The downside of working in an office 40 hours a week with older people who are married and have kids is that, none of them are interested in you or your life. They do however, expect you to take interest in their boring and dull lives about where their kids go to school and the trips that their husbands, whom they haven’t seen in weeks, are taking. Anyway, what are you going to do? ijob ijob. Suck it up, sissy pants! There is however, one man in the office whom I enjoy listening to, Bra Killa. He is our office cleaner. Takes the 5am bus every morning from Barolong location in Thaba Nchu to Bloemfontein CBD, which is a distance of about 45 minutes. From the CBD he walks to Mimosa, where our office is, also approximately a 45 minutes long distance if you’re walking. Bra Killa is a tiny man with strong looking arms and pretty clean hands for a man. He has the kind of clear skin that most girls only manage to have after hiding their flaws with make-up. A beautiful man I tell you. He is unlike the rest of my colleagues, he does not say much and he approaches his work with positivity. Never have I heard a complaint from this man.
Just yesterday I was sitting with Bra Killa out in the foreyard, and for the first time I shared a cigarette with a man. He even gave me some of his weed after our break. I learned that apparently, he was the best dancer of his time. He says everyone in Thaba Nchu knew him for contorting his body in ways the mind would never imagine. Young boys and girls gathered at his parents’ house every afternoon to learn a move or two, and others just to observe. “Dancing from six-to-six, mchana! Anybody can claim to know how to dance, but not everybody knows what it is.” To him dance is purpose. He feels it is the thing he was created for, “But you know, a man has to make money. You cannot leave on passion alone.” There are dreams that die with us and there are those that are killed by our economic circumstances. All he ever wanted to do was dance. From s’pantsula to trap dance, this was your guy. S’pantsula is a dance of teamwork and character building, no group of men demonstrate trust for each other more than co-dancers in a pantsula group. “Dance is when your heart beats to the rhythm of the earth.” You could tell from how he walks that he is indeed in rhythm. The awareness he has of his surroundings – and how he manages to stay in tune with activities around him. He is dance. “In my time, ntwana, you had to respect the profession. Dress for the job, head to toe. You could never call yourself lepantsula without owning a pair of Dickies, All Stars and Stragel or Spoti-nyana. Hayi! Nobody would take you seriously. I was highly recognized.”
Not everybody has the courage to admit the mistakes of their lives and openly converse about them. I respect Bra Killa for what he said next, “And with that kind of recognition your ego is boosted and there is a high numbers of free pussy. Free pussy everywhere! But, what you are never told is that too much of it will kill you.” Bra Killa had big dreams for his dance; he was going to put Thaba Nchu on the map with his dance one move at a time. But, he says he got trapped in between thighs of different women, older and younger, and even though he did not lose focus, he lost his cleanliness. His blood contracted all sorts of dirt from sleeping around and the muti from his shaman ceased to work. “But you see it is not the disease that got me out of the profession, these women ntwana. You women! Your hearts! I remember the day it started. My ou lady had to ask one of our neighbors to put me on a wheelbarrow so that she could take me to the house of healing. It had gotten that bad, I was coughing side by side, breathing felt sore. Sitting in a dark room made me feel cold so my mother prepared fire for me, and you know how hot Thaba Nchu gets in summer. But still, I needed extra warmth, though the light from the fire was too bright. I tried to keep my eyes shut however, every time when I tried to do that, it felt like my sclera was suffocating. That was the longest day of my life. The shaman said that it was the workings of a particular woman. One of the women I had tapped, you check. The bones said this woman wanted me all to herself. The power of dance! I was not even making money from, it was sheer love. It made me feel alive that thing. That time my main chick was 4 months pregnant, you check? Western doctors said it was one of these modern illnesses but I took the shaman’s word. That was no blood disease, it was a spiritual breakdown, with a low spirit, I could no longer dance because dance is spiritual, unless you are just nodding your head and tapping your feet to the sound of music.”
Although today Bra Killa is somewhat in good health, he says the toughest disease he has had to deal with is not being able to pursue his passion. “You see, no matter how well-known you are for a particular skill, once you fall ill, people move on with their lives. You would think that your hustle is the best hustle, that everyone loves you for it and they support it, they share the same visions. But once you fall sick, people who were behind you all this time, start to lose hope not only in you, but in the thing itself. There are no more great dancers in Thaba Nchu. We no longer have monthly dance talent shows and no one wants to sponsor that because Killa killed the dream. After recovery, I tried to put young people together again, but people stopped trusting me with their children, both girls and boys because you women are dangerous. They spread rumors about me when I started falling sick. You know once the nurse from the local clinic is told by a small stick that you have the virus that it is not as confidential as it’s supposed to be. From the nurse to her husband the teacher, then the husband to his mistress who works at the crèche, and from the crèche lady to the tuck-shop housewife – to the whole neighborhood.”
Bra Killa says he will never dance again, but not because his body will not allow or because of what people have said about him, “But because time, ntwana. There is not time! Nou I have a laatie and rent to pay. No one with good money is looking for dancers on a full time basis. Don’t you get trapped in this office thing if you’re not passionate about it. You still have some time to mess up, just don’t be like me and go about messing with people’s hearts. Boloi is a real thing. Die bloody ding it took my woman, mfwethu. Now I don’t have her and I don’t have my dance, only a child to feed. I cry every day when I think that I am the one who gave it to her.” According to Bra Killa, everything in life is a dance. He says, “You just have to pick the right partner to dance with. You need to figure out the reasons for your dance and don’t give your performance to every ragtag and bobtail. Not everybody deserves your performance.”
What I did not say is that I had been going through a really rough patch in the past few months, from relatives who owed me money and did not show any intension of paying back to a boss who was sitting on my neck with unreasonable deadlines. Even though Bra Killa, like all my colleagues did not ask me about my own life, he made me aware that I owed it to myself to choose who I spend my time and money on. So, next week I intend to turn in my resignation letter. This company does not deserve me!
Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo