I dropped my purchases on the counter, smiled, and greeted the cashier in isiZulu. Her at first frustrated countenance softened and she greeted me back.
I handed her my cash. With a look that was somehow slight annoyance and all patience, she calmly told me I was short by ten Rand.
“Oh sorry Sis!” I said as I scrambled through my wallet to find the extra money. “It’s just been one of those days. I can’t seem to focus today at all.”
In complete seriousness and sympathy, she looked me in the eye and said, “It is because Mandela is gone.”
I looked back, shocked at the sudden meeting of our souls, awed by her sincerity. “That’s right, Sis.” I gestured to the pouring rain outside. “All of South Africa is crying.”
She smiled and softly said, “Hamba kahle.” – Go well – and the moment was gone, hurried along by the urgency of holiday customers behind me.
“Ngiyabonga, Baba,” I whispered as I walked back into the watery parking lot, my whispered thanks lost in the deluge.