The coffee cup placed in front of me has an authentic granny-crocheted doily beneath it. This is Bloemfontein.
I’m sharing a tuna tramezzini at De Rebus in the city centre with Sally and Anina, tannies* who are the encyclopedic reference to the concept. Anina reminds me of a tropical bird, brightly feathered in a blue suit, ornamented with chunky baubles and the most elaborate eye makeup I’ve ever seen; stripes of bronze and azure with shadings of a lilac-marine accenting the outer corners of her lids. Sally is simpler and wholesome, like a bowl of oats.
“Are you married Saaleha,” they ask in that concerned inquiring inflection. While their questions are warmed by their Afrikaans intonations, the tone could belong to Aunty Khadijah in Lenasia or Sandringham’s Beryl Rabinowitz.
I reply in the negative and steer the conversation towards Anina’s weekend church camp and Sally’s teenage son who gets irritated when she asks him technology related questions.
We speak about traditional Afrikaans upbringing, and I draw parallels with my own small-town Muslim-Indian molding. Discussing the death of conservatism is inevitable, and I’m somewhat saddened that while we stride positively forward, we tend to leave behind the modesties of the old-fashioned.
My return flight to Johannesburg is delayed by two hours because of inclement weather. I bemoan my fate to anyone who’ll listen on mxit, “Pansy pilots scared of a little drizzle. What happened to gung-ho bravado?”.
I bought From My Sister’s Lips by Na’ima Robert earlier that morning before departure, and to file down time, I lose myself in the sincere testimonies of these women and their heartfelt and soul-driven submission to the Will of God. I’m suddenly ashamed of my own stubbornness and begin to strike off what were in fact pyrrhic victories gained in my jihadunnafs. Aluta Continua.
Eating eats time, and carrot cake seems like the best way to move along the process. I think of diets and gym routines and then I realise, we all want to lose in order to gain societal approval. What kind of world do we live in, when we have to be less in order for people to like us more? That was my in-transit musing of the day.
It feels like I’ve been born in this airport, time is so still and vacuumed. I want Home.
But the rain smells earthier in Bloem, like Gaia spilled over her bottle of eau de toilette and a rainbow on the runway reminds me that patience is still very much a virtue in a drive-thru world.
*tannies: afrikaans word for Aunts