I don’t normally pick up the phone if the number calling is unrecognisable or unknown, but something in my gut told me to live a little.
“Hello, is this Alan Wilson speaking?”, a passive voice asked on the other end of the line.
Though frazzled at first, I almost immediately recognized that it was Luthando, my childhood friend!
Luthando and I lost touch when we parted ways after graduating from Stellenbosch University. “What a surprise!,” I exclaimed. “It has been way too long, my friend.”
He called to invite me over for lunch as he was back in the City visiting his parents from the States.
We spoke for hours, catching up on lost time (My wife, Linda, started assuming that I was having an affair because of this).
After the phone call I instructed her to prepare our children, Matthew and James for the next day. She had no idea what my instructions were all about.
“And then? Who was that,” she frantically asked to no reply but a kiss on the forehead.
Waking up the next morning, I was more excited than usual, leaving my family utterly bewildered.
We were driving toward a destination none of them knew about.
It was a hot summers day in Gugulethu: a dusty township situated in Cape Town with a population of just over 100 000 people.
“Dad, where are we?” asked Matthew while we were stuck in traffic, waiting for somewhat 30 cows to cross the main road.
“Almost there, son.”
As I looked in my rear view mirror, I noticed James with his head glued to the window as he staring at his surroundings in amazement.
From the corner of my eye, I could also see Linda texting her best friend, Sam about where we were. “He never shares anything with me…” it read.
As we were driving I noticed a lady with a red bandana sitting in a beautiful bright yellow caravan, selling ‘amagwinya’, a local favourite. “Fresh out of the oven!” she exclaimed, with the most radiant smile imaginable.
As soon as we arrived to our destination, I could see Luthando walking hastily toward us in the car wanting to welcome us in.
“Linda, Matthew, James – meet Luthando, my best friend and man who saved my life when we were kids.”
“Come inside, come inside, you are just in time!”
“My mother cooked up a storm,” Luthando said.
Linda looked more shocked than ever, but pretended that she knew what I was talking about when I said Luthando had saved my life.
There was no space for the SUV to park, so Luthando asked the neighbours to let me park in their yard.
We were welcomed with hugs and kisses from both his parents.
The aroma of fried chicken, ‘pap’ and other delicious delicacies filled the air as we stepped into the living room. The smell was very unfamiliar to the kids but it brought back countless childhood memories for me.
“Sit down, dig in,” Luthando said.
His mother responding almost immediately: “Usile wena! Where are your manners? Allow me to say a prayer.”
This moment felt like deja vu. Exactly as it used to be.
Linda eventually started opening up. She and Mama Susan (Luthando’s mom) got along quite well after a while. It was then time for the men to hit the porch (something our fathers used to do).
The porch was quite small and still had the two old chairs from nearly 20 years ago standing on their exact same spots.
” I think you might want to be on your feet for what I’m about to tell you,” luthando said as I was about to sit down.
“I need your help. I’m in trouble.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I need money. Lots of it,” he frantically answered.
“You’re a medical doctor. You’re rich.”
“Something happened a few years ago, before I left. People want me dead. I’ve been getting death threats because these people know that I relocated. They know where I live… My cars brakes were tampered with, I was shot at whilst in a coffee shop…”
“Wait, WHAT!? Does your parents know? What did you do?”
“I killed a guy, a gangster, ” he muttered.
“My parents don’t know. Obviously they don’t know.”
“What do you even need the money for?”
“I will explain everything tomorrow, when we meet up. Please meet with me tomorrow so I can explain everything,” he said.
I reluctantly agreed.
“Linda, we need to get home, it’s getting late.”
Linda was having such a good time. She looked so happy. Mama Susan was showing her old pictures of family gatherings when me and Luthando were kids.
“Now Linda. Come on Matthew, James.”
“Sorry mama, it was nice meeting you,” Linda confusingly said.
Off we were. At full speed.
“Slow down, your family is in the car with you,” I told myself.
I was just so disappointed and hurt. He should have told me about this the minute he did it. I would have protected him. But everything happens for a reason I guess.