A year later they were seeing each other again and South Africa had set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Stefan followed it avidly in the papers, reading about Vlakplaas, the farm outside Johannesburg where hit squads were trained, where die manne, members of the Security Police, could relax, have a drinking session, a braaivleis. He was on fire with the country's suffering, and the more he talked about justice and healing and compassion, the more alienated Eva felt.
"What do you think?" he asked her one evening as she poured a jar of pasta sauce into a pot. "Do you think people like Dirk Coetzee should get amnesty?"
Eva shrugged and began chopping black olives for the sauce.
Stefan paced the length of her apartment. "He tortured people. You know, they did that on Vlakplaas. And yet -- " He stopped, ran his hands through his sandy-colored hair. "I find this so remarkable. I think that South Africa could forgive him. The heart of your country -- "
"Please, can we have one night when we don't have to talk about all of this? I told you, I'm just not interested in politics, so why you keep on -- "
He looked at her in confusion. "I don't get it. How can you know about all of this and not care?" His voice began to tremble. "They burned a body on that farm, Eva. They sat around and drank beers and watched -- "
"Don't you dare cry!" Eva flung the chopping board to the floor. "Don't you dare snivel in my apartment over my country, my history, my life!" She was on the verge of tears, but when she spoke again her voice was calculating. "You're so in love with that fucking country. Well, guess what? I'm not. I'm never going back. And you want to know something else? I lied to you. I didn't even care enough to vote."
Stefan took off his glasses and rubbed them on his turtleneck.
They ate their pasta in silence. If he'd been a dog, his ears would have folded back in appeasement. In bed that night, the fingertips tracing the length of her spine told her that he still cared about her, despite her outburst. It didn't matter, she could not forgive herself, and when she didn't roll over and move into his arms, he stopped and left her alone. A few days later she once again ended the relationship.
Thanks to the sleeping pill, Eva didn't wake until ten. She devoured a plate of fresh pawpaw, then took the shuttle bus back to the airport, where she rented a car for the five-hour drive to Louis Trichardt.
She headed north on the N1. Beyond the outlying suburbs of Pretoria, flat-topped thorn trees dotted the veld on either side of the road. Donkeys grazed near clusters of shacks built out of rusted car doors, sheets of corrugated iron, sacking, and anything else their broken inhabitants could find. Occasionally she passed a farmhouse surrounded by a tall security fence. A dry, thirsty light washed over everything.
She knew the road well. There stood the one-pump petrol station, now abandoned, that her father had patronized. The owner had been a lean, thin-lipped Afrikaner who sat in a deck chair, cold Castle in one hand, pack of Luckys in the other, and watched his black employee pump the petrol. There the bend in the road where her father once ran over a rinkhals, reversed over it to make sure it was dead, and then, despite Lorraine's protestations, invited Eva to look at the long gray-brown snake, its tail still violently whipping about.
Two hours into the drive she passed Boshoff's Nursery, where her mother bought her rosebushes. Eva braked sharply. She made a U-turn, pulled into the gravel driveway, and scanned the aisles. There were no roses in bloom. A young black man watering the potted palms waved, and she waved back, but her heart was racing as if she'd been caught doing something illicit, and she put her foot on the accelerator, gravel clattering against the car as she sped away.
Copyright © 2006 by Lisa Fugard. reproduced by permission of the publisher, Scribner.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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