brought back from the black beach,
laid out on the bale bed,
blue scarf around his neck
Two days after the double suicide of the young couple, Robin and I attend the boy's funeral. Robin stops at a little store to buy coffee and sugar in bags and a small plastic plate to carry the offerings, including R 100,000. We arrive late, after they've bathed the body and placed it on the bed of the main bale in the family compound. I sit and wait while Robin goes inside to talk to the boy's mother. A woman who speaks English finally comes over to find out who I am and offers me tea with sugar. She says to come sit in the shade on the funeral bale, and then, come eat, but I want to wait for Robin. She finally comes out with the mother, a short, round-faced woman, and I give her a hug. I can't imagine anything worse than losing a child, especially one so young.
We go to pay our respects to the father, who is sitting on the dirt floor in the dark kitchen, his face blank. Then we sit on the kitchen bale to eat. The wood stove is an empty oil can with a hole cut near the bottom, just big enough for one stick of wood. They also use bamboo and coconut husks for fuel. The mother offers us water to wash our hands and then serves our food on plasticized brown paper, a modern substitute for banana leaves -- rice, crispy fried onions, duck and some kind of meat that Robin doesn't recognize. When Robin tells her that I don't eat meat, she fries two eggs for me, so I have to eat the eggs. Ducks, chickens and dogs prowl around the compound scavenging leftovers and offerings.
After we finish eating, the mother takes us to view the body, pulling back the curtain and the white sheet over his face. A scarf covers his throat, but otherwise he looks normal. Robin tells me that his throat exploded from drinking bleach and moth ball poison. Robin starts crying and hugging the mother, and another woman puts my arms around both of them. They will wash his body again before burying him around 5. Some men leave to make offerings at the beach where they died.
As we're walking back to Ponkok Frog, Robin tells me more details. In the suicide note, the boy said he loved his family, but he loved his wife more. Still, they will not be buried together. Both families took the bodies back for burial, but no cremation.
"How could this happen to young people from a good family?" Robin wants to know. "It must be the witch's black magic."
"I don't know why it happened," I say, "but stop focusing on black magic. Just ignore her. Don't giver her more power by buying into her trip."