It’s not that simple

“Tell her you want a divorce.”

If it were that simple, I would’ve done it the first time I laid eyes on Her. Because, it was that simple. She played Elvis too loudly on the bus and she looked at me and it was that simple. Because sometimes, someone looks at you and you forget everything before it happens.

But now, it wasn’t that simple. Because sometimes reality gets in the way of passions and desires and wishes. And instead of walking away from my wife, I plodded along with Her, telling Her I’ll walk away soon, just so I can be with Her. It wasn’t that simple. I had this realistic duty to stick it out or make it work, right? If only it were that simple.

“Drive home now and tell her.”

“If it were that simple.”

“Everything will be afterwards.”

steps

This time on the bus, there was a student scratching his formidable beard. He was wearing a grungy T-shirt with a triangle on it because he thought he was different. He tucked his eyes under a knitted beanie and got lost in his music, his head dropping and bobbing, wishing that this trip would end soon.

There was a middle-aged, plain woman not far away with a dirty hoodie. She paged through a glossy fashion magazine, half-wondering if she could pull off an Armani blazer. She raised her eyebrows at adverts with models who opened their mouths like they were ready to trap flying insects. She’d half-open hers, then close and page on. Not one to get her hair done and she bit her nails every now and then, probably from stress, anxious when her rent came around because she’d be living on noodles for a few weeks. But she still had enough for the glossy magazines. There was always enough for that.

On the far end, a young couple were holding hands. She was talking about the holidays, going to her parents and how proud they were of her, how she found the best thing in her life. She told him that he shouldn’t wear red anymore because it was too brash and in-your-face. He nodded along and squeezed her hand. She moved a finger around his jaw, finally silent and he did the same. They looked away from each other, then at their watches and then she found words again, saying he looked good in blue.

Next to me, an old man clenched his walking stick while he fingered his glasses, the rims, then scratched something that he found on his ironed-out, checkered trousers. He caught my eye and looked embarrassed so looked straight on, his hands steady but his knuckles still, dead-white on his stick.

“Good day…”

I smiled, “To you, too.”

He looked me over again and nodded as if he had come to some conclusion about me. A better one than he had of triangle boy.

“Where you headed?”

“Home. And you?”

He scratched his trousers again and sighed, “A light whiskey at home,” he chuckled, “then a newspaper with my wife.”

I bit my lip when he said ‘wife’. I would see mine tonight, maybe for the last time because it was time to tell her about Her. But it wasn’t that simple. It never was between us. When I met Annie ten years ago, it was easy at first because we found each other on a tennis court and it was fine because she had blonde locks and blue eyes and she ticked off the boxes and we dated, got married, went on honeymoon and shared our lives every night together. She would pour me a red, tell me about our friends, her parents, work and everything in-between. She paid for something we owed, what do I want for dinner the next day, we’re going here this weekend, it’s so-and-so’s birthday next and this is what we got them. Then she would kiss me and I’d kiss her and it used to be my favourite thing.

“You married? You look too young.”

I smiled again, almost forcefully. “I’m married. Eight years.”

He lifted his fluffy eyebrows and relaxed his grip.

“I’ve been for fifty…”

He looked straight on again in some thought and smiled to himself and looked at me again, embarrassed that I caught him in a memory.

“What’s the secret to lasting that long?” I had to ask, it sounded corny and romantic and something that the middle-aged woman’s magazine would feature. The wise, the wisdom, the secret to five decades. That would be the headline.

“Patience and not going through with anything else.”

I didn’t understand but I did. He explained it anyway.

“After I got married, I met someone pretty nice. Didn’t go through with it. And glad I didn’t. Life will test you a little bit along the way but then you figure out that you love and love will last.”

I didn’t understand but I did, not wanting to believe him.

“What if it’s a mistake?”

He shrugged heavily like he thought that it might be. What if he made a mistake?

“You will never know. Or you will and die unhappy.”

“Are you happy?”

He looked straight on, not answering for a while and turned to me finally, pointing at the couple at the end. “Think they’re happy?”

She was talking about her mom and he looked on, he moved his fingers between hers, clearly not listening but consuming everything, everything about her. Like I did.

“I think so…”

“I’m happy. I’ve decided I am. Are you?”

