiles and says;

“He’s fine”

Sibongile isn’t sure what she means. Fine? How can he be fine when he had been dying just a few hours ago? She didn’t have to utter these questions, Puleng could read her confusion.

“Your man is a coward! He fainted and left you to deal with an accident,” she says jokingly.

Sibongile isn’t sure if this is her being sarcastic or if she’s being genuine. “So there is absolutely nothing wrong with him?” She asks

“Nothing nothing. Yet he is busy demanding X-rays saying his career is over.” Puleng says before taking a sip from her drink. “We were worried for nothing. That coward”

There is a moment of silence between the two women before they both burst into a loud laughter. What a relief!

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