It doesn’t happen often enough. It’s just a birthday. But it’s a pivotal juncture that brings a very specific group of us together.
Let me colour it in a little: it’s 5.45pm and I’m snatching a longed-for cigarette on the pavement in Adderley Street. Today is S’ birthday – she’s picking me up and we’re going to celebrate in an Italian restaurant in Sea Point. Only (because of the occasion) she’s getting to bring V with – the last time we sat around a table together was her birthday in 2007.
I’m contemplating the sidewalk when I hear “Hey, SISTER!” – and there’s beautiful, ravaged V hanging out the passenger window.
Crunch the smoke, two jumps across the kerb and I’m bundling into the backseat. “Happy Birthday!” I say, V’s grabbed my hand and those laughing bright, bright blue eyes are summing me up – the verdict:
“You look just the SAME, sister!”
What’s not to love?
Somewhere along the way, V tells us about the highlight of his week:
He’s taken to cycling to work and, on this day, he’s approaching the Brooklyn/Maitland traffic lights. Weaving between the cars, he bumps the mirror of a luxury car. He turns to apologise, and the driver is already swearing and gesticulating. The traffic light turns red and V gets off his bike to apologise again – the driver now gets out and waves him over.
Mistake: V goes over.
Driver shouts that V has broken his mirror.
Mistake: V says sorry.
Then he bends to examine the mirror – it is indeed broken, but also carrying serious streaks of black paint – obviously from the car that hit it.
Mistake: V (and you have to know that he is cheerful and reasonable) says so.
He’s wearing a cycling helmet – this is a good thing because, suddenly, (as he describes it), the driver flat-hands him upside the head!
V tells him to calm down, he is sorry he bumped his mirror, but the driver is shouting again and flathands him on the other side!
And this is where it gets really interesting.
Having been mugged a month or so before and hating guns, V realised that he needed a non-lethal weapon. I’ve written about him before, the fact that he has two hands that can make anything.
So, he takes a broomstick, cuts it, weights it, attaches two pieces to a short chain and, voila, he has a pair of nunchucks. Seriously – I am not kidding. This is really funny on so many levels – mostly because, who does this?
V, is who.
Back on the Brooklyn Main Road, the driver is getting ready to give V another flat-hand, and who knows what else, when V remembers the non-lethal defence mechanism in the back of his cycling shorts.
He pulls it out, gives the large driver a neat clip on the left temple, and puts it back.
All this in two fluid moves. Not because he’s Bruce Lee, just because he really hates violent confrontation – especially when he’s a tall, thin cycle-shorts clad mhlungu who’s being flat-handed by an incensed mover-and-shaker in a luxury vehicle.
What happens next is even more interesting: the passenger in the car (who was content to stay put while the driver pummelled V), gets out and collects his enraged buddy – now that the road-ragist has been given a moment of pause. And it’s a testimony to V’s workmanship that the driver was suddenly looking both thoughtful and perplexed – as if he’d been hit by an epiphany somewhere in the region of his left temple.
The saga doesn’t end right then: there’s a cop standing on the other side of the road and while he’s trying to get across the intersection, the light turns green and the driver attempts to ram V, and then squeals away in a cloud of rubber.
The good news is, as soon as he drove away, everyone at that intersection stops and jumps out to surround V – one guy’s filmed the incident on his cell, a truck driver’s taken down his numberplate, another driver gives V his phone number and says that he’ll go to court as a witness if he needs it. How friggin’ cool is that?
The weirdest part: two days later he sees a headline:
“Motorist punched me, says cyclist” – Maybe it’s the same guy, maybe he’s a serial cyclist-pummeller.
And as we reflect on the strangeness of it all, V looks deep into his glass and says:
“Shame, though – maybe he’s really proud of his fancy car, right? Disappointed about his mirror… thought that I was this wealthy guy, and he could claim from insurance..”
Like I said: what’s not to love?