“I think I’m about to decide I am.”

He chuckled and gripped his stick a little tighter, watching the couple look at each other in silence again. He looked relieved because he knew how much she liked to talk about everything. She was playing with his collar, admiring the way he kept looking his best around her.

Her dropped her hand to my forearm on the bus, unsteady. I smiled at her as her headphones poked out. “Sorry, sorry, sorry!” she rummaged through an untidy bag and hadn’t noticed Elvis fell out of her ears.

Love Me Tender

Love Me Sweet

Never Let Me Go

She looked up at me and apologized, her hand back on the polished pole. She smiled at me and retrieved her headphones again, one popped in her ear again while the other dangled with her darker hair. An old lady sitting behind us scoffed and looked away.

“I’m not very good in public places,” she mumbled at me, blushing.

“You’ve got Mr. Presley, though. That counts for something.”

She chuckled, a genuine smile as she took the dangling ear piece that rested on her shoulder and held it out to me. Was she asking me to take it? Was she amused?

“You heard it?” Her eyebrows clenched together and it was something I wanted to keep seeing.

“Everyone can, fortunately.”

She held it out, a question again, a look in her eyes, a fantastical sparkle, an interest, a question. It was simple. I took the ear piece and we finished the song together, silent, staring, smiling. And it was that same consuming power. You didn’t have to listen to what she was saying but how she’d say it, how she’d lift her eyes and look at you like you were something different, how she’d move her hands while she was talking or how she thought when the lyrics slowed and suddenly ended. And the childlike excitement guessing what song would come up next.

Annie had fallen asleep while I finished my book, her head in the crook of my neck and she was lost in something, her eyes twitching and grasping in scenes in front of her. I decided to move, waking her as she opened her eyes and looked confused for a couple of seconds before catching my eyes and realizing where she was.

“Bad dream?”

She smiled at me, shut her eyes again and breathed in heavily.

“No, it was perfect. We were here.”

We were at our home, in this hammock, our weekend spot when we decided not to immerse ourselves in weekend plans. When we decided we just needed each other’s company for a while, creating our own impenetrable bubble.

“That sounds kind of perfect…”

“Except we had marshmellows.”

I chuckled and moved my body further down so that our noses were almost touching and I could see her properly, her eyes still finding focus.

“I apologise I can’t live up to your wild dreams.”

She shrugged and kept still, her left hand grazing my neck, deep in thought. I wanted to know what thought she was in. She seemed to read my own mind.

“I’m just thinking. If I dreamt about us, right now, right here, then it is happiness, right?”

It seemed ideal. The way we could occupy each other’s time and spend it reading and sleeping in a hammock, afternoon beers slowly swaying off the time. It seemed ideal.

“I think so. I don’t think it can get much better,” I took her hand, soft and small, and tried to see something different in the grooves I was so accustomed to, “I think it’s perfect…”

There was this almost perfect swivel on her palm, right in the centre, something that could only be mastered by something God-like, something supernatural. I had not noticed it before, the way it marked the palm, like someone had stamped and branded her. But it was softer and it glided between her other lines. I knew her lines. All of them. Just, not this one.

**

The old man got up slowly as if preparing his muscles for the walk home. The couple were straight off, the woman leading the way, slowly cursing the signal on her phone. Formidable beard was scrolling through his music, huffing and puffing, checking his watch. Hoodie had rolled up her magazine and found her way out, checked her pocket for change she would need for some cut-rate dinner for one.

“Good day!” The old man gave me a wave. Only then did I notice his newspaper that he tucked under his brown jacket. The same he’d read with his wife of fifty years. New news, new news every day. But the same old, same old.

Her had fallen asleep and she fell into the crook of my neck and it felt like Annie but different. Instead of falling prey to idealistic dreams, Her was peaceful and still, her lips holding the only faint movement. And her brows were drawn back, unmoved. Her hand was resting on my chest and I watched it closely. I watched new grooves, new paintings, new lines that I have never seen before. All universally linked. Some freckles on the outside of her hand, three that made a triangle and some that made a half-circle. Then she caught me staring.

“Entranced, are we?”

“Just looking. I like seeing different stuff about you.”

She lifted her finger and poked my chest. “If that makes you happy.”

