The Day After Black Friday…

November 28, 2014

“Man shoots another man at Walmart over a toaster,” reads a headline.

He leaves his apartment, head lowered, not wanting to look “us” in the face, shoulders drooped from the burden of “our” behavior. We’ve made clear our priorities, money over people, material things over humanity. And he feels it, the weight of it all, maybe more than most. His feet drag the dirty floor from the heaviness.

The hallway of his project building only adds insult to injury, smelling of piss and yesterday’s drink. He steps over old, discarded appliances, cruelly replaced with brand new members of the household bought at a fraction of their value, or at least their price. The smell of urine becomes suffocating.

He exits his building and the cold, autumn air hits his face, steals his breath. And at that moment he hears the most beautiful sound, a song undoubtedly sent by the heavens, the uninhibited, magical laughter of a child. He looks up and sees a toddler, unattended by his older sister who’s sitting and texting on a bench several feet away. She’s completely unaware of the child’s careless brilliance, as he runs in circles, being chased by nothing but something at the same time, cackling from the bottom of his little being.

Tears well up in the man’s eyes as he watches the child; surely it was the cold air that transformed his eyes into tiny ponds. The child’s laughter fills the man’s heart, not missing the cracks and crevices that had not seen light in months, years even. He feels a warmth grow in his chest. And at that moment, he knows that “we” are still there somewhere, even if “we” are hidden deep in the joy of a child’s laugh that we have suppressed; it is there we still live, there we still love.

And so, like a crazy person, the man begins to cry and laugh. He runs after the child, whose sister continues to text, unaware. The tiny little boy pauses for a moment, looks up at the approaching giant, lifts his tiny finger and points at the man’s face. The man stops, afraid he has done something wrong. Then, like a call to dance, the tiny little fellow lets out an elated squeal, and runs and laughs, harder and faster than before. The man’s face breaks in half with a smile, and he runs after the child. They run in circles and laugh, for what feels like an eternity, beautifully weaving “us” back together, one revolution at a time.

I wrote this piece back in 2012 but never posted it here. I felt like sharing it this year. I boycott Black Friday every year because I hate what it turns us into―I hate when we put money over lives, property over people. That seems to be a running theme this year here in America, unfortunately. So, this year, I encourage us all to boycott Black Friday.

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Thanksgiving with the family.

November 27, 2010

The Waffle House waitress told me some guy “got his arm broke and nose all bloodied up” yesterday at the Cookeville Wal-Mart. It’s amazing what people will do for stuff they don’t really need, or at least stuff they have convinced themselves they need, at low low prices. That’s Black Friday for you; the infamous day after Thanksgiving where all the stores do crazy sales, for those of you overseas people who have no clue what I’m talking about.

Being back in America is weird. I mean, it’s always different, but this time it’s more strange than usual. It’s like I’m seeing things through a different filter. Normally I’m here for a few weeks to visit and then I return to Cape Town, my home. Now I’m here, and not sure when or if I will go back over to Cape Town, still sure I am supposed to be here for now but not sure what is next. I feel like an alien of some sort. And people here don’t really know what to say to someone who doesn’t know what is next. I think it freaks them out. And I’m a bit freaked out at times. So, I’m a bit freaked out, freaking people out and it’s all a bit freaky. But I think it’s going alright.

Thanksgiving was funny; the mixture of eating loads of food I haven’t eaten in years, and jet lag, and a bunch of family that I haven’t seen in ten years, and little cousins I’ve never even met was a great concoction. At one point I was sitting beside my grandpa. I said, “Papa, I don’t know a lot of these people.” He lovingly patted me on the leg and answered in a really loud voice, “Ryan, I don’t know half of them!” That was great. I later became appointed his official translator because his hearing has gone from bad to worse and he was struggling to hear people. Someone would say something to him and he would turn to me and say, “Was what they just said important?” I would either sum up what they said, repeating it loudly, or just say, “Not at all!” That was good clean fun.

Then later, I was chilling on the hammock with my cousin Thomas, who I’d never met before. Thomas is seven, I think.

Me, “Hey Thomas, what’s your brother’s name?”

Thomas just looked at me with a confused look, like I am an alien. Seeing that I feel like an alien, or could have had some turkey stuck in my beard, or might have been speaking funny, I pointed at the kid in question, “Your brother over there.”

Thomas realized that I had no clue what I was talking about and felt pity towards me, “That’s not my brother.”

Me, “Oh! Really? I thought he was your brother all day!”

Thomas, “Nope.”

Me, “Well, who is he?”

Thomas, “He’s Burt.”

Me, “Burt huh?”

Thomas, nodding his head, “Yep.”

Me, “Well, who is Burt?”

Thomas, very confident, “He’s Eli’s brother.”

Knowing very well that I was the only brother of Eli at that Thanksgiving gathering, I just allowed Thomas to be “right”.

Me, “Aaaah! Ok! That makes sense. Thanks!”

Thomas, “You’re welcome.”

So thanks to Thomas and Papa, I didn’t feel so bad for not knowing all my family.