It’s just after 10 a.m. and I’m bored out of my skull. By now I would be high on caffeine and deadlines, instead I’m at a restaurant, wasting a perfectly good Thursday morning.
Two Afrikaner dames in front of me fill the air with annoying chit chat. How many times can someone say “pragtig”? I indulge in people-watching, as I wait for my cup of java.
My first warning came nine months ago. The director screamed it across the newsroom for everyone to hear. “Saara! You don’t shit where you eat!”
The saliva splatter hadn’t even dried, before he thrust the letter in my face. A written warning – evidently writing about the gambling habits of high profile government ministers was not something I should have been doing. So much for “transparent and informative reporting” – the company slogan.
My editor got off with a slap on the wrist.
The waiter brings my coffee. He flashes a smile, and asks “Sorry for the delay. Will that be all?” He’s fishing for a tip. Sanette and Saartjie burst into high-pitched laughter, one more “pragtig” and I will lose it. I check my text messages: nothing.
My second warning was three months ago. “This is your second strike, one more and you’re out!” This time my editor also got a written warning. My report on the prime minister’s globetrotting on taxpayers’ money had irked someone in power. I was skating on thin ice. Writing for a state sponsored newspaper seemed a great idea when I graduated, but now my investigative instincts were being eroded, slowly decaying, as I wasted my talents covering diplomatic functions, music concerts, and fashion shows.
“You’re too serious, that’s not what I hired you for,” said the director, forgetting he did it as a comradely favour to my uncle. I was assigned to tail socialites and to put some entertainment in the weekend edition – not exactly what I had in mind.
My coffee arrives as a tall leggy young woman walks in, with a middle-aged man in tow. I use his greying beard as an age estimate. She’s got long extensions – with blonde highlights and he’s wearing a cap.
The top part of his face is obscured by Sanette’s bushy blonde locks. She’s way too young to be his wife, but old enough to be his daughter. However, their body language says something else.
She orders wine in Oshiwambo, but speaks to the man in English. I have stumbled on a gold mine, a real-life blesser and blessee. My next story is about to write itself, maybe I can redeem myself?
She has to be a blessee, because I wouldn’t order wine at 10 a.m. while I’m with my father. I reach into my bag and retrieve my tablet, I open a blank word document and start typing: ‘Entertaining he wants, entertainment he shall get’. My job was almost history three days ago. Someone in power wanted me out. I was forced to take two weeks’ unpaid leave, “Lay low till the heat dies down!” the director ordered. I signed the final warning. “I won’t save you again, this is the last time,” the Director said as I left his office. I was on borrowed time, having used up eight of my nine lives.
My brain goes into overdrive as I finish typing.
Why is this such a big deal? I ask myself. Blessers have existed for years. Why all the fuss? If I replaced the old man with an old white man, then she would just be a gold digger and he would be an old man spending his hard-earned wealth on a good time before he kicks the bucket.
We always assume that white money is never ill-gotten. Maybe this thing was just prostitution that went to private school? But was the economic inequality that bad? What about the working class blessees? What is their excuse?
“Ja, dis Sannette wat praat,” says the blonde in front of me. My guess was right! She throws in another “pragtig” for good measure before hanging up.
Then, the man laughed, and a chill kissed my bones. I knew that laugh. I felt my heart pound. it couldn’t be. I looked closer, past Sanette’s hair and he suddenly lifted his cap. Holy shit! It was the director!
I muted the volume on my phone and inconspicuously took a snap under a serviette. No more socialite duty for me.