Nomali Cele is a struggling writer-witch in Soweto. She writes a lazy personal blog, tweets tears caused by Drake and wants to write fictional and real stories about black girls.
07:11 – Bed
I turn to my left side. I’m barely awake but I reach for my phone anyway. This is a (bad?) habit of mine. Constantly reaching for my phone even when I’m half dead/asleep. When I asked to do Enormous Eye, and Amy Rose Spiegel said yes, I panicked because what am I going to write about doing? The tweets I compose and discard? The best way to not lose it when your phone keeps testing your patience by shutting down at random because it’s a Blackberry and the year is 2015? I click the Blackberry symbol and a thin black man’s mid-drift and pelvic area with his pink cropped sweater greets my barely open eyes. The clock says “07:11”. This is the first time this has happened so I take it as a good sign. Beysus is with me. I drop the phone back onto the chair living as a side table and turn to back to my right side.
I’m nowhere close to feeling refreshed. What does refreshed even feel like? Is it like dew-y grass? I was a rural kid for a bit of my life and dew was a big deal. It was an indicator of how early or how late you were out. My baby legs still have vivid memory of walking through grass with dew and coming out wet. Grass was a big part of my childhood too. We’d tie knots it on paths and watch people trip, we rolled down hills then I’d cry my way through an itchy bath time. I was a douchebag as a kid.
I sit on the toilet and brush my teeth while thinking I haven’t slept to my body’s content or maybe I’ve slept too…LMAO THERE’S NO SUCH THING. I’m awake anyway because this bloody plane keeps flying over. I live relatively close to an Easter carnival called “The Rand Show” and for as long as I can remember the plane has been part of the attractions. Legend has it (I’ve never actually been to the event even though I used it to falsify an essay for English class when I was 13 and in grade nine) that Rand Show visitors pay a fee and get to take a quick plane ride over Soweto. The plane sounds fast and it’s very loud; I always think ‘fighter jet’. Above all, it’s annoying. I think I’m going to count how many times I hear it in an hour.
I create a new memopad on my Blackberry that I call ‘enormous’ with five s’s.
I’m lying on the bed wishing I was still asleep. I’ve been re-reading pages of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah this past week. It’s special to me because during a very downer period of my life, in 2014, it was the book I binge-read. The book that seeped into the darkness and made me feel like I was on my way to being better. I stop where Ifemelu goes to America. My unused oven in my baby stove has a glass door situation going on. I love watching my legs on it. It makes me feel like I have long legs. My sister is still sleeping. I want her to wake up so I can tell her about the weird dream regarding her precious “boyfriend” jeans. I dreamt that someone who isn’t her was wearing them and kept going on about how nice they are.
I rarely remember dreams now, I wonder if it’s a sign of my brain rotting or whatever. When I try to look around in my brain for dreams I only find the sex dream from weeks ago. I dreamt that this boy from twitter and I were in a moved house. You’ve seen the Pixar film UP? That’s what the house looked like. It sat on one of the mine dumps next to where I currently live. We were looking after the house for someone and we touched each other. Dream me caressed his v. hairy back and wasn’t even disgusted by it. High-key erotic stuff.
I wonder how long the faceless (they had a face I just can’t recall it now) person wearing my sister’s jeans and going on about how great they are will last in my head.
I’m walking to the fruit and veg stall up the street to buy two bananas. I see the planes, which are definitely not fighter jets. Unless what I imagine is the fighter jet is completely incorrect. There are three planes: two have a dark, khaki camouflage exterior and the other one is white. They have giant propellers and the noise makes sense. They seem to be flying very low so that I can clearly hear how furiously the propellers that sound like a swarm of angry, winged insects spin. I realise then that I’d given up on counting the number of times they’ve flown over even before I started.
I stand at the stall for close to two minutes, looking at the produce and listening to the kids playing soccer on the street. There’s no one stall-related in sight. What feels like another minute passes before I realise there’s a blanket on the other side and the woman who runs the stall is sleeping. She says she’s just come from Maputo and needs to catch up on her sleep. I decide on an avocado even though I’m a rand short. It’s a bruised, ugly thing but the woman assures me it’s good inside. I promise to bring the outstanding money back.
