‘You can’t,’ I told him.
‘Of course, I can!’
‘Sizwe, you can’t be serious.’
‘But I am,’ he replied, firmly.
My gaze strayed back to the object of our argument. Even across the expanse of the park, I could see her elegant beauty, the hourglass shape so graceful and the skin a delicious tapestry. The air blew past just then lifting her mane of dark hair, exposing her graceful neck in a breath-taking profile.
I turned back to stare at him.
‘Let’s bet,’ he challenged, his eyes mocking.
Everything is about bets with us. We bet about anything – weather, soccer results, authors, music, artists and, today, this.
‘Yeah, Themba. Lay out your conditions. Or you shut up!’
I sneaked a glance at her again, she was still sitting there her slim legs crossed.
I thought it over. This is our second day in Port Elizabeth for the Youth program and no way could he know her, besides, a thousand rands more in my wallet sounds good.
‘Well, I have five conditions for you. Meet them convincingly and you win. Fail just one, I win. Okay?’ I told him, staring hard at him.
‘Agreed. Now, spill ‘em out.’ That’s Sizwe for you, always so confident.
‘First, you engage her in talks for minimum of ten minutes. Not a monologue, mind you. Mutual talk from both of you. Get that?’
‘Sure, sure, go on.’
‘Second, you give her a hug or two. Third, top that with a peck on the cheek. Fourth, you bring her over here. Introduce her to me, with something like, “Sizwe, meet my new friend’ stuff.”
‘Okay,’ he said, nodding.
‘Fifth, you get her phone number.’
‘No more?’ He laughed to my face and said, ‘You have your money here. Cash?’
‘Of course. No excuses after, neh?’
‘No excuses. Same goes for you, Sizwe.’
He stood up, swatting his jacket into shape. Then he was off, hands in pockets, collar up against the wind, he was even whistling a tune.
I watched him, intently. I wanted to see how the great casanova will swing it off this time. He got to her after a short minute walk. She probably heard his arrival and looked up with a frown on her beautiful face. His body blocked her from my view for a while as he made his introductory pitch. It took a minute or so. Then, she smiled and gestured for him to sit with her on the cold, stone bench. He did, gratefully, I am sure. Then, they started talking and smiling and laughing and back slapping one another. He even got his hug, for a full minute or so, she hugged him back, a big bonus in his bet winning favour.
Three conditions already met, two more to go.
The scoundrel took a whole twenty minutes relishing his chat with her and I watched in cold fury as they chatted like old friends at a reunion party. I watched on as he offered his right cheek for her to plant a smart peck, which she did!
My wad of rands burned hotly in my pocket!
Then, they stood up, hand in hand, and sauntered over. All the while, they were chattering incessantly like magpies. Close up now, the girl was even more beautiful. Her skin was luxurious with no blemish, slim fingers with nails painted red.
They got to me on my lonely seat and stopped. I stood up in deference to her.
‘Hi,’ her voice had a beautiful pitch too.
‘Hello,’ I replied in my nicest voice as I shook her proffered hand.
‘This is Maria, a friend I just met. Maria, meet Themba.’ Sizwe said, oozing honey.
‘Nice to meet you.’
‘It’s my pleasure,’ I breathed. ‘I’m Themba.’
We all chit-chatted for some minutes. I watched as they exchanged cell numbers. I couldn’t take my eyes off her as her fingers flew over her Samsung J5 keypad, she was a beauty.
Eventually, she took her leave with a ‘Have to go now, guys.’
‘Oh, okay, Maria. Good meeting with you.’ I said, waving.
‘Hope I’ll see you soon?’ Maria sad, nodding at my friend.
‘Yeah, see you very soon, Maria,’ Sizwe replied.
With a dainty wave, she took off, sashaying back to her bench. I watched her go.
‘How’d you manage it, Sizwe? Tell me…’ I could not contain my curiosity.
‘Fork it up, first.’
Grumpily, I turned around a little and quietly counted ten R100 into his waiting hand. I felt bitter doing that.
‘Give me a minute, will you?’
He turned and ran after her. ‘Hey, Maria, Maria…’
She turned and he ran up to her. They huddled in conversation all over again. It ended with hugs and pecks. Then he came back to me and our bench. There was a smear of red lipstick on his right cheek. Maria got to her seat and picked up a book and continued her lounging in the wind and sun.
‘How’d you manage it?’ I could not resist asking again.
‘It’s easy. Only if you are smart.’
‘Stop sounding-off. Tell me how you pulled it off.’
He laughed out loud, his body doubling over.
‘Well,’ he said, when he has recovered enough, ‘I just walked up to her and told her bluntly if she would like to play a game and win some money. R500 in fact…’
‘WHAT??!!’ I exclaimed.
‘Yeah, I told her the conditions, that you are watching and I’ll pay her once I collect from you. She agreed and it went like a dream! When money is involved, gates open, you know.’
‘What??’ I realized I was repeating myself like a scratched compact disc. I could not help it. ‘You don’t mean it?’
‘I do, Themba. I ran to pay her just now and she was so, so grateful!’
I could only gape.
Indeed, it is truly about being smart!