The Fatuous State of Severity is a collection of short stories written by MR PHUMLANI PIKOLI. The book is full of diverse stories that vary from the very relatable experiences of young black millennials, to the profoundly absurd and jarring. The self-published work will be the author’s debut. The following extract is from a story entitled Alexander.
“I don’t think I’d be able to bring myself to eventually marry a black man. It’s just not realistic for me, the difference between black men and white boys, is that white boys will love you and keep you as the only one in their lives, versus black men who don’t really see the connection between fidelity and love.” She told him matter of factly.
Her even tone defied her level of intoxication. He had been with her all night and they had driven together to the bridge, he felt betrayed by her sobriety and severity of thought. “Jesus, I wasn’t ready,” he told her. He shook his head rather heavily as if to get water out of his ears. A smile crept onto her face and her eyes went from clear back to glossy, resembling the drunk he was with in the club. “Kutlwano…” He started “You can’t do that!” “What?” she smiled. “You have this uncanny habit of literally going from zero to a hundred in under a second and vice versa.” Her smile crept further. “Have I ever told you that?”
Her dimples completely disarmed him. He stared at her smile, concentrating on the gap between her buck teeth. He took in the little marks that tracked the pimple scars on her would- be even skin. Her Afro was a little roughed up from the night’s shenanigans, he was unable to tear his eyes off her skeletal frame and pointed face. His eyes followed her rise and walk around the table, she made space for herself on his lap. She sat and kissed him.
They really could be in love, he thought to himself. He remained aware of the restaurant’s other customers watching their spectacle, but had no time to care. He pulled her closer to him, as she decided to palm his chest. Their foreheads pressed against each other and created a space between their noses, while their crossed eyes darted from one side to the other as each tried to discover the thoughts of the other. She pecked his lips a last time before getting off him and returning to her seat across the table.
They smiled at each other for some time before looking out the window in silence. The burger shop was located at a petrol garage, playing a bridge suspended over the highway. Somehow in the state they were in, they had managed to drive from one of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs to Midrand. Each of them aware that the other was halfway home. Jozi for Sizwe and Pretoria for Kutlwano. Staring out the window relieved them of the laden tension. The initial question that lead to Kutlwano’s winding declaration. They watched the cars speed towards them and disappear beneath them before hearing, “Helloooooooo!” And a bang or two on the table.
They turned around at the same time to find a waiter staring at them. He was a short guy probably in his forties. He was openly irritated by their presence.
“A nka le thusa?” He snapped.
Kutlwano took it upon herself to smile at him before replying.
“Le kae, Ntate”
“Agee” he briefly returned. “Ki kani thusa na?”
“Shu, dikgang tsa go dira di a lapisa, ke sure.” The man stared at her with open hostility. “Re kopa di Amstel tse pedi ntate.”
“Le a go ja?” He spat at her.
Her smile still in place and looking down at her menu she replied “We’re still deciding ntate”
Sizwe watched the back and forth without a word. The man looked him up and down before leaving their table.
“That poor guy.”
“His poverty is not mine.” She returned, still beaming at her menu.
“I love how in the dark I can’t really see the colour of your eyes. Like they look black but once we’re in the light who knows what they’ll be.”
She looked at him with an eyebrow lifted and dimples on display.
“I’m serious… Also that dude just kinda made me realise something right now…”
“Oh…” It seemed an impossible task to stop her from displaying the large space separating her front teeth.
“Like I kinda get where you’re going with the whole black fidelity thing, but I think you’re also missing quite an important aspect… When you look at a white boy, what do you see?”
“Is there a right answer to this question?” She snorted, “I’m drunk remember?”
He smiled at her, “At least try for an answer, “
“I don’t know what do you want me to say though, I just see a white boy.”
“Exactly, you don’t see centuries of privilege, greed and lust, right? Whereas a black man has to wear domination, poverty, domestic abuse and rape on his skin.”
The waiter returns with two draughts of beer.
Sizwe took a glance at his tag, “Rea leboga! Ntate Alexander, ke kopa go odara dijo?” he stammered.
Alexander looked Sizwe up and down again, a slight smirk creeping onto his face. Sizwe noticed and ignored it. His Tswana had never been polished.
“Sho mfana, loja eng?” Alexander asked him.
“Ke kopa di bacon and cheese burgers tse pedi ntate”
“Shap” he said leaving without another word nor acknowledging Kutlwano’s amused presence.
“Do you get what I mean though?” He asked her flicking his head to Alexander’s back.
“Yeah sure. Can I also say; I love the effort you make?”
Sizwe put his hand on his forehead and looked down. He was still very shy about the fact that he had never been able to pick up the language as fast as others who’d grown up in the province and with age his humiliation was getting worse. He was conscious of his pronunciation, but Kutlwano didn’t let him live inside himself for long because she spoke soon after and reverted his attention to the conversation at hand. “I guess that’s a nice way of putting it, but then are we not making this a game of comparative hardship?”
She sipped her beer and eyed him beadily. Sizwe felt her leg open his, and slip between his pair while her other leg wrapped around leaving the two pairs locked between each other. “I mean,” she continued “Does that not afford him the right to reproduce the same problematic tropes you so eloquently just summarised? And what does that mean for his treatment of white boys? Are we not then placing black men in a position of idolising the wrongs committed against not only them, but black women as well?”
Illustration by Mr Nas Hoosen
The Fatuous State of Severity – a series of short stories written by Mr Phumlani Pikoli – will be published in December 2016, featuring the illustrations of Fuzzy Slippers, Mr Nolan Dennis, Skubalisto, Mr Pola Maneli and Mr Nas Hoosen.