The #WeekendRead - Rahla Xenopoulos' Tribe

Rahla shares a part of Tribe, setting up us for a good weekend. There are wildflower-scented soft beaches, the cradling of old friends and the excitement of making new ones. Read on to see, the "Tribe" expanding. 


Everyone is in love on MDMA, but this is where it peaks, the big blow-out, Ibiza, July 1997 … the hedonist’s holiday …

Walking up from the beach, Jude hears a girl laughing. He puts down his guitar and stops to listen; the sound inhabits the island like an ancient myth. Such a laugh. Not like his mother who, when amused, emitted what sounded like a nervous hiccupping sound, then scanned the room, checking that no one thought she was being silly.

He looks at the people catching the last of the day’s sun. Is he the only person being enchanted? Maybe the laughter is part of his trip. He walks towards the sound, like a child beguiled by a will-o’-the-wisp.

She opens the door before he knocks. Everything about her is unlike what he’d imagined. Small yet confrontational, she sparkles. A transparent white halter-neck dress, slightly torn and shabby at the hem, hugs her body. Unlike the emaciated grunge girls on the island, her African skin has the luxury of flesh. She doesn’t step aside, but stands in the doorway, inviting him instead to study her as she studies him.

He can’t tell for certain if she’s laughing with him, at him or simply at life. “So you’re the Jude?” She looks him over. “Right, well, come on in, you look like a bit of fun. They’ve been talking about you, incessantly …”

“You’re not …” He looks at her.

She laughs. “No, luv, I’m not ‘The Babe’. That’s Olivia. She’s blonde, beautiful and white. I’m Tselane, her friend.” He follows her hips down a passage. “The real Babe, Olivia, is inside with your mates.”

The house smells of the ocean, and a pungent tuberose perfume. It smells of sex.

Before he sees Benjy’s new girlfriend, ‘The Babe’, or any of his friends, before seeing anything beyond the laughing Tselane, Jude sees a coffee table in the centre of the lounge. It’s got a certain look. He had a theory in first year: if you wanted to analyse a girl, forget Freud, go to her home. Whatever you noticed first symbolised the essence of her character. If it was her music collection, she loved dancing. Books, she didn’t live in this world. Photos, she lived in the past. Bed, she loved to fuck. Once he went to a girl’s place, just one room in student digs, and there in the middle was a four-poster bed covered in pink linen – virgin! It had turned out to be true; she’d arrived at university virginity intact.

And here, first thing he sees in Olivia “The Babe’s” Ibizan holiday villa is a Balinese coffee table. There must be a whole bunch of shit that happens on this table, stuff guys like Jude aren’t included in. Right now, it’s covered in crystals, ashtrays burning with joints, and bottles of Evian water. But Jude imagines it, on other evenings, through different phases, covered with piles of cocaine being snorted by models and rich men. He imagines Olivia dancing on top of it, surrounded by other Eurotrash admiring her as she strips down to a G-string. He wonders what she hides in the table’s two drawers – condoms, photographs of rock stars in compromising positions, old nail polish … this Uberbabe his friend has hooked up with. Benjy’s landed the “It Girl” and she’s crazy for him.

Oh, she’d resisted at first. “I can’t fall in love with you, Benjamin Stone,” she’d said, sipping a mojito back in London.

“Why not?” he’d laughed, knowing she would.

“Because you have the attention span of a Sunday morning.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll be easy fun, but inevitably you’ll become Monday.”

She’d been wrong; he’d prove himself as constant as eight days a week.

Tselane pulls Jude by the hand, drawing him into the reality of the room.

“Jude, broe, is that you?” says a man with a thick Afrikaans accent. Hannes comes into the room, not gently like Jude did, but like a force of nature, wearing nothing but a kikoi, his hair wet from the shower. He has a scar running across his muscled chest.

“So good, we’re all here,” Jude says, his eyes smiling.

“So good,” Hannes says, lighting a cigarette, which he holds between his thumb and forefinger.

A mass of blonde hair on the floor turns, revealing the faces of Benjamin and Olivia. She is staggeringly beautiful. It’s not just the obviously high cheekbones or the green of her eyes – there’s warmth in her broad smile. Benjy jumps up off the cushion they were sprawled over. Unconsciously he runs his fingers through his hair, pushing it off his handsome face. “I didn’t think you’d come out to this Sodom with all its Gomorrah.”

“It’s me, I found him,” announces Tselane in a playful voice that surprises Jude but doesn’t seem to surprise the others.

Olivia cracks up. Grasping her friend’s hand, she says, “Did you, T? Did you pick him up off the street? Pull him out of the water?”

He didn’t expect these girls to be funny. Now that she’s standing closer to him, he can smell Olivia’s sophisticated perfume and feel the reverberations of her laughter. Jude sees what really attracts Benjy to Olivia. This laughter. Both girls have great laughs; Olivia’s not as much as Tselane’s, but then, Olivia’s is accompanied by her astonishing beauty.

“I’m so excited to finally meet you. And you have your guitar. Sit down. Ben tells me you serenaded him through childhood,” Olivia says, talking over any shyness he would normally have felt. “I’ll call Pierre off the beach.”

Covered in sand, Hannes’s brother Pierre comes in. His accent isn’t as guttural as Hannes’s, but different as they are, they share a rawness, an Afrikaans honesty, that Jude’s always appreciated. Pierre’s body is more sinewy than Hannes’s, his movements more measured. They’re both sexy, but women have always thought Pierre is less encumbered, less of a risk. Without bothering to shower, Pierre sits down.

Jude’s been at Oxford in a tunnel of studying, cum laude-ing his degree in psychiatry. Pierre and Benjy are riding the same wave, surfing the net, building digital empires; Pierre in Cape Town, Benjy in London. But Pierre will sell out before it crashes.

Café del Mar plays on the stereo, the sliding doors are open and waves break outside. The ease of youth and privilege fills the room.

“So, boet, what have you got to show for yourself?” Hannes asks Jude.

Smiling, Jude pulls a plastic bag containing a white rock out his pocket. “Gram of the finest MDMA on the island. Any of you care to crush it?”


Rahla Xenopoulos is the author of A Memoir of Love and Madness and the novel Bubbles. Many of her short stories have been published in magazines and in Women Flashing, Twist and Just Keep Breathing. She lives in Cape Town. Her latest novel Tribe was released to critical acclaim.