For the last two years, I’ve been counting the steps from the stop to home. Seventy three steps. And I’ve been doing it because I’d make it seventy three – even if I had a larger stride that day or had to trot in drizzle. Sometimes, I’d take my time. It was always seventy three, though. Maybe it was the routine and complete truth about it that I liked and needed. Because nothing was the same anymore and this was. It was just so simple.

Thirty five.

Through a window, a family is readying the dinner table. A little girl trying to place the cutlery in line with the wonderful bouquet. Do they always have that presentation?

Forty nine.

There was a man with greyed dreadlocks asking for money. He wanted dinner tonight because he just had an apple today. Do I have change? I found some in my pocket. He blessed me.

Sixty one

The stairs were also part of this. Our postbox was empty, it was empty for a while. Annie usually got the post. She put it on our side table at the entrance usually but now that I think of it, there was nothing there for a while. The Post must be striking.

Seventy

Seventy One

Seventy Two

Seventy Three.

“Annie?”

There was a hush that was unfamiliar because she’d be in the kitchen usually cooking whatever we discussed the night before. It was a few more steps to our bedroom. A few more to our bed.

There was a rushed panic, Annie and another man, tangled, breathless, and panicked. There was flick of sheets. Seventy three. Seventy three.

I could run away, I was going to run away, I should run away.

It’s not that simple.

OppiKoppi, Paradeisos

Excuse me
while I lose myself
In this dome of dusty tracks, history reloaded & reality deconstructed

Misconduct, reconfigured, shamelessly blurred
The docks fitted with stale beer, hefty blankets of smoke and gore 
Smells of sweet guilt
The couch fleas sucking and sipping
Jumping to the same rhythm
The one in their heads that burn
Let this warped congregation sing its hymns
Oh holy, holy, holy
We’re lost, come find us

The dirt, musk, trample with malice
It smells of a shared promise
One we made to the Gods
That we’ll surrender and scream
dance until our lungs need help
Fortitude within us
Unless you’re on your bed
Crying to be taken
Why would you cease this warped paradise? 
One that promises you complete freedom
And one that ends too suddenly
Leaving you heaving for more 

All Aboard!

Here’s the thing about getting older: you decide if you do. Well, yes, we age, it’s noticeable, physically and psychologically, but all in all we decide if we’re ultimately old even though society deems us so when we’re tapping away at taxes and medical aid and car payments and watching the early evening news. We can’t go out two nights in a weekend because it’s exhausting and we’re slowly getting used to sophisticated wine, laughing at our younger selves who were bowing down before R18 bottles in Pick n’ Pay. And it’s funny to think that was just 3 years ago. And that back then, we could get away with wearing unimportant hoodies and jeans and buying late-night cheeseburgers without any inclination of trying to shop for Woolies salads and pro-Noakes foods. We could also get away with our parents buying us concert tickets.

Getting old.

It’s such a negative term, isn’t it? When I turned 25 last week, the questioning, the remarks were expected: tannie, ouma, jou ou ding. The phrase “a quarter of a century” terrified me. Mostly because I sounded like an old, hackneyed ship that was pulling into a port, creaking off the waves while locals prayed that my anchors would work. I hope ol’ quarter of a century makes it to shore! Aye! Aye! And I’d sit steadily while seagulls pooped and plastered the loose decks. And all I could think about the day after my birthday was: Abandon ship! Abandon ship! Luckily on my special day, I was surrounded by family and friends who made me realise how young at heart I was every year around my birthday. The long, hard hangovers the next day revealed it, too.

comfrt

But the 20-somethings are a little overwhelming in that you’re supposed to harness some sort of ‘adulthood-ship’. There goes that reference again. Our parents and grandparents nudge us with thoughts about settling down, paying for more and eventually making a new human to endure the same situation we’re faced with now. I won’t poke people who are in that situation now. Just that I would personally like my ship in working order, several advancements with a masterful crew before I intend on reaching that point. And why invest, if you haven’t finished working on yourself?

Let me stop being mildly pessimistic about this. I was just thinking that perhaps it’s okay to delay this ‘adulthood-ship’ for as long as possible; that we can give a big finger to the idea that by 25, we’re supposed to have found what we really want in life and where we’re supposed to be. Because, I believe we won’t for a while and that some people, even at 40, don’t fit into that perfect situation in their heads.

