The fast food stop

My meeting in Bloemfontein ended at 4pm

Later than I wanted it to

It was a 4 hour drive home

Northwards to Johannesburg

The November air was muggy and oppressing

I was worn down

As an introvert it’s tough showing your game face all day

As the afternoon progressed

So did a thunderstorm

I watched it build on the horizon

Above the highway in front of me

I was listening to an audiobook of The Brothers Karamazov

Engrossed in it

And as Ivan made his three visits to Smerdyakov

I watched the lightning start to fork down onto the flat plains

Seeming to almost hit the highway straight ahead of me

It was a surreal site, observing it from a distance

Pretty soon Smerdyakov was confessing

And I was in the midst of the downpour

Even inside the air conditioned car

I could feel the temperature drop

By 7pm I was half an hour from the Johannesburg ring road

But I needed to eat something

It was growing darker

I turned off at a roadside fast food petrol station stop

One I knew well

The ground was wet from the storm

The damp still in the air

Everything in a seeming state of lubricated crystal clarity

Like the feel of your eyes after tears have subsided

I went in

The fast food tables were all empty except for one

A mother with her daughter of around four I guess

I sat three tables away from them

Looking out at the parking lot

I ordered a burger and five minutes later it came

But any sense of calm was disrupted by the woman

She was on the phone the whole time

Arguing to someone about some relative

She kept repeating the same things over and over

People tend to do that when they’re upset

The girl sipped a chocolate milkshake

The mother seemed oblivious to the child’s existence

I don’t think she’d even looked at her for the entire time I’d been there

I gazed out of the window

At two cars filling up with fuel

But not really looking at them

I was thinking of Smerdyakov, guilty all along

“Oh fucks sakes!!”

It was the woman

Suddenly she had jumped up and shouted

The chocolate milkshake had tipped over

And had spilled out over the floor and spare chair

The brown puddle was growing

Clearly an accident

“How the hell did you do that!!” she shouted

The girl started crying

Trying to issue some sort of apology or explanation

One of the two

The woman angrily grabbed her handbag and keys

And marched out towards the door

Without even looking back at the girl

Who was still crying

Clutching a fluffy brown toy she ran after her mother

In hysterical tears

Outside the mother had shoved the girl in the car

She continued to should

With much gesticulating

And hand pointing

The girl was still in tears

I was so distracted I didn’t notice the waitress

Standing next to me

She too was looking out at the car

She had the kind of face that seemed to know one or two things about the world

Then she looked over at their table

With the chocolate milk tipped over

On the floor

“What a mess” she said

“Looked like an accident” I replied

“I wasn’t talking about the milkshake” she said

By now the blue Toyota they were in

Had sped around the corner out of sight

I paid the bill and slowly walked out

Into the cool evening air

The last purple of daylight was fading in the east

And the lonely sound of the highway dominated

Forty minutes later I was on the ring road highway

I thought of the girl

Hoping that somewhere out there

She was in her bed and fell asleep

At peace

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s