Thirteen #1995

school building Johannesburg South Africa

For all of my girl friends (three in particular)…

There’s a girl under a pine tree. She pulls a tuna-mayo sandwich from her scrappy canvas school bag and inspects it. Nice. It’s always a good day when her maths textbook keeps its fat ass off her lunch. Picking pieces of dry grass from her school jersey, the girl braces as she bites…butter overload (a sort of PTSD). But, you know, mom wouldn’t be mom if she wasn’t hacking a block of unsalted cooking butter and depositing the wedges onto brown bread with marmite.

Chewing thoughtfully, she scans the playground for her friends who should’ve been back from the tuck shop by now, each with a Caramello bear, four sour worms, a packet of Ghost Pops and a chicken-mayo roll. Not the butter apocalypse. Lucky them. She hazards another bite—more tuna, less butter. Nice.

As she cranes her head forward to see if her friends have emerged from the abyss of lunch acquisition (which could consume an entire precious break time), the familiar face of a black-haired god catches her eye.

She pulls her English file out of her bag for a closer look (there was no way Maths deserved Johnny Depp).  He looks back. The girl wipes a crumb from her cheek, blushing. He’s holding a bunch of yellow roses, with his Benny & Joon hair, blue jeans, a white tee (tucked in) and a bigger (also white) button-up thrown over the tee in a carefully styled mess. Not quite the grunge vibe that makes him the hottest guy in the world—but whatever; it’s the expression on his face, a sort of begrudging half smile…

Tara interrupts.

‘Anj, Anj! Tell me you watched Bold last night!’

‘Duh. Finally. Brooke and Ridge—it’s destiny.’

‘Are you crazy? Poor Taylor. Anyway, Sheila will screw it all up for everyone.’

‘Ya, probably. Well, all I’m saying is: Taylor should not have tried to keep James alive that time in the cave. “Body heat”—come on. Also, where’s Winsome and Karyn.’

‘Oh, they were waiting for the chicken-mayo when I left. I didn’t get today.’

Tara offers Anj a ghost pop and spots JD mid-move, ‘Oooh Johnny. Have you watched Interview with the Vampire yet?’

‘No way. My mom will kill me. But Brad (sigh)—and… Legends of the Fall.’

‘There’s Winsome and Karyn. Sheesh, that took forever!’

‘Guys! Did you watch last night?’

In unison—’Yes!’

Argh it’s disgusting. Brooke is the worst.’

‘Never! All three of you are deluded.’

‘Oooh Johnny.’

Karyn and Anj spend a good thirty seconds with dreams in their eyes.

‘Did you guys do your Geography homework? I need to copy someone’s.’

‘Ya, here’s mine. But I take no responsibility for the state of my answers.’

‘Yay, thanks Ta.’

‘Also, guys—Claire Danes’ cry face. It’s killing me.’

‘Argh, tell me about it! If I was Jordan Catalano, I would be, like, no way.’

‘Come on! He has to be with Angela.’

‘Ya, ya. He must. She had better not cry though.’

‘We had better not talk in Maths today, Mrs Hladick is getting mad. She’s going to move us.’

‘Oh man—I hope I don’t get called up to do that timetable sock game! It’s so embarrassing.’

‘I know, right—the pressure!’

‘You guys should just learn your timetables.’

In unison—’Nah.’

‘Also, have you guys knitted a square yet, for the blankets.’

‘I don’t even know how to knit!’

‘Can’t your mom, or your gran?’

‘Have you met my mom. And my gran lives in Roodepoort.’

‘Anyway, Jennifer will knit them all. She’ll do the whole blanket.’

And you, Ta. Miss Tobias said that you and Jennifer are the only ones who deserve to be in our class. You guys knit the blanket.’

In unison—’You guys knit the blanket.’

‘Guys, break’s nearly over. My stockings are dying, does anyone have any clear nail varnish?’

‘Ya. Here.’

Winsome lifts her stockings and meticulously spreads clear lacquer over the holes and wannabe ladders, making sure not to attach the nylon to her skin. Mid concentration…

‘Karyn! Have you figured out what you’re gonna do about the lunch thief?’

‘I’m so pissed off. That’s three days in a row, now. I mean, I had to buy my lunch today.’

‘It’s because you have good lunch. Take it as a compliment.’

‘Funny. Not… I have, in fact, concocted a plan.’

‘I will put dog food on my sandwich tomorrow.’

In unison—’Yes!’

‘Ooooh, this is going to be so good. Imagine the thief actually takes a bite, and it’s someone in our class and then you can smell it on their breath.’

‘Guys, break’s nearly over!’

‘Quickly, quickly—Party of Five: who’s the hottest… Charlie, Bailey or Will.’

‘Charlie!’

In unison—’Will.’

‘Well, at least I’m not the odd one out this time.’

The bell rings.

‘We can write letters in maths—Joe, Mushy, Keys… and Anj.’

‘How come I don’t get a name?’

‘Anj is your nickname, Andrea. Duh.’

‘Come on, let’s go.’

Lackadaisically, the girl and her friends pack pens, books, JD, nail varnish, food and snacks back in their bags. They stand up, dusting remnants of winter from their jerseys and pick pine needles from their dresses. It’s messy. But it’s theirs.

 

Author & Storyteller: Andrea Zanin

Andrea is a writer, wife, mother and dreamer; also the author of this website. She moved to London in 2006 to earn £s, travel, see bands and buy 24-up Dr Martens—which she did, and then ended up staying. Andrea lives in North London with her husband (also a Saffa) and five children. She loves this grand old city but misses her home and wishes her children could say “lekker” (like a South African) and knew what a “khoki” is.

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