Image from ‘Faces And Phases’ Collection by Zanele Muholi (courtesy: Stevenson)
PART ONE: THE YELLOW DRESS
Luthando was wet.
She had forgotten to bring her umbrella and the Accra rain had soaked her, she became a walking waterfall dripping, she ran into Kotoka International Airport with only the love in her heart to keep her warm. It was 11am, on a Sunday, but the sky was so grey as if some majestic creature had flown through the night and ate the sun, it was getting darker but that would not deter her. She was here for a reason, her husband had finally arrived to see her, it had been months (seven to be exact) and she was ready to be touched again. Innocently on the face, and discreetly in other places – but not like this, what man wanted to make love to a waterfall? His flight wouldn’t land until 13:30 pm, giving her enough time to freshen up. To claim her smooth skin and be his woman, she wondered if he had strayed while she was in Ghana, it was for their own future well-being. She had been appointed the MD of a Ghanian television network, Mombasa, and she had accepted the job even though she had to leave her country of South Africa. She had to leave the people who raised her and the man who loved her, though he was a strayer, she knew he loved her.
Luthando had forgiven him when she found another woman in their bed, the one who wore the yellow dress that draped her body and made her look like a drop of honey. She was that girl, the girl with the smile and the eyes that you couldn’t see through, a modern mystery. A fable told to boys when they go to the mountain to become men: “Beware of the foxtail,” the elder would say, “Beware of the woman that will make you weak.” She never bought her own clothes even though she had the money, she was a lucky charm.
“Blow on my dice.” The men would say in a voice, and she would blow like whiskey, smooth and he would spin and win the game: her, the prize. She was the one who always left alone at the club but never slept alone, her nails would sink into his back when he was inside – she never wanted love just the pulsing heartbeat and sweat and scent that fooled the man into thinking it was love, he would forget that he had a wife at home. She was the yellow-dress-girl, she had the confidence and the audacity to dress like honey when her skin was already light and wishful, she would rise and the hips would swing, she said little but knew a lot, she was smart and never had a hair out of place. Her weave would never dare disobey her like that, so it stood still and blew in the wind, and curled around the pillow while he was on top of her, Luthando’s soul wept when she thought about it – her husband, ‘my dear Bonga had fallen into her trap, he was like the rest of these men’ but there was love left in her heart for him, there was enough love to make her go to Accra for him – learn a new language for him – be away from him for him, so she wouldn’t fall apart, crumbling in the remembrance that she was not enough, that his cup was half empty and even though she was a waterfall, she could not fill it, only yellow-dress-don’t-pay-for-her-own-clothes-hip-swing-small-talker-perfect-lucky-charm girls could. So why was she here?
She ran to the toilet of the packed airport filled with lovers uniting, she remembered it was Sunday the 14th of February, what a simple fate of romance, she and Bonga must be meant to be she thought. Once slightly dry, though her jeans still soaked and her white shirt revealing more than she wished, she went on her way – giving a smile to all the lovers of the day. She walked around looking for a store to buy new clothes, then she stopped in front of a small boutique called Purple, a dress had caught her eye, it was yellow. It was made of silk that looked like it would hug her waist and thighs, she grabbed it and went to try it on in the dressing room.
She stripped of all her clothes, the dress didn’t need any support so she stripped of all her underwear too – for the first time in a long time she looked at her naked body in the mirror. Her vagina and inner thighs freshly shaven, her stretch marks danced like spirits up and down her hips and ass, her breasts donned dark nipples, eyes travelled up as if seeing her body for the first time. She was impressed, and then she saw her face. She looked like her Aunt Thembi, she had been a jazz singer in Sophiatown, used to tell Luthando and her cousins stories of the nights in the greatest place in the world, every night was a movie – a novel – a story worth telling a million times.
“Are you okay in there?” a woman asked, she sounded like a returnee, she could hear the slight American in her speech, “The dress you took has straps at the back, I don’t know if you’ll be able to tie it on your own”. She was safe beyond the dressing room door, Luthando could not see the woman and the woman could not see her, she looked at the complicated strap work of the dress and decided it was okay to ask for help and take it when offered. She opened the door and the woman quickly slipped in and closed it, the woman turned around to see Luthando still naked while slipping the dress on, “I was just admiring myself.” She said excusing her nakedness.
“As every woman should.” The American from Ghana, or Ghanian from America said, then she gave her name, “Akan.”
“Like the language?” Luthando asked now fully covered by the silk sunshine of the dress, the woman confirmed, yes like the language, and then complimented Luthando’s skin – “The dress looks amazing with your skintone. You don’t sound like you’re from here?”
Luthando chuckled, since she sounded more from here than the woman did, “No, I’m from South Africa – my name is Luthando.”
The woman began to strap the dress, pulling it tighter, giving small re-assurances that ‘beauty was pain’ when the dress pulled too tight around Luthando’s waist. When Akan was done, the straps had been artistically weaved, “I don’t think I’ll ever wear this dress ever again, I couldn’t do what you’ve just done. I wonder how I’ll take it off.”
Akan moved closer to Luthando, “Trust me, it’s not that hard to take it off.” It was the way she said it that gave Luthando goose bumps, something that before this moment she thought was something that only happened in movies, her head was filled with confusion even though she knew exactly what Akan was implying by the sound of the American from Ghana voice and the sweet delicate look of passion she was giving her in the mirror, she felt safe in that moment, her rational mind immediately took control, “I have a husband.” She quickly said, she didn’t want to say that though – she wanted to turn around and taste her, innocently, out of curiosity but instead she did the first thing she thought she should’ve done. She was here to fetch her husband after all.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Akan quickly stepped out of the dressing room, leaving Luthando speechless, she looked at herself in the mirror and thought she had gone back in time because she was wet again.
Written By: Negasi
Image By: Zanele Muholi
WINGS is an ongoing project of fiction works consisting of love stories about and for Queer Bodies.