Have you ever been to a graveyard? Yeah? It’s tranquil, right? A peaceful sort of quiet you won’t experience anywhere else. I know I never will.
I’ve heard people say silence can be deafening, but… when you’ve been a city girl all your life, you learn to appreciate this eerie silence. The wilting flowers and crumbling headstones makes the place appear desolate; so I try to do my civic duty and do a bit of tidying up at night. It’s less disruptive to those saying farewell to their dearly departed. I’m considerate like that.
Every now and then the haunted sadness in someone’s eyes tugs at my heartstrings and I reach out and lay a hand lightly on a shoulder and witness how such a small action causes frown lines to soften, hunched shoulders to relax and pursed lips to ease into a comforted smile. I don’t need to struggle to find the right words and that’s a mercy. I just might scare someone to death.
The main entrance is my favourite spot. I can sit here for hours watching the comings and goings; I literally don’t move. That could be one of the reasons why I go unnoticed. I find this somewhat disconcerting though because I’ve always had a huge personality and presence. Not loud; just there – except when I laugh I have been told I really enjoy my laugh.
I suppose it’s for the best that I do seem invisible. I don’t want to intrude when people are in mourning. So I watch.
It’s especially quiet today. The sky seems to sag from the weight of the heavy cloud cover; foreboding rain – but that doesn’t bother me. A little water can’t kill me.
I’m perched on the wall minding my own business when two elderly women enter looking around nervously. They’re about to turn back when they seem to spot me. I look behind me to check if they’re looking at someone else but no, they’re definitely looking at me and making me feel uneasy, so I slide off the wall and walk away slowly – and what do you know? One of them starts calling after me.
“Excuse me! Young lady! Please, stop. We need help.”
That’s a magic word – ‘help’. More than ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. It awakens the altruist in me; so I stop.
“Please, we’re tired and want to take a shortcut through here, but we’re scared to walk alone. Would you mind walking with us?”
I feel bad for thinking poorly of them, but one can’t be too careful these days – prisons and graveyards are already overcrowded.
I turn around smiling. “Good morning, aunties.”
I’ve always referred to people older than me as aunty or uncle. It’s more respectful, don’t you think?
“I’d be happy to walk you through; it’s not scary at all. It is a chilly day to be out though. Where are you headed? I know all the best shortcuts here. I’ll get you to your destination chop-chop. No worries, aunties.”
I’m babbling a bit, but when I start talking there’s no stopping me.
“We’re on our way to the community centre and it’s such a long way going around the graveyard. Our old bones don’t work as well as they used to when we could still dance up a storm,” replies one aunty.
“No worries, aunty. My grandparents always attended the socials there. They said it was ‘refreshing to listen to proper music’.”
The aunties laugh softly and nod in agreement.
“Yes, this boom boom boom of today is not music. It’s…” the aunty struggles to find the right word. “It’s just noise,” she whispers.
“We’re going to be so late,” I hear the other aunty mumble.
“Come this way.”
I lead them off the main pathway toward a lesser-known back entrance.
“I’ll show you an even shorter shortcut to get there. I used it often when I was alive.”
Have you ever seen people running through a graveyard? Those aunties’ ‘old bones’ were injected with new life as they pumped their legs and propelled their bodies past me.
“Ooooh liewe JESUS, a spoek! I’m never missing church ever again. Die Here hoor my!” one aunty screams.
I can only shake my head. My mother always used to say I need an entire army to guard my mouth.
If there’s truth to the idiom – silence is golden, do you think if I shut up, I’d be spiritually richer for it?
One thing I do know – the next time someone speaks to me, I’m going to play deaf.
Notes from the author on the language:
“Ooooh liewe JESUS, a spoek!” – ‘liewe’ is the Afrikaans word for ‘dear’ and ‘spoek’ is Cape coloured dialect for ‘spook’, the Afrikaans word for ‘ghost’. Also, to ‘spook someone’ is to frighten them.
“Die Here hoor my!” – In English the direct translation is ‘The Lord hear me’, but could be written as ‘God is my witness’. In this instance, the complete English sentence would be: “Ooooh dear Jesus, a ghost! I’m never missing church ever again. God is my witness!”
You, the reader, might wonder why I didn’t use the complete English sentence. My excuse – Cape slang and dialect is so much funnier in such serious situations. I hope you had a good laugh.
Tell us what you think: Did you like quiet spaces? Did you find the story funny?