“Most sacred heart of Jesus have mercy on us,” reads a poster of Christ taped to Bra Aaron’s fridge. A chipped enamel stove stands beside it. On the wall, above mismatched mugs hanging from hooks, a framed Kitchen Prayer in cursive script catches the light. Bra Aaron is stooped over a newspaper in the lounge, framed by an open doorway. My knock at the entrance startles him. Confused, he looks up and sees a figure silhouetted in white. His jaw opens noiselessly. I unlatch the bottom half of the door and step inside, where it is cool and dim.
The boy linking the invasive fish to the immigrant restaurant was smiling on the grass beside the Liesbeek River. “We caught this one using a crate,” he said, posing for a photograph with a catfish the length of his arm. “They’ll pay R120 for a fish this big.” His name was Meelyn Williams. His brother, Keenan, and cousin, Jerome Wagner, were standing to one side, holding up smaller fish of their own. It was a weekday afternoon. The sun was out. A mongrel was running in circles, excited by the occasional flapping — the fish were still alive — and the smell.
The ghost suburb in the middle of nowhere is carefully guarded. A boom gate prevents access. To enter Koingnaas, a relic diamond-mining town on South Africa’s Namaqualand coast, you exchange identity documents for official stamps of approval. With luck the boom is raised, and you are allowed inside.