Bulawayo, Sunday Night…

I’m crossing Jason Moyo street when I notice him. He’s in a green BMW… don’t ask me what type of BMW. I know nothing about cars. But faces! I never forget a face! He’s got a beautifully chiseled face. As though created for me to gawk at. He’s parked in the centre parking. Despite my desperate glances, I hope that he will not pick up on my raw desire to be seated in his presence, in the passenger seat. There’s a sudden blare of a hooter just as I make it to the other side of the street.
“Don’t look! Don’t look, damn it!”, I keep muttering to myself!
Too late! Because my nosey, slutty alter ego has already looked. And our eyes have locked. I stop. I glance behind me, then either side as though I’m expecting other people to have suddenly appeared out of nowhere. I then look at this handsome stranger. I point at my own chest, looking him dead straight in the eye, with a raised eyebrow as if to say, “Are you hooting at me?”.
Of course I don’t see the response because of the glare of the windscreen. Not a moment too soon, a large, chocolate brown hand beckons me towards the car with authority. My heart starts pounding, half excited… half nervous. I hope he’s not like the guy at the chisa nyama from last week who tried to fuck me in the toilets… actually it was attempted rape, but I wouldn’t dare report it to the police. They would laugh at me, or even turn it against me and find probable cause to lock me up, but asikho lapho!
Anyway, I get to the car…
“Eita… Zithini?” his deep voice travels from the soles of my feet to the tips of my hair. My nipples aren’t spared this vibrational vocal voodoo. They stick out through my thin white t-shirt.
“NgiSharp, wena? Ngingakunceda?” – I try to be as masculine as possible. He could be a raging homophobe.
“I don’t know… Can you?“. He is stroking his steering wheel in a way that would be obscene if any other person were doing it. My ankles and knees are weak in ways I’ve never experienced before. I don’t know what I’m feeling. I’m happy to be near him, but also very scared.
“Do you want to get into the car and go somewhere nice?“
“Somewhere nice?”, I half whisper.
“Yes.”, comes the bold reply.
“But I don’t know you…”.
“You won’t if you keep standing there like a mopane tree”.
His boldness, easy-manner and stern stare are almost winning me over, but my inner voice keeps nudging me to run in the opposite direction.
I’m conflicted.

This should be so easy. I should be telling him to fuck off. But he’s giving me a taste of an experience I’ve never had before.
You have to understand, it hurts to live in this city as a scrawny young man with average looks and an existence that is often referred to as being worse than that of pigs and dogs. I don’t think this refers to the well looked after ones either.
So here we are… A seemingly experienced fully formed adult man with incredible seduction skills and I, a scared, self loathing teenager nearing my twenties. We’re at a semi impasse.
I want to get into that car. I want to be held and told I’m beautiful, lovable and kissable… maybe even enough to be sexually engaged with. But those things never come so easy in the city of Bulawayo. They come with great consequence, humiliation and jail most times. Newspapers are filled with stories of these so called acts of sodomy.

“I’m Themba… You?”. He squints, crow’s feet bowing and bunching on either side of his brown eyes. One would swear he’s studying a road map. “Frank. And I should be getting home”. I look away. Silence. It sits between us like a solid slug.
Themba peers over his thin frame glasses in a way that clearly enunciates that he knows I’d rather be in his car with my head in his lap. Or better, in a less public place with my body like a flower, pressed in a thick book of Oscar Wilde poetry. Because that’s what this moment feels like to me… Poetry. Poetry never to be known by anyone else but me.

I turn around. Each step I take in the ensuing moments is muddled up between regret and relief. Regret that I could be standing in the way of my happiness and the chance to finally be wanted. Relief that I’m not an easy target. Especially in this city where each clandestine meeting is a potential ambush from heartless homophobes.

Written by Frank Malaba

Image Kaylee Eden

Published by: Frank Malaba

Frank Malaba is an actor, playwright and a published poet. He was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and currently resides in Cape Town, South Africa. He has performed on stage and television in both countries. He has a passion for using poetry, storytelling and theatre as a method of healing for both himself and others. His poetry has been presented both at home and abroad. Frank is currently developing a two-man play entitled “Broken Pathways” which will be touring internationally. In 2014 Frank was recognised by Mail & Guardian's 200 Young South Africans as an Achiever in the category of Arts & Culture.

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