In this dream-like story 18-year-old Mia Valodia Wessels van Zijl transports readers to a more poetic reality. As a child Mia had dreams of becoming a milkman. She now plans to become a professor of English.
It is amazing how much damage the loss of a loved one can incur on someone’s soul. They can lose touch of who they once were, lost to slow corrosive depression.
Ever since that dim, rainy day, clad in black and tears, she had not been herself.
Her sense of passion and confidence got buried along with a heap of white roses strewn across the coffin. Her favourite coffee seemed to lose it’s taste; food became a necessity to stay alive rather than something to enjoy; colours seemed to fade into greys and blacks; her fingers refused, with great determined sadness, to strum the chords of her instruments.
Days melded into months until time became a blur of inactivity and simply, existing. Friends came and melted away, like ice into a vast, unobtainable ocean.
The bell, like on every other day, spurred her legs into the trained path leading to the cafeteria. Without looking up, or even focusing on the floor, they took her to the exact same table, the exact same seat, with an apple from the exact same basket. The bustle and hustle around her became white noise.
A louder murmur than all the others stirred her auditory nerves. A little louder and it suddenly came into focus.
“Would you like an ice cream?” She turned to her neighbour, a woman a few years her senior, who was smiling kindly at her. She had never seen this woman before and was slightly startled by her attention.
“Um – n-no, thank you.” The woman smiled again, a smile that pinched the eyes and made everyone who saw it feel a little warmer inside. Then the woman turned her head back to the centre of the table, returning to the general conversation.
After a few moments of confusion she turned back to her numb state, but it was not quite as numb as before.
The next day the same bell rang and the same route was taken. And, surprisingly, the same question was asked.
“Um, no thank you,” she responded again and received that smile in return. She clumsily managed an uncertain smile upon her own lips.
“Tell me if you change your mind.” Then she went back to addressing the rest of the table.
Her own ears were now more aware of the sounds around her than they’d been in a while. Has it always been so loud? she wonders.
After the third day, and after declining again, just before turning her numbity on again she heard another member of the table whisper, “Just give up.” Ancient emotions surfaced, very weak, but there.
“Would you like some ice cream?”
“Yes, please.” It was only a whisper, but it silenced the entire table.
Without a breath, “What kind would you like?” The same smile was there, with such confidence and such sincerity. So taken aback, all she could do was shrug her shoulders. “Surprise it is, then.” The women jumped up in earnest and marched to the refrigerator section of the cafeteria, not for a moment losing that warm smile.
That day, the icy chocolate she tasted upon her lips was marvellously sweet.
After two weeks of various flavoured ice cream escapades, the rain began. It was sudden and unexpected and everywhere could be heard the squeals of girls as they dashed home. Every pothole was filled to the brim with rainwater. Her heart felt a bit fuller as well. She had always loved the rain. How many stormy winters had she missed?
“- like to share an umbrella?” The sudden question once again broke her from her thoughts. It was the very same woman, a bright question on her lips, an umbrella in her hand.
Shyly she nodded, “Okay.”
Walking home like that, squished under an umbrella with a friend, both trying not to get wet, brought back so many lost memories. All the good memories she’d been hiding away from herself came swooping by her. The nostalgia and overwhelming knowledge that she’d never have those memories again nearly made her cry.
“Oh look, the rain’s stopped.”
Indeed, the rain had stopped. Her neighbour packed the umbrella away and asked, “Want some ice cream?”
The emotions clogged her throat, so she just nodded. Then she was off, missioning to get some ice cream from a convenience store across the street. Her own head turned around to view the second-hand store they’d stopped in front of.
All sorts of furniture and strange clothing was on the window displays. A small wooden creation, with a sad price tag proclaiming “R50” caught her eye. A clumsy apparition of inspiration starred in her eyes.
When the Ice Cream queen returned with a cone in each hand, she found her reserved friend tuning an old, worn ukulele outside the second-hand shop. She said not a word, only looked in quaint fondness as the out-of-tune instrument became just a little less out of tune.
Strumming with rusty fingers and humming in a breathy voice she started making her way down the street. No particular rhythm, just comforting sound. Her companion followed contentedly, making up her own words as they went along.
Vibrant strands of sunlight shot through the clouds, as if the sky were playing a tune of its own.