My sister’s made the bed. She stretches and yawns, talking about what great sleep she had. I should probably ask her what refreshed feels like. I set the water pot on the stove for my bath.
The chair/side table is now the main supporting star for my bath. I put the bath basin on it because it’s directly below the A4 page-sized mirror. I get to watch my face as I exfoliate it. I declare it to be Drake hour and start off with “I Get Lonely Too.”
I have the loud, orange dress with its peacock feathers print — the dress that reminds me so much of my mother — laid out on the bed. Club Paradise is playing and I decide to tweet something for my little online shop. I like bae puns so I call a pair of tartan culottes “the baest culottes on the internet”.
I’m sitting on the chair. The black tea that my sister made for me to wash down the avocado and brown bread when I eat is still too hot so spill all my eye and lip pencils and lip products on the bed; I attempt and botch winged eyeliner. I wipe my face with my wash cloth but leave deliberate smudges. I line my vaseline moistened lips with a brown pencil from a chemist brand called LA Girl. All hail Nia Long. I imagine a beauty story on the internet saying “even girls in townships on the outskirts of Johannesburg are taking a cue from Kylie Jenner’s pout decisions.” I thank the universe for Nia Long again.
Messaging central! I’m outside in the suddenly grey day, watching people walk by. First I respond to an email from an African pop culture/entertainment, aesthetics and history website curator. I mention that I was paranoid that I’d gotten her name wrong. There’s nothing worse than getting people’s names wrong. I think about how I’ve forgotten what it sounds like when someone loves me because people generally say my name incorrectly/I don’t hear my name enuf.
Next I send a Whatsapp message to a boy called Daniel. I’d asked him to help me with my phone’s technical upgrade. I inherited an iphone 3G from my most recent former employer’s husband. It’s been a mess from the very first day I got it but now I need it to take eNtIcInG pictures to put them on the gram for my shop.
While on the Whatsapp, I message a girl I was friends with in high school. My land women’s cousin came back with her newborn baby yesterday and it reminded me that this girl also has a baby. It’s been three months so maybe I’d technically be allowed to visit. It’s been three months and I’m no longer irked the baby and I share a birthday. I was floating on a cloud upon adding Shonda Rhimes to my birthday girl gang. It’d been only Julia Louis-Dreyfus and I for nearly three years. Then this year Shonda’s Wiki page told me she’s one of us. On the day of my 23rd birthday I opened facebook to see no “HBD” messages on my wall (because I found them annoying and made my birth date private) but a wrinkly, tiny baby. Brand new. On mine, Shonda’s and Julia’s birthday. According to the app this girl hasn’t been online since the 31st of January. Her initial impression and review of me is one of my favourite things about humans, “covers” and perception. Ever. I send her a two-word message in isiZulu asking if she still lives here.
Daniel responds: “Yes, just been busy with some errands. Let’s meet in 30?”
I say “Done”.
It starts raining. I don’t like walking in the rain or carrying an umbrella. I should have shown Daniel where I stay, he could be fetching the iphone and my external drive from my door.
I’m on my tummy on the bed. I’ve told Daniel I don’t want to hold an umbrella in the uncertain rain and asked him to wait at least an hour. I then typed ‘dan schneider foot fetish’ onto google search.
I shouldn’t have done that.
I’ve walked up to Rand Show Road. My useless coat (it has very thin lining) is worn over my orange dress. I re-drew my brown lip liner. I have dirty converse sneakers and black, calf-length socks on. A lot of cars take the N12 Diepkloof exit towards the north. I’ve always been disappointed that the sign is taller than me. Standing on the road is a very convenient spot for Daniel to come pick up the phone. DeJ Loaf’s “Try Me” has been on repeat since I left where I live. I’m always impressed by how many times she mentions food in the song. Carbs Girls unite.
I can clearly see the ‘Welcome to Soweto’ sign under which my closest friend in grade 10 and I used to stand for at least an hour after school. We encountered a lot of Europeans come on buses to see how township people live; whenever I remember that period in my life I’m always impressed by our “nah” attitude to the tourists and ~gaze~. When Daniel pulls up, we don’t spend even two minutes talking — it’s not exactly a parking lot. On the passenger seat of his car I put the ancient apple device and my external drive, which still lives in a box. I’m hopeful that he might get that show I’ve asked about.
