Loving Broke People

Jo’burg is unkind. The broke do not deserve love. And should you become out of pocket stemming from whatever trepidation or misfortune, the city of greed will not hesitate to remind you of your predicament on a daily basis.

The internet recently released a meme depicting a homeless man sleeping on the street next to his girlfriend. The accompanying text suggested that even those in situations of great despair still manage to have girlfriends, so what’s your excuse, Mr Middle Class? Oh but in these here Jozi streets, love is not sweet, it bites and it stings especially if you descend from the capitalist scraps meted out to you and you move from LSM 8 to LSM 4 within a space of six months.

Your tastes need rapid adjusting. You move from a situation where you could manage to take your main special lady to the Orbit Jazz Club covering the R150 per head cover charge with ease. Order a bottle of wine or two, and enjoy a meal to the tunes of some talented jazz cats.

On some Sundays your younger and secondary special lady could be treated to craft beer at the latest food market where those of a youthful persuasion prefer to be spotted at. The rest of the month you would coast by with less liver damage inducing activity, save for a few draughts with the boys at the local sports pub.

Once this constant and guaranteed stream of monthly income stops gushing in, life takes an unpleasant turn. When you imagined your life outside of this false sense of security, you didn’t consider yourself to be materialistic and hung up on money. You didn’t think you were a slave to your lifestyle. You left your white employers for a blacker existence where there would be no more shucking and jiving, sitting in traffic, adjusting your English accent so the folks at the advertising agency could feel like, Thami is one of them. Just so they could say, “Thami is a great mate of mine hey, he is a really cool oke - top guy”.

So you started your own little outfit, which was all good and well in the beginning, but things didn’t go according to plan. Things became tight. You were then forced to live on bread alone. Instead of driving to a meeting, you took taxis because it’s cheaper. You don’t even remember the last time you could buy your preferred choice of condoms. Government issue and Lover’s Plus became the order of the day. Gone are the days of Bareback and Durex Real Feel (which retails at R60 for a pack of three). Craft beers were replaced by Hansa quarts. Paying a cover charge at any joint was regarded as blasphemy.

This happened as you were well on your way to your mid thirties, but you existed like a student or worse.

Friends were not sure how bad it was exactly. They used to ask you out in the beginning offering to pay your bill whenever you declined offers to go out because of brokedom. Now amajita are getting married, and having babies with no extra cash to accommodate Thamzozo. So the phone has stopped ringing, and nobody is offering to take you anywhere.

The other day, a lady friend invited you to the Orbit. Your first instinct was to decline the offer, but asked if she had tickets instead. She replied in the affirmative. So you made a quick calculation of your finances and realised you could at least get two glasses of wine with the hundred bucks that lay in your pocket. Food would be damned on this occasion no matter how hungry you got.

Orbit swung and titillated as usual. After two glasses of wine you yearned for more. The couple at the table next to yours were all smiles enjoying a bottle of wine. You curse them under your breath, “bloody sell outs” while you admire the red stuff and steak. Your lady friend had tea and a light starter. When the bill came, she looked the other way.

Orbit swung and titillated as usual. After two glasses of wine you yearned for more. The couple at the table next to yours were all smiles enjoying a bottle of wine. You curse them under your breath, “bloody sell outs” while you admire the red stuff and steak. Your lady friend had tea and a light starter. When the bill came, she looked the other way.

Luckily your card had some money which you had to combine with the clippa in your pocket. Before swiping you pray to the gods and hope that the imbecile you sent an invoice to two weeks ago, freaking pays you tomorrow.

The moment you asked the waiter if you could pay for the bill with cash and then swipe the balance, she got up and went to the “bathroom”. The waiter also knew that there was no tip coming his way.

Needless to say, she never called you up again.

Last night while watching an old episode of Shameless on your laptop you wept. Your life is a constant hustle for rent, data/airtime, petrol and food.

Last week there was a woman willing to visit you, but she wanted to be picked up. But you had no petrol. You were sceptical about the bread and water scenario at the place anyway, so you made up some excuse about having lots of work to do. You had not been laid in weeks, so this decision was especially hard to contend with. You could not download porn either. You were stuck with material bought during the good old days and that shit was not doing the trick anymore.

The main special lady stuck around though. She would give you money once in a while. But you were so deep in the doldrums that you would use that money to finance the secondary lady’s visit to the flat. This gave you some semblance of normalcy and a sense of worth.

The secondary special lady eventually left after meeting a more financially suitable gentleman caller. She didn’t leave “because you were broke,” she said at the time. She just wanted to do “normal” shit whenever she wanted. And that your flat’s gloomy aura fucked with her awesomeness.

These days, Thami is still trudging along with his main squeeze with no end in sight.

*Thami John is a freelance Graphic Designer, Brand Strategist and Copywriter.

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