••• The International Writers Magazine: Streetlife
“What’s your name, angel?”
“Whatever you want it to be, sir? You looking for companionship?”
“Sir!” the man guffawed. “I’m not old enough to be a sir. “You can call my father or my uncles sir, not me.”
“So, what should I call you. Handsome? Stranger? Homesick?”
“I know you. Haven’t we met before on this road?”
“It gets dark here late at night. I think I would have remembered your face if we had met before.”
“Do you want a smoke?’
“Do you have another cigarette?”
“Yes, yes I do. Are you cold?”
The girl looked at him hard squinting at him in the dark.
“No, sir, not me. No, I am not cold.”
“Here’s your smoke. You smoke pot?”
“No, no. I don’t touch that stuff. You should see what it does to the other girls. Makes some of them see things. Hear things when they’re high.”
“Do you want something to eat?”
“There’s a hamburger place we can go to near here. It’s warm there.”
“I mean we don’t have to do anything. I don’t expect anything from you. I just want to sit down somewhere and talk to you. You know. Find out about your life.”
“Are you a journalist? Are you a newspaper reporter? We get a lot of those kind of people coming out to talk to us. Looking for a story. They’re always happy with this kind of down and out crowd. I don’t really like talking to journalists.” The girl sniffed.
“You are cold.”
“No, I’m fine.”
“So, what do you want to do. We can go to the lake.”
“It’s too quiet and much too dark out there at this time of night.”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Do you want to be my boyfriend?” Now it was the girl’s turn to laugh.
“I have pills.”
“That’s not my scene. I don’t do that kind of stuff.”
“What!” the man was incredulous. “No pills. No pot. Next you’ll be telling me you don’t drink.”
“This might be hard to believe but I wasn’t brought up that way.”
“Yet, here you are on Valentine’s night, sniffing, looking at my sports car, checking me out, are you sure I haven’t picked you up before.”
“So, you say do you now. Next you’ll be telling you’re my genie and you can grant me three wishes.”
“Yes, I do. I mean that’s the type of person I am. I want to believe in you for one night. Just give me a chance. I can change you. I can change your life for the better.”
“Say I do, give you a chance to show me love, the world, will your personality change me in the end. What will you educate me on in this world, on this piece of heaven. You call love a kind paradise. I call it a fool’s paradise.” The girl walked off into the dark night. The man looked out at her a fire building up inside of him.
“Fine. I can walk to that hamburger place. You can follow me if you want. If you want to talk. That’s fine with me but it will cost you more.”
“Whatever you say babe. Beat you there.”
“Whatever you say boss!” the girl blew him a kiss and walked away from the car as fast as her leather boots could carry her.
“I’m unhappy in my marriage.” The man starts. Farren Visagie looks at the menu.
“These days isn’t everyone.”
“It’s not like that. It wasn’t always like that. We were high school sweethearts. I know. I know. You’re already rolling your eyes at that.”
“You can say that again, mister. What are you going to have?”
“I’ll have coffee. You can have anything you want.”
“I think I’ll have a hamburger and a Dagwood to go. For later. Their hamburgers are very good here. Are you sure you don’t want anything to eat?”
“No. I’m fine.”
“I think I might be gay, that’s the thing. I’ve been riding up streets and down streets trying to figure this out and I haven’t got it all figured out yet.”
“Your marriage is collapsing. Do you have any children?”
“You got that right. My whole world is collapsing around me. We have one child. A daughter. She’s a teenager. How will this affect her life, her friends, school, that’s the question that I keep asking myself now.”
“You don’t. You owe that to her. Don’t say anything. Does your wife know? I mean, I know guys. In my opinion, guys are good at keeping secrets. Don’t tell your wife.”
“I have to. I owe it to her.”
“Right now, your daughter and your wife, they have a semblance of a perfect life. Why do you want to take that away from them and make them believe that all those years when you played the perfect husband and father you were someone else?”
“You’re quite articulate for your age.”
