In 2019 I had the privilege of being chosen for a mentor-ship that assisted me with writing my very first manuscript. Amidst the workshops and lunches with fellow writers, I made good friends with the women who were on the course with me, and we shared many stories of heartache, joy and sometimes just things we heard along the way that we wanted to one day write a book about.
One story in particular that stayed with me was an experience shared by my friend Engela. She told me that when she was a young girl in a rural town far from the City life I had grown up in, she was always intrigued by a coloured woman who walked through the town, speaking to herself in a calm, yet maniacal way.
The people in the town let the woman be, as mental illness was a taboo issue, even more so then than it is now. As the story goes, the woman had had a child who, years before Engela was even born, had fallen into a well on one of the farms. The child, a toddler, was badly injured, but still conscious after the accident, and her wails alerted the community to where she was trapped. With very little access to resources, being in a remote town, the white farmer who owned the land thought that the most merciful way to handle it was to take the child out of ‘its’ misery.
Against the woman’s wishes, he took his shotgun and shot the child, dead.
In a country riddled with stories like these, it is only logical that we are plagued by ghosts.
“A woman of God Doesn’t ask for guidance from Tarot cards”.
I wanted to slap him for pointing out my hypocrisy so easily. I don’t always choose to follow the bible, as much as I choose to satiate my curiosity. I know that necromancy and other-worldly shit is prohibited, but the prospect of being ignorant for the next 70 years doesn’t tickle me either. Regardless, as I mentioned before – I bought the cards from Bargain Books in Canal Walk and when I got home, stared at them for an inordinate amount of time, waiting to feel okay about what I had just done.
Being raised as a catholic rag-doll, and then being saved by Jesus, and raising children in a faith-based home can really warp your sense of what is ‘okay’ and what you should feel very, very guilty about (see: Masturbation).
Having been a catholic for some 30 years has made me feel guilty about basically everything. Even looking at my vagina or feeling an orgasm build up from my pussy to my stomach fills me with a feeling of shame so subtle yet so present, that even as a married woman I feel like I am sinning when I fuck.
But that is another blog, for another day.
Regardless, on that Monday, when the children went to school and creche and my husband went to work, I cleaned my kitchen counter, lit a candle and opened the cards.
“What the fuck are you doing?” my logical mind ridiculed me. I will admit, I felt like a moerse gaai talking into the air. I still believe I am on some sort of personal version of the Truman Show – and to some extent the choice I made in 2014 to share my life with everyone and their cool aunty on the internet has made that true.
However, I have not yet live-streamed a family member of mine taking a popo, like another local influencer we shall not name, but who knows, I may reach that level of “Fuck my followers – I am God” bravado one day.
“Okay, spirit guides. Speak to me”.
I laid out four cards in a straight line, from left to right, just like the kinnes on YouTube showed me to. As I laid out each card, I asked a personal question about my relationship, my career, and other shit I am too insecure to specifically list here for you. Just know, it was deep.
My reading was mundane. As the candle flickered slightly in the absence of a breeze, I felt mostly fine as I sat there googling the meaning of each card that I pulled, and then trying to draw the lines to what was happening in my life. It was broad daylight, so I didn’t even think that anything sinister would happen. Until a knock at the door startled me.
For context, I stay in a freestanding home. My house is surrounded by a wall, and in the front, this wall is broken only by a garage door and a front gate for pedestrian use. Both the garage door and front gate are always locked. They were locked on this day, I was sure of it.
The top of the gates have metal spikes, volgens living in the ghetto. So, a knock at the door was startling, because as far as I was concerned, I was locked up in my fortress.
The second reason it was startling, was that as soon as the knock happened, the flame of the candle died out.
“Hello?” I shouted through the door, annoyed that someone has the audacity to jump my wall, or perhaps lift the garage door I must’ve forgotten to latch.
Again, radio silence.
Then, another knock.
I got up from my chair. I could see the shadow of movement underneath my front door. My front door is slightly elevated off the ground. The naaiers who built my house were gesuip.
“We haven’t got anything today, sorry”, I called. I usually put out any old clothes, non-perishable food stuffs and other things to hand out to people who collect in my area, but I didn’t feel safe opening my door in this circumstance. It didn’t sit right in my stomach, although I didn’t equate the visitor to the cards.
Still, I didn’t get an answer.
The person knocked again, and against my better judgement (and also because we have a safety gate behind the door as well), I opened the door. I jst wanted the situation to end, and having someone outside my house kind of kept me prisoner.
But, when I opened up – no one was standing there.
The garage door was down, and I could see the latch tightly secure on the pedestrian gate ahead. Nothing on the property was disturbed. And just for good measure, I noticed that there was no wind. It was hot that day. A dry, stagnant heat.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not the type to think that EVERYTHING is spiritual, or strange. People who are like that are so fucking annoying. When a light flickers, I usually blame the circuit or Eskom instead of my deceased grandmother. When a picture frame falls off the shelf, I blame gravity. But I had no explanation for seeing a pair of legs through the gap in the door, and opening the door to Fokkol.
My first reaction was to laugh. I was kak embarrassed when I closed the door again. I checked the time, packed up the cards and ran myself a bath. As the water fell loudly into itself, I took comfort in the sound it made that resonated down my passage.
Like all housewives, I picked up toys and clothes and tidied the rooms, collecting dirty laundry as I listened to the bath fill. I knew the sound the water made when the bath was filled just enough. The rumbling sounded deeper. After tidying I grabbed my towel and bathrobe and very impressed by the amount of things I had checked off my to-do list in the time it took to run a bath, I immersed myself into the hot water. I laid back, eyes closed. I really like the feeling of the cool bath enamel on my shoulders, while the rest of me sort of burns in the water. The sensation is calming.
A tiredness so powerful came over me that sleep seemed tangible and delicious. I had no choice but to surrender to the heat and just ‘let go’.
It be like that sometimes.
I must have laid there, in a sort of upright ‘don’t drown’ angle for a few minutes and dosed off or something. When I woke up, the water was noticeably cooler. I sat up, angry with myself for falling asleep, but grateful that I hadn’t fucking died and started to soema wash myself to negate the time I wasted being a lazy, self-indulgent piece of trash.
Soapy washcloth engaged, I stood up and scrubbed every oily part of me. I made my way to my face. My eyes closed, I heard one of the kids coming down the passage. I rolled my eyes at how annoying it was that I couldn’t get a minute to my damn self. I kept scrubbing, anticipating the bathroom door opening. The tiny footsteps entered onto the bathroom tiles and I could feel a presence at the edge of the bathtub. I could hear the breathing, and instinctively knew it was Syria.
“Syria, please gimme five minutes, I have to fetch you guys soon”, I said out loud, then felt myself freak out at the realization of what I had ACTUALLY just said.
I had, for a split second of brainless habit, forgotten that the children weren’t at home. No one was. I was alone.
Frozen in terror, I tried to open my eyes just a smidgen, through the soapy glaze. There was nothing. I was alone in the bathroom. I fell down onto my knees and rinsed myself with haste. I let the water out, dried myself and called my husband. But at that moment, I didn’t tell him that anything was wrong, I just needed his voice to ground me.
The rest of the day was ordinary. The week also went by with nothing more than subtle flashes of a little child in my peripheral vision. At one point, I remember turning around thinking again that Syria was behind me, but being met with empty space. Then, one Thursday evening, after playing around with the cards again, I said something that made my husband very, very scared.