My predicament is laughable. I am not sure where I’d be safer; in South Africa or in the first world country I current live in. At the UK death rate, Africans will be donating funds to the west and changing channels to avoid adds with dying Europeans and donations for R1 that can feed a suburb for a day. Who am I kidding? The West has ravaged the continent to such extremes that their worst days are still far from Africa’s best. It is quite a turn of events to say the least, one that none of us ever saw coming when we welcomed a 20-plenty decorated with new adventures, starting businesses, planning weddings, praying for great jobs… Do I regret moving? I’m not sure, depends on whether or not I die.
Just before the outbreak took hold, I had taken a social media hiatus to reconfigure my state of mind to a new reality in the UK. So naturally as it spread, I dug a bit more and buried my head a little deeper in the sand, maybe to the level of the waterbed. Once a week, I lift my head up from the ground, dust off the sand, and head to the supermarket smelling like a fresh carrot; shopping bag and sanitizer in hand, intent on only touching what I am sure to buy. It is in these moments that reality either slaps me sideways or squeezes me so tight, tears well in my eyes. What began as bewilderment that first Saturday when I walked through Tesco’s empty shelves has matured into a constant state of shock. They had hung up banners of a sale which partly explained why people had bought out certain products, but people had also bought things that weren’t on sale. I figured the English were more sale crazy than I had anticipated. The following day, I went to Sainsbury and a similar scene panned into view. Only this time I was slowly lowered into an alternate dimension as it dawned on me that people had been panic buying. I watched as we all ‘zombied’ through the store, aghast! This was happening to me, to us.
Something about the loneness of it all sets me in a room with the transfigured 12-year-old me who kissed a boy in my first blog share. She was able to do this because our mother had left her behind in the guardianship of Priscila’s family who lived in the backroom next door to ours in Chiawelo. It was the year my mother finally got a suited job but in Giyani, so she couldn’t come back for me or take me out of school mid-term. For a few months I tried to assimilate with the “Ndou’s’” until I decided i was better off caring for myself. My parents consented and so the food portion of the money sent to the ‘Ndous’ for my wellbeing, now came directly to me. Once monthly, I’d catch a taxi from Chiawelo to Bara and then connect to South Gate Mall. I remember a diet of boiled chicken, undercooked pap, and lots of eggs. I was a big girl who’d once left a pan teeming with oil over a hot stove distracted by street play. I returned to a room up in smoke and never told a soul about it because I was determined to assert and keep my independence. Arg that little girl, that spirit, that will and resolve to throttle life. I could do with a bit more of her courage.
Though doubly burdened for home and here, faith anchors a shifting soul. I pray for headway in vaccine research, I pray that when this all ends, we will care for the earth better, only using what we need, when we need it. May we never again need a stark reminder of our own fragility – like the morning dew, like withering grass.
Oh God – Look what has become of us.