The next time I saw Shanti it was, as usual, at an art function. Gordon was the opening speaker. As soon as I saw Shanti walking up the drive I became aware that my heart was beating faster and so was my breathing. I thought, “Shit, Mexican, you are not sixteen, this girl has someone and she is twenty fucking years younger than you. Get a bloody grip man!” She walked right up to me and gave me a brilliant smile, “Hello.” Shit! Rupert disappeared almost immediately, Gordon went to check on his speech and we were left alone. We walked together into the gallery, joining the crowd waiting for Gordon’s speech. During the speech she stood just in front of me, I could see over her head. Man, I thought is it my imagination or is there that crazy electricity between us that I have only read and heard about. Half way through the speech Shanti moved slightly backward and leaned against me. Eish! When she left she gave me a tight hug and a kiss on the cheek.
The New Year’s party.
Shanti walks onto the roof, looking good, tight short black skirt and a blood red blouse. Oh, she does have a nice body to go with the pretty face! We end up speaking the night away, interrupted not by Rupert but by Chris! He is putting on the charm much better, I see out of the corner of my eye Gordon is having a good laugh. Huh. I am not a nice guy, I do not play nice. As soon as Chris goes to get more booze for himself, as I knew he must, I say to Shanti, “Watch out for Chris, he is a charmer, he and I have a long history. Long ago, while he was married, he fucked my wife.” And leave it just there, when Chris returns seconds later he is puzzled by Shanti’s sudden coolness. Bang, bang. That sorted I had the girl to myself for most of the evening and kissed her for the first time at Midnight. Just before mid night there was an incident that ended up as funny but could have been a tragedy. Shanti and I were talking and saw a commotion on the far side of the roof; Angus came and called me, telling me I had better take a look. We moved to the edge of the roof and looked the five floors down. There, standing holding a bicycle sprocket with only one pedal still attached, and talking on a cell phone was David Jose, a guy I was at school with. Now downtown Johannesburg is no place for a white man to walk around alone, in the day time, never mind on New Year’s when all and sundry are drunk and aggressive.
He was surrounded by black guys but they seemed to be trying to help him. I looked at the buildings around us; Jose certainly had everyone’s attention. A bottle from one of the roof tops crashed near Jose’s feet, he jumped and spoke franticly into the phone. Gordon standing next to me answered him. Jose was lost! I was watching all this with some interest, wondering if he would make the half block to the entrance of the studio alive or not. More bottles were being thrown in his direction and he would have to run the gauntlet, no other way out of his situation. I did not think he would make it; he was close to panic all ready. Angus came up to me and asked, “Is that not one of your old school mates Wayne? Don’t you think we had better go fetch him?” Shit, I did not think of that! I was just watching the drama, an observer. I said to Angus that this would be a good plan, told Shanti I would see her in a bit and left with Angus. We ran the gauntlet to get to the idiot; fortunately most of the people were focused on Jose so the first few meters were peaceful. Then someone on a neighboring rooftop saw us, shouted and threw a bottle. That got a lot of other people interested in these two white boys and the bottles came down. We dodged and dived eventually getting some sort of shelter in the doorway where Jose was. I spoke to the men that were trying to protect him, Nigerians. If not for them Jose would have been dead. Now why these men would risk their own safety for a goofed out stupid white man I have no idea. Jose smokes marijuana like I smoke cigarettes; I have never seen him “straight”, even at school. His long time job at Out of Print bookshop is not too taxing so he just stays high and dabbles in his writing of poetry and stuff. We thanked the Nigerians and set off, Angus took hold of Jose and I brought up the rear, by now the rooftops and bottles were not the only problem, a crowd had gathered and a knife in the ribs was a strong possibility. We re-ran the gauntlet, now we had everyone’s attention and the bottles came hard and fast. Angus was charging very aggressively and the crown in front was opening up to let him through. We made it to the entrance and the guards quickly let us in. Made it, quick check on Jose, he was unscathed, not a scratch on the bastard. He still clung to the sprocket and looked more goofed that he usually did. Angus and I were also unhurt, bloody miracle, what with all that flying glass.
From The Chronicles of the Mexican Horse Thief
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