they are sitting across each other in belthazar restaurant, in v&a waterfront, cape town, the watcher with her regular boyfriend, the trawler with the fifth man in as many such gatherings, her pimp with her third instalment. the trawler sits, quiet, tipsy-like, smiling as if in conversation with the demons inside her head, with large white teeth, the kind of smile that doesn’t reach the tongue in her mouth – the tongue that speaks a different kind of truth to the large white teeth. her pimp, a foul-breathed skinny lawyer with platypus features, is toileting with third instalment. the watcher notices that though all trawler’s men have been different – fluffy, muscular, tall, short, and food-needing – their one queer defining feature is they all are be-spectacled. you know, the ironically intellectual type.
“are you staying in the same hotel?” the watcher puts her cutlery down to break the silence.
“no, i tried booking too late.” number five is too preoccupied with receiving a forked-lamb piece from the trawler he misses trawler’s response.
funny how the wish to belong can separate men from their patriarchal senses, the watcher muses. she doesn’t know number five that well, but watching him so far this evening, being fed forked-lamb pieces, she can tell he is a man who doesn’t deserve her impalement. a beautiful woman, from out of town, who is willing to have hotel-fun with you, on the night of arrival, in a room she paid for, should raise red beacons in your head. what would make a pretty woman like her live the life of an international sea trawler, she muses. she is very pretty, smile and all, but there is something about her that doesn’t add up. she seems the sad and insensitive type – a porcelain doll with many up-turned broken pieces. the type of woman who would dump a man without thinking twice about the heights of passion she had dragged him.
“you know, that happened to me one time i went to italy with a random friend of mine. we –” unsolicited, this reminds the watcher of the truism of the saying ‘those whom god wishes to destroy, he first deprives of their senses.’
“random.” number five stops from receiving a forked-lamb piece from the trawler, he smiles self-deprecatingly. she smiles the same big-toothed tipsy-like smile, puts the lamb piece in her mouth – but says nothing.
“what’s your definition of random?” number three looks from regular boyfriend to number five, having just been freed from death by gaseous dribble exchange.
“we were not really dating.” ‘those whom god wishes to destroy, he first deprives of their senses.’ number five starts to pour more merlot into a large-bowled glass already almost sailing with merlot.
“you went on a trip to romantic italy with a random friend you weren’t dating?” the watcher sits up – a mongoose provoked. the proverbial hole won’t open for number five.
“is anyone hungry?” number five has recovered from trying to drown the wine glass.
“excuse me.” the trawler gets up – smart enough to know when the net closes in. in her judgment-day hurry, she bumps the table – increasing the red sea number five had already created on the table.
“that was not necessary.”
“yea, people shouldn’t come to a friends’ outing with their boyfriends and start talking -”
“i meant what you said to her.” number three leans forward, head bowed and smells the half-eaten well-done roasted lamb on his plate.
“you know, i have been to these things you organize five times now –”
“neo, please.” regular boyfriend butts in – knowing how her mind flows. they haven’t discussed any of the previous four meetings when alone, but he knows what she thinks of the gatherings. a woman doesn’t ask you, “will you take a different woman to your friends’ things?” in isolation.
“i don’t think it’s proper for you to keep jumping into my throat.” regular boyfriend raises his hand in submission.
“do you have any respect for what’s her name, your friend?” she is staring at the pimp as you would a foul-smelling prawn.
“respect? of course i respect her. what’s your point?” the pimp laughs and then hisses.
“i thought you were friends with daniel.” at the mention of daniel, the pimp goes into meltdown mode.
“if you don’t like what we do, why have you attended five times?” soon as that comes out of her mouth, the pimp realizes she has committed the first cardinal sin in law – you don’t hand your opposition the file, complete with all pieces of evidence and your line of argument, in a white file.
“mike, why do you attend these things.” regular boyfriend is just getting to his feet when the second half of the question the watcher asked him seven days ago stops him in a stooping position – so, there he is, bowing apology-like to number five who is on his third large-bowled glass of floating merlot.
“i beg your pardon?” regular boyfriend immediately regrets he didn’t push the excuse of a fever through earlier in the evening. one thing he has learnt being with the watcher is that “i beg your pardon?” doesn’t mean “excuse me,” it means “finish what you were saying.”
“you are not like these people, mike. why do you come to these things?”
“are you alleging he’s better than us?” number three’s voice has a slight harshness to it – the mongoose’s cue to strike.
“do you know you’re the third boyfriend –”
“neo –” regular boyfriend suddenly feels warm in a restaurant the air-conditioning is set to vostok station limits – he looks at his plate, his chicken suddenly disagreeing with him.
“let me speak, mike. and you –” she turns to a sloshed number five, “you’re her number five in five of these things. i can’t sit here and watch this circus anymore. i came here this evening because i didn’t want to rush to any conclusions, and i am glad i came.”
the temperatures rise from vostok station depths to badlands high down under, and all hell breaks loose.