17:16 – Gumtree Road
My Blackberry Curve falls flat on the street while I try to do a low-key dance along to 7/11. I sympathise with it. It makes sense that it barely stays on these days. Is there a film of ~the future~ wherein all the humans sit around feeling sorry for their gadgets?
I’m back indoors. I see a Whatsapp message from Daniel that says “I thought you kinda liked greyish weather?” I tell him I do. But a lot of the things I like seem empty, stark or too much of a luxury to me right now. If I had my choice of hot meal tonight and invitations to make out or that American show I want to watch, I’d like the weather better. Idealising situations — grey weather cannot be cosy unless my heart feels full, I have any of the food DeJ Loaf raps about in Try Me, a room temperature mango, TV/reading material is good — can lead to sadness.
It’s not Sunday???? I open a job search website instead of reading a post on Chelsea Fagan’s website about money.
Bhantsi (one of the people who live where my sister and I live) is playing some sick Giyani Jamz. I can’t hear the lyrics clearly but the beat has me. Sometimes noise pollution is the best.
I walk with my big umbrella clutched in my right hand and Zora Howard’s The D Train Teaches a Lesson in Patience playing in my earphones. My useless coat is back on. I’ve added my navy denim bucket hat. The road is damp. If dew and tar were friendly this is how roads would look early in the mornings. The soil smells mildly enticing. It’s not at my full-on summer rain favourite level but I can still smell it. I’ve never been on a train.
I walk past (or are they driving past me more than I’m walking past them?) a blue-lit convoy of five police cars. Four vans and a car separated by a civilian vehicle.
19:45 – My mother’s friend’s bedroom
She’s in pain and we talk in great detail about the ailment she has. It sounds uncomfortable.
19:51 – My mother’s friend’s kitchen
I dish up supper (spaghetti and curried mince) for myself and talk to the cousin who lives with them while she’s going to school. I tell her I feel like I haven’t seen her in a while even though I was here most of this week. We make small-talk about the library, school and her assignments. The children come out in turns from their bedroom and ask after my sister. My sister is very popular.
20:03 – The living room at my mother’s friend’s house
We’re watching a Bollywood soap opera dubbed into the English. My mother’s friend is curled up on the couch. Her son says what I’ve been thinking: what about her Nollywood baes on the Africa Magic channel? When he fleets in and out of the room. This woman loves Nollywood stories
We’re still in the living room. A very boring episode of SNL is on Comedy Central — my mother’s friend and I are talking about couriers. She says “You said you’d come for quality time but you arrived so late in the day.” When my mother fell ill, and when she died when I was 17 and my sister 12 this her friend was the only person who gathered us. The only person I have a 90% certainty that I can count on them. She’s been feeding my sister and I for a while now because I couldn’t keep my old job and haven’t been able to get a new one. Usually when nine o’clock ticks close, her husband — who is thankfully sleeping because he wants to be able to stay up with her later — tells me to go where I stay. He often makes the son walk me halfway.
We make plans to go thrifting for coats because winter is coming. I take this as a great opportunity to mention how useless the coat I’m wearing is. I take it off and show her the lining. The second youngest child is told to go put on socks because she has a cold and has been walking on the cold tiles.
The band One Direction are singing a song on this SNL episode. I don’t know the song. Zayn Malik looks beautiful with a ponytail. I think boys with ponytails trump boys with top knots because of this revelation. I’m still waiting for someone to write about how Zayn’s decision to leave One Direction is tied to him being a Capricorn. I want to feel like my inability to stay in jobs because I’m too anxious about life, my enjoyment of my own company and working in my own team is mostly tied to when I was born and that I’m okay. I want to know I won’t die alone or a failure. If a famous millionaire boy close to my age decides what he’s doing for a job is no longer fulfilling and leaves, surely I can stop beating myself up for leaving jobs that were making me feel like the coat I’m wearing. Surely I can stop blaming myself for the situation we’re in with the ends that behave like they have a restraining order separating them.
