I had a lull during the week. Was tired, drained. I didn’t wash with my dry-shower, or put in my contact lenses. Life needs the soft-focus treatment sometimes. Since Ramaphosa’s Tuesday speech I’ve been worried about how the grants will get to the poor, and been freaked out by the 70 000 troops on the streets and seeing people jailed for smoking rooibos tea ciggies or having their food parcels impounded. What will become of SA?
Wednesday afternoon I started to recover. I listened to my writer’s webinar. Was reminded again to set FEAR aside when writing. I’m still looking for the easy way. ‘The search for perfection is futile,’ said Jo-anne. ‘In fact,’ said Richard, ‘it is the antithesis of love.’
The aim is to love one’s work, like the difficult child one brings into the world, you gotta look after him. And as an antidote to the serious stuff I laughed out loud at the irreverent Schalk Bezuidenhout and the jokes about his sex life, best not repeated here.
Thursday afternoon, Rob said, ‘You’re clearly fine. Here, put this on your face.’ He handed me a dirty skateboard knee guard he’d found in the shed. ‘We’ve run out of groceries. Get up off your butt and go and do the hunter-gatherer thing.’ I have a driver’s licence, and I’m younger than sixty-five so lucky me, I get to go to the frontline.
I said, ‘You’re mad. I’m not willing to gain fame as a meme.’ Like those weirdos decked out in plastic bottles, kitchen sponges, Turkish airline eye-guards, even sanitary pads. There was no queue. I got in that shop fast and filled my basket.
Making payment, the lovely young cashier, picking up my bag of speckled eggs, that most seductive of chocolate delights, said: ‘Ah, so you like these too,’ and I said, ‘Indeed I do,’ and I went on, ‘and since you’re a fellow sweet-tooth, and an essential worker, and I appreciate what you do, I want you to have them.’ The young man said he couldn’t accept the gift. I said, ‘Of course you can,’ and I leaned over the counter and pushed the sweets into his pocket. The manager of the store was summonsed, the Head Office was consulted, I had to speak to so many people I wished I had that knee-guard on my face after all. Essential workers are not to be woman-handled. I hope this was my maternal instinct at play… I’m grateful he didn’t clout me. He kept the candy. At home, I scrubbed my hands and face, wiped down the goods, packed them away. Tidied the kitchen. Did the usual. Patted the dogs. Wished I was a cat. Read a little. Wrote a little. Watched my soapie.
Eating supper, I wondered how many disused tables have been dusted off during lockdown? Family supper works for us. My son Al eats and runs, but at least I commune with him for three minutes. Last night, though, it was stretched to five…. Al said, ‘I miss school. I miss the white noise of pencils scratching over paper, my buddies talking in class, I miss my teachers, even the one’s I don’t like. And mom, I’ve looked up a few books I’d like to read, so maybe we can order them?’ This from the kid who can’t get out of bed for 8:00am online matric. I sat boggle-eyed as the model-kid said thanks for supper and cleared his plate off the table. In that moment I thought, Lockdown’s worth it. I spied on him in the kitchen, saw my boy load his plate in the dishwasher.
‘I’ll order whatever books you want,’ I said.
‘Thanks, ma. I’ll start with Theodore Kaczynski’s the Road To Revolution.’
‘Isn’t that the Unabomber manifesto?’
‘Mom, why is it so many serial killers are called Ted?’
My sweet boy. Or not.
I stood on the wall in my garden, and I looked across at Muizenberg, to the dark sea, and I raised my head and projected my whoop into the night (recurring theme: finding my voice). I filled my lungs, I sent out a sound that would ripple the ocean… I rattled three spoons against my wok, the most musical by far of all my pots and colanders, hoping the sound would travel far… to my friends in Newlands and Ocean View and England. Maybe that cashier would hear it, as he sat there in his room guzzling his speckled eggs. I heard a trumpet, the tinkling of bells, I heard my neighbour’s live band playing the classic Joan Armatrading hit… I want to be by myself…I came in this world alone…Me myself I… (recurring theme: whatever we do is a dialogue with self).
I beat the wok in rhythm to the drums; And then the song ended, leaving just one or two overly-enthusiastic crazies blowing their vuvuzelas into the night, as people headed back into their homes.
I sat at the TV with my little treat. I had given away my speckled eggs. But I found a little something-something. Earlier on I’d checked the booze cupboard (recurring theme: to give up booze forever, or not), pulled out some ancient bottles hidden in the dank space, thinking I might be able to salvage the five-year old Limoncello and sticky Amarula; the ten-plus-year-old bottle of Tia Maria could come in handy depending on the news. I lay on the couch, enjoyed the the lemon tang on my taste-buds, and waited for the President.
Ah lockdown! Now I started with the nostalgia. It’s been the best of times and the worst of times… the solidarity, the South African sense of humour; the seriousness of it all, yet hoping to see our best sides shine through…
‘My Fellow South Africans’ Ramaphosa greeted, seeming to smile at the in-joke, and told us all how great we are and that soon we’d be able to exercise, as long as it’s solitary (we’re still very much alone) and smoke real ciggies (I might have to start smoking) and get back to the business of supporting ourselves. ‘We have been called on to make great sacrifices for our own future and the future of others.’ Stay strong and focused, stay safe and remain united, he said, ra-ra, and I bet the whole of SA felt his leadership. And the whole of SA saw his humanity as he slipped his cloth mask over his eyes and fumbled about trying to attach the elastics over his ears.
I said to Rob, peeping in, ‘What did I tell you about masks? You can’t take risks. Give it five minutes and CR will go viral.’