A Day in my Mother’s House

Voiced by Samuel Rubadiri
 The sun creeps in through my red curtains
 dying my room pink. A womb.
 The indigo carpet soaks the sunlight
 warming my room. Incubator.
  
 Despite the shade of the fern out front
 and thickness of the drapes. Heat leaks in.
 I awake to the sound of a dove’s coo, 
 a dog’s howl, a cockerel’s crow. Morning. 
  
 I switch sides to face the pink wall,
 but the heat is under my sheets. A heat wave.
 I give up and get up and make
 an English breakfast. And a cup of tea. 
  
 The smell of fat from bacon and bangers
 creeps into my mother’s and sister’s room. Hunger.
 The artic of air-conditioning welcomes
 the warmth of soul food. Doors open.
  
 Alarm is switched off, coffee put on.
 We gather in the kitchen. Family.
 “Go ko.” Maids arrive in horror - the kitchen.
 They sing from high to low. A household. 
  
 Our house makes music in the chatter of life. 
 The cutlery against the crockery. Foreground.
 Hot water fills the sink. Bubbles erupt. Dishes
 drop. The maids sing from low to high. Background.
  
 Our voices chattering and maids’ singing
 is interrupted by two furry animals. Meow!
 The cats want some soul food, but settle
 for Ecco. The can opens. Splosh.
  
 We drop our dirty dishes in the sink.
 My palate is satisfied with the salty food. Thirst.
 They finish their coffee as I finish my tea.
 My bare feet notice the heat leak in. “Samuel.”
  
 The singing stops but the Setswana starts.
 “Wareng?” and other words greet me. “Ga ke tse”
 They know I do not know the local tongue.
 It’s not on my mother’s tongue. I’m an Anglophone. 
  
 So I hide in my mother’s garden. I brush
 my hand along the sprigs. Mint, basil, lavender and thyme.
 How much time keeps passing? The house looked
 so different – so much bigger when I was younger. Nostalgia.
  
 I used to plant red kidney beans and chillies.
 Everyday before school, I’d water them. Gardening.
 But then I remember the day of the bird. It came, 
 And ate all my sprouts. The sun enjoyed leftovers. 
  
 It burped a heat wave that withered my endeavour.
 So I gave up gardening. Go inside.
 Playstation became my pastime as did
 painting and drawing and writing. Poetry. 
  
 With sprig-like vocabulary, I tried my hand 
 at rhyme. I believed in its origin. Love unrequited.
  Is a crush ever really love, or is it the seed of possibility?
 How fond I was, how torn I was of what love was. Dogs lick me. 
  
 Nostalgia shatters like glass on a VCR player.
 Rewind, play, fast forward, pause. Thyme.
 It interrupts my musing in its smelling
 like the lamb chops it’ll be harvested for. Lunch. 
  
 Midday sun strikes like a sjambok on the back.
 The dogs beg for a good patting. Buzz!
 Pollen interrupts the grooming. A big bug
 hums to the herbs where I’m seated. Ahh!
  
 Pouting. The dogs pout about the abrupt end
 -ing to their petting. I run from the beetle. Inside.
 I go back into the house. By now the light
 of day and floods of warmth saturate the house. Sweat.
  
 Everyone is sweating. Even the pan
 in which the lamb fat sizzles. I’m thirsty.
 As I pour my glass, I hear the maids
 gossip in Setswana. They laugh. 
  
 They translate, and the story falls flat.
 I care not for ‘worthy is the lamb that was slain’. Grace!
 I rejoice in the feast that is free meat. 
 Flies decide. “God made us too.” They swarm.
  
 It is lunchtime, their lunch, my lunch.
 Our lunch; I defend its purity. “Beelzebub!”
 They respond in spirals like vultures a carcass.
 In the name of DOOM, I purge the darkness. Amen.
  
 The landline rings. A visitor will be over
 in half an hour. I’m excited. Stoked.
 I take out the braai stand, charcoal, blitz.
 I spice the meats and messages. “Come on over.
  
 A braai tonight.” A spontaneous
 gathering of the squad. Land.
 Roy arrives punctually, unlike the squad.
 I expect them to come at the African hour. +2hrs.
  
 We chat and catch up like the fire
 that catches the twigs. It’s been a while. Reunion.
 My mother goes for groceries to cater, and
 my sister goes to her bedroom. Dress up.
  
 Smoke floods the heavens as our laughter
 pushes it upward. Roy draws in the smoke. Germany.
 He asks of all areas of my life – emotional,
 spiritual, relational. He switches up. Philosophical.
  
 Much like how a cooler box needs drinks; I offload
 my cool drinks. A car rolls onto the driveway. Aunty.
 I open the gate; she opens the car’s door. I place
 her white wine in the fridge. The maids grieve. Ijo.
  
 Mess. A mess shall greet them in the morrow.
 Knock off. They complain at my tardiness. “Tsmaya sentle.”
 We wave them off. The cats return from their roaming.
 My phone rings. It’s the squad. “What do we bring?”
  
 The sun starts to set. The surviving flies retreat;
 the unbearable heat goes with them. “Booze!”
 I answer. I slide Roy a glass of red grape juice.
 We wait for the fire to recline into the coals. HOOT!
  
