My name is Frank and I’m the biggest Loser in the world. I can’t drink without chundering, I get asthma just from looking at a cigarette box and I’m the last seventeen-year-old virgin left standing in Jozi.
Yesterday, at the school’s prize-giving, my status as the universe’s Number One Douche-bag was made official when I was awarded a gold certificate for Caring. Yip, you got it – I was the idiot serving tea on Pensioners Day.
My two homies Silas and Mondli say I’m rubbish company and I’m giving them a bad rep. If I don’t come right and get with the programme they’re going to tell me to hit the road.
I’ve got a month to learn to drink like a pirate, smoke zol like a Rasta and get laid.
Thirty days, they tell me, to turn from Prize Nerd into Party Animal. Seven hundred and twenty hours to become Ayoba! like them. They’ve got three tests lined up for me. Three challenges.
I don’t know if I can crack it. I don’t even know if I even want to try. But they’re the only chinas I’ve got.
I blame my Virgin Loser status on my family. I live with my ouledi and seven sisters. And for sure they love me crazy, but I’m drowning in girl hormones.
I can’t go to school to escape Team Frank ’cos the whole family’s there. My sisters are spread through the grades like cold sores. And Mama’s the Life Orientation teacher.
It’s no joke. She’s the one who stands in front of the class and goes all Malema-mouth about Condoms and Crabs and Warts and Aids and all the other stuff you don’t ever want to talk to your ouledi about. Especially not with thirty classmates watching.
This morning I’m thinking on my homies’ challenge: Learn how to party or take a hike. I’m still not sure.
But then Mama kisses me goodbye in the school corridor in front of the whole world. And then she asks me if I’ve remembered my asthma pump. And would I buy some tampons for my sisters. She says this loudly. In front of EVERYONE. In front of Silas and Mondli – who do what Benni did to Bafana-Bafana and turn their backs on me.
And in that moment I make up my mind.
I catch Silas and Mondli after school. Mondli drives a Jub-Jub – a Mini Cooper – courtesy of his dad (he got it when he finally passed the drivers license after ten tries).
We roar off, trying to break the sound barrier. Mondli says we’re hitting the bottlestore. I tell Mondli he can drop me off at home, I’ve got homework. Silas flicks me hard on my ear and says I need to shape up. Test Number One: it’s time to engage a groove.
Outside the bottlestore Mondli rips a wad of tigers out of his wallet and tells me to get the hard stuff. They’ll wait in the car.
Inside the store, the manager checks me out. Then he asks for ID. And then he looks at me like I’m some Virgin Loser and tells me to go home. I go back to the car and tell my chomas that I’m not legal. And they look at me like I’m a used condom.
Silas grabs the cash and heads for the store. He’s back in five secs with the bottles. He flicks fifty cents in the air and says it’s time to play the drinking game. He looks at me with hard eyes. Am I ready?
My homies Silas and Mondli and me are playing a drinking game at Mondli’s crib.
Mondli says it’s the Flip, Strip or Sip game. Strip? No, please, not Strip. My armpits fill with sweat. Mondli says chill, Dweeb, the babes aren’t joining us today so we’ll just Flip and Sip. They’re going to teach me to drink like a real man.
Mondli flips the fifty cents and calls Heads. And it’s Heads. He passes the coin to Silas who flips and calls Tails. It’s Tails. Silas passes the coin to me. I call Heads . . . No Tails . . . No Heads. It falls out of my hand and hits the floor rolling. It’s Tails.
Silas passes me a shooter glass. ‘Down, down, down,’ he chants.
I down the vodka and nearly gag. Silas slams me on the back and takes the coin. He flips the coin in the air and calls Heads. It’s Heads. And it’s my turn. And my turn again. And again.
I drink shooters until I feel like I’m going to fall off my chair. But I don’t. I sit there drinking and smiling. Like a regular drunk guy. And I don’t park my lunch. Not then. Not there.
I down my last shot of vodka and slam the fifty cents on the table. I’m tired of this crazy drinking game.