Maybe we never will, but we should never stop searching or trying and believing that we can or that we could reach some sort of conclusion (perfect or not) that makes us happier. While we may be more settled, pay our usual scheduled payments and hope for the odd night when you become ‘wild’ and order tequila, there is an idea that ageing is becoming comfortable.

Becoming anchored.

In truth, it should be a spring board into a new realm. It should almost be an uncomfortable excitement where plans are doings and anchored ships are only anchored to replenish and restore and rearm for fresh adventures and new unexplored areas. Sometimes, we have to do it ourselves, sometimes with a crew at hand, but either way, it’s us steering and reaching for a situation that is never stagnant. Don’t become stagnant. There’s nothing more hopeless than seeing someone settle on how things have gone instead of them paving a way that is more suited to what they want out of life. It’s a little easier said then done. Well, until it’s done – then you look back and see how it easy it was changing your attitude towards something.

Abandoning ship ain’t so bad after all and letting loose of those reigns is okay, too. As long as you have an idea or prolong that need to search for one, drowning will never be an option. Wanting more is not selfish. It’s almost necessary in a Life that commands normality. Wanting more is a little taste of your soul knowing and crying out for something other than what is around you – even though you’re thinking that wanting change is just some ‘quarter of a century’ phase that we’ll all get over. It’s not. When that little voice in the back of your mind tugs at new ideas, it’s because your heart wants it.

All aboard. It’s up to you.
 

8 Streets (part 1)

I was right on time. Of course. The line at the counter was beginning to fade fast – 9:56am was the ideal time to order coffee without encountering the regular morning-goers, the sleepy queue, the confusion from the employee who’s just started out; his curly hair waving from side to side with no clear reference of whose cappuccino is meant to go out first. No real concept of the specials, the tuna wrap or chai mocha latte, extra foam. Wait, why a tuna wrap today? Usually fish isn’t a favourite. The manager, a small Greek man with a little moustache, looked on, clearly amused that the new employee couldn’t control a line of caffeine orders. Chai was too risqué for me. Black far too businesslike and desperate for 9:57am in the morning.

I recognised the middle-aged blonde in front of me. She always held her palms together – like she was about to wail in prayer. I didn’t know her name. But I’d say she worked nearby and somewhere where appearances didn’t really matter. She didn’t paint her nails properly. Not that I painted my nails. Every morning she looked undecided on her order even though she stuck to a plain, black coffee. Two and a half sugars. Not businesslike – just a hurried, frighteningly sad, deafening anxiety – a fix-me-up-from-this-sad-life sort of order. Then she’d clasp the cup as if it were her dying lover who was moments away from being taken away. She had no other thoughts.

I could recite the room. Particular mention to orders, dress, morning emotions and the playlists that played soberly through the café – new-age indie bands that had far too much independent beer to be considered important anymore. Still hopelessly relevant unfortunately.

9:57-and-a-few-seconds-am was away from all the fuss. I timed it. It was the ideal time. Before lunch. Before the receptionist who grabbed thirty minutes of her soppy book, the couple who shared a sandwich even though the man wanted his own, the aspiring writer who didn’t write but who fancied a pastry every few minutes and then would change his mind and write a few lines that he considered Fitzgerald-esque. He’d delete it all a minute later. Everyone was at the office now, through their morning e-mails, through playing catch-up to the goings-on after dark. I didn’t have an ‘after dark’ experience – not in the societal claim for it, anyway. I got home, made dinner, sat in front of the TV, caught up on the news and retired. Right side of the bed.

“Standard cappuccino, foam.”

It was my usual. I didn’t eat the complimentary butterscotch biscuit, either. I pocketed it for later when I rewarded myself after typing forty pages of reports. That would be done by 13:07pm or a few minutes after if I have a few more e-mails to send out.

“Name?”

“Paul.”

“Paul! Cap! Foam!” he shouted to no one in particular. The other young girl was still in the kitchen putting on her apron and checking her messages.

