The Picayune Concerns of the Bourgeoisie

A cousin of mine tells of once when he was living in a gated community, there were security concerns that needed to be addressed. Possible break-ins, muggings, robberies, car-jackings.

The home owners were having a meeting to see how their well-beings could be guaranteed, what roles they could play in addition to improving surveillance and hiring more guards. Most, if not all, of them were upper middle class young and youngish couples, a few with children.

Also, being in a gated community feels safer and their is a togetherness often lacking in these individualistic times. During the discussions one lady piped up that she was worried about the pool attendant sleeping with the house-girl on her, the lady’s, marital bed.

Here they are faced with severe damage or loss of property and even bodily harm in the event they let their collective guard down, and this was what she was losing sleep over. Well…

Sausages

Sausages have always been a key to some of my keenest moments of childhood nostalgia. They were a delicacy, tasty heavenly tubes of processed meat that signalled hope and renewal.

If you went into the fridge and found them, you knew Papa and Mum had been paid. Their presence delineated the end of the month, the beginning of another month, and with that, a renewed optimism that everything was going to be okay. They were a symbol of financial security. We will not be kicked out of the house, we will stay in school, we will have food, like sausages!

We would have them for supper on Saturdays with chips. This was only possible because we had enough oil and cooking gas to fry the chips and sausages in. Chips and sausages. It was one of my childhood dreams to eat them to my fill. I never seemed to get enough.

If we so happened to carry any leftovers for lunch the following day, I felt affable and unlimited. I could do anything. Anything was possible. Chips was rich people’s food, the food of gods. It was what the way better off kids in school had for lunch everyday.

It is only when I became an adult I realized that in itself was a problem. Most likely, it was a reflection of parents too busy, and moneyed, to take the time to cook a healthy meal for their children. It occurred to me later that some of those kids had yellowish hair, a symptom of kwashiorkor.

As time went on and my parents became more secure, sausages stopped having such a heavy hold over us. For my youngest sister, sausages are a matter of course. They have always been available. You eat them whenever you want to. You do not have to wait for weekends or the end of the month when Papa and Mum were flush with cash, well, as flush as a lecturer and a high-school teacher could be.

Still, today when I smell sausages frying, when I see them glistening in a dish, sizzling with artificial flavour, I am engulfed in a calm. Hope. Optimism renewed. I am eating sausages. Things cannot be bad.

He

He never gets used to the prick, the little sweet sudden agony. It, all the time, catches him unaware. You would imagine he would be used to it by now, what with his lifestyle and the attendant need to do this often.

Then the wait. It is the wait that kills you. It will be months before the ghosts of choices past are laid to rest. It is the wait, for the colours to change, for the portentous red rainbow. Life is suspended in those hues and those moments drawing out with no seeming end. Time in that place is truly an illusion, stretching further and for longer than anywhere else.

They always ask if he has done this before. He says yes quickly, willing the dance to go along faster. He controls his shaking and sweats the cold smelly sweat of fear. He talks too much too fast, filling the mournful and efficient air with inanities. In that place, words are a dubious refuge. He guesses they know a veteran when they see one.

With his recent recklessness, he fears he will be caught on a side of the colour lines no one is ever ready for. He tried, half-hearted, to mitigate the fear by telling himself he was already across. It half worked. Nothing has yet happened to prepare him for what it could mean, finding himself on the other side of the paper bridge.

Sweet-salty sharp ephemeral life seeps out in small drops that are gathered tenderly. In seconds stretching to eternity, the drops will give up their secrets. Today there are none. After he is cleared, after he is implicitly given permission to dare fate again.

But, for how long? He senses someday a dark thing will come to light, one he and no one around him is ready for, that will render his world to shreds. He keeps the morbid reflections to himself, promising himself this is precautionary, not prophetic. It is not yet time. He prays the rushed prayers of an unrepentant sinner that that time never comes.

He cannot help but think there are worse fates. But, like many things in his life, this is just a thought and not a warming one. The smell of death still hangs over him. He cannot even bring himself to name what it is lest he conjures it to life.

He walks out already lighter, almost flying, thoughts of what could have been and what could still be pushed deep into the parts of his mind reserved for such things, the things of tomorrow, the worries that almost never come true.

The Ostrich

In The Sellout, Paul Beatty writes that silence can be consent or protest, and for the protagonist, fear. I agree with the last part about fear.

I am scared of reaching out to people I have fallen out of touch with – scared of being reminded of the person I used to be, of having what I imagine is a slightly better version of myself rejected as not good enough, of it being found still inadequate, still not measuring up to a hard and fast standard I am not privy to, but left to somehow attain. My silence is cowardice.

I have talked myself out of the debilitating funk of anxiety enough times, but on this, the silence I have shrouded myself in, I am at a loss. I do not know how to reach out and extend my hand, stretch a part of my heart, put it out there to get light and air and water.

I would much quicker let it suffocate and dry than have it dashed across the world’s flint, or the diamond of a better soul, scared of the pain of it being sharpened or broken and battered beyond what it currently is. This trepidation is plainly the fear of change. How can I be something else when what I am is all I know how to be? And isn’t this the biggest dread of all?


 


Sometimes distances solidify and become permanent. We find ourselves on separate paths, knowing they not will rejoin down the road. Some people never come back. You never go back to some people. A day becomes a week becomes a months becomes a year becomes a lifetime and a life.

It seems like no time at all and a universe has grown in the space you both curled up on together on cold days. And when you look back, it is impossible to point to the exact moment, or the moments that make up they symphony of something broken, when everything came undone, unravelled like a cheap cardigan.


Parched

The earth is parched.
Like my soul.
Inside I am
Clawed dry by
Thoughts of what
Could have been,
Can be,
What the past cradled
What the days to come
Bring.
Haltingly,
It is raining.
In tune with
My heartbeat.
For the first time
In as many days
I pray
That it will pour with
A vengeance.
The earth is thirsty,
Like my soul.
For goodness.
For comfort.
Any comfort
From any arms.
I want the sky
To open up,
To quench the earth.
Maybe in the torrents
I will also find
Respite,
The cool drops
Seeping into
My bones.