I find myself walking in the covered parking of a mall towards a popular department store. It is hot. I know this because my feet and fingers are swollen and throbbing. I deliberate which city I am in until I see the parking pay station and rates. I am in Bloemfontein.
As I meander the shopping centre, I realise that everyone is holding a clear plastic cup with red sludge in it and a black straw through the lid. They’re sipping on this as though their lives depend on it, perhaps to survive the heat. I ask a few people where they get this drink from but they all give long incoherent answers so, I give up on finding this elixir and try to figure out why I am at the mall in the first place. Nothing comes to mind except that it’s out of habit. So, out of habit, I head over to Exclusive Books and look for a classic that I can read over a glass of wine and light meal. I take Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day and head over to a coffee shop whose décor is very late 90’s – early 2000’s futuristic jazz bar with dull silver tables and blue – red neon lights, my stomach turns and I decide to sit in right in the middle of the semi-populated eatery.
The waitress brings the menu but I hardly look at it. I order a croissant with preserves and cheese and a glass of Chenin Blanc, “please make sure it’s cold,” I add. I realise I forget to order water but figure that she’s going to bring some ice with the wine, so that’ll make up for the lack of water. I open the book and start to read. After a two pages of reading, the waitress brings the wine accompanied by a bowl of ice. The glass had some condensation on it but when I took a sip it was warm and syrupy. I added more ice but it just melted yet the colour stayed the same. I took another sip and continued reading until I go to the part where the school children chant “Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei led us to this perfect day” then I took another sip.
My head starts slightly spinning and I can hear the children chanting in my head, faintly. I put the book down, rub my eyes, take off my spectacles then clean them. I look at the glass of wine and sigh before signalling the waitress for more ice. She acknowledges my gesture and I continue reading. I keep sipping on the wine – even though I told myself I wouldn’t until the food arrived. When she eventually comes, I’m halfway through the glass of wine and my head is heavy and my mouth is dry. I tell her that there’s something wrong with the wine and she takes a sip of it in front of me and says that she can’t find anything wrong with it. So, she takes another sip and exclaims “gosh, I need a holiday”, puts the glass back on the table and walks away. At this point, my head is as heavy and as flimsy as a sack of rice and every slight movement lowers my energy levels. I take an ice-cube to my mouth and hope it quenches my parched throat.
“Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei led us to this perfect day” starts ringing in my head as it falls on the plate with the preserves, cheese and croissant.
To be concluded.