• Thandi Sebe

Cape Town Stories 9

Two brown people buying a muffin and two lattes on a sunny Sunday in Gardens. Not at a Pick’nPay, at an almost-fancy cafe where you can find croissants made with real butter and other foreign patisserie. No koeksisters. You feel me. My card is rejected. Once, twice. No cash. The woman behind the counter – I presume the owner – is not amused. She does not believe that I want to pay. Has not smiled once. Not when we entered and especially not now, the third time I put in my pin code. I call my mother. (I lied when I said it was my card). My mother and I communicate in German. Hence I say something like: “Mama, die Karte funktioniert nicht, ich versuche gerade zu bezahlen”. The woman’s face changes instantly. No longer tense and irritable. My mom from her side sorts out the problem with the card, I hang up and look into a pair of customer friendly eyes. Where are you from, what language is that? It’s German. Oh wow, you’re from Germany! That’s so lovely, so your mother is German? The payment suddenly seems not so important. Yes. Such a nice place, my daughter once went to…. Two brown faces turn to look at each other. Both of us realise in her eyes we have just gone from being two poor Coloured people disturbing her business to two friendly tourists – exotic, not gangsters. I pay and I remember Pretty Woman and I wonder what the film would have been like had she have just tried to buy a coffee instead of an expensive dress. Two brown people leaving a cafe with a muffin and two lattes on a sunny Sunday in Gardens.

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