Ma stared at me, but I slid my headphones on and tried to ignore her.

“The funeral was weeks ago,” Ma said.

“Didn’t know grief had a timeline,” I mumbled.

That shut her up, and I watched her leave the room from the corner of my eye.

I don’t know what funerals have to do with grief. Not that I got to go, obviously. Not only have South African citizens been blocked from nearly every country thanks to the B.1.351 strain, but have you ever tried to fly alone? If you are under eighteen, you’ve got to have all this paperwork: birth certificate, passport, and special stuff signed by both parents.

Both. Parents.

Ma made some calls, but, ja, well, no fine, that’s the price you pay in times of the ‘rona when you and your daddy live in different countries, different continents, different hemispheres. So I stayed up past midnight (time zones are a thing) to watch my daddy’s funeral service on my phone, thanks to WhatsApp video chat.

Not that Daddy was infected with the ‘rona when he died, although it was the ‘rona that killed him, one-hundred-percent. He got into a car accident, critically injured and needed care. But his ambulance ended up driving around and around and around for hours looking for a hospital that wasn’t full up thanks to the virus. So I’m telling you, he didn’t die because he had the ‘rona, but the ‘rona still killed him. That’s my truth.

My phone buzzed. Ma on WhatsApp: School work?

I replied: Done.

Listen, I wasn’t lying. I did the work but then my brain was done. And when it’s done, I couldn’t even follow the plot of the latest Marvel movie, let alone read the sheet music for my trumpet. I missed stuff. Things got said and my brain would go on static, like when my granny would search for a radio station on that machine that I swear was older than Ma. Grief-brain is this loud quiet where nothing makes sense.

My phone buzzed. Ma, again: More reality TV?

Don’t worry, I replied.

It’s my job to worry, she texted back.

I rolled my eyes, but didn’t reply, and tried to focus on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Drag Queens are fabulous. When those men put on their makeup and become women, they are the sisters and mothers everyone wishes they had. Listen, Mama Ru had become my therapist as I grieved Daddy. She was my shero, even if she’s old enough to be my granny. She’s positive, but she can read a room, and has this ability to toss out salty shade that stings, but still makes everyone laugh. That’s a gift, being able to do that and not tear anybody down. RuPaul is a builder. Makes people stand taller. Understands us gays.

Like, my friends know I’m gay. But not…gay. I wouldn’t tell them I watch Drag Race. I’m just that good mate that doesn’t date girls. Not one of those young men who tried on his ma’s clothes before she worked from home.

I have.

Her clothes are terrible. Boring. There’s more opulence in a coal mine than my ma’s wardrobe. Sorry, not sorry. Besides, while Ma knew I was gay, she thought of it like my friends. I’m just her son that doesn’t date girls. I’m not gaaaaay.

Which was fine. I mean, our parents, different times, hey?


Tell us: Do you think Theo is right, that his ma is just from different times? Or should he be more open about who he really is?