JOHAN VAN WYK
3. There is Portuguese music in the flat
It is 5 o’clock on Thursday afternoon, with the bustling sounds of car and bus engines in the street. It was a long working day, and I must try to remember what happened since last Saturday, or Friday, when I was waiting for Angel. To tell you the truth: I broke up with Angel, without really saying goodbye. After waiting and waiting, until about twelve in the night, last Saturday, or was it Friday, I said to myself: Fuck Angel, I’m going to Lido’s. I’m going to see, if I could find that stylish, tall and slim woman with the cell phone again. I put on some moccasins, that I bought in Canada at the Niagara Falls, when I was there a few years ago, a bright blue shirt, and brown corduroy pants. Just before leaving for Lido’s, I decided to double park outside Costa do Sol, just to see if Angel is maybe there.
Yes, as I was parking the car, I could see her tall body, running for the toilet. She was trying to duck me. I drove around the block, and parked at the back of the building. I locked the car, and walked towards Costa do Sol, where I could see Angel rushing for the toilet again. I sat down on a barstool, and ordered a Coke in a fairly worked-up state, and winked to one of Angel’s fat hanger’s-on. I told her to go and get Angel from the toilet.
A few seconds later, she and Angel emerged from the toilet. Angel did not greet me. Okay that’s fine, I told myself. Angel’s friend came to me, and said that I must forgive Angel, as she’s drunk. Fuck Angel, I said I don’t want a drunken girlfriend. I’m drinking my Coke, and if she is not with me before I empty my glass, I’m on my way to Lido’s. I drink my Coke halfway. Stand up, and walk to Angel. I tell her, I’m going to Lido’s, and ask whether she wants to come along? I cannot remember what she answered, but it must have been a hardly audible no. I sit down again. Her friend comes, and pleads again. I finish my Coke, and walk out of Costa do Sol, and find my way to my car, to Lido’s.
A string of taxis are parked in front of Lido’s, waiting to take the sailors and girls to the ships. I greet the bouncer, and pay R10 entrance fee.
As I walk into the dark heavy music, I see the tall slim stylish woman, dancing with another woman on the edge of the dance floor. I step onto the dance floor, with my eyes immediately on the stylish one. She recognizes me in an instant, and smile. As the music speeds up, I perform my shaman steps in my moccasins, pull my shirt from my pants, and dance until sweat runs down my face, and we walk off the floor. Her name is Luisa. I ask her what her Zulu name is? No, she say, she is from Mozambique, and speaks Portuguese. I ask her if she wants to join me for the night. How much? I suggest a price. She is interested. She wants to know if I’m married, and how many children I have. Back in my flat, she sits down on one of my uncomfortable chairs. I went down into the streets to draw extra money, but all the auto banks are closed. I return, and tell her, I’ll get the money in the morning. By this time she trusts me.
We bathed, and talked, and talked. She is a Muslim, and her first husband disappeared during the civil war in Mozambique, and is probably dead. The second one, she caught with another woman in bed. I rubbed her back with homemade soap. She has an absolutely beautiful body. As with all the new girls, I only get a semi-erection. She insists on a condom. I eat her beautiful cunt, and we fuck, and fuck. Finally, I come, but she doesn’t allow me on top, as I feel the condom slipping, and we continue, and continue, and continue until she starts to scream. Shit this is the first time a woman comes like that with me.
The next day she makes a call to her friends from a phone booth, and they demand that I should pick them up, and take them for a drive into the harbor. I wait in the car outside her place, in the building above the Pick ’n Chicken, until she emerge with her friends, three mulattos in their thirties and from Mozambique, very loud like ageing prostitutes. One, Joanna, is going on about a certain Carla, who pretends she is rich, when she is poor, who pretends she is white, when she is mulatto, and who is coughing blood, calling it double pneumonia when it is TB, when it is AIDS, who walks in public with a Filipino T-shirt, showing everybody she goes with Filipinos, who fucks without a condom, who dances like mad, when she is always tired, who coughs up blood in the toilet. So we drive to the harbor on the Bluff-side and back. Then I drop them all, except Luisa, who leads me to a jewelry shop in the Wheel, and decides on a golden ring, which I’m obliged to buy. We return to Joanna’s flat, where the discourse on Carla continues. Later Luisa and I walk back to my flat, and I showed her the computer, and she typed:
I love you
You have nice eyes
You very sexy man
You fuck me nice
I love you
Luisa slept the whole day, and wanted to go to Lido’s in the night. We went to my car and parked outside Lido’s, behind all the taxis. Lido’s was not full, and the music was not inspiring, until our favorite song came up: A little bit of Mary in my life, A little bit of Erica by my side, A little bit of Rita to take for a ride. In the smoke haze, the figure of Angel appeared, and came kneeling by my table with begging eyes.
