Rows of empty orange chairs stand facing what seems to be a pulpit. It’s quiet in the tent and outside old women speak in hushed tones between sips of white tea and a bite of Mmaskhosana cookies, the most prominent sound is a relentless song of a cricket. Some of the girls near me attempt a conversation but it fizzles quickly. Someone breaks into a sad gospel song and I look up to find a young man in a mismatched suit holding a Bible and engrossed in the song. I can’t look passed his rust corduroy jacket that is proudly hosting a large white collar of his shirt on it’s small lapel. The jacket is so big it seems to be dragging him backwards. Maybe if he buttoned it up or yanked it forward, I don’t know, it just puzzles me how people can walk around looking so sloppy. I wonder how much of his young life is consumed my weekly funerals. He seems to be in his element, unlike the lot of us who are awkwardly stumbling over the words of the song. I’d say he’s nineteen, twenty at most, no nineteen definitely.
“Baratiwa Moreneng” he begins as he leafs through his Bible. He looks straight at me and suddenly I feel exposed, like he knows that I haven’t gone to church in such a long a time. But how can I? I’ve been so busy every weekend working at Edgars that everyone thinks I’m being anti social of late.
I think the temperature just dropped and the cold! my God, it’s beyond me and this old tent is not doing a great job of keeping the cold outside. But whom am I kidding, look at it, its khaki colour has faded into weird cream white, there are a lot of visible holes and under my Doc Martins is a soggy uneven ground. As for the chairs, hmm, it’s the next best thing after a rock.
Suddenly the song stops and as everyone takes a sit, the young Pastor hurriedly exits the tent and people start talking softly to each other.
Jesus it’s so cold and apparently we have to be here all night until the corpse arrives tomorrow morning, I don’t see how I’m going to survive this night vigil.
A tap on my shoulder gets me out of my reveries as I’m asked to come with other girls, so I follow the old lady without any questions after all I would be seen as disrespectful if I dared to question her.
We make our way past a haphazardly connected light bulb, which is a source of light not only for us but also to a host of flying insects. As we round the corner towards the backyard, I hear a loud crackle of laughter and a general buzz, which is very much a contrast to the atmosphere in the tent.
I look around for any familiar faces but there are none and everyone is very busy. The men are sitting a little further – near the fence around the fire, while women wearing aprons, head wraps and blankets around their waist scurry about holding trays of tea cups, cookies and pots. I feel so out of place and cold in my jeans and leather jacket.
We stop at a table and the lady that we were following slams a big sack of onions and another of beetroot. I look at my fresh manicure with French tips from Dream nails and know that this is the end of my nails’ dream.
“I’ll get you girls some knives”
The woman disappears into the house.
Did someone call my name? I’m excited by this prospect until …
Of all the people in the world, really?
But I brighten up and ready my voice to match her high pitched one.
Oh my goodness, so great to see you!