365 days of writing prompts, May 15
On a weekend road trip, far away from home, you stumble upon a garage sale in a neighbourhood you’re passing through. Astonished, you find an object among the belongings for sale that you recognise. Tell us about it.
The army green colour feels gruff beneath my fingertips. It could have been anyone else’s, but as I page to the oft read pages I see the familiar pen marks, smell the coffee stains in the margins.
It was never mine to begin with. My neighbours threw away a bunch of books when I was small and I picked this one from their trash, Antjie Krog’s Dogtertjie van Jefta. For the first few months I’d march up and down our dirt road chanting lines I didn’t know the meaning of to whoever would (or wouldn’t) listen.
“Jou moesie-oor my enigste telefoon”
Before words had meaning they had sound, and it was the sound of her letters and combination of consonants that I fell in love with.
But as I grew and I observed my surroundings the words started to make more sense. I believed she was speaking about my first crush at age 11 with these words (and I thought at the time that I would die and never love again, how cute):
My maer hande steek vir jou ’n kers aan
omdat jy my maat geword het
toe ek na ‘n kwartaal
nog somber alleen tussen die ander sit,
omdat jy my pouses uit die
biblioteek kom haal
om saam liedjies te sing in die saal,
omdat jy my maat bly
t.s.v. my skilferhemp en nylontrui
omdat jy lief vir my geword het
en my selfs vashou teen jou bors
t.s.v. my dimpelbene en die
ryp puisies wat op my wange kors.
My kers brand
omdat jy kaalvoet saam met my
deur die dorp loop
en wag as ek iets in ’n
omdat jy pouses vir my brood gee,
smiddae vir my wiskunde verduidelik
en soms oor my skoon hare vee
omdat jy my maat is en so daarin berus
al skinder almal oor jy ‘n seun
en ek ’n meisie is
omdat jy verstaan as ek weg van jou kring
en agter die gordyne kruip
as jy operette sing.
Kyk hoe bewe my kers nou
hy sê dankie en hy bid vir jou.
I thought I’d lost it. Somewhere between leaving home, boarding school, and endless trips on dusty roads I thought I’d lost something that made me me.
And here it is, more than 10 years later. Still intact, still throws me back to a 12-year-old version of myself, sombre, precocious, wondering where the money will come from for studies and book and clothes, but believing things will be better one day. Sharing her vetkoek and jam with the boy who helped her with maths.
I miss her. I’ll find her in the pages.