The employee was more controlled today – his voice had a little more direction. I had 13 minutes to get back to the office. An old lady (previously not in the vicinity before at 9:58am) ordered an iced tea (peach) behind my order, looked up and smiled at me. Crooked and yellow. I forced a smile back and nodded politely. I would remember her order if she returned. They only stocked peach at the café – I never ordered it. They could get it wrong. Why order that when the café doesn’t specialise in it? It was a petty afterthought.

“Nice day we’re having?”

I nodded.

She was fiddling with coins – a fifty cents piece, two rand, three five cent pieces and a crummy ten rand note that resembled some flimsy loo paper. She didn’t have a purse. Just her purple coat pockets, her tiny, self-knitted beanie and a plastic orange ring that one would most likely find in a lucky packet or those machines at the game arcade where you had to control an uncontrollable claw.

“Paul! Cap!”

11 minutes.

“Paul? That’s a lovely name. I knew a Paul a very long time ago…” The old lady pursed her wrinkled, thin lips thinking about that other Paul. Back in a time where she was probably in his arms, rummaging through her then-modern coat for sticky notes. Crooked, yellow.

I nodded. “Yes, it’s lovely.”

Was it lovely? I had always given my parents an ear-full because Paul was so normal but they insisted because they were church people and church people liked the name Paul. It was loaded with salvation and doing the right thing always. I always did good.

“Not sure where he is now. He could be dead.”

I could, too. 10 minutes. I was gripping my cappuccino hard, feeling the heat travel across my whole hand and wondered if the employee had put on the coffee sleeve. I looked down. He hadn’t.

I peeked at my watch. 9 minutes.

“Sorry, I have to go. I hope you find Paul.”

I wasn’t quite sure what I meant by that. I didn’t really care for the other Paul or the old lady’s memories surrounding the name. I had 8 and a half minutes before I had to be by my desk. I hope she finds Paul.

 

*****

Fuck this, I’m late anyway. I needed coffee. I was working at the salon till lunch time then I’d fuck off and make some excuse about me having a doctor’s appointment or something. Just tell your supervisor that it’s personal and you’ll get off with no questions. Then I’ll dive into that vodka that’s chilling in my fridge. Bra off, baby. It was my routine to get stuck in before Michael, my anal roommate, returned and poked his head in, asking for rent money or if I care to wash the dishes sometime. I never care to wash the fucking dishes. Nobody cares to wash the dishes, Michael.

“Black, two sugars. Three, sorry.” The extra was for trying to get through the morning where I had two appointments on top of each other – one, a lady with dull, brown hair. So dull, so brown, so normal in fact that there was no real promise of me sprucing it up. The other: a bride-to-be who was having some test-runs done before her big day. Unfortunately, her entourage came with her and her first trial left me aching for a final release so I could get away from their insistent nagging and “Ohw mai gawd!” shrieks. The salon’s glossies don’t help the plastic crew either who seem permanently surprised at celebrities who have a pinch of cellulite or god forbid, a wrinkle under their eye. What a wedding it’ll be.

The boring guy who was always there was behind me, checking his watch insistently and fixing his eyes upon the drab that needed coffee. The type who ironed his shirt three times in the morning, waking up early to get in work before his pre-work coffee outing before his mundane, suited job. Then he’d get back home sharply and count his video games and action figures. Well, he was the type anyway – the kind that Michael was when I got home and needed a glass or five after dealing with the human race.

The kid manning the morning counter was whispering orders to himself while the manager was scratching a scab on his forearm. Sometimes I wondered why I came to this particular café – it wasn’t convenient, the service was average and the speakers wailed out soppy plucky-guitar songs about trees and new-age revolutions.

“Your black coffee.”

They had run out of sleeve things for the takeaways and the manager didn’t look too disturbed and boring guy had politely moved on from an old lady who was rummaging through her last-ditch change for the month.

“I probably won’t find him,” the lady mumbled as boring guy grabbed his cap and left in a hurry, again reading his watch as if it were life and death. He was either staring at my hands, his watch or scowling at the kid who looked like he was about to pass out.

The old lady smiled at me, her teeth a little wonky. What did people use for toothpaste back in the day? When was toothpaste a thing? I bet boring guy could mouth off history surrounding toothpaste.

“Someone told me that no one should have more than two sugars in their coffee,” the old lady smiled and hugged herself, swaying back and forth, “but who gives a hoot?”

1935 gave a hoot.