“Johan, I love you” she said, and I replied “No.”
“Johan what is wrong with you?” she asked.
I just stared at her. The ushers had to take her away. She kept on shouting “One day is one day”. Luisa and I returned to the flat after 2am. She has an obsession with cleanliness and hygiene. She has beautiful big eyes.
After a long day working: cleaning the flat, doing washing and cooking, Luisa fell asleep. In the middle of the room is a big box with groceries to go by bus to her children in Maputo: spaghetti, oil, potatoes, a soccer ball, a teddy bear and powder milk.
In the middle of the next night, I’m massaging Luisa’s toes. Early in the evening, we left Joanna at a ship. On the steps to the cabins, in every cabin door, behind every porthole, there was a happy prostitute. While we were waiting for Joanna in the car, Luisa pushed my finger through a copper ring from Mozambique, and I could not get it off again. A slight feeling of nausea overcame me.
“You fuck me too much” Luisa kept on telling me. In about half an hour’s time, it will be Luisa’s 23rd birthday. It’s eleven at night, and we are on our way out. I have to adapt my sleeping patterns: Living at night, and sleeping during the day. We drive without destination through the streets. At twelve, at a robot, I bend over, and kiss her happy birthday.
This week her periods came. Fucking someone with periods, brings bad luck. We make love, nevertheless. Her smell turns me on.
Luisa and I walk, hand in hand, through doves grazing on the promenade. At the flea market, we buy some incense, a skirt for her and some essential oils. The ring has become part of my finger now.
Luisa is doing dishwashing, and I’m typing.
I went to bed at 3h30 last night. Lido’s was full of sailors: Filipino sailors, sailors from Turkey and sailors from Russia. We got thoroughly pissed. We have a hangover today, a terrible hangover, while the lone sounds of dishwashing could be heard.
Joanna is expelled from Lido’s, because she demanded money up front from a Filipino seaman, and insisted that he should fuck her with a condom.
Luisa says she is going to make me straight. She is going to make a gentleman of me. She is obsessed with cleanliness and hygiene, and complains about my old shoes, about me wearing jeans, which do not fit a professor, and about forgetting a spot of soap on my face after shaving.
The orgasmic groans coming from 27 Oxford House must have been heard throughout Gillespie Street. On Friday, I had to buy a lounge suite and a TV. The orgasmic groans now have the sounds of a TV in the background. Police horses hooves clank on the tar road outside in the early morning, while we are making love. She is crazy about my “blue” eyes, but my eyes are green.
On Sunday, Luisa had a call on her cell phone, while we were out on a afternoon drive. Her son drank a bottle of perfume, and was hospitalized as a consequence, and Joanna, who was in Mozambique, was inciting Luisa’s mother against me as a bad influence. She is angry, because Luisa’s is staying with me, and is not paying rent anymore. She is warning Luisa’s mother against the consequences of Luisa leaving the life on the street, and she threatens to report Luisa to a policeman, whom she knows in the illegal immigrants unit.
While I’m making food, Luisa rages against Joanna and her devious ways. Her visa expired a month ago, and she is agitated. She convinces me to take her to the police station, to report that her bag was stolen with her passport and cell phone. We drive a block down to the brick police station at the back of Addington Hospital. Inside it is painted in a gaudy green. A bored policeman comes to the counter, and Luisa improvises a story of a Rasta, who approached her at the entrance of The Wheel, and then grabbed her handbag with her passport and visa, and now she cannot return to Mozambique. After taking her statement down, she receives a little piece of paper to show at the border. The sun’s first rays hardly appeared above the sea, when we were cruising through the streets of Durban, looking for a taxi to Swaziland. After leaving her at the taxi, I went straight to work. A few weeks went by…
The sun is a red ball between the gray buildings, as I drive up the Esplanade at six in the morning, a pimple is on the corner of my mouth. Luisa will be returning with the Intercape Bus, in the afternoon, at three, with her children. My life came to a standstill the last few weeks.
