Awareness 5 – Thuli’s Doubts

By Paul du Pré

Awareness is set in near future South Africa. Young, cyber-savvy, Thuli is forced to re-evaluate her life after she is involved in an accident.

Several days pass as Thuli’s debates with herself.

But he didn’t say I was stupid! Or naïve for that matter.

Uh, uh girl, don’t side-step the issue: you fancy him.

Thuli appraises herself in her dresser mirror. Her skin is flawless, a deep, even, glowing, black coffee. The whites of her eyes are clear and her smile, bright. Her nose is…neat, loveable. She wishes she were taller. She has the right curves for a tall person, but on her they’re just a little more compact than she would like. “But hey, they’re mine. And they’re all woman,” she says, posing a plump, shapely arm.

No, I don’t fancy him. I just thought he was decent, and kind.

Oh come on! Who do you think you’re fooling?

I’m not fooling anybody. And why are you so interested? I thought that you thought he thought I was stupid!

Hey, I’m not interested, OK. Listen, he was going on about that street culture stuff like I was naïve. But I’m not. I just don’t need to wallow in a cesspit to get ‘life experience’. I know what I want and I know how to get there.

Uh, huh – and I suppose being nice to a guy who doesn’t wear doesn’t feature in your ambitions. There’s a story there you know.

Maybe. But it’s his story, not mine. Anyhow, his attitude pisses me off.

You did run over his son! I think that entitles him to some attitude.

But, it was Not…My…Fault. I’ve done everything he can expect – and you want me to do more!

What? Everything he can expect! How much is his pain, Bono’s pain worth then?

Whoa, that’s low, girl.

You better hope Bono doesn’t die.

Shit! Listen, you can’t hold me to ransom. He can’t either.

OK, so you’re not responsible…

Darn right I’m not.

But still, you shouldn’t look down on him because he lives in a shack.

Hey! Who said I look down on him because he lives in a shack?

Then why don’t you go see how Bono is doing?

Oh, for crap’s sake!

***

The internal debate wears on, and from time to time Mandla breaks in.

“Thuli, you must eat more fibre.”

“Um, I thought I was.”

“I have ordered a selection of low GI, fibre-rich breads from Pickers Super. Expect delivery sometime this morning.”

Thuli scans the list scrolling on her eye-set: “But, I don’t like bread – we agreed on granola and fresh fruit. And you know I have a coffee date at ten.”

“Thuli, your health is a concern.”

“What? I’m not ill. Am I?”

“You must avoid James. And excess refined carbohydrates: they are deficient in roughage and induce wider fluctuation in your blood sugar levels.”

“James? Why should…”

“James places you at risk. I am concerned about your health.”

“What? Just how does James place me at risk?”

“He is non-compliant and evidently a low-income, shack dweller.”

“Yes but… Mandla what’s going on? Is there something I should know?”

“If the matter were to come to the attention of your father he would be displeased.”

Thuli knows this is true. “But, he doesn’t have to know, does he?”

“It may be my duty to bring it to his attention. Your health is a concern.”

Thuli maximises Mandla’s icon in her eye-set, looks him over – it’s the human impulse to check body-language: Stupid of me, she recognises, but… “Mandla are those guns you’re wearing. And body-armour?”

“Yes,” replies Mandla stiffly. “I was…”

But Thuli breaks in, “Mandla, you really are concerned about my safety! Though what you’re going to do with virtual guns…” Thuli emits a brief peal of laughter. “Sweet! But, Mandla, it’s OK. I’m not at risk. Really.” Suddenly Thuli is brushed by an unfamiliar maternal impulse. “Are you alright? I mean, ever since the accident you’ve been…pushy; more than usual.” She presses fingers to her lips, “Oh…My…Gosh! I’ve discovered a first: cybernetic post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Mandla’s eyes blink. It’s not connected to their conversation, just part of a humanizing sub-routine, but Thuli takes it as encouragement. “We can have your programming adjusted – if you’re feeling distress. I’m sure that’s possible.”

“My routines are functioning within nominal parameters, thank you,” responds Mandla rigidly. “I feel no distress.”

Thuli pauses. “Well, maybe you don’t, but I do,” she mutters to herself.

It is conversations like these that harden Thuli’s growing resolve to visit James once again.

***

She wears an eye-set in ‘old ivory’, a rayon-and-silk-blend tunic in pale lavender (perhaps a little too dressy) plain charcoal leggings and sandals with a diamanté centre. She goes during visiting hours and finds James in the ward – grubby T-shirt, jeans, trainers. His stubble is denser. (She’ll have to do something about that. Later… Hah!)

James tells her that Bono’s condition is slowly deteriorating.

“The doctors think he might have to be moved to chronic intensive care.”

“Oh no,” exclaims Thuli. Guilt claws at her.

“Sit down,” says James. And together they keep vigil by the boy’s bedside. The bandaging on his head has been reduced – he seems thinner without it, more stick-like – and his skin is pale, almost translucent. Like a handful of straw tossed in sunlight, and blown by the wind, thinks Thuli, A message scribbled across the sky…

***

Image Credits

‘Thuli’ – Piqsels; African girl, glasses

Disclaimer, Copyright and Permissions

Awareness is a work of fiction by Paul du Preez, writing as Paul du Pré. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are the product of Paul du Preez’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

All rights are reserved, including without limitation, the right to reproduce Awareness and the original art or music associated with it, or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of Paul du Preez. Copyrighted 2020 by Paul du Preez.

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