“I need the sugar.”

“Oh honey, nothing fixes you like yourself.”

“I’m not sure what that means.”

“Sometimes, you realise that the extra sugar doesn’t really help. It’s just your mind saying it does and you keep going back to it, because you think it’ll help. But, it’s all about really deciding that you’re alright.”

1935 had a lot of drugs, didn’t it? I nodded at the lady and took a big swig of my highly-sweetened coffee, making sure I smacked my lips as I took in the deadly aroma that would save my life. And it helped because the frightening hot cup dug into my skin, the lines of my palm growing red but it didn’t feel like I needed to let it go. I took it.

“It works for me.”

 

***********

Amanda’s hand was perpetually on my right leg. In the beginning, it was kind of hot. Because she had this ‘technique’ – the slow planting of her hand that would start just above the knee and move up slowly towards my upper thigh; the slight tilt of her head towards my ear and the very slow, deliberate whisper of how great I was, how happy she was, how excited I made her. A whisper that took me. It was something that my body couldn’t forget in a hurry. And I loved the way her hair smelled when she tilted forward, too – it was some sort of caramel and nougat thing with ordinary soap. But I loved it and craved it. And her shoulders had freckles and I was done.

Twelve months later, a ring later, and her hand had become lazy – my lap a constant seating place and then she’d mouth off her plans, her diary, her friends, the wedding and how I’m not paying attention. The tilt, the whisper was gone. And I missed it. And I missed the way her hand looked on my leg, without the rock that cost me my life. And I pictured it differently; that I’d have her whispering secrets only we knew and approvals and wishes everyday and it would make me want to take her home, undress her and make her the happiest person alive and whisper back. Because I always used to whisper back. And I wanted to touch her shoulders but I had started to hesitate.

I don’t know.  About three months before the wedding and I was hoping her hand would slick a little more excitedly now and that she’d concentrate on a seafood dinner I was planning tonight instead of my suit and tie and how moody the florist is. The mornings in the café showed Amanda’s mulish side – her insistence on perfection. So much so that I wondered if I was still perfect to her.

“You want the tuna wrap? To share? No chips or anything.”

I also figured that it was never really a question. She insisted – but directed it to me in a question to mock some sort of control that I could ever possess.

“Sounds great.”

The waiter flicked his eyebrows in surprise as he scribbled our order and glanced at me quickly as if to ask where my balls had gone.

A tuna wrap? What was this place on about? Amanda also liked ridding us of sides before the wedding so I was onto a prescribed amount of calories, greens and smoothies that taste like asparagus and powdered cardboard. Before the ring, there was no real agenda or prescribed anything. And I got my own meal.

“So Jonathan said we’ll need more flowers on the main food table. Lilies. I hate roses.”

“I love lilies.”

“I know. So I told Jonathan it’s a go. And then I have my hair trial soon. Mom said I need a few more practice runs to prepare for anything. Your suit fitting is at 3.”

“You put it in my calendar.”

“And then we’ll need to decide on cake.”

“Flavour?”

“Vanilla. Chocolate is too…childish.”

“You love chocolate. Remember when we had that chocolate fondue on our third date or something? You were putty in my hands.”

“Not for our wedding. Not now.”

“Vanilla then.”

She smiled and her hand had momentarily moved and I expected the tilt but it didn’t come. Instead, she moved to collect her notepad to make sure we sample everything vanilla. Standard. How many variations of vanilla can be approved and what vanilla combination tastes better than another vanilla combination?

“Everyone likes vanilla.” She packed her notepad away and our tuna wrap arrived in all its glory. The tortilla loose around the fish with droppings of rabbit food to enhance the maroon plate that’s just been washed. Some guy at the counter caught my eye and frowned at the idea of tuna for breakfast. I envied his complimentary butterscotch biscuit.

“Ah, more greens. I can feel my muscles crying for it.”

Amanda moved her hand away and put a serviette on my lap.

“Don’t be clever. This will make us fresh for the day. Then a cheat a week will be alright. Dr. Grant says that our cholesterol should be in check now. I know how you loved your steak.”

“I do.”