At about 12h00, there is a buzz. To my surprise it is Mbali, with her dark sad eyes peering underneath her hat. She comes into the space, which once belonged to her. She is nervous, and softly asks for bus money, and her boy’s birth certificate, which is somewhere amongst all the rubble on top of the cupboard. There is silence, while I search for the lost item. I give her my last R20. Like a ghost, she leaves my flat.
I was walking up and down, at the station, at two thirty, counting the minutes with every step. Just after three, the Intercape Bus roared into the station. I saw the big eyes of Luisa’s four-year-old, sitting with the driver at the front of the bus, and I knew she was back. Luisa came down the steps in a yellow Nigerian outfit, with Seko, her five year old son, and Katja, her three year old daughter, with a running nose and a wooly bag in the shape of a dog, on her back. We kissed. I took the luggage, and drove to the flat with my new family. The supervisor’s eyes widened with surprise when I arrived with them. We went to The Wheel, to look for an extra mattress for the children. There are no mattress shops in The Wheel, and I leave them, and cross Point Road to one of the pawnshops, where I buy a mattress for R100. They fold it for me, and I carry it across the road, through The Wheel, back to the flat.
Luisa is exhausted. We wash the children. Katja wets the new couch, and the floor, and I make chicken soup. We put up a curtain between the bedroom and the lounge. After some struggle, the children sleep, and Luisa and I bath for a long time, and she complains that my hair is too long. Eventually we go to bed.
There is Portuguese music in the flat. I went for a walk with the children, the baby sitting on my neck, and the boy holding my hand. We walk on the promenade, next to the beach. Everybody stared at the white man, strolling with black toddlers.
A student came up to me: “Hi, Prof. are they yours?”
“Where is the mother?”
“At the flat.”
A grandmother asked: “Baba, are they all yours?”
“Yes, mamma,” I said.
We sat on one of the benches, while they babbled in Portuguese. I’m a father, who does not understand. I fastened their shoelaces. My glasses fascinated them. They grabbed them, and tried to take them off.
I shaved, and left the family sleeping in the morning. Work was mindless. I went back to the flat at 13h00. The children were sitting quietly on the couch, while Luisa was frying onion in a pot, preparing spaghetti. I ran down to buy a potty for Katja. Returning, we ate lunch. The children watched TV. I went to lie down, and Luisa joined me. She played with my penis, until it stiffened. Katja called “Mamma, Mamma, Mamma, Mamma.” I entered Luisa from the back. “Mamma, Mamma, Mamma, Mamma.” I came.
It was in this time that the signs of Herpes returned and I had to go and see Dr. Essack. I had it for the first time after intense lovemaking to Mbali. I discovered the pimple on my penis while bathing. It itched excessively and did not want to disappear. That was the first time I saw Dr. Essack in Point Road. The photographs in his consulting room made it clear that he specializes in these types of illnesses. It is a type of illness which returns, again and again, after a few months. He gave me two injections and some penicillin ointment. At that stage I was not particularly concerned about death, but since then used a condom when making love. I had two injections again and had an Aids test; the result would be out on Saturday. I had to live with the accusations from Luisa: “Why you don’t tell me before. Oh! My God! You don’t love me. You only think of yourself, I’m only twenty-three years old. Who is going to look after my children? Who is going to look after my son? I like my life. I don’t want to die.”
My legs were shaking uncontrollably in the Doctor’s Reception a week later. I waited and waited until I heard the call “Next!” He pushed an envelope to me saying that I should read it. I read it and then ask him to read it for me as I don’t understand the medical language. It says I’m okay. Thank God! I’m okay. I could not wait to get out of his office.
Not long after that, Luisa’s stomach was swelling. She was expecting my baby.
