Nangamoso looked under the bed in a furious search for her panties. She had in her left arm her pair of bum shorts, a t-shirt and a bra but the underwear was proving to be elusive. She searched impatiently, albeit quietly, between the covers with no luck. At twenty-two minutes after seven o’clock in the morning she was late for her quarter past eight lecture. The sun was out and the city was awake.
On top of the bed a man slept as if he would never wake up again. Lying on his stomach, arms spread like he had given up on life, legs slightly sprawled and snoring like a wild beast, he was not about to go anywhere anytime soon. Just a few minutes ago Nangamoso had awakened from the same bed. On the right side of the bed where the man was sleeping unperturbed, a condom filled with male fluids was on the floor. She was overcome by a cloud of shame. She was besides herself. ‘Now I know I am not that loose. I just met this guy.’
She still could not locate her underwear. Embarrassed and suspecting that her panties might be hidden underneath the body of the caramel man passed out on the bed, Nangamoso shuddered to wake him up. Ashamed that she woke up in a stranger’s bed, she debated whether to leave her panties or wake the snoring chap dead asleep on the bed. ‘I don’t go sleeping around, never mind leaving my underwear in the homes of strangers.’ She was in a dilemma and had to decide quickly before this stranger wakes up. She put on her shorts, t-shirt, shoes and proceeded to tip-toe out of the bedroom. She opened the door and prayed that it did not creak.
Outside the bedroom she rubbed her face and hoped her dreadlocks were not messed up. Having gently closed the door to where she was coming from, the opposite door stood ajar. The bathroom was empty and Nangamoso stepped in to look her face in the mirror before walking out into the passage. She prayed that no one else was in the house until she walked into the lounge.
In the kitchen stood Tumelo eating cereal. As per modern design the lounge and the kitchen were separated by a wooden cupboard. Tumelo looked like he was at home. Frightened and still ashamed, Nangamoso momentarily froze before she greeted. ‘Hi’. Tumelo responded with a calming, ‘Hello.’ She proceeded to the front door and bade Tumelo farewell in a voice that was weighed down by discomfort. ‘Usale kahle’, she said before unlocking the door. ‘Uhambe kahle’, he replied, still calm. He could tell that she was uncomfortable and did not wish to add on to her weight.
Outside, trying to find her way within the small maze that was Observatory, Nangamoso realised that in addition to being late, embarrassed, she was also lost. She was a first-year student at UCT and had only been in Cape Town for only a period of six weeks. She began to wonder about the whereabouts of her friends. Her memory was still clouded so she could not exactly remember anything, plus she had a more pressing matter on hand: she was lost and in urgent need of directions. Nangamoso felt naked walking on Arnold Road. She thought that everyone she was passing on the street was judging her, that they knew her secret. Confused, lost and feeling humiliated, she came across two guys laughing raucously. They were baked and looked to be having a time of their life. They were enjoying themselves and were not in a rush to get anywhere.
As she continued to march on Arnold Road she heard the noise coming from the upper side. The gaatjies were at it, screaming at the top of their voices to get the attention of potential customers. ‘That should be the Main Road’, she thought and thanked her lucky stars. When she turned right onto Station Road the traffic of people going up and down the street increased. It was not as quiet as Arnold Road where silence seemed to be a treasured asset. Station Road, albeit not noisy, was buzzing, more lively and rather liberating. Some were in rush to get to the train. Some ascended with her to hitch the taxi and buses. The rest were just minding their own business, whatever it was. She realised then that life in the city was different from back home. No one cares who you slept with, what you smoked or whether you left your underwear at a stranger’s place. They had their own lives to live, their own problems to worry about and their own shame to contend with.
Nangamoso continued to walk up Station Road, from her view seeing cars, busses and taxis driving with urgency on the street ahead – the Main Road. As soon as she reached the street she assumed to be the Main Road, a Toyota Quantum slowed down and the gaatjie appeared through the window of the sliding door. ‘Mowbray, Rondebosch, Claremont sister?’ She nodded and the silver-grey taxi with moderately tinted windows stopped. Breathing a sigh of relief, Nangamoso boarded and took a seat just behind the driver. Smiling, she said to the gaatjie, ‘Rosebank please.’