“Did he have to do it in front of our house? Anywhere else, but he had to go and be a hero where we live!” she thought to herself. His mother was wringing her hands and looking out the dining room window at the spot where her son ran out and stopped the young man trying to rob the old lady. The tik koppe got braver, no longer content with stealing copper tap heads to sell for their drug money.
That’s the way she remembers it. Old lady. Young man. Robbery. Car crash. Rob dead. Trying not to think too much about that day. Too much detail just brought it back. Everyone just stood there as she ran over to his limp body as he was cringing and just kept trying to tell her that he loves her and to tell Ruben too. She just told him to be quiet and not to worry that everything will be taken care of and he will be back home in no time to do all that himself. But the next time he came home, it was not alive.
She saw those two weeks after he died in flashes before she would break down in tears. It started slow. A smile and a single tear as she thought of him. She always thought it would be a reminiscent, fond memory. She proved herself wrong every time. Every day. A year later and the tears still flow like the streams in which he used to swim when they went camping. The stream became a torrent as her face contorts and the… what was the word he used?… huckles. The huckles was what he used to call them. “Huck, huck, huckle” was the way he used to tease her when she cried freely while watching a romantic comedy. “You know how it’s going to end Mummy” as he rolled his eyes. But she fell for it every time. Now she was huck huck huckling as she stared at the spot in the street outside her window.
She was now slumped in the chair. The big faux leather seater that he hated when she first bought it. She never let him forget how much he hated it when he fell asleep in it. And the endless nights of movies and popcorn where he would not move while working his way through his childhood favourites. She was now rocking back and forth and not a sound came out of her upside down half-moon mouth. Yet the tears came regardless. She shook her head in disbelief. She could not believe that she was still feeling this way, but also that he was not going to walk in the door after his afternoon class.
The doorbell rang.
She missed any car that might have pulled up and quickly checked, hoping she wouldn’t be noticed. But there was nothing. She sprang up and wiped her face with the flats of her hands. It was a far cry from the way he told her to always dab with the ring finger so as not to stretch the delicate skin under the eyes.
It was Ruben. “Shit”, she said and wiped again. She fanned her face with her hands as she tilted her head back. She pressed her hands to her eyes and she shook her head. She kicked off her shoes behind the door and opened it. His head came into view, revealing itself to her only as fast as she would allow. There he was. In all his smiling handsome glory. Rob certainly had better taste than she ever did. He held a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of wine in his hands. They appeared to smile, his hands. They were golden brown and always so soft. Glowing.
“Hi Ruben. Sorry my dear, I just woke up” she said, squinting her eyes from the sunlight that was apparently too much for her.
“Really now?” he said, with that smirk and his head tilted to one side.
When Rob first brought this boy home, she was convinced that he was too smart and cocky for his own good. He would make polite conversation about the weather and he would walk over to her vases or paintings and ask her about them. Where she got them? The history behind them? What it meant to her? “Your friend is quite… inquisitive hey?” she said to him one day. He resented the “friend” excuse and how she couldn’t bring herself to call him by what he actually was.
She let him inside and she sat down. She couldn’t pretend with this one. He and Rob had a bond that was sickening at times. She had to remind herself to be happy for him. But you have your whole life ahead of you to be serious, she would tell him, thinking more about her own failed marriage and early foray into dating and raising a child.
He dropped the flowers into the vase on the coffee table and put the wine down next to it. His hair was now shoulder length, black as ever and still perfect in every way. He took great pride in that hair, she always noted. Rob didn’t care about his own brown locks, cutting them off when it got longer than he could run his fingers through.
“How are you Esther?” he asked as he sat down. She hated that he called her that and not Miss Thomas, or Aunty Esther.
“I’m good my boy” she said, letting out a sigh that indicated otherwise. Her automatic replies had become a problem in her life. “Yes I’m fine” Rob would tease her whenever she would say it to friends and not mean it.
