Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Prose: Another Day in Paradise

(May 2020)

Some days I feel that the earth is veering from its normal path as it swirls around the sun. That things are tilting in a way they haven’t before. On other days, I feel everything's the same. Tick-tock, tick-tock. That the river of time isn't dangerously in flood at all; it's merely a miserable stream in a meadow.

I look around my room. The cupboards, light brown wood from floor to ceiling, hold their own in the fading afternoon light. The curtains are pulled back; cream cotton drapes and a white lace drop with embroidered leaves. There is no breeze; just the night's cold and damp settling in.

I’ve been holed up for over a month. I did step out once, when the milk ran out, to a gas station a block away. The streets were completely empty.  I didn’t even see a cat or a dog. A lone minibus, standing at the traffic light seemed forlorn, friendless. The driver, ignoring regulations, wasn’t wearing a mask. He looked left and then right, and steered his vehicle forward: no point waiting for green. I crossed the road. At the gas station, the teller behind a security glass signaled to me to hold up the milk carton so she could scan it. It seemed too much effort — for her and me — to say anything more than a muffled “Hi”. Unlike supermarkets and many other stores, there wasn’t any sanitizer available. These are the thoughts that drift like dandelions in my head.

Now back at my room, I boil the kettle water. I take out some old calligraphy pens and ink. I can hear my breath as I complete a line of letters. ABCD abcd. Good practice, heavier downward strokes, lighter and thinner upward strokes. Then I write some names, random names ‒ Sally, Nomsa; then names of my late brother who died of cancer in 2013. Michael. Again, the strong downward strokes. My breath deepens. I remember my brother’s physical strength. He was always working; willing to pave the driveway at my parent's home and sometimes loaning a pair of pliers to fix a neighbor’s gate. Then I write the name of my late mother, Dorothy, taking extra care with that D; making it especially ornate. Her love was like a thread joining me and my siblings. As I execute the strokes, it comes to me that, in these unusual times, those who have gone some years ago feel as close to me as my living friends. I put the pen down and close my eyes. I inhale and exhale. Mentally, I try to connect. I imagine writing the word connected, the C with an extra curl that reaches back over the entire word.

I make Rooibos tea, it's a reddish brew that has been drunk by the Khoi, the first nation groups that lived in the Cape Province when the first colonizer, Jan van Riebeeck, came. I take a sip and feel the warmth percolating in my mouth and down my esophagus. I can hear the hadedas give their trademark squawk. I step closer to the window. I've just missed their v-formation flight ‒ which is usually in the direction of the setting sun. Ah, well … there’s always tomorrow.

I sit again at the brown wooden desk with its drawers flanking the chair’s position. A BIC pen lies in a random position on an exam pad. My mind wanders to the end of lockdown; what will it be like? That coffee from Motherland, that piece of cake from VovoTelo, that beer from Radium. I smile as I think about that old Portuguese pub-cum-restaurant, about the dark-wood cladding that dims the interior, about the taciturn barman Sonnyboy and about the owner’s constant lament, long before the C-19 lockdown began, that ‒ "these days” – business was tough and customers too few. I think about my friends, and how they’d be happy to be out sipping on tumblers of beer and engaging in what they call “kakpraat”. And I wonder whether the homeless will be delighted to go back on the wintry streets, whether the volunteers will shut the soup kitchens and whether the government, now appreciating how many people millions live on the edge, will keep rolling out the R300-a-month grant for ultra-poor.

I pick up the ballpoint pen. Writing doesn't come easy. During the lockdown, the similes hide and the metaphors shrink away. Yet I manage, on the A4 page that holds the calligraphy letters of my mother’s name, to pen these lines:


F. Meintjies

31 May 2020


  1. Beautiful and thoughtful, captures the mood of level 5 lockdown when little moved.

  2. Thank you! Yes, it was "strange times" indeed. Sometimes it felt surreal.

  3. Lonely times when you're alone during lockdown.
    I like your reminisce of loved ones long gone.
    Little did we know that Covid deaths coming thick and fast would numb us and make sharing condolences seem trite.

    1. Yes, there's been so much loss. We each and collectively have to find ways to process/ease/live with the pain. It needs to be surfaced and discussed in spaces where we feel held and supported. People could also look at rituals. good practices that have therapeutic benefit ...

  4. Hi can i send you a request mail? Iam interest in your work.

  5. My name is simone, i'am from France.