I didn’t have much in common with Karen. She had strange opinions about things and she went to church. She didn’t only go on Sundays either. There were youth group meetings and fund-raising events and happy-clappy musical affairs and various other holy activities that she was always participating in. I didn’t give up on her because of that, however. It was only after I went to her house that our friendship fizzled out.
The houses on either side of hers looked all right, but hers was nothing short of depressing, with dead pot plants on the patio and a rusty Weber braai full of stompies. The front lawn looked as if it had been recently doused in petrol and set alight. They had a sprinkler going, but it hadn’t greened the place. Instead, the borehole water had made everything smell like flatulence and stained the front walls a dirty brown. A couple of neglected-looking dogs lurked behind a gate at the side of the house. It was March and the Christmas tree was still up inside, dusty and miserable, strangled with ragged tinsel and sporting a few cheap ornaments that looked like they were all from the same set. She didn’t comment on it. Perhaps it had been up for years and she had stopped noticing it altogether. The furniture smelt like dogs and there was a tacky ceramic crucifix above the fire place, flanked by equally tacky angels.
Her bedroom was also depressing, with a girly duvet cover appropriate to someone fifteen years younger than her, and faded as though she’d had it that long. She had stuck pictures of celebrities all over her wall and their smiling faces and the gigantic dust bunnies under the bed and the dirty pink teddy bear with the one sad eye made my skin crawl and my cheeks flush and I wanted nothing more than to be at home. I wanted to bury my head in a basket of my mom’s clean washing; something that smelled right. I spent all of that afternoon fighting off the feeling, that feeling, that almost everything in the world is horrible and wrong and that other people are broken or missing that part of them that allows them to recognise this and do something about it.
“Aw, shame, poor teddy. Let me put it…”
“No, it’s the dog’s toy. Leave it there for the dog.”
You can’t give a teddy bear to a dog. It has a face.