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The Glow of Underwear

Story ID:4538
Written by:John Ward (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Johannesburg South Africa
Year:1976
Person:Elwin Cardwell
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OurEcho Preface This post deals with a mature theme or contains explicit language. While the post is not extremely violent or pornographic, it does contain language or explore a subject matter that may offend some readers. If you do not wish to view posts that deal with mature themes, please exit this post.
It was during the time of “Apartheid” in South Africa. My best friend Elwin Cardwell and I decided we wanted to travel from our home in Swaziland to the city of Johannesburg, South Africa to kick the gong around and have a bit of fun.

I am considered “white” being of Irish and Italian extraction, but Elwin’s people are from the Island of Saint Helena and so he is considered “Colored” which is the race between “Native African” and “White.” In fact he has an attractive honey colored café-au-lait skin, stands about six feet and two inches and is devastatingly handsome. To top it all he is charming, erudite, decent and gentle; a combination the women find irresistible.

Since Elwin was looked upon as “non-white” we could not stay in a hotel together so we stayed at the home of my friend Jules Blum. In addition the race difference meant we only had access to one club in Johannesburg. The “New Yorker” disco allowed entry to people of varying races, much to the chagrin of the South African government and, much to their surprise and irritation, there were never any problems between the races.
The New Yorker was a wonderfully percussive club and we were thrilled to be there.

In short order Elwin was surrounded by beautiful women and settled upon a gorgeous Austrian red-head called Anna. I was introduced to her attractive friend Nanda, who lived in the same apartment building. We danced and talked and laughed until about one a.m. and then, it being the late seventies, the girls invited us home.

In South Africa, at the time, the government instituted a law called “The Immorality Act” for which one could be imprisoned for having sexual relations with anyone of another race. Elwin was taking a huge chance by going home with Anna.
Their apartment building was about fifteen stories tall built around a central courtyard. When we arrived we wasted no time with small talk and I went to Nanda’s apartment which was on the same floor, floor twelve, but opposite Anna’s on the far side of the courtyard. Nanda pointed out the windows of Anna’s apartment across from hers.

“We often talk across the courtyard” she said in her delightful South African accent. Then she dropped a bomb. “I hope Anna’s husband doesn’t get home tonight.”
“Anna’s married!?”
“Ya, he’s like so jealous!”
“Nanda…” I paled… “are you married?”
“No but I have a boyfriend!” I must have looked shocked because she went on: “Don’t worry man, he’s in Boksberg.”
Having established that I wouldn’t be beaten to a pulp that night I asked more about Anna’s husband.
“You say you hope Anna’s husband won’t be home tonight, is he in Boksburg too?”
“No he’s here in Jo’burg, but he was supposed to get out of prison today!”
“Elwin!” I was shout-whispering across the courtyard. “ELWIN!” Holy shit!
“What was he in for?” I asked as casually as I could.
“Ag, he beat up this native just ‘cause he looked at Anna.”

“ELWIIIIIIN!” Oh God. It could not have been worse! If I knew Elwin at all, he would be merrily engrossed in introducing a length of St. Helena Bacon to the Autumn red forests of Austria and would not hear a word I whispered. I couldn’t shout, because it would have alerted the whole building to the fact that a man of color was in the apartment of a white woman.
I didn’t know what to do. Nanda was pulling at my clothes and doing everything in her power to provide the sweet distraction that cures all ills, but I was very far from being aroused.

Suddenly there came a loud banging from across the courtyard, echoing through the hallway. We rushed to the window to hear muffled shouting and witness frenzied movements behind Anna’s window shade. I could hear Anna talking in a strained but soothing voice to someone outside her front door and then Elwin appeared in his white BVD underwear, climbing out her window onto the narrow ledge below and creeping sideways to his left until he was just between the two windows of Anna’s apartment.

Poor Elwin looked petrified as his bright “whitey-tighties” glowed against his dark skin for any apartment dweller to see, had they bothered to look. His toes hung over the edge of the ledge and he squeezed himself against the wall mightily. He tried to wave me away, but I was transfixed. Anna appeared with Elwin’s clothes and hurriedly threw them out of the window into the court yard! She withdrew and must have opened the front door, because there was more commotion and suddenly the window shade was pulled aside and I saw the most horrible looking example of tattooed ruffian I’d ever seen. He looked out of the window and caught me staring.

“What the hell are you looking at?” he demanded. I was speechless. I saw Elwin trying to melt into the bricks of the wall and prayed the Troll wouldn’t look to his left, because there is no doubt he would have seen poor Elwin. I toyed with the idea of frothing at the mouth, convulsing and clapping my hands like a seal on crack just to distract him from looking to his left and then Nanda saved the day by coming to the window and cheerfully greeting “Burt” and then dragging me back into the room like I was just a guest who had gone to the window for some air.

After a few minutes, the commotion died down and I snuck a peek. Anna was leaning out of the window frantically motioning Elwin to get back in and furtively glancing towards, what Elwin later described as, her bathroom. Elwin, his BVDs glowing in the glare of the courtyard floodlights, crab-walked until he got to the window and then disappeared into the room.

Without saying good-bye to Nanda, I dashed for the door in only my jeans. I ran around the building corridor and saw Elwin standing at the elevator in just his underpants.

“What are you going to do for clothes?”
“She threw them away!” he said “she tossed them when the husband started banging on the door.”
“Do you want me to go back for my shirt” I asked hoping the answer would be “no.”
“He’s in the can right now; we have to get out of here before he gets out.” Elwin said impotently pounding the elevator button with the speed of a Mac-10.
“Christ Elwin, you can’t walk home in your skivvies!” I whispered.
“Well it’s better than dying here in my skivvies” he said.

I thought of poor Elwin being beaten into and ointment and then, if he recovered, being prosecuted for violating the national “Immorality Act.”

The elevator seemed to inch down the twelve floors, but luckily, there was no-one around since it was about 2:30am. We could not risk a taxi as they tended to be driven by half-wits, loyal to the Afrikaans government.

It took us about two hours to run back to Jules’ house since we had to duck behind bus stop shelters, city landscaping and garden walls whenever a car went by. The sight of poor Elton, at night, running through Apartheid Johannesburg in his white underwear was horrifying. I had my pants but with bare feet, the city streets made progress difficult and painful.

When we got home and knew we were safe we burst out laughing and laughed until you could see our back teeth.
“Did you know she was married?” Elwin asked
“No, I only found out in Nanda’s apartment. Christ Elwin, next time let’s do something safer, like shark wrestling!