I told her to meet me at Nando’s, she did. She arrived with eyes that had the appearance of one who had never seen disappointment. Her smile was like one who had taken a serious bite of the African sun. She picked up something on my behalf with a swiftness that was not swiftness for swiftness sake. It was like she did not use her hands but her heart and she gave it to me like the people I left behind in the continent. How do you say thank you to that kind of human kindness. I have always struggled to thank the people in the villages because the word thank you never was enough to express my gratitude and how deeply humbled I was by all that they were.
All of Southern Africa shone in her. We sat down and ate after laughing like we had known each other before we sat down. I told her how America was teaching me about the nature of hate. How I feel like I am in the middle of the Lord of the Rings. She burst into her Zimbabwean Shona laughter and told me that she will quote me on that. She understood everything I was saying and what I was not saying about what being here requires. At first I was disappointed that she was calling herself Eunice but I accepted it. I imagined that she was saving her true name from being butchered by tongues that did not care for it. I accepted it and watched the African sun laugh through her teeth every chance it could get. There was something honest about her presence. She is brilliant, humble, strong and gentle as I know Zimbabweans to be. But most importantly, she was an honest presence. No pretenses. No trying to be this or that. She just was herself after having learnt how to navigate a system whose brutality she has felt and learnt how to name.
She was beautiful with a black skin that radiated from the sun that had been bitten by her teeth. She did not know that Nandos was South African, that is how long she had last been home and yet she still brought home to whomever she met.