So there I am, walking into the great hall on Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town. If it’s not Queen Vic Street then stuff it. I climb the concrete staircase and walk through the wooden doors. I push in and there is the security guy behind that wooden security box thing. It’s him, he was here last week.
“Yes, brada?” he says.
“Midday, sir.” That’s me, towing the line between he and I.
There is silence.
“Eh-m…” he says, I think he wants to ask what my business is in this place.
“Out to lunch,” I say.
That’s the reason I’m here –out to lunch. This place is called the Center for the Book. It’s sort of a division to the National Library. I’ve recently discovered it. In fact, a fellow colleague-friend showed it to me while I accompanied her to mosque last week.
When I saw this place I thought: there is a place where my writing will find a home. I made a mental note to attend the weekly writing meetings held on Wednesdays here.
“It’s called ‘out to lunch’,” the receptionist lady had said.
Her face was heavily make upped, I noted.
“Okay,” I began, “and they don’t charge, like?” I verified.
I wanted to make sure because I didn’t want to find myself in money situations. Plus I wasn’t sure what would be the outcome of the Jacob Zuma corruption case yet. I’d vowed never to spend unplanned moneys in case JZ lost the corruption case, because that would have led to a civil war since big people had sworn they’d kill for him. So I thought I’d need the cash to escape to Zimbabwe, now that it’s a country again. As things turn out, I didn’t need to run. Not yet.
“You pay nuffin,” she said.
So here I am today, ready to do whatever it is they do at that ‘out to lunch’ meeting room. I enter the great hall and I immediately love the softness of the rug on the floor. I like the echo in the hall too. It reminds me of the days I used to attend Jehoviah’s Witness services. At the far end there is another door where I am told it’s the ‘out to lunch’ meeting room.
I jiggle open the door and walk in. There is only one person sitting mournfully on the round table. My sinus is offended by the smell of dust, and I don’t like the sound of a naked wooden floor. I greet brother-man and we shake hands. His pale hands are warm but hard, nails uncut, unshaven blonde beard and he’s got a brown woolen jersey on.
“I’m Ta-Ndo… my first time here.”
Then he points to the small box placed next to a note book on top of the round table. The book is covered with a Christina Aguilera poster, I observe. He tells me not to worry. All that’s done here is get a surprise topic out of the box, and then everyone starts writing. Twenty minutes later, everybody shares their piece to the whole group.
“Nothing hectic, na’m sayin,” he says with a sneer on his face.
“Okay,” and I want to say: are you kidding me!
“Ya’ll need a pen and paper to do ya thing, na’m sayin?”
I go to the receptionist lady to borrow ‘out to lunch writing tools’. She checks here and there behind that wooden reception counter.
“Jo, it seems there’s nuffin,” she says, and smiles only to reveal a tired make upped face.
“Wait, there’s a pen.”
I take the Government Issue pen and inspect it. Ladies and gentleman, it’s got no ink! I scribble on the blank sheet she’s given me and surprise: the pen does write! I wonder how much the pen’ll last me though.
I walk into the ‘out to lunch’ room and find a full-house of strangers who call themselves writers. Everybody is staring at me and my throat begins to constrict.
“Great, ya’ll. Lets get cracking,” says Jack the man with a blonde beard.
He asks me to open the ‘out to lunch’ box and pick a topic. I’m surprised. I’m shy. Everybody is still staring at me. I open the box and randomly pick out a piece of paper. I read aloud:
“Let’s party!” I declare the topic.
Guess what? Nobody says nuffin, nobody thinks, nobody even thanks me. Everybody starts writing furiously, because writing is to writers what a party is to party-animals. So like a true ‘out to lunch’ writer, I pen this story and read it out loud for everybody.
I hope I did well.