EXTRACT | ‘The Dream About Sinking’ by Aleksandar Bajić

21 June 2024 - 09:25
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Being Young, Female and White in South Africa: Two Intertwined Paths.
The Dream About Sinking Being Young, Female and White in South Africa: Two Intertwined Paths.
Image: Supplied

About the book

Two young women, Nadine, a candidate attorney, and Helen meet each other when Nadine is out jogging and Helen is trying to escape from a police raid on Moonstone, the strip club she works at. Their chance encounter has far reaching consequences for each of their lives. Can Nadine help Helen to get out of the industry she works in and free her from the clutches of her pimp, Nathan? Can Helen join Nadine’s circle of high-flying, corporate climbing friends? How far can our dreams and aspirations take us? A tender portrait of love, loss and how friendship has the power to heal and shape our lives.


Nadine was looking for a way to broach the unpleasant subject when Helen unexpectedly helped her: ‘I’m sorry about the other night.’ While Nadine was searching for a suitable response, she continued, ‘When we first met, I didn’t mean to deceive you. But if I had said, “Let’s jog together. By the way, I work in a strip club,” you would’ve told me, “No, thanks.”’ ‘Which is what I’m going to do now,’ thought Nadine and said, ‘Well, that would’ve been the honest approach. You can’t build a relationship on lies.’ ‘I meant no harm. I was simply trying to get to know you. You looked like a nice person.’ She hesitated. ‘When you work at Moonstone, your choice of friends is limited to the other Moonstone girls. It’s an isolated group. You spend your days among strippers, waitresses and bouncers. There aren’t many opportunities to meet people outside the club scene. When you do meet them, the moment they sniff out that you earn your keep stripping, they disappear.’

Nadine wasn’t in a sympathetic mood. ‘A chick willing to be a stripper should be able to handle what goes with it.’ ‘I’m not having sleepless nights over my job if that’s what you mean.’ ‘It doesn’t bother you that much?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then why did you lie to me?’ Nadine felt irritated; she wanted to spite the girl. ‘I’ve just told you. I wanted to get to know you.’ ‘So you wanted to use me as your ticket out of the Moonstone gang.’ Her own voice sounded argumentative to her.

‘What are you saying – that there’s something wrong with the people from the club?’ ‘Wrong enough to make you look outside.’ ‘I don’t have to make friends outside. I’m not desperate. I have friends.’ ‘Which means there is no justification for the lies you told me. You probably did it out of habit.’ ‘No, I didn’t.’ ‘Have you ever worked for an estate agency?’ ‘No.’ ‘I’m an estate agent,’ Nadine impersonated her mockingly. ‘And what happened the day we met? What were you doing? You didn’t plan on jogging, that’s for sure.’ ‘The cops raided the club and I had to run.’

Nadine remembered the police vans with the blue lights flashing, which they had passed at the deserted intersection, and realised the place was actually at the back of Moonstone.

‘Why?’ ‘What do you mean, why?’ ‘Strip shows aren’t illegal.’ ‘There are other things which are.’ ‘Such as?’ ‘None of your business!’ ‘There is a way to avoid such situations: just stop prostituting yourself!’ ‘Really? Sleeping Beauty, who can’t find her way out of Sandton City, has the nerve to preach to me!’ Helen sounded irritated and dismissive at the same time. ‘Are you kidding me?! Join the gentlemen’s club and cabaret and spend at least a week doing what I do. Then we can talk! Otherwise, don’t waste my time!’ ‘I’ll never do what you do, so we may as well stop this right now. You keep to Moonstone and I’ll keep to my jogging!’ ‘Fine! Go back to your blasé clique and leave reality to deviants like me!’

Helen stopped abruptly. That was it! That was what Nadine had wanted! Relieved, she kept jogging. Helen’s words had stung her, though. Angry thoughts were swirling behind her sweaty forehead. ‘Sleeping Beauty from Sandton City?! Well, missy, why have you clung to Sleeping Beauty all this time? You’ve been like chewing gum in my hair! And where does Sandton City come in? I go there once in a blue moon. You shop there yourself! That’s where you bought the clothes for the picnic, which were chosen by Sleeping Beauty, by the way! And what was that about my blasé clique? They are normal people! If they are blasé, so am I. But I am most definitely not blasé!’

Nadine was so preoccupied that she almost collided with a figure that suddenly blocked her way. A worker in torn overalls grabbed her by the arm so that she swung around him and stopped. Caught unawares, she breathed heavily, blinking at him. Another worker joined them. She realised they had been there the whole time. Men in overalls were a common sight and Nadine hadn’t paid attention to these two. Looking from one to the other, she knew she had made a mistake. ‘Come,’ the man said gruffly, pulling her away from the road. Nadine could smell alcohol on his breath. She saw they were in front of a building site she had run past for months. ‘Leave me alone!’ She tried in vain to remove his hand. Pulling her effortlessly, like a doll, the worker walked steadily towards the bushes just outside the site. Feeling his powerful hold on her arm, Nadine thought with the objectivity of a diagnostician, ‘A bricklayer’s grip. Of course.’ She looked up and down the street, but couldn’t see anybody. She slapped him as hard as she could. The man just blinked and grabbed her other arm without slowing down. ‘Let me be. You’ll go to jail for this!’ He kept walking, his face expressionless. The other man followed. ‘Help!’ she shouted. ‘Help! Somebody help me!’ He knocked her down with a quick, brutal strike. Her body went limp. There was the salty taste of blood in her mouth as he was dragging her across dust and broken bricks.

A cheerful voice rang out all of a sudden: ‘Hey, guys, you don’t have to beat anybody. You can get what you want right here! I like to have sex with strong men like you.’ Nadine’s attacker paused. She looked up to take in a strange picture: a smiling Helen taking off her top in front of the bushes. ‘Where have you come from?’ wondered Nadine irrelevantly. She felt like an observer, not a participant.

The girl took off her bra and her breasts quivered a little as she stepped forward. ‘Come on, honey. I’ll give you pleasure. Come with me. I can’t wait to do it with a sexy guy like you!’

He looked at her breasts. ‘Nice boobs,’ thought Nadine detachedly. The man looked down at the limp doll with the bloodied mouth and entangled hair, then up at the breasts again. Letting go of Nadine, who slumped to the ground, he approached the half-naked girl.

Heading for the bushes, Helen looked over her shoulder at the man’s companion. ‘Come, honey. I’ll take care of both of you.’ The men followed, leaving Nadine behind. She was experiencing different reactions: while her face was throbbing with hot pain, she was relieved at having been spared and at the same time consumed with the scene in front of her. Helen suddenly tripped.

‘Oops!’ she said, going down, pushed against the ground and straightened herself again. Then, turning around swiftly, she swung the brick she had picked up off the ground and smashed it into the closest worker’s face. He fell without a sound, his hand half-raised in a futile attempt at defence. Helen yelled, ‘Call the cops!’

The Dream About Sinking by Aleksandar Bajić is published by Porcupine Press. Extract provided by Janine Daniels (JDoubleD Publicity)

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