 My mother is back. “Tlho nthuse” she calls
 with a very English pronunciation. Doors open.
 My sister is dressed up, the groceries too.
 We unpack my mother’s car. Tap, tap, tap.
  
 The dog’s uncut nails tap the tiles in excitement.
 They smell, not the smoke, but the packaged groceries. Meat.
 Roy meets my mother with a formal handshake.
 She shakes the shopping bag into his hand. Laughter.
  
 The heavens are now pink. The sun crouches 
 behind my neighbour’s house. Bats flutter. 
 We carry everything inside. The routine begins
 as taught to me by my father. A decade ago.
  
 Saturday mornings. He’d start the sound
 system. Played soul music. I forget.
 Was it Stevie Wonder or Luther Vandross?
 Was it Babyface or James Brown? Blue memories. 
  
 He’d wake me up at 6am, teach me
 about the perfect age of coal to braai. Medium.
 We'd marinate the steaks: T-bone, filet
 rump and rib-eye. I’d smile. Bonding.
  
 All those years ago, a foundation was
 built for the charity of friendship. A braai.
 For those I love, in the age of coals, I gladly
 blacken my hands and brown my fingers. Love.
  
 An act illustrated not in mouthfuls voiced in a
 sounds’ meaning. Love is illustrated in acts. Picturesque.
 You can see it, smell it, taste it, become it.
 It’s the glow of coals, the bleeding of meat. Wait.
  
 Roy takes the tray of raw meats and, 
 with tongs, lays them on the grill. That’s love.
 It waits, works and partners with. The Greeks
 were brighter than the English. It’s called Philios. 
  
 I wipe the sweat of fire from my brow. The sun
 has vanished, but the lamps switch on. Headlights flash.
 We can see the browning of the meat. I leave
 Roy at the fire while I open the gate. Trust, it’s the squad.
  
 The air is swamped with the smell of grilling meat.
 Chicken, beef and lamb. Swine is for the European. Jokes. 
 We laugh at how late they arrive with the booze.
 Some panic at the dogs, others the cats. Superstition.
  
 Our house DJ TiiMoneey plugs in the music.
 Hip-hop. My mother and aunt drink in the longue. Fellowship.
 The sounds of the outside are replaced by
 young artists who paint the star-lit sky in words. Rap. 
  
 They rap. I wrap up the cooked meat that
 the dogs and cats don’t steal. Headlights flash. 
 Another car arrives. It’s my sister’s squad. 
 They’re dressed up, greet us, leave us. Phenyo asks.
  
 “Where are they going?” Roy and Tiisetso
 are dropping bars like the US bars youngins. 
 “In her room, where else?” I answer. He lifts
 his Black Label. “Nigga, we should all vibe together.” Life.
  
 Isn’t it so, the man be hustling outside to be
 locked up in a cell? Isn’t it so, women run the house? Heroines. 
 Even if we’re an Atlantic away, a history away, we
 watch how the Free World treat our kind. Racism. 
  
 Pimz, our US scholar, testifies. We indeed
 live in a black and white dichotomy. J Cole plays.
 “We should all be together,” Pimz says. I tell
 Roy to man the fire while I go in. After unity.
  
 I find my sister and her squad complaining about the US.
 Why does the world centre them so much? No Role Modelz.
 “Sam, you’re a Poli-Sci major, what do you say?
 Why do us Africans seek refuge there? In the American dream." 
  
 I tell them, Trump reflects the American will, an
 old will, one they refuse to change. Revolution.
 I invite them out. “Foods almost ready and 
 drinks are nicely chilled”. A turquoise vibe.
  
 They soon follow, brown and beautiful.
 My mind is here, in my mother’s house. This day.
 The women and men around me, geniuses, but
 the Free World, as a harlot, entices us. Brain drain.
  
 The dogs beg at our feet. The coals have
 nearly died. We reek of smoke and booze. Music switches.
 The squads tag team to freestyle and drop
 bars, and they land. Bars of truth, of struggle. Diaspora.
  
 We live in two worlds - a rope in a game of tug of war.
 Worlds pull us apart, if not physically, then emotionally. Or in spirit.
 Have you seen staunch Christians come home vehement atheists?
 Or the disgust to customs once cherished. Backward.
  
 The meal is ready; I collect plates. Everyone
 dishes up, each the amount of soul lost. Abroad.
 You can’t eat like this there. Home food is way better.
 We know how to cook. Love flavours the food. I smile. 
  
 They indulge in the culture of spice that wakes homesickness.
 Even if for a season’s rest, Western unis still pull the rope. Swallow.
 I enjoy my own plate and the praises of friends. 
 My mother is happy at the amount of leftovers. “Shoo cats!”
  
 Those felines try to steal. We laugh at how they scatter.
 It is home, maybe not for all of us, not forever. Thankful.
 My mother lives, and I take joy in these days.
 She looks at us with her white wine. Speech.
  
 “Come back home, to your God, to your
 country. Come back and build up and indulge
 - these riches of our land, the soil that fattens
 these mouths, cannot remain a blessing if its children go too.” 

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