The first barbecue I went to did not turn out turn out as I expected. It was tradition to celebrate each school year by having a barbecue or braai, as we say in South Africa. I had avoided these yearly parties, because they hardly cater for vegetarians. Besides, my motivation to go this time was the opposite sex. My five years of secondary schooling had come to an end, and it was December 1988.
The day of the braai had arrived quicker than I expected. I was tired, even the thought of Reeta was not enough. I made a quick mental note of the people who would be there, and I began to feel even more miserable.
After spewing a stream of profanity under my breath, I felt better. Just then I heard noisy footsteps coming up my flat stairs, my friends were here. I said a silent prayer and hoped Reeta was going to be at the party and be a good enough distraction.
Our host was a classmate and close buddy Mick. Most of my friends were there and after the hand shaking and high fives, I began relax. Three of my friends and I headed to the back of the house, to the wide open backyard. To my delight I saw two separate braai stands, one for the meat eaters and one for the veggies. It seemed like I was the only vegetarian. The object of my interest was tending to both the meat and veggies stands, and she even had the sense to use different utensils
As Reeta worked the veggies, I went close up behind her and said softly, “You sure know the ones you want.” “Down boy, behave yourself.” She said as she gently tapped my side.
She then moved to the meat, prodding them to check if they were ready.
I was too hungry to bother with plates and wolfed down a soya burger, two Sossies* and a mielie*. Luckily the food was moderately hot or I would have burned myself. I opened my first beer and guzzle down one of many for the night.
Quickly, I pulled up a chair and watched Reeta turn the meat over. After Reeta was done with the meat, she took some to her girl friends sitting on the back porch, while and I sauntered off to my friends, with my second beer in hand.
We all basically sat in a crude L shape, and everyone was tucking into their food except me. I already had eaten my fill. Fat Alvin was having his own private party as he tore through mutton cop after mutton chop. I was disgusted by his greediness but smiled politely when he winked at me.
“So you think you passed?” he asked with me his mouth full. “No freaking way, I might just scrape through with a Senior Certificate.”
I was pleasantly distracted by Reeta. She was surreptitiously making lewd gestures at me. I walked a short distance to her and was about sit next her when she took a massive bite of her mutton steak
My carefully constructed image of her was shattered into a million pieces. I staggered at seeing her mouth covered in red-brown sauce, as she kept on ploughing into the steak. She was like a bloody pacman.
I could have staggered because of the beer. No, that wouldn’t be right, it was only my second beer, and I could drink anyone here under the table.
Reeta she smiled at me as I was about to sit down askance to her. Meat was stuck on her teeth and she used her tongue to lap up the sauce on her lips. With her dark, goggle-like spectacles she looked like something that walked off our local cemetery. Strangely enough there was a graveyard just up the road.
“You look whiter than ghost," Reeta said, taking a quick gulp of beer. “Are you okay?”
I said yes as I carefully looked away from her, hoping she would not notice my disgust.
Yeah right. I’ll be fine after I shoot myself in the head, I thought, so I can get the image of your face out of mind.
Strangely, Reeta’s womanly voice sounded very raspy, as she if she had smoked two packs of Marlboro. It must have been all that meaty mush sliding down her throat.
*Sossies are a brand of soya sausages, made in many flavors, and mielies is a cob of corn.
*Wors is an Afrikaans word for sausage.
Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.