I eyeball Silas and Mondli. There are four of them now. They grin at me as I try to focus. They say I’ve past my first test – I drink like a pirate from Somalia. They must get me home before my ship sinks.
We pile into the Jub-Jub and Silas opens the car window – in case I want to breathe. I tell Mondli he shouldn’t be driving. He says it’s not far, he’ll keep one eye open and let Silas steer.
‘No, we mustn’t,’ I tell Silas.
But he says shuddup and get in the car.
We are three blocks from my ouledi’s place when Silas shouts stop. Two cop cars are perched on the side of the road. ‘Crap,’ says Mondli, throwing a fierce U-turn.
Oncoming traffic hoots and the wheels of the Mini Cooper screech like a bunch of girls. I see the blue siren flashing behind us and I put my head between my legs as Mondli drives like the devil.
The Jub-Jub ducks into a side street and the police car speeds past. And then my bras, Silas and Mondli, howl like hyenas at our lucky escape – driving under hard liquor is a bad rap.
We leave the car and they walk me home. They tell me I’m the man. I’ve downed half a bottle of vodka in a drinking game and I’m still on my feet. Sort of. And I haven’t chundered. They tell me I’ve passed the first test of becoming a real man like them.
My ouledi is sitting on the stoep when I arrive home. And she’s got company. It’s the school principal and her daughter Babs. Silas and Mondli see the guests and duck faster than I can say: hey dudes, don’t leave me stumbling around like a drunk in the driveway.
Mama calls for me to come over and I tell her I’m checking out the flowers. I fall over into a flower bed and lay low until I hear car doors slam. The guests are leaving.
I stagger to my feet as the car passes. The car stops and I hear a voice calling my name. I topple forward. And then it happens.
I’m leaning against my school principal’s car when I feel the half bottle of vodka do a summersault under my belt. And the principals’ daughter Babs is checking me out with big brown eyes. They grow bigger and bigger until I start falling into them.
Before I can stop myself, I’m hurling. I’m chundering and heaving and spewing. Tossing my school lunch tuna sandwich all over my principal. All over beautiful, brown-eyed Babs. All over their car. Along with the half a bottle of vodka I drank during the drinking game I played with my homies Silas and Mondli to prove I’m not some Grade One Loser.
I stop hurling and sit in the driveway. Drinking could get me expelled from school. So I moan weakly about being poisoned by a tuna sandwich. It looks like the principal buys my story. But Mama looks at me with sad eyes and I can see that she doesn’t believe me.
My ouledi cleans up and sends the principal and Beautiful Babs on their way smelling like a Russian fishing boat.
My cellphone rings and Silas asks if I’m ready for the next test to prove I’m Ayoba! like them. I feel sick to my stomach but I say for sure. What must I do?
I’m standing outside my classroom and Beautiful Babs asks me if I’m okay. Have I recovered from the tuna fish poisoning of the day before? That made me chunder all over her and her ouledi – the school principal – and their car.
She asks this with a sweet glint in those big brown eyes, so I know she knows that I was cagged after a crazy drinking game with my homies Silas and Mondli.
Before I can answer she sweeps past me and I suddenly realise that this is the first time she’s ever spoken to me. And that she was teasing me. In a nice sort of way.
My heart collapses in my chest. And then I want to beat myself senseless when I feel strings of drool in the corners of my open mouth.
Silas and Mondli are watching me. They give me thumbs up and say I’m coming along just fine. I’m talking to hot chicks. And after school they have a second test for me. It’s not a drinking game to see if I can hold my cagg. It’s a lot more dangerous.
After school Mondli parks the Jub-Jub a block away from a house with a technicolour roof and hands me a fist full of tigers. ‘Get a dozen,’ he says. I look at him blankly. A dozen zols, Silas growls. Ask the Rasta at the Jah House for twelve Swazi.
I leave my stomach on the floor of the Jub-Jub and wander as casually as I can towards the Jah House. Its multicoloured roof burns my eyes and I look down at my dragging feet.