“Well, how old do you think I am?”
“You seem young but also wise.”
“Wise.” The girl had a thoughtful look in her eyes. She bit down on her bottom lip, looked up at the guy who was buying her dinner. “Why do you do this to yourself?”
“I don’t know. I mean I think I was always gay but my wife and I met in church. It was easier to hide from my parents and my older sisters. I was the handsome one. I played sports. I was a star athlete. I used to love women but I loved the company of men too. Can you understand that?”
“Your coffee is getting cold. How many sugars do you take?” The girl reached for sachets of sugar on her side of the table, tore them open and placed it next to his coffee mug. “I have a dream too.”
“Well, don’t keep me in suspense. Tell me about it.”
“I wanted to become a nurse when I left home. That’s why I came out here, genie. I wanted to make it big in Johannesburg. The city of gold.”
“You seem disappointed.”
“No, I’m not really.” The guy with the shiny sports car could not meet her gaze. “So, you can read people too.”
“Yes, I’m really good at reading people too.”
“My name’s not really Gene.”
“Oh, I knew that. I just like the sound of ‘genie’. Tonight”, you’re my genie. Tomorrow night I have to figure out where my next supper is going to come from. It isn’t so bad. Life really isn’t so bad, genie.”
“I don’t know about that. I held my wife in my arms last night. She makes me feel safe. I make her feel safe but there’s sadness too. All this pent-up rage inside of me I can’t explain.”
“So, you drive up and down Oxford Street at night talking to girls whose names and faces you can’t remember the next day when you’re in your suit and blazer driving in the morning traffic to work.” For a long time, the girl played with the paper that her straw had come in. The man, Gene Murray, drummed his fingers on the table.
“My grandfather took pills.”
“Oh. Did he have some kind of illness?”
The girl ignored his question. “I don’t take pills, don’t smoke pot like the other girls do, and I don’t drink because of him.” They sat in silence again. The girl her hunger sated, stared out of the window.
“I’m sorry. I should have shown you a better time. Thanks for the hamburger. It felt like for the first time I had eaten a proper meal in days. So, thanks for this genie.”
“Anytime lady. It looks like rain. Do you want me to drop you off somewhere? Is there someplace safe you can go? I’m not going to leave you like this. All alone with no place to go.”
“Well now, my genie is a gentleman through and through. Thanks. That’s really nice of you but my loyal customers should be pulling up this way real soon anyway.”
“Do you like what you do? I mean you’re so wise and articulate beyond your years. Whatever happened to the nursing gig?”
“The world is a damned place. A dangerous place. I mean anything can happen. Don’t worry about me. I can take care of myself. I’m a big girl. You look like you need rescuing yourself right about now. Have you decided what you’re going to do yet?”
“All people have stories. Sad stories. I don’t want a divorce. I mean, even you have a story.”
“Yes, even I have a story.” The girl said and blinked back the tears in her eyes. “What are you going to do genie?”
“I am going to ride up and down Oxford Street every night.”
“Looking for love?”
“Looking for you.”
The girl smiled at this.
“Look, I’ve made you cry.”
“Oh, genie. I don’t know why I’m crying but I know this. If you tell your daughter and speak to her the way you spoke to me, it will break her heart. Do you want to do that? Do you want to break her heart?”
“And you? Do you want to break your grandparents’ hearts?”
“Whatever does not kill you, makes you stronger, right? There’ll be tears on my pillow tonight.” It had begun to rain a light drizzle outside. The world was blurry.
Out of focus. The man impulsively leaned over and kissed the girl on her cheek. She looked away.
“You’re sweet.” The girl said.
© Abigail George March 2017
Email address: abigailgeorge79 at gmail.com
link to blog:
Youth is falling. A clever winter dissolve. Light flashes during an afternoon storm and all I can remember is Johannesburg and failing miserably at school.
Come to my house
Elizabeth Light was like any other girl her age. She felt she needed to understand more of the world around her which is why she moved to Johannesburg in the first place.
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