…the caped crusader…
…the scourge of the criminal underworld…
…the bane of organised crime…
…was standing right at my door…
….nine o’clock in the evening….
…all three foot of him…
…in a wrinkled grey costume; with a black silhouetted bat rising on top of yellow oval moon printed on his chest. An old broken black stocking was stretched over his blond hair. His three pointed black cape dragged the floor. He was wearing too large knockoff Adidas sneakers; probably smuggled in from Hong Kong; and buckets of silver snot was crusting on his top lip.
I looked down at this boy. He was no more than five years old.
“It ain’t Halloween yet…” I said.
“What…?”; his voice was high and squeaky.
“Who’re you looking for?” I asked.
He didn’t answer me and just said: “Aunty Mazzy wants to know if you’ve got somethin’ to eat…”
I’ve never seen this kid before, but him telling me that Mazzy, my neighbour from just down and across the hallway, wanted to know if I had something to eat, was believable and quite frankly, typical of her.
One of the shop assistants at her DVD and video rental workplace was fired a few days ago. Accordingly she had to put in extra hours until an extra hand was hired. Usually she worked from eleven in the morning until seven at night, but now she had slave it off from nine in the morning until eight at night; with a ten minute smoke break for lunch. Hopefully just for a few days.
She wanted me to help her out at the shop for a few days, but I declined. I didn’t know anything about movies. If I watched TV, then it was usually something on one of the home, DIY, nature or history channels; and anyway, the last time I was in a movie theatre, I was watching Luke Skywalker getting his ass kicked by Darth Vader on the bottom end of an upside down skyscraper.
So her having no lunch break and coming back late at night, meant she couldn’t do proper shopping; which meant she was bugging me at awkward hours for bits and pieces she ran out on. Then she needed coffee; then she was out on smokes. Then she had no sugar; then there was no soap. Then this; then that and then the other thing.
“And who’re you?” I asked the boy again.
What’s your name?”
“Really? And you’re over at Mazzy’s place?”
“Why you’re over there?”
“She’s my aunty…”
“Really? Since when?”
I thought about that last one for a second and then reshaped it all: “Forget about it. What does she want to eat?”
I looked blankly down at Batman, looking blankly back up at me. I knew I was talking way past him. So I stuck my head through the doorframe and shouted down the hallway; “What do you want to eat?” A muffled “…whaaaaat…?” was all I got coming from Mazzy’s open apartment door. I could hardly hear her.
“I said; what do you WANT TO EEEAAAT!”
I looked down at Batman again and he also had his head turned, staring at her door. Then he yelled: “Aunty, …the idiot wants to know what you want to eat!”
“What..?” I asked looking back down at him.
“You called me an idiot.”
“Why did you call me an idiot?”
He thought about it for three seconds, then said: “Aunty Mazzy says you’re ‘the idiot’…”.
“Really? Well, go over there and tell her ‘the idiot’ wants to know what she wants to eat.”
“She doesn’t know.”
“How do you know?”
“She said so.”
That was also typical. Asking for something and she doesn’t know what.
I knew Mazzy better than what even her own folks knew her. If she was asking for something to eat, then she was really saying: “…please can you make me something to eat...” All in all, I needed to help her out. She was really stuck working those long hours for the last few days.
“OK…, tell your aunty to come over here in about half an hour. I’ll fix you guys something to eat…, ok?”
He didn’t answer me. He just spun around and rocketed down the hallway; with his black cape knotting at his feet.
I left my apartment door open, turned around and walked over to the kitchen. I already knew what I was going to make them and I would be making some for myself too: a good old fashioned British breakfast: fried eggs, fried tomato slices, some pork bangers, toasted white bread and I’ll even throw in a few strips of bacon for love and charity and to hasten the cardiac arrest. Anyway, it was all had at the moment.
I opened the fridge; took out some eggs and a packet of bacon; opened the freezer and ripped off a packet of frozen bangers iced against the freezer wall.
Just as I put a pan on the stove, I heard Mazzy’s voice behind me: “Thanks a million. I’m starvin’. What you’re making?”