Ten metres from the Jah House a voice asks me if I want to buy some weed. It comes from a snot-faced kid the size of my youngest sister. I feel like I’ve been given a reprieve.
I hold out twelve tens and he hands over a dozen joints. He says it was nice doing business and runs like the blazes. I stuff the product into my blazer and swagger back to the Jub-Jub. Silas asks if I got the stuff from the Rasta. I nod. ‘Now we’re smoking!’ he and Mondli say.
I lied so that they’d tell me I was cool. But I should have told the truth. If I had, things would have turned out different.
Me and my homies Silas and Mondli are smoking weed at the bottom of Silas’ garden. They tell me I’m halfway to passing the second test. I scored from the Rasta at the Jah House. Next I must smoke the product.
I haven’t told them I was too chicken to go into the Jah House; that I bought the stuff from a kid on the pavement.
Mondli lights up and drags the smoke into his lungs. He coughs and passes the zol over to Silas. ‘Sweet, this stuff is so sweet,’ Silas says and sucks hard. Then he hands it to me. ‘Feel it. It is here,’ he says.
I take the joint and inhale gently. It smells like my grandfather’s cow shed. And it tastes like cow crap. But what do I know? I say this in between coughing bits of my lung on to the ground.
Silas grabs the joint and crumbles it in his fist. ‘This isn’t Swazi, this is cow crap,’ he says. He swings a punch at my shoulder as Mondli cracks up. ‘Where the hell did you get this?’
I tell Silas the truth and say sorry, I screwed up the party.
‘Come, let’s go,’ Silas says.
Silas drags me towards the Jah House. He says we’re going to catch the kid who sold me cow crap and after we’ve taught him some respect I’m going to score some Swazi from the Rasta like I was supposed to.
I’m so close, so close to failing the second test, he tells me with a snarl. Silas is in a big rage at my screw-up but my other pal Mondli is hosing himself. Give the loser a break, he says, it’s not such a big deal.
I spot the snot-faced kid and he sees me. Then he’s gone. Then I see Babs, the school principal’s beautiful daughter. She’s walking past the Jah House. She sees me and smiles.
Then a cop car screeches to a stop on the pavement. Two cops jump out and they run towards me and my homies. Then I’m spreadeagled against the palisade fence and the content of my pockets is lying on the pavement. My homies, Silas and Mondli, can’t be seen for dust.
One of the cops holds up the zols and says I’m in big trouble. They’ve got plans for me down at the cop shop.
Back at the cop shop they rip my blazer off my back and strip search me. ‘Where is it?’ they scream.
I’m standing butt naked and all they’ve found are eleven zols full of cow crap. Zols that I scored off some snot-faced, rip-off artist kid outside the Jah House.
Two hours later my ouledi and seven sisters arrive. Mama says Beautiful Babs, the principal’s daughter, saw me getting bust by cops and sounded the alarm. That’s why they’re here. My ouledi is tearing at her hair and my seven sisters look at me with mean eyes.
The cops say there’s no charge – I can go. They smirk at me like I’m some jakalas that got bust with a blazer pocket full of cow crap instead of prime Swazi.
Mama says there’s no smoke without fire and she knows I’ve been up to rubbish. She says this even when I tell her that just like Paris Hilton at the World Cup, I’ve been falsely accused.
But I know I’m guilty of failing the second test. The message from my buddies on my phone says I screwed up big time. And if I don’t pass the third test I’m finished.
My homies Silas and Mondli say they’re giving me one last chance to prove I’m a real man and not some Virgin Loser who can’t even score Swazi without screwing up and getting busted.
I’ve got a final test to pass. And it’s a tough one. When they tell me what it is my heart beats so loudly it’s like an orchestra of vuvuzelas in my ears.
I’ve got seven days to get laid. If I don’t, I must voetsek and hang out with other arbs.
