I always had a few friends in high school, but I never belonged to any particular clique. My closest friend was a Brazilian student who could only speak Portugese when she just arrived. So we spent the first few months of Std 8 (Grade 10) having lengthy conversations – me in English and she in Portugese. Our mediator was a tiny Portugese/English dictionary that she carried and we hardly understood each other at first, but as the months turned into years, we came to understand each other on a level that transcended language barriers. She eventually became more proficient in English than most of the people I know, and in turn I came to understand Portugese, Spanish and a little Italian – I say understand because I can interpret more than I can converse.
I had another friend during that time…a guy called Mo. He used to call me every night and since he lived light years away from me, it was the only way we conversed. I never ever got to actually “see” him. Mother knew about our friendship and she didn’t seem to mind; although she did request telephone printouts from Telkom and made us underline all the calls we made. She also made us pay for whatever calls we made with our allowances, making sure that she included the 14% VAT and any other incurred taxes to the total.
My Dad didn’t really know about Mo…mostly because my parents were divorced and he lived three streets away and also because I never told him – I wasn’t about to tell him that his 16 year old was talking to an 18 year old on the phone – he would have had a Calf.
So there was this one night I called Mo to tell him about what had happened in school that day. I was exhausted and drained…but excited too and couldn’t wait to tell him the story. He answered the call after the third ring and we began to chat as usual. Three and a half minutes into the conversation, he had to end the call because he had to go and help his brother with some or other thing. He promised to call me back later that night but I told him that I was pretty worn out. I then suggested that he call me, let it ring twice and if I was still awake at that time, I would call him back…but if I wasn’t then I’d speak to him the next evening. So we agreed, I put the phone down, leaned back onto my pillow and drifted into a deep sleep.
It must have been a couple of hours later…around 10:45pm that I was woken from my slumber by the telephone ringing. I heard the first ring…then the second ring…and then silence. I took my cue, got up from the bed, picked up the phone and pressed the re-dial button. The following conversation then transpired:
Me: Hello, can I speak to Mo please?
Call: Hello….(quiet) Mo?
Me: Yeah, Can I speak to Mo please?
Me: Yeah Mo…can I speak to Mo please?
Call: (another pause)…erm…Mo?
Me: Yeah…MO MO MO….Can I speak to him please!?!?!?!?
Me: YEAH YOU IDIOT, I WANT TO SPEAK TO MO!!!!!
It took a while for the daze to end and it was at this point that it had occurred to me that the person on the other side of the line was not Mo or any of his family members…IT WAS MY FATHER!!!!!!!!
The shock of my realization temporarily paralized me and instead of saying “I’m sorry, I think I dialed the wrong number”…I Hung up in my Dad’s Ear!
I sat back in my bed, HORRIFIED…my heart beating a million times a second…adrenaline pumping through my body and making me tremble out of fear…when the phone rings again…
Slowly and hesitantly, I pick it up:
Me: (whisper) Hello?
Dad: Azra, is everything ok?
Me: (softly) Erm…yeah…
Dad: Are you sure?
Me: (still softly) Erm…yeah…
Dad: Ok then, I’ll see you tomorrow.
And that’s how my Dad found out about Mo. I avoided him for weeks after that, even hid away on some days…and when I eventually saw him, I couldn’t look him in the eye…I was ashamed and embarrassed. Luckily for me…he doesn’t hold grudges :D