That One Evening

That one evening.

The one when it's so, so hot and no-one really feels like cooking, so it seems like a good time to try out the big take-away place down the road.

And you're the one who gets elected to go fetch the food.

And so you walk down to the take-away place, only to find that it's closed.

You walk around the block, just to see if there are any other take-aways that you've somehow missed in your comings and goings. There are a surprisingly companionable dog and a bunch of kids playing football, but there aren't any take-aways, so you find yourself back at the little hamburger place in the yard of the apartment that neighbors yours. Nobody's inside, so you start calling for assistance. Eventually, a woman shows up and sends a child off to fetch the guy who makes the hamburgers. You give him your order, and he starts frying the eggs, meat, and onions for your supper.

You stand in the sandy sidewalk and watch him work, your ears filled with the gratifying sizzle of frying meat. You reflect how happy some of your food-conscious friends would be to get a made-from-scratch hamburger with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. They'd undoubtedly be willing to pay way more than you're about to pay, though they might have a slight problem with the flies and the dust.

You're rather past having problems with things like that.

You have to move aside every now and then for the people strolling leisurely up and down the sidewalk and you smile and nod and exchange many 'good afternoon's'. You grin at the shy toddler peeking through a hole in the fence. She disappears, but then comes back in a moment for another look, and even offers a smile of her own. A woman comes out of the walled-in yard and chats with some acquaintances for a while, and when they leave, she starts chatting with you. Before long, you're seated on a tiny metal stool in the front yard, attempting to hold a conversation with three of the women who live in the apartment. A table has appeared beside you, and you're not certain if you are expected to eat your hamburger right then and there, or if the table's purpose is a less obvious one. You're on the cusp of trying to find out when the guy comes and delivers your hamburgers, wrapped, of course, in the ubiquitous and inevitable black plastic bag. Your questions are swept aside as the neighbors bid you a cordial farewell and invite you back to their apartment for a visit, and you marvel at how a simple interaction like ordering food turned into a potential for friendship.

You walk back home, not forgetting to stop and replenish your cell phone minutes from the wallet of that other fixture of Mozambican life: the credit seller. He doesn't have hundred-met credit, so you buy a bunch of fifties.

Then you climb the stairs to your apartment, smiling a little to yourself and remembering why you like this place so much.