On grieving

When I came back to my flat, they’d eaten all the chocolate.

They’d scaled the side of the building, packed my mother’s jewellery, my work archives on hard drives, my Converse trainers, my whisky, into my backpack, urinated on my bathroom floor, and then absconded.

There was no chocolate left, so I ate teaspoons of peanut butter instead.

In the highveld cold, next to an ineffective halogen heater, I wore Mexican wool socks and considered recent events.

Other breakups had taken place in more understandable surroundings: over a flour-dusted kitchen bench while making Christmas mince pies, over countless glasses of wine during countless circular conversations.

This one had taken place over WhatsApp, with a single line. The reverberations from the shock of out-of-nowhere black and white finality inscribed on a smartphone hadn’t fully faded.

I stared at my empty jewellery box and thought of my mother, ten years after her passing.

I went through the motions.

I made a list of small tasks that could lead to little measurable successes: cleaning my laptop, getting all my hair chopped off, going to the dentist.

I made earl grey for Francois, the insurance assessor, an enormous Afrikaans man who enthused about the bergamot, but turned pale when I wiped away a tear.

I went out and ordered familiar, delicious things with kind friends in all our regular places: bowls of coconut rice, pepper fillets with perfect chips, a stuffed piri piri quail. Each night, I said, I’m fine, don’t worry about me, and left with a full takeaway box.

I was always vaguely hungry, but it was momentum I craved.

I bought three heads of cauliflower and ate them with sea salt and lemon: small forkfuls of rebellion against the ex-boyfriend who hated them.

I caught a cold and spent hours drinking effervescent Viral Choice, doing a jigsaw in the spirit of not unobvious metaphor. When friends popped over for coffee, I’d close the bedroom door to hide my unmade bed.

It all felt like waiting: for summer, for a holiday, for an escape from indecision; for respite.

I found a sunny table at my regular cafe and stared at the palm tree shadows on the floor, my computer screen blank. Day after day, they gave me sympathetic smiles and soy cappuccinos, tried to perk me up with the occasional slice of biscotti.

Solace is perhaps the only food for grieving; sunshine on skin.

As the temperatures plummetted, my dulled tongue slowly found words again.

Coffee at Warm & Glad, Craighall Park, +27 11 781 0455, www.thebeachhead.co.za
Pepper fillet at Bellinis, Illovo, +27 11 880 9168, www.bellinis.co.za
Coconut rice at The Great Eastern Food Bar, Melville, +27 11 482 2910
Quail at The Leopard, Melville, +27 11 482 9356, leopardfoodcompany.com