Location

Jacques explains. “Location” indicates the black townships, we’ve been directed here by that very word on the lips of a nodding woman on the dirt avenue, I’m looking to buy a local SIM card. One story high, corrugated steel, off-rectilinear lots that expand or contract to the hilly contour but somehow still seem tidy, colors sing cheer and that they’re brightly painted itself enough to distinguish the boundaries.

Ask around for Mama’s Shop, the kind of asking that happens in several versions with multiple sources, as the directions are in a spatial and narrative framework that presupposes that one lives there. A concrete house not easily distinguishable from the ones around it except by the buzz of activity. A man in his 20’s, Indian looking, out front intently in the early stages after slaughtering a sheep. His hands are covered in drying blood, and that’s how they will be when we shake a little later.

Mama’s is spacious, neat, concrete floor grain sacks in disciplined stacks, wooden shelves with maize, flour, soups, soaps, sundries. A parallel economy where there is no Spar Market, a social place, mobile phone top up, tins of meat, packets of crisps alike. The smiling young woman—not “Mama” I’d speculate—casts about for the item. The carver has come in, he pokes at a keypad to activate the card, from my accent deduces where I’m from and shines his teeth into questions. “Yes, USA.” “I am from Bangladesh, I have family in America.” I tell him that I look forward to visiting his country someday, my expression hope he’ll take me seriously, he nods, it occurs to me that maybe I am doing it right then.

Out into the lemon light, accumulated kids at the spectacle of us. Grooved path across a lumped wild lawn, pink green magenta blue jean fence laundry like festival flags. Jacques asked whether the sheep is for a wedding or a birth, she radiated pride and said just a celebration, just for a happy evening.