This was when I fantasized that she’d scurry over and whisper at how she was right and how great I looked in a blue shirt. She used to do that a lot so I’d wear blue a lot just so I could expect her to lean in. I’d also imagine that we’d buy steak and chocolate and actually have a night in where we indulge a little and we forget about the plans and other people for a while. That she’d give into my usual blue shirt, take it off and take me to bed. And we’d forget about calories and doctor orders and the 2.5 kids we’d have one day and the monotonous way we’d go about our lives. And that I’d get excited to see her freckles and the way she needed me in some moments – so deeply that I felt like I was alive just for her.

I scooted closer and put my hand on her lap and she looked up and smiled at me. A little surprised. I shut her up. Finally.

Before I could whisper anything, an old lady pressed against my shoulder as she held her cup of something in her gloves as if it were her Philosopher’s Stone, her last meal.  She looked at Amanda and me and then just at me and remembered something in a moment.

“I’m sorry.” she said quietly.

I was sorry, too.

 

 

 

Your Majesty

In December, I had an opportunity to visit the Victoria Falls. What I had known of it was stuck in history books and hearsay. I knew it as “a big waterfall”, an immense natural wonder. Little did I know that it was so much more than that. That nature cared for no man. That it ran wild and free and beautifully and that it wouldn’t stop. That the visitors wouldn’t stop.

vic

If there was any sort of sign in the Universe to let us know that God or a higher being was around us, then I think the quiet of nature, the loudness of nature, the simplicity of nature and it being complicated at the same time is that sign. There’s more to us than what we know.

And it’s in those moments where we can just look on and feel grateful that we are witnessing, that we can be inspired.

Your Majesty

 

Gliding fingers on the face of steel strings

And Livingstone’s son roars

masquerading as heaven’s pool

but the devil and ghosts and angels appear

swallowing the smoke

hearing it enter your heart

so it can never leave

drowning so words can’t cry

humans mould themselves into a great self

unaware that the thunder hits us all

we make up reasons that this is the only life we have

until the smoke whirls, falls, whirls, falls

no chance of a trapped corner

Vicky with her ten-minute smoke break

where the world is forgotten

Your Majesty, it roars

without an interlude

it growls at the human who thinks

that all of this doesn’t matter

As Africa bleeds hope

 the skies place a cloth over the torn table

The smoke that thunders

falling and yelling

Can you hear me, Can you hear me

Your Majesty, it roars

Platform A

(Me waiting at the Gautrain station; Was feeling a tad bored waiting for my train. Wrote something on a piece of paper and found it in my handbag yesterday)

 

There’s a buzz, a machine

linked to a schedule

and if you listen closely

there’s a muted sense of

 

absolute adventure

 

a cry for the box

four cars that reek of routine

vessels that hold the

one, two, three

Who should I pretend to be?

the deepest gates

where will I go

who will I be

 

The faces

interchangeable

 

pretty robots who seek

nothing but the start

the finish

raindrops that scatter

gather

form their own kind

when so many are off to be one

and make your plans

the bolts will listen

but your mind

it’ll lift off

and decipher the formidable

the minutes pretending

they’re nothing

or everything

 

the carts of comfort

become torture chambers

Die volgende stasie is

whatever you want it to be

where will one go

who will I be

 

The faces

interchangeable

 

 

 

The concert

 

Forty thousand memories

and lips that remember the words

Off radio days, that lonely playlist, the TV at 2am

Hands to the sky in case this moment is gone too quickly

A friend’s glance that lasts for the verse you both know all too well

That breathe-in-eyes-closed-tight runaway instant

the lights fade

and we erupt to another consciousness

Where nothing can touch you but the words

 

Forty thousand reasons why they’re there

Forty thousand whispers to the chorus

A moment where you can scream

your pain

Your happiness

Your ecstasy

In a choir that feels the same way

The forty thousand bodies turned facing

Lights in the dark, a man who grips a microphone

His guitar telling a joke everyone knows

But everyone keeps listening to

 

And in the crowd

A girl pretends she’s written it all

It’s just for her

The man walks away from his friends and raises a head

It’s just for him

The front-row leaps

The back crew crane and are lost

 

It’s just for you my friend

 

And in the echoes,

the encores,

the queues,

the hours that sting of awe afterwards

Your heart is trapped

In the forty thousand

 

And it’s all for you my friend

 

