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It’s Always Sunny in Johannesburg

by Thato Tsotetsi, illustration Billy Pineapples / 12.05.2011

Let me set this up. Nothing is ever as it seems in Johannesburg. The colourful cocktails are really cool aid. The stuff Jim Jones fatally fed his cult in 1978. Much of Joburg’s spending, partying middle and upper echelon is as gullible as Jim’s doomed ‘Rainbow Family”. They tend to believe everything they see on E! And sometimes, like me, they keep things interesting by flirting with danger.

Cooped up in suburbia, genuine excitement is foreign to us. We tend to get our drama second-hand. Fed to us through the boob-tube. Check the twitter timeline for whenever InterSEXion or Generations is on and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Massive bumps.

Being sex, drama and beer-less too long makes you antsy. I decided it was high time to hit the town. “Gay Tuesdays” at Social Bar in Melville. But first, supper with a friend at Wish!

Halfway through appetizers, my straight cronies call so we changed plans. Gay Tuesdays paled in comparison to what they had in mind.

Fast forward 18 beers and three joints. We chilling in Sim’s apartment in downtown Joburg when a friend of his summons us to Hillbrow. Now most every South African knows the rep of the “African Manhattan”. But we braved the odds. Three model C boys and a dainty girl risking it in the most notorious high rise slum of one of the most dangerous cities on earth.

Why was I surprised by what followed? But hey even a certified rock star would have been taken aback by the gorgeous 20-something in a sheer black body suit that barely covered her essentials. Even more surprising was that Candy had a good head on her shoulders. She fed us sharp-edged, well-timed asides laced with intelligence.

Why the fuck was she a whore?

I refrained from asking since her pimp could have been any one of the guys in earshot. Guys with Reed leather jackets, Chuck Taylors and matching scars in places where no scars should be. Hey I’m gay, I notice this shit!

We take a drive down some dark alley for alcohol. Candy and some guy are in tow. He is excited and promising us the time of our lives. Candy has a morose fat friend, a girl who looks like she has the world’s problems riding on her shoulders. Seeing the neighborhood get worse, I have a sudden urge to shove my Blackberry in my underwear. Hopefully whoever inevitably mugs us won’t search down there. Turns out the alley trip is for cocaine and we go all the way back to Sim’s crib again. Scored.

Apparently Candy and her friend need the blow to prepare themselves for the guys brave enough to stick their dicks up their vaginas. Vaginas that have probably seen more dick than the glory holes at The Factory.

I hide on Sim’s bed. Everyone parties in the other room. I have no courage for anything tonight. I eventually emerge and on my way to the lounge window overlooking the city, walk passed about 10 grams of smack that’s now on the kitchen counter. They are all high, horny and drunk. I’m the preppy uptight gay boy scout exposed to my first dose of the underbelly. Without a viable lie to excuse myself. I drink some more. It’s about the only indulgence I can manage since I can’t get it up for the R2000 a night pussy. And I want to pass away saying cocaine has never touched my nostrils.

Shit, I have work tomorrow and the clock says 4am. Tacky Durban house plays on a home theatre system that has seen better days. Then Candy appears in nothing but a pink towel. She seems to want to talk.

“So where are you from?”

She’s from Durban and was initially up in Joburg to take a gap year between high school and varsity. There is a forlorn look on her face when she tells me how good life was back at home. Her accent is polished. She’s from the upper crust of that crusty coastal city I loathe so much. I tell her how beautiful she is. She knows.

“Why are you doing this?”

I quickly apologize but she just sighs and tells me nothing is ever as it seems. Finally the truth. Her mom’s boyfriend apparently fucked Candy in exchange for paying her school fees and bankrolling the high life.

“I’m never going back to Durban,” she says.
Her head on my lap as I stroke her hair.
“Candy,” I say, “you are a smart girl.”
“No,” she says. “Look how well you’ve done for yourself. You’re the smart one.”
Then someone leads her back to the sex room.

Whoever thinks classy accents and stuck-up attitudes among black people mean intelligence and wealth obviously hasn’t ventured deep enough into the city at night where so many dreams lie shattered. They drive good cars bought with the money our increasingly fascist government overpays them, for sitting around and making things worse. They snort cocaine in office bathrooms to mask the emptiness of their own lives. They fuck a thousand men to purge the stench of being violated underage by well to do citizens. They cry for their lost lives, but hey, it’s always sunny in Johannesburg.

*Illustration © Luke Molver.

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