The sun is now well enough behind my house that reading on my makeshift porch is no longer conducive. I break away from envisioning Henry David Thoreau and Walden Pond to attend to hunger pains.
It’s dark in my house so I use my cell phone to find a box of matches and light a few candles. The previous volunteer strung a cord from my family’s house to the rondavel for a single light, however, I rarely use it and prefer the ambiance of candlelight. When four streams of orange have created enough to glow to chop and boil, I turn on Prairie Home Companion and began assembling a meal.
“I wish I had a red wine to go with this,” I think as I boiled some pastel-colored pasta noodles a friend sent. My dinner wasn’t a culinary revolution, rather my trusted pasta tossed with tomatoes, caramelized onions, garlic and olive oil. I have miles to run the next morning so carbs seemed appropriated, although I also craved garlic bread but not enough to committing to baking a loaf or buying one from the nearby shop.
Garrison Keeler recalls tales of small town Minnesota, which aren’t that much different that small town South Dakota, and my mind wanders home. It’s Saturday. I’ve only been gone five months, but I forget what people do on Saturday nights. Maybe dinner and drinks or a movie.
My only entertainment option is more Walden Pond or an issue of TIME from October. I’d rather watch old episodes of “Parks and Rec” but don’t have the electricity to do so.
The onions are golden brown and the juicy tomatoes in several pieces. I pick out a variety of spices and wait for the noodles to reach the perfect state of mushy. Then a knock. It’s my host brother, who lives in Maseru but came home for the weekend. He tells me about an incredible organization he is interning for that teaches herd boys to read and write. He asks about my work and compliments the progress I’ve made since we last talked. He inspires me with each word. Unlike many of the Basotho I’ve met, Thebe wants to make his country better, he wants to see his people succeed.
He is called to help bring the animals in from the field and I return to my dinner. I decide that our five-minute conversation classifies as companionship and I will not spend the entire night alone.
In college and the years after, I never let myself stay in on a Saturday night. I always made plans, whether a night out or a rented movie with friends. I just couldn’t stay in. Eventually, I got older and was OK with a night at home by myself, but it was a rare occurrence.
I miss the nights of art shows, sushi and cocktails at our favorite downtown bar. I miss watching Saturday Night Live at a friend’s house with a sixpack. I miss watching movies on my living room floor with my mom and Paula. Mainly, I miss those people.
Yet, this is a time for me to learn to be OK with myself, to enjoy hanging out with myself. I should turn off the TV and enjoy a date with the person that I struggle the most with.
These Saturday nights may seem lonely, maybe pathetic, but these quiet moments in a chaotic world are simple yet crucial. They are the beginning of a new relationship and I can only see strength coming out of them.