The Small Town Story

I knew nothing of the English language. Other than the stuff they said on television. My friends and I were in the midst of what I could call a war. We had one white boy on our side. The other army of two were just as pale but blonde. I had an irrational fear of fair head folk after the events of that day. I even bunged myself from drawing them during those diversity assignments we had in school. You know, when the teacher made us recite the anthem and how great Mandela was then at the end of the lesson you had to draw what you thought a rainbow nation looks like. But then again I could be wrong, I found English confusing.


The two blondes, let’s call them Bobby and Blue, were very angry with us. I don’t know why. Bobby was scary. He was about my age but had scythes of hair growing on each forearm. I was both disgusted and respectful. I just remember our token white was the loudest vessel and the other cans tinkered along. I was in my peacemaker phase. I believed in Jesus, Santa and the Care Bears. Their actions spoke louder than the English language. Bobby sarcastically quipped something along the lines of “as if you care!”


Finally, in all the noise and jangle, I had something to say. I moved away from the pink wall and stood proudly next to my feudal comrades.

“I care,” I said sympathetically.

What I did there was a big mistake. Everything happened quickly. Our token white started some kind of negotiation. At least two of my own grabbed me by the arm and rushed me off to the house. In angry Xhosa they scolded me. “You must stop speaking English, you don’t even know what you’re saying!”

Beating around the bush, they explained that I had done a couple of things wrong. It was difficult for them to enlighten me on sarcasm and tone. And also, it was to be understood that a boy like me could not speak a certain way to someone like Bobby. I wasn’t listening though. I knew three things that bothered me:

  1. I need to grow hair on my forearms.
  2. The Care Bears are a bunch of losers.
  3. I was to never learn English. It was stupid and confusing. I swore to myself I, Tango Ntwasa, would never ever, speak any kind of English!


“Sam Styrax is a very sarcastic guy…Ja…”

We sat in silence. He said nothing more. He is as quite as he is talkative. It usually depends on the amount of oestrogen pheromones near him. We had this interview before. But you cannot always trust technology.

He grew up in Mokopane, a small town boy like me. But what was Sam like growing up?  Was the man before me the same as the boy from Polokwane?

“Social outcast…not necessarily, it was all my fault. I had a bit of a superiority complex. A lot of the kids were not on my level,”

And why was this?

“I think the problem was that I’m from the township but I went to school in town. And they were not ready to interact with me.”

It seemed anomalous how a big Tango could get along with both little Sam and big Sam. What little potion did he need to be so comfortable with his linguistic prowess?

“I’ve been called arrogant all my life. Actually I don’t mind,”

“Why? Why is that?” I asked.

He looked me straight in the eye with absolute comfort.

“I don’t care.”

“Don’t you think it’s negative at all?”

“I don’t care,” he added adamantly.


The English language, actually, any other language requires a confidence when spoken. You need to be comfortable with what you are about to say.

And that’s what I lacked.

There is poetry to Styrax’s linguistic command. It’s something I strive for. We both come from similar backgrounds. We elevated through life in nearly the same fashion. The quality of what gives Stryax more spunk is that he is comfortable with being brilliant. It may come of cocky, but he will acquire the knowledge that he needs. I envy him.

Little Tango could care less though.­­




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