We are here, and the Indian Ocean is cleaner, fiercer, windier, lonelier, and more glorious than I could remember, even in my deepest reveries. It’s off-season, and we have the whole sea to ourselves. Two stray fishermen (hours apart), a couple holding hands in the afternoon, intermittent rain, slashing beams of sun, distant ships through a shimmering haze.
M’e Mpho sits by the wall of windows in the living room of our flat, too weak to make it down two flights to the ground and over a small dune to the beach, but she mused as she watched the waves rolling in and the spray flying across the water,
“This is God. God has created many things, but this is the first. Even I have one hour here, looking at this water, I can be happy until I die.”
Thursday morning, sitting in the beautiful home Kesavan and Bryan have created, after meeting both their mothers and assorted other relatives the night before, I called Palesa on Libuseng’s cell phone, for which I am buying time.
Palesa answered, and when she heard my voice, she could only sob for a long time. No words. We sobbed together for a while, and I told her when I found voice that I’m going to be in Johannesburg airport for five hours October 28, and I’d like her to come see me there, if she would like to see me.
“You want to see me?” she hiccuped. “Really?”
She will be there. She lives nearby. It’s not difficult for her to get there. She had been thinking of applying for a job at the airport.
“The 28th. I will be there. I will. I won’t forget or get mixed up. I promise.”
I am too wrung out to tell the back-story of Palesa, my daughter with FAS and bipolar disorder (or a demon, in her culture) and me. Only these words:
white manes, an infinity
of furious demons hurl toward
warm shoulders of sand.
Invisible hands rip banana leaves
to tatters and shake no sense
into manic dune bushes.
rises aqua in slant late-day sun.
I sit alone on a log in the sand,
bend over my aging belly and these
soft sacks that were my breasts,
mouth agape, howling in the wind.