I turned to her with the packet of pork bangers in my hand. She always looked like she was either coming from, or going to Woodstock, or leaving for some hippie ashram somewhere along the Ganges. Her shapeless top looked like it was on an acid high, with red, pink and green smudged circles splattered all over the place. I never knew if she was wearing loose tops, or too large half T-shirts. She wore Bell-bottom jeans and two blood red Rolling Stones lips were sown over a hole at her knee. Her blond hair curled like tsunamis all over her shoulders and for some reason she went and stuck a small feather on a tiny silver chain in her left ear, but forgot to put the same thing in the other.
“I said come over in a half an hour…” I wasn’t upset. Just repeating what I told Batman.
“He said…” drooping her eyes down to Batman standing beside her, “… you said, we should come over.”
That’s right, …in thirty minutes, …not thirty seconds.”
“Ok, well, anyway, …let me help you out.”
“OK, …and who’s Batman?”
“My nephew, …Christian.”
“Really? Since when?”
Mazzy explained that Christian just turned four a few months ago. It was her sister’s only child and he was just there until about eleven that evening. Her sister dropped him off at the DVD shop at eight that evening. She was basically babysitting while her sister was doing a lady’s night with some friends; the same sister who was going through a divorce crisis.
I knew Mazzy had a sister, but she never said anything about a nephew. Then again, she never really spoke about her family. I was a sensitive topic. In many ways I knew her better than what her own family did. In all the years we’ve been neighbours, I only saw her sister about twice; …and I never saw her parents. Not once.
“What are we making?” She asked while taking the packet of pork bangers from my hand.
“Eggs, bangers, fried tomato, bacon, toast and that’s about it.” I answered, reaching for some tomato’s in the fridge.
She looked at me with a smirk of horror on her face: “That’s breakfast…” she said.
“You’re making breakfast at midnight?”
“Right, …and it’s not midnight, …it’s just after nine.”
“That’s practically midnight.”
“No, it ain’t. It’s just after nine and in many places in the world it’s breakfast time, …including here. So, … all ‘THE IDIOT’ has at the moment, …is breakfast, …for dinner.” I accentuated ‘the idiot’ part and she turned her head slightly away from me.
Mazzy also knew me better in many ways that many other people did, such as for example, knowing how to find her way around my kitchen. She was in there every time she came over and knew where I kept everything. She even put some stuff in places where I didn’t know they existed. I would open a cupboard some mornings and whoop… there’s a packed of dried Japanese seaweed sleeves lying on top of my good old fashioned cornflakes. I’d think to myself: ‘What the hell…? When did I buy dried seaweed?”
She got the stove going; started frying some bangers, bacon, eggs and tomatoes; and I was gawking down at the toaster taking forever to do the toast. Within a few minutes, my apartment smelled like Yorkshire.
In the meantime, Batman found his way to my sofa and was sitting over there watching TV; staring over empty beer bottles on the tea table, at Sir David Attenborough sweating his ass off somewhere in a rainforest.
I got three plates out of the cupboard with some knives and forks; and Mazzy started dishing out breakfast half past nine in the evening.
She took two plates, walked over to the sofa and put it down between the empty beer bottles.
Then I saw her do something which I never saw her do before. She made herself comfortable on the one end of the sofa; reached to the side and lifted Christian onto her lap. She stretched out an arm, reaching to one of the plates and picked up half a slice of buttered toast gently between her fingers. She held it in her hand while Christian started biting into it.
For the first time in my life I saw Mazzy feeding a child.
I stood there a few steps behind the sofa, staring down at her and she looked different. My whole perception of her changed in about two seconds. She wasn’t they spaced out hippie I got to know over the years. She looked stronger than before. Like she was in charge of the whole world; as if she found her place in the universe. She looked like a mother…
I walked over to the sofa and sat down beside them.
The three of us were sitting there in silence on the sofa; jaws moving up and down; plates resting between empty beer bottles; Mazzy chomping away on pork bangers, with Batman on her lap, biting into strips of toast and crispy bacon, with buckets of silver snot crusted on his top lip, his eyes frozen on Sir David Attenborough sweating his ass off in a rainforest somewhere.
All of a sudden, my place felt different. It didn’t feel like the place I used just to crash down; where I came to hide away from the southern ocean…
For the first time, having breakfast at nine o’clock in the evening, with my hippie neighbour and Batman,
…my place felt like a home…
Conrad Kruger van den Bergh (2015, Copyright)