Short story | The Departed

Words and artwork by Luyanda Mpangele

I’m often told by family that I remind them of my grandfather. At first I thought they were referring to his appearance because my mother apparently looks like him, and I’m said to look like her. But according to them, it’s our unorthodox taste in music that links us.

I realised this when my friend had bought a record player and I promised to test a few of my gran’s old vinyls on it the next day.

When I looked through the dusty, web-filled pile, I was taken aback by the variety of music my grandmother had, most of which belonged to my grandfather. Picture the Rolling Stones meets Aretha Franklin coupled with The Commodores and a bit of Pink Floyd.

We cleaned the records together that evening, and with the dirty, soapy water flowed stories about the short-lived romance my grandmother shared with the man she loved. How young she was when they met, and how it came to an abrupt end with his tragic death.

My mom was self admittedly a daddy’s girl, which explains why his death affected her the most, although pain is not quantifiable. She was only seven when it happened, and I was a mere idea, a possibility. Is it possible that she loved him so much that the universe decided to bring a piece of him back to her in the form of a daughter?

We cleaned the records together that evening, and with the dirty, soapy water flowed stories about the short-lived romance my grandmother shared with the man she loved.

Anyway, I hear he was a reputable man, a man who put his wife and children first. I also hear how he, at times, succumbed to the pressure for the Xhosa man to be domineering and used his fist to relay a message. I never know which of these to believe.

When I decided to write about the topic of encounters, I didn’t think I’d be including people whom I haven’t physically met. Although I think I met him the day I heard the rusty records play. I heard him in the lyrics, and felt him in the unexpected pauses which indicated scratches and was evidence of how many times they had been played in the past. I also met a younger version of my grandmother, permed ‘fro, raspy voice with a cigarette and gin in hand.

This painting features my grandmother and her love. The obvious ghost-like distortion speaks of memories, experiences and the events our minds create that actually didn’t happen.


This piece was originally published in Edition 10 of Ja. magazine.

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