I ask them who? Which hot thang in Jozi is going to let me come within five metres of her? I’ve got about as much chance of getting up close and personal to a babe as Bafana Bafana had of winning the World Cup.
Mondli takes pity on me and says the best place to pull chicks is at the farewell party for the matrics. Silas gives a filthy laugh and says the girls get so trashed they’ll do it with anyone, even with a loser like me.
The party’s in three days time. I look at Silas and Mondli and say bring it on. I’m ready. I think.
Tonight I’m going to get laid for the first time. It’s the third test and last that my homies Silas and Mondli have set me to prove that I’m a real man and not some Virgin Loser.
I’m fired up and resolved, but the forces of fate seem bent on throwing boulders in my path. My road to manhood will not be as smooth as a trip on the Gautrain.
Obstacle Number One: My ouledi says there’s no way I’m going to the matric farewell jol on the party bus with my two buddies and twenty other dudes from school. She says she and a couple of other mothers are going to do a lift club.
Obstacle Number Two: Mama says I’m being fetched just after midnight – and no arguments. That doesn’t give me much time.
Obstacle Number Three: My eighteen-year-old sister Dineo is also going to the party. She’s defs gonna kill my swag.
But these obstacles are mere sheep droppings to a man of my resolve. I’ve got a hip flask of my ouledi’s cooking sherry, a six pack of Rough Rider condoms and a stomach full of butterfly-worms. Things can’t possibly go wrong tonight.
There’s me, my sister Dineo and a pimple-farmer called Jethro in the car on our way to the jol.
Destination: Naughties’ Nightclub in Midrand. Mission: To get laid and pass the third test my pals Silas and Mondli have set me to prove that I’m a real man and not some Virgin Loser.
‘One last stop,’ my ouledi says, parking outside the principal’s house. ‘You go in and get her.’
I stumble to the front door. And then she’s there. The Beautiful Babs. She looks at me and holds out her hand. I’m three seconds away from kissing it when I pull my hand out of my jacket pocket – the pocket that contains the six pack of condoms.
As I grab Babs’ hand the condoms fall on to the floor. I hold her eyes with mine. Don’t look down. Please don’t look down, I pray.
You’ve dropped something, Babs says and bends down. She picks up the six pack of Rough Riders and hands them to me. ‘Eish, Frank, it looks like you plan to be a busy boy tonight.’ She giggles.
But there’s a weird look in those dark brown eyes of hers. I wish I knew what it meant.
Naughties’ Nightclub is rocking. People from my school are dancing and shouting and drinking and laughing inside. And smoking zol and making out in the parking lot outside.
My homies Silas and Mondli arrive well lubricated with whiskey. Silas knuckles me on my shoulder. It hurts. ‘Are you ready for some action tonight?’ he yells.
He checks out Beautiful Babs at my side and sniggers. You can go skin on skin with this one. She’s safe. She’s a Virgin Loser like you. Then he shakes his head and says don’t bother, she doesn’t give.
I glance over at Babs, hoping she didn’t hear Silas, but the light catches a glint in her eyes and I’m not sure.
Mondli says he’s heading inside to check out the talent. I ask Babs if she wants to hang with us and she says she’ll hang with Jethro, the pimple-farmer. And she puts her arm through his.
I tear my eyes away from her and follow Silas and Mondli into the club. Then Mondli’s passing around shooters and it’s ‘Down, down, down.’
Mondli says the babes are pretty fine tonight. And they are all stoned and sloshed. ‘Fo sho we’re going to be getting us some action.’
Mondli is slow-dancing with Khanyi Mbau. She’s not the real deal, just a vacant chick who got the nickname for treating all the guys like bank machines.
Mondli’s known as the school’s chizboy and always attracts the ATM bombers. Not that he’s complaining. ‘You pay peanuts, you’ll end up partying with a monkey,’ he always says.
Silas comes over with two girls at his side. They’re so cagged they can barely stand. ‘Meet Skank One and Skank Two. Our hit ’n runs for the evening,’ Silas says. He winks at me with red eyes as he pushes Skank One across in my direction.