I returned after a long day’s work, at about six in the evening. Luisa was sulking in the kitchen. I tried to be friendly. She only gives strained answers to my questions. Her day was okay, the children were okay, and she answers with difficulty. I’m too tired, to pursue the problem. Eventually the children go to bed. I let water into the bath, with some bath salt and geranium essential oil, as has become ritual. She joins me in the bath. I try to make conversation, without much success. I wash her back, half-heartedly. Then go to bed, and collapse. She joins me, and made the announcement that she is going to Maputo on Sunday. Why? And when is she coming back? I asked. For no reason, except that Maputo is her home, and she does not know when she is coming back, she answered.
“Are you leaving me?”
“You want me to leave you? Why do you ask me that question?”
“Because you just announce that you are going to Maputo for no reason. Why are you angry with me?”
“You know why.”
“No, I don’t know why.”
“Is it because of the children?”
“No, the children are alright.”
“Because what you said last night.”
“What did I say last night?”
“What? Please remind me.”
“You remember. You were complaining about giving money to Mbali, and buying a cell phone for Angel. I told you, you must forget those people. I never want to hear about them again. You only tell me about them, because you think I’m a bitch, because you met me at Lido’s. You are trying to tell me, that I’m spending too much money.”
“So you want to leave me, because I’m poor?”
“No, not because you are poor. I don’t like rich people. I could marry a rich man any time. I don’t like. I don’t want to hear the same story every day.”
“I just wanted to tell you, why I cannot get you the things you want.”
“So now you want to leave me?”
“You want me to leave?”
“No, I don’t want you to leave.”
“Yes, you want me to leave. I’ll send you an address, where you can come and see your baby.”
My mouth goes dry. I hit her. I turn away from her and say: “Why don’t you kill it?”
“I don’t want to kill it. You want me to kill it?”
I turn my back to her.
“You want me to kill it? … You want me to kill it? … Johan answer me. Answer me or I’ll get a taxi and leave now.”
She dresses, and walks towards the door, but turns around. My body is curled up under the duvet, and I’m swearing. She wakes up the children, and dresses them in some warm clothes.
“Are you mad now? Stay. You don’t need to go out now. You can go tomorrow.”
We’re in the bathroom. I grab her arms.
“Leave me! Leave me!”
I leave her, and return to bed. Seko comes to greet me. I hold him.
“You cannot go now. Where are you going with these two children at this time of night?”
“What does it matter? Come help me carry Katja.”
“You are mad, if you think I’m going to help you. Come take off your clothes, and wait till tomorrow.”
She hands me my ring and my cell phone.
“What are you doing now? I don’t want these. You take it, pay for the taxi.”
“No, I don’t want your things.”
“Just wait till six, tomorrow morning, then I’ll take you to the taxi for Maputo.”
In the end, she takes of her clothes, and gets into bed with me. I held her the whole night, and we made up, and slept till half-past nine the next morning. She and the children went to the hairdresser, while I walked to my branch of the bank to see the bank manager.
It was a mistake, getting involved with a woman with two children, I keep on saying to myself, the last week or two. We are incessantly fighting, and usually it is due to the stress brought about by the children. There is no more privacy. Big eyes peer from behind the curtain, hanging in front of the entrance to the bedroom. There are the nagging cries of a child, who does not want to go to sleep at night. We hardly have a sex life left. They just don’t allow it to happen. How long is this going to continue?
The flat smells like piss.
The boy comes up to me, and asks if I can please unfasten his pants in Portuguese? He comes back a few minutes later, and asks if I can please fasten his pants?
Can I please knot his shoelaces?
Early morning I’m typing, and Katja is snoring. Luisa is curled up in bed, and Seko is speaking his wishes on a toy cell phone, someone gave him, yesterday, at the laundry.
At 15h00, I’m leaving for Europe for a month. I’ll be a fellow at Essen University. Luisa packed everything. She exploded, when she saw I haven’t shaved. She’d already packed my razor, brush, tooth paste and toothbrush. Then she exploded again, when I left some shaving foam on my face, then again when I cleaned it off with the children’s towel. She is continuously exploding. Smells, especially, affect her, the slightest smell. She cannot eat oranges, or apples, or sweets. Nothing. She just has a craving for take-away roasted chicken. “Why you give my Fanta Orange to Bettie?” she asks. “You are man, you cannot control things for woman… Control computer, not things for fridge.”
Read Man Bitch Chapter 1 here:
Read Man Bitch Chapter 2 here: