The first stars of the evening were shining brightly above pink and black clouds. Winter was creeping in as the sunsets occurred earlier and earlier. They did not want be there, standing in the field of pink flowers that were slowly closing up, back pressed against the warm wall were the sun left its impressions of the day. They felt for their money in the back pocket of their jeans, a small pink note came out; it had to be used wisely over the twenty-one days.
The streets were emptier, the field dark and to walk the whole distance across would have been dangerous; a teenage girl was found dead over the December holidays; they crunched the money in their hand and headed towards the road with amber light flooding its darkness. The oversized hoodie was good to hide their physique because it would be unsafe to be assumed a woman at that time of the night. A hand grabbed their shoulder and when they looked at them, it was another figure with a hoodie on.
“Kay, I haven’t seen in you in so long” the man said while squeezing Kay’s shoulder. He took of the hood and revealed his square face and high glistening cheek bones.
“Thulas. It’s nice to see you” Kay said with relief that it was their cousin.
“You too, you’ve been hiding as if you knew this virus would be here long before we did” They both laughed but Kay wanted to end the small chat, the fast food place would be closing soon and she wanted to get a kota before the army arrived.
“You know me Thulas, I’m…”
“You’re a house cat and the rest of us are wild cats” Thulas sneakily remarked.
Kay laughed genuinely.
“Listen, I need some cash” Thulas made his eyes smaller as he made this request.
“I can’t Thulas, gogo has sent me to buy some tomatoes and you know how she is with change”
“Ok. Be safe. I was robbed here in this field last week” Thulas warned Kay while putting his hood back over his face.
“I will!” Kay shouted as she ran to the fast food place.
Thulas was always getting robbed, always starting a small business and then on the days he was supposed to come back with stock, he would state that he was robbed. It was the same story every month and the girlfriend believed it every time and would give him money to restock goods for their small shop. He had spent six and a half years in Sun City and he was three years out. He was convicted of charges of house robbery when Kay was due to enter university and by the time he was released, they had been working for four years. Kay used to give him random amounts of money because he asked for random amounts but then they realised that Thulas came out of Sun City with a habit that they were not prepared to support, also without a job, Kay decided to keep some of their money in reserves.
The fast food place usually had a long queue but there was not a soul when Kay arrived. The place sold the best kotas, not the best looking but something about the chips and sauces in soft white bread was extraordinary; the taste could not be replicated. The man who sold them had a left eye which was bigger than the right and on his right side a limp caused by the shortness of that leg. The orders usually took thirty minutes to an hour. Kay was disappointed that they would not have to wait as long because the wait would have made the evening more special. This place was the same place their mother took them to on Fridays because it was the one day of the week when cooking at home did not take place. The fast food place had no table or chairs just a window into the house where the food was prepared, outside large rocks surrounded the house and that was where the customers sat. Kay sat on the rock and reminisced about their mother, a beautiful tall woman with long auburn dreadlocks, a socialite that was well known in the township and she got a bargain everywhere she went even at the kota place; she was everything Kay never thought she could be.
Kay hated kotas as child and even so their mother would buy her one every time they went. The mother would devour the kota while Kay prodded at it, picked out the chips and threw them down the road leaving a trail of crumbs and chips like a hood Hansel.
The man dangled the two packets outside the window and Kay enthusiastically got off the rock to receive them.
“When I look at you, I see your mother. I remember your mother” he said with a scratchy voice.
“I remember her too” Kay uttered.
“Who’s the other kota for? Your boyfriend” he asked jokingly as he closed the window. Kay looked at the two packets smeared with pink and white sauces but could not find the answer.
“It’s ok, you don’t need to pay me. Just push this window for me” the man gestured and limped away. Kay slowly pushed the windows shut with their elbows and went back to sitting on the rock. They thought of eating the kota right on the rock but then remembered that they had to wash their hands first.
A kota is like a mountain, you think you can easily hike it until you start but then halfway through you find yourself out of breath, fatigued and wishing you had never started the journey. Kay found was in this state halfway through their meal and so they placed it on their stomach which rose and deflated like mountain peaks with each breath. They were not going to give up, they would finish it because there was nothing as bad as eating a cold kota and reheating it would be a cultural abomination. They lay sprawled out like a brown starfish on the pink shiny slippery sofa and their eyes remained fixed on an enlarged photograph of their mother. Kay took a bite of the white bread, chewed quickly, took in a heavy breath, then bit into the remainder of the bread and then swallowed painfully. They swung their legs over the sofa, walked towards the photograph with their hands balancing on the yellow walls, underneath the hanging photograph, an uneaten kota was placed on a white plate. Kay traced the photograph with her fingertips.
“In twenty-one days, I might get to be reunited with you” they whispered to the photograph. Gogo’s snores trembled through the yellow walls, the photograph shook and fell into the plate. Kay carefully picked it up, stuck her tongue out and flicked the pink and white sauces off.
“Soon” she whispered.
Image Source: https://visi.co.za/what-to-expect-soweto-art-week-2016/