22:45 – The kitchen
As I’m getting ready to leave, my umbrella tucked under my armpit, my mother’s friend tells me a funny story about her own mother who worked late and had to pass through a cemetery at night. .
I forgot the Tupperware of food I’d packed for my sister. I pop back into the kitchen and find it in the fridge.
There’s a party/performance at the open space. I’m walking three streets away and I can hear the music. Someone is rapping to a Lil’ Wayne beat I can’t place, the music is not obscenely loud. The “Eco Park” space has firmly replaced the street bash concept of the early 00s.
I elect to not walk down the tree-lined, dark street that’s currently my daytime preference. I hate that I cannot carefreely walk down any old street. I love having a vagina (especially when it’s not the first three days of my menses and my uterus is not acting like it’s trying to file a suit of irreconcilable differences) I just hate how people behave as though my body does not belong to me alone.
23:10 – Outside where I stay
The main gate is already locked. I don’t have a key so I yell for the person I see moving through the main house’s kitchen window. It’s my oldest landlady’s favourite tenant. I say thank you when he opens the door. Again when he opens the gate for me. He says “sharp”.
23:13 – Outside the backroom I live in
My sister is already sleeping. I say her name and knock. She says my name. I say, “it’s Nomali”. She opens the door for me and asks whether the gate was locked. I confirm and tell her who opened for me.
My useless coat lies in a crumpled pile of itself, it’s not as useless when I’ve been walking fast. I kick off my Converse and switch the TV to sabc 3. I missed Desperate Housewives but Hot in Cleveland is still on. Third reference to my being a Capricorn: one time, I told my sister I’ll be sad when Betty White dies. I meant it. My sister’s food is in the microwave.
My phone is charging with the networks turned back on. The only notification I have is of one twitter mention. I’d hoped I’d have a message from Daniel telling me how it was going with the iPhone.
By the time I stand, with my night head wrap tied, topless in front of the mirror my sister is all the way sleeping again. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take a new batch of boob selfies. There’s still some time before mid-night (I have some late-night internet access left for my laptop, which I sometimes use to blog or do shop stuff.) so I lie down on the bed and watch this show called ‘Hostages’ starring a woman who looks a lot like Toni Colette.
00:22 – Still in bed
I watched this episode on a weekday and it’s not gripping my attention at all tonight. I’ve had Americanah by my side but I don’t feel like opening it. I’ve sent an email to a yahoo email address about a possible half-day, three days a week job. I want it. I want about 95% of the jobs for which I send my CV.
Scrolling down OKCupid. I see a 25-year-old white man with shoulder length hair and message him “Hello, do you have any pictures with your hair in a ponytail or top knot? What’s your preference between the two?”
The man with the hair has not replied to my message. He’s filled a bit of his profile, in which he makes a pun that involves my nickname. I think it’s funny. “Delicious Noms.”
I’m too tired for any late night interneting so I pull the blanket over body and get cosy. I create a new memopad for the blog post I wanted to organise. The memopad and the post are called post-summer and feature songs that remind me of last December: 1. Milkshake’s “My Own,” 2. Riky Rick’s “Boss Zonke,” 3. BoyzinBucks’ “Mswenkofontein“– this song has me from that first zapraprapraprapra! that starts seven seconds into it — 4. AKA’s All Eyes On Me, 5. Busiswa’s Lahla. The summer was brilliant for South African music; I’m loving the shift that’s seeing artists collaborating across the continent. I cannot wait for the bliss of “I belong here” that will surely come with hearing Brenda Fassie’s music while I make eyes at boys in a new (to me) African city’s bar.
I think about all the interesting things I could have done, therefore documented for this website of nosy, a year ago or a few months in the future when I’m writing a lot (and for pay) and my shop is selling second-hand clothes like they’re fresh scones. I miss all my #TaxiRides tweets from back when I went places that required me to take a taxi. I wish I’d properly compiled and archived them on a Tumblr before I deleted my first Twitter account.
I switch the TV off and look at job ads on my phone.
My phone is on my chest and my neck is angled awkwardly. I make my sister move away from me a bit and fall back to sleep.
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