It started with a newspaper. Yesterday’s newspaper. I found it on a bench, clean and neatly folded up again. So I took it home.
My mother likes it when I read newspapers to her. It helps pass the time. It brings the world into her bedroom, since she can’t leave the room and go out into the world.
“Mama, look! Just for you!” I lay the newspaper on her blanket, on top of her chest. “So I will go make Mama some sweet tea and then I will read.”
I make my voice sound cheerful. I smile at her. I pretend that it doesn’t break my soul in a million pieces to see her face so thin. So tight with pain. Sometimes it is hard to remember how she used to look. I have to check old photographs.
Mama takes her pills every day, always at the right time. There is a yellow clock on her table with large numbers. And a loud alarm. She sets it carefully. But the pills don’t help. They are not working.
“You are a good son, Kesha! You are my diamond. Twenty carats.” Mama always calls me that. She used to work in a diamond-cutting factory, back when she was strong and employed and her memory was good.
I go to the kitchen and boil the water. Put four heaped spoons of sugar into her mug. The doctor says sugar is not good, she must not have so much. But doctors don’t know everything. He also said the pills would make her strong again.
Suddenly Mama screams: “Kesha! Come quick!”
I panic. Panic is always waiting, just a heartbeat away. I rush back to her.
But she is sitting up, shaking the newspaper at me. “This woman! Here in this photograph. Right on the front page. I am sure I know her. Does it say her name?”
The photo shows a smiling woman. Her smile is so big that her face almost divides in two. ‘Mrs Dineo Maphakwane’, says the caption.
“This is Mrs Dineo Maphakwane, Mama.”
Mama shakes her head. “No, I don’t know such a name. But I am sure I know her. What has she done? Why is she here, Kesha?”
So I read the headlines out loud. They are quite large, yet Mama doesn’t see well these days. “Woman awarded R150 000.”
“One hundred and fifty thousand rand? She is a lucky lady, this Mrs Dineo Maphakwane!”
It is good to have Mama sitting up and talking. There is so much time she spends lying down, staring at the wall.
I start to read: “In a landmark court case the judge, Justice Eli Kubuitsile, ruled that the plaintiff deserved compensation for her pain and suffering.”
But Mama takes the paper out of my hand. “Stop, Kesha! Don’t read any more. I want to try and remember this lady by myself. Where, where did I see her before?”
Mama sits staring at the photo, taking sips of sweet tea while I hold the mug for her. She taps the side of her head where her hair is thin and soft like a baby’s. Tap, tap. “Come on, brain! Give me the answer!”
What do you think? What is wrong with Kesha’s mother?