Shayna Meliker

If I close my eyes tight, I can revisit Asanda Ncwadi’s home at the top of the world. Asanda, our translator during our time in Grahamstown, lives in a mud shack on top of the hill in the poor township neighborhood.

And if I try hard enough, I can still run my fingers along the craters in his wrinkled teal walls. I can still hear the slow pit, pat, pit, pat — raindrops hitting the plastic bottom of the turquoise bucket set on his soft sepia floor. I can touch the shredded plastic and hard red handle of his schoolbag. I remember the taped windows, the cracked bedroom mirror, the holes in his scrap metal roof and the cloudlike water stains on those teal walls.

There’s a bed in the corner of the kitchen, or a kitchen in the corner of the bedroom — whichever way you’ll have it. In a drawing hung on the wall, a bearded herder smokes a cigar, his hat pulled low over his eyes. A yellow sun with thick white rays rises over the herder and his mountains, somewhere where it isn’t raining.

Outside Asanda’s house, dogs and black-tailed roosters wander past the rugged mud Monopoly shacks. As it rains, dirty water — the color of milk and sugared coffee — tumbles down the curves of the pebbled roads. Three little boys shriek with laughter as they chase a plastic bottle cap down the murky waterfalls.

Back home now, when I hear the rain’s pit, pat, pit, pat, I remember life at the top of the world.