Clive jumped up and down with his knees almost touching his chin, he dropped onto the floor into a quick succession of push ups and then let out a scream of joy. His afro released wisps of smoke, his entire black shirt was drenched in sweat and it clung to the mountains of muscles on his chest. The thick veins on his forearms pulsated as if in competition with each other. Sengi adoringly watched him torture himself through the workout while drinking a protein smoothie.
He dramatically threw himself on the white sofa besides Sengi.
“I think you’re on fire” she said stroking his hair
“Thanks babe” he huffed.
“No, I really mean it, your hair seems to be smoking” she said with concern in her voice.
“Oh, it must be from the sun. Is there some left for me?” he asked but then grabbed the container from Sengi before she could answer.
“It’s banana flavour and you don’t like banana” she smirked.
“Beggars can’t be choosers at this time” he shrugged then opened the shaker and gulped the thick drink down.
Clive was meticulous in his actions, he considered his plans carefully before enacting them, he planned the years according to decades, years, month, days, hours and minutes. He had not always been like this, the gravity of his future and the need to change his behaviour realised upon him when his was fifteen at a career exhibition. He and his friends were nourished by the streets of the township, they had their sense of wonder extinguished from a young age by the older men in the neighbourhood and with their imaginations stunted, they had a murky view of their future prospects. The school trip was as another opportunity to get away from the boring textbooks and boring teachers, they sang naughty songs on the bus and were unruly when they got to the venue until they came across young black man standing next to a BMW. He informed them on careers in engineering, the types that they could branch into, the companies they could work for and the pay they could expect once they became professionals in the field. Clive’s friends chimed in chorus on how they could get the car “fast fast” eluding to criminal activities; Clive did not add a snarky response as per usual, instead he asked for more information from the man.
He changed his behaviour immediately after the fair, he decided to study harder, he assessed that engineering was not for him and settled on studying accounting. The frequency of hanging out with his friends decreased and by the end of high school he was a loner with excellent grades. He secured a bursary and headed far away from Soweto to the University of Cape Town. The township only saw him twice a year and when his mother died, he did not return.
A baby was not in the decade plan, Sengi knew this because of the spreadsheet that he had shown her, a spreadsheet with plans for every decade until he reached the age of ninety. Clive assessed that the elders in his family died in their eighties and that somehow, he would die closer to ninety. He wanted to be seven years working at the firm before he could have his first baby, he was four years in and by seven years he would be thirty-three. The decade of his twenties did not feature the plans of a baby, he had not saved enough and the townhouse was not good enough for rearing his children, he wanted open fields where they could run freely and get lost in the wilderness of nature. Sengi grew up in large masses of land and the luxury of the beach a long languid walk away. Sengi fell in love with his plans because she thought of herself as a chancer; imposter syndrome crippled her because of her privilege and being with a man as determined as Clive sharpened her, supplemented her like a protein smoothie. He was her biggest fan but mostly he was a mentor, he offered critique of her plans which bolstered her confidence. He looked past her perfect good looks, light skin, and money. He saw her as the little girl that aimed to please, afraid
she would be discarded if she did not; with him there was no pressure, only the freedom to be, to exist without action because he took all the pressures of the world onto his shoulders. She did not want to mess up his decade plan.
He wiped the remnants of the protein shake from his mouth with a hum of satisfaction. He rested on Sengi’s lap and kissed her tummy. He joked that he did not understand how someone as small as her always be ate for two, Sengi froze, normally she would laugh or pretend to be offended but she froze.
“Are you okay?” he asked looking up at her like a sad angel. She nodded.
“The weirdest thing happened the other day” he continued.
“What happened?” Sengi feigned interest.
“I found a little girl bouncing on my trampoline”
“What did you do?” Sengi asked genuinely zoning into the conversation.
“I told her to stop it. Babe it was raining. I don’t know where she came from?” he stated and Sengi widened her eyes.
“And what did she do?”
“She called me by name, ran off, climbed my wall and jumped off into the neighbours” he excitedly recounted.
“So, she’s the neighbours’ child?” it was an assertion more than enquiry.
“No. I know all the neighbours’ children” he corrected.
“That’s odd” she was puzzled.
“Right. I said the same thing, to myself because you weren’t around!” he exclaimed.
“You’re the only one I can talk to. I cherish the day I walked into the journalism lecture by mistake” he marvelled.
“Me too” Sengi brushed his hair.
“I think my first child will be a girl. She’ll probably be naughty like the little trespasser I found. In five years, you’re going to be my wife and you’ll be expecting our first daughter” he declared.
Sengi waited for Clive to hop into the shower before she could release her tears. If Clive could change his mind about banana protein shakes then maybe he could change his mind about the baby but she was afraid to be the one who messes up his plans just like how she messed up her biological mother’s plans. She called herself an Uber and wrote a short note about a work emergency she had to rush too. Clive could tell when she was lying and so she did not risk it.
Image source: rawpixel.com
Lockdown Story is the original creative work of Nobantu Shabangu