Skank One leans against me and puts her head on my shoulder. ‘Let’s go outside,’ she slurs. Her hair smells like smoke and vomit.
Silas and me take the two Skanks outside. Now’s my chance to pass the third test and prove that I’m not a Virgin Loser, he tells me as he heads for the parking lot. ‘I’ll see you in five,’ he says.
I hold Skank One’s braids back as she upchucks into a bed full of hydrangeas. She breathes her sweet and sour breath into my face. ‘I think you’re hot,’ she whispers.
I figure it’s now or never.
Me and my date are making out in the parking lot at Naughties’ Nightclub. She seems hungry. She’s licking and sucking at my face and making chewing noises. I try to dodge her tongue which sweeps across my chin like a windscreen wiper.
I’m coming up for air when my sister Dineo strolls past and says: ‘Introduce me to your date, Frank.’
My mouth dries up. I don’t know her name. She’s Skank One to me and Silas (who’s a couple of metres from me, partying with Skank Two).
My sister looks at me darkly. ‘Play safe tonight, hey, bro,’ she says as she walks away.
Safe? I feel as safe as a pack of cards in a hurricane. What if the condom breaks? What if Skank One gets pregnant? And I can’t even bear to think about the risk of catching the dread disease.
Before Skank One can start chewing on my face again, I say, ‘Hold it, what’s your name?’
‘My name?’ She asks me like it’s a question I’ve got the answer to.
‘Don’t you want to know my name?’ I ask her.
She laughs and says she doesn’t care. She’ll have forgotten it by morning anyway.
I think about tomorrow morning, waking up a real man and no longer a Virgin Loser. Not knowing the name of my first girl.
I hold the nameless girl away from me with a hand that is, for some reason, shaking.
In one hour it’ll be midnight and I’ll be the same Virgin Loser pumpkin who arrived at Naughties’ Nightclub three hours earlier all set to get laid.
I told my date to cool it and she took offence. She’s done an Exodus and I’m alone. But not quite. ‘Hola, Frank, having a party?’ It’s Beautiful Babs the principal’s daughter.
She says she’s been watching me for a couple of weeks and she likes what she sees. “You’re not like the other guys, Frank,” she says.
I offer her some cooking sherry from my hip flask. She says she doesn’t feel like drinking tonight.
‘Do you ever feel like it?’ I ask her.
Babs fixes those lovely brown eyes on me and says she feels like doing lots of things. But in her own good time.
She says she gets ripped by the other kids for being a party pooper. ‘And for being the principal’s daughter. For being different. Like you.’
She tells me this and laughs. ‘People are really insecure, they feel better when everyone’s the same,’ she says. ‘But I like who I am. I like being different.’ She takes my hand and pulls me up off the pavement. ‘And I like dancing. With you.’
As Beautiful Babs leads me inside, I don’t tell her I can’t dance like everyone else. I don’t think she’d care. In fact, I think she’d like it. That I dance kind of different.
It’s the morning after the night at Naughties’ Nightclub and Silas chucks the condoms at me. ‘You’re a loser and a freak,’ he says. He tells Mondli that they’re wasting their time with me. I failed the third test. I didn’t get laid last night. I’ll never be a real man like them. I must voetsek.
I tell Silas he’s so right. I don’t want to pass his stupid tests. I don’t want to drink shooters and smoke Swazi. And I don’t want to sleep with some girl whose name I don’t know and who doesn’t want to know mine. Not today.
Today I want to dance with a girl called Babs who likes my moves even when I move all wrong. And tomorrow, when I learn if her real name is Barbara or Babalwa, and when she asks if I’m Francis or Franklin, maybe I’ll take the third test.
Maybe me and Babs will take the test together. But maybe it will be some other girl who also likes me just the way I am. And if it’s not tomorrow, it will be in my own good time.
My homies Silas and Mondli say they’re going now, will they check me tomorrow? Silas voice cracks when he asks me.
And I say maybe.