Coca Cola at the Corner shop.
It’s hot. So hot.
Wiping the sweat off my forehead I walked into the Entrance of the closest Corner Shop. Just above the store door hung a large red sign with the name written in white flowing writing.
“Sponsored by Coco Cola”
Was the clear echo one could almost hear from the subversive advert that had caught my attention, all too often.
The store was small, only one & a half folks my size
Would be able to walk through the fully stocked isles.
I was hungry.
The thought of getting anything that would involve “cleaning” was just too much energy to even consider. So I stopped in front of the fruit rack and pulled out a bright yellow bunch of bananas.
Feeling quite proud of myself for picking out some fruit, my eyes quietly drifted over to the freezer on my right.
There was a row of ice cold Coca Cola. They stood taunting me in neat rows of glistening glass bottles just within my line of sight.
I shuffled my feet to work into position just as a more decisive woman made her way past me towards a carton of milk. As she left I held open the fridge door and felt the cool air blow towards me.
It was glorious.
After a few moments of drifting off to a happier. Cooler place.
I jumped to action at the sound of a polite but firm cough from a stocky security guard just over my shoulder.
I reached my hand to the back of the fridge and touched out the iciest bottle I could find.
I could hear the voice of my cousin from Kampala. We were much younger then but I remember sitting in the heavy heat somewhat shell shock. Listening to her protests with a small glass bottle of Coke inches from my lips.. She lectured me about the ills of the Coca Cola Company. I remembered something about a village in India & the water supply.. Or something. I can’t quite remember.. but I know it was bad. So with her voice in my head bringing pangs of guilt in my chest I pulled out the bottle and forced the memory out of my mind.
It was hot. Right?
Now turning towards the counter I caught sight of a tall White man with a small camera. He was behind the counter taking pictures of the store. A woman wearing a light white hijab at the cash register moved from left to right, trying her best to stay out of the man’s camera light.
Was embezzled in gold. On his pale blue shirt.
He wore a large permanent smile and made the kind of forced dry small talk that turns people to cigarettes.
I wonder what he was doing there..
I lifted my bottle and bananas onto the counter and a short business-like man smiled and asked
“Do you have any bottles to return?”
I was confused for a moment, wondering what on Earth he was on about and then before I could answer a young black child walked up to the counter holding a large empty green bottle.
He looked over expectantly to the cashier. His shirt was torn, very unlike the artful rips in the jeans, shirts & stockings one would expect to find just outside the door.
I turned over to the cashier, who by now was sporting a frown. He waved his hands and said
“No, no.. We don’t take bottles on Thursday’s, I’m sorry. You have to go”
“What?” I responded in surprise.
A wry smile now replaced his dismissive frown.
“You see I only accept bottles from people I know – people I trust.. Those kids use the bottles for urinating sometimes.. And I really don’t have the time to clean it up”
I stood in silence with an eyebrow raised somehow not convinced.
“It’s about Hygiene”
I paid without so much as a word of response and headed out the door into the heat.
As I opened my ice cold bottle of Coca Cola. I scanned the street for the young man.
He was nowhere to be seen.
Taking a large gulp.
I wondered why I even bother to look.
If I had found him what would I have even said?
Would I have offered to buy him some food?
I retreated home, lost to the melodrama of having to walk a few meters in the heat.
I wonder what it must be like. Spending the whole day. The whole night. On the street.
This corner shop is located in Woodstock. The area has been undergoing a great deal of changes in recent times. Gentrification has begun to run rampant. As one walks through the suburbs you can literally feel that you are in a space that is in transition. There are pockets of fancy, artistic bars & cafes that seem to me to represent the aesthetics of “hipster” White South Africa. In this area there is a fairly extensive Muslim community and in the short time I have lived here it has really been a rare moment when I’ve seen those two worlds meet. Even on the street.
Much more to be said about this space & how even the presence of these tensions anti-blackness still finds a home.
Looking forward to sharing more stories with you. Let’s so comes.
Until next time.