“Ester?” he said, his eyebrows raised, head tilted down.
“Yes?” she asked back.
He shook his head slightly, a hint of a smirk emerging from his mouth.
“What?!” she asked, surprised that he was giving her what she thought was a judgmental stare.
“Ok, that’s it. Up you get. Let’s go” he said grabbing the bottle of wine again. He went over to her and took her gently by the arm.
“What are you doing” she said. “I… I don’t have my… where are we?… Wag” she shouted as her persisted to lead her towards the front door again.
“We are going for a drive” he said as they continued to the door. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror in the foyer and she nearly gasped in shock. She had forgotten that she was wearing eyeliner and mascara when she started crying earlier. The black was smeared from her eyes to her temples in two big streaks on either side. He knew and didn’t say a thing.
“There are wet wipes in the cubby hole” he said as they got in the car.
He pulled out of the driveway and they both looked at the spot where the car hit him a year earlier when he was trying to stop the old lady from being a victim of crime. Ruben visited often after Rob died. It wasn’t easy for her. More so than she could have ever imagined, having buried both her parents and two siblings. She was alone now. There was a huge hole in her heart when she lost Rob. She could almost feel it. A burning whenever she thought of him. Worse than any heartburn she had ever experienced. Ruben would come over and they would have polite conversation, only ever mentioning Rob in passing. Both were scared that bringing him up would mean that they would then have to deal with it all over again.
She watched the world pass her by as Ruben drove, like she had been doing for the past twelve months. Her world came to a standstill and things just seemed to go by as she moved in slow motion. She only wore make up so that people would stop asking her if she was ok. And now she was sitting in the car with Ruben wiping off the make- up and cursing it for wearing it in the first place.
He pulled into the cemetery parking lot.
She knew they were coming here, but nothing ever prepared her for it. They got out of the car and walked over to the old lady selling flowers at the entrance. He bought two big bouquets before the old lady could say “blomme my engel? blomme” and flashing the missing front teeth. He would always laugh and wonder why she would ask him as if she had anything else to sell besides flowers.
They walked together through the entrance with the heavy wall and wrought iron gates. His grave was not too far from the entrance. She wanted only the best headstone for her Robby. Her mouth contorted as they approached the neatly mowed lawn in the well maintained cemetery. Only the best. They stood there looking at the grave. Two bodies looking at the earth with their beloved, with only the silence and the sunlight between them.
“Drink?” he said and held the bottle out to her.
She turned her head to him and his mouth was now in a closed upside down half-moon, eyebrows raised, yet humble. For the first time in a very long time, she saw a sadness in those big brown eyes. She took the bottle and took a sip. She wiped her mouth, not used to drinking from a bottle, and smiled at him. She passed it back to him and he nodded at the bottle, telling her to take another swig. She smiled, shook her head then laughed. She drank again and then gave the bottle back to him. He took it from her as she walked to the tree a few metres away from Robby. She sat with her back towards the tree as she watched his back as he drank. His head tipped back as the sun lit up the white wine.
“I miss his ass” he said after wiping his mouth.
She looked up at him. He laughed and said “he was the only person who was more competitive than me. No one on that track could beat me but him.” She looked at the back of his head as he spoke. He turned around and walked towards her.
“He was the only one that I couldn’t keep up with” he said. The tears in his eyes sparkling in the setting sun. “I would give anything to run after him again” he said as he sat down next to her.
“You know, when I met you, I didn’t really like you that much” she said.
“No shit! I thought you were a bitch” he said. She laughed and grabbed the wine from him.
“I’m glad that you had each other” she said. “I don’t, I mean I didn’t, understand it, what you two had” she said looking at the label on the bottle and back to him. “But I’m really happy he met you.”
“Thank you Esther” he said. “Thank you”
She rested her head on his shoulder as they watched the sun set. The earth and the amber met as the two finished the bottle, one slug at a time. That day there was no more huck huck as they found their peace.
<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>