Flush cheeks & clucking teeth - Vusi Thembekwayo

Subscribe to Vusi’s newsletter

Get the latest opinions, articles and insights from Vusi straight to your inbox.

Vusi Thembekwayo 15 February 2020

We always remember our firsts:
First girlfriend
First car
The first time you get you ass beaten — by your mom & the streets
First trip overseas
First kiss

There is always something romantic about first.

Genie (not her real name) had long blonde hair, crisp white teeth, a clean neck (I have a very strange thing for necks) and these piercing blue eyes. She was sitting with Andrea who was a competitor from the USA. They seemed to be immersed in some deep conversation about something only 17-year-olds can find immersive.

I straddled into the breakfast rather reluctantly. I’d had a late-night practice and was still jet-lagged. Patti insisted on breakfast and a walkabout London town.

This was my first rodeo on the international scene. Prior to this, the furthest I had traveled from home was Cape Town, on separate occasions. The first was a choir tour and the second was for the national Karate championships.

My traveling radar was and still is, quite bad. I have a rather poor sense of direction & always need an anchor to position everything around. This is the small-town boy in me. Small towns tend to revolve around a single thing, a mall, police station, supermarket or school.

“Why is your plate so lean?”, Patti said remarking at the thin serving portion.
“Oh, I am not a big breakfast person,” I said.

The truth is that I had come from years of no breakfast before school because we never had supplies at home. My body had adjusted & since then my stomach would ache with pains if I dared to have breakfast.

So I sat across Patti. Carefully placed my serviette on my lap & handled my cutlery. Dining halls tend to have a noise level about them that is piercing but oddly bearable. As soon as I sat, I couldn’t take my eyes off Genie. Her powdered red lips. Her piercing blue eyes. Her flush cheeks. Her perfect turned neck.

Time seemed to slow down to a sloth race.

“So”, Patti said with a sense of inquisition & suspicion, “are you going to greet her or continue staring like a deer to oncoming traffic?”

Patti has this amazing ability to capture sense, sound and feeling with words. Her command of the queens is amongst the best I have been exposed to, and trust me, I have been some.

Genie stood up. Made her way to our table. Quickly greeted and sat down next to me. Then she started chatting as if a long-lost friendship had been rekindled. She was witty, kind, soft and gentle.

I could hear my knees knocking against each other in nervous rhythm. The cluck-cluck of my teeth as I tried woefully to match her in conversation, humor, and candor. Time seemed slow but my eyes felt a rapid nervous blink. I couldn’t stop it.
I couldn’t slow it down.
I was a passenger in my own body experiencing butterflies & panic with equal intensity at the same time.

So she raised her arm from under the table and offered her hand in friendship. I knew the moment I shook her hand that something special would become of us. That we would cross a threshold fresh for both of us. That we would explore the walls of forever together.
… and find them or lose them. The beauty of the experience would be in the exploration.

As for what happened between us, I am sure I have given you sufficient material to post a wonderous thought.

Now, back to your regular scheduled program.

(PS: for those applying to be in Genie’s position, please note that this happened 17 years ago 🙂

Vusi Thembekwayo
… a nostalgic lad.