Bravery

(for my brother Brent on turning 21)

He holds a knowing look
a bravery that’s understated
but deafening
a kindness that reaches beyond
a person’s heart
With honesty, with age, with wisdom
comes a man who holds more than he knows
a man that holds love for the world’s unknown
the world’s little mysteries
his world’s people
his world’s love

He understands his place
treats the universe with a sense that it might go away
he will hold your hand because some day it will go away
he’ll be there if you need him
whenever you call
he arrives with a humble stride, a steady hand
a helpful glance to the sky
everything, everything will be alright

he has a never-ending hope
that he will climb any worry
that he will conquer any struggle
because he has already been knocked down
he’s gotten up
stronger
braver
wiser
better than before

And now the world is new
and it waits for him

His eyes bright, sensing that over at the horizon
there’s another, and another, and another
that’s how he lives
that each dream sprints onto fresh dreams
that each day can be filled with new faces
new desires
a sense that nothing will be better
than a family’s embrace
a crush’s kiss
a father’s teaching
a mother’s helpful way
A sister’s knowing, shared thought

So go on
because there’s a path that has never been walked on
it’s stones brushed new from the earth
the wayward journey
well, it’s up to you to carve the way

So Brave one
beside life’s crushing, awful, beautiful, splendid moments

Remember that you are you
that nothing can alter your way
that you hold so much purpose
so much grace
so much love

No one can beat you off the track
that no one can waver your head
that no one can speak of you without knowing
your heart

Ptown Plekke, Jozi Jols

There is a stink of Kurt Darren outside Loftus’ beloved walls. The sizzling boerewors en tjops. Lynwood Road traps four schools in proud blazers as the purple pavements stand proud and steady.  O, Liefling! Union.

There is a lady that wears a leopard. Proud, too. Her eyes hidden behind Italian shades. A pendulum that sways with the equal distribution of boutique bags. Reptiles that hold Madibas in their bottomless jaws. Bottomless mocha-frotho-latte contraptions.

 Skinny jeans between okes with sharp khaki. Manicured politician gardens and Jaguars that dodge fevered taxis with the hoot-hoot ego that comes with the ‘GP’ design. A slow grapple on tar towards the neighbours forty clicks away. A promise of the N1 chaos and turnoffs that host skeletal boys who point to their mouths with promising eyes. A minute away, Waterkloof’s gates hold their heads high.

Pretoria_City-view_2242

Houghton – said with an accent that needs practice.
Sandton –said with an accent that needs a stiff upper lip.
There is choreography of models that sweat.
If your pecks ain’t big enough, get out bru.

If you don’t play rugby, get out.
There’s an art class for you.
If you don’t sokkie, if you don’t braai
Then the Capital will skop you out
School bag over the shoulders, barefoot break-time

And the Rolex is pulled back, glanced over
The train silent in its approach
The business deals between business deals
and the media that cracks the stories
of Africa’s mighty Big Apple
the high-rise secrets
Big City Life

jozi

As jy mooi luister, kan jy dit hoor
Hatfield se studente wat stumble
soos masjiene wat drink nodig het
Oiling of the cog
Arcade se rockers
Presley’s se Jackie Louw

Monster hats
and the zooted rims
that need a little shine
The South rises
and there is hurry of fists
dancing to the rhythm of summer

Oppi Koppi: the dusty otherworld

 When we die one day, hopefully everyone would have had the taste of an Oppi Koppi weekend. It was my first and while I’ve gone to a few local festivals, I didn’t quite feel like I had roped in enough knowledge about how to prepare myself for Oppi. I figured that no one can really prepare. All you need to do is embrace the unpredictability of dust-covered blankets, buckets full of ill-prepared vodka mixes and the characters we meet along the way. And there are definitely characters that will stand out in their entire hippie, boertjie, poppie, festival junkie state. I didn’t know where I quite fitted in – I was the first-timer with all the excitement I could hold. From Boom Street to Foktrappies, I encountered people who hung on people, the exposed backs and bums of tall dancers who wanted to share their history, music, cigarettes or whatever dear potions they mumbled off. From pyjama outfits to animal suits, the festival allows for a balls-to-the-wall sense of being – anything goes, anyone goes.

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 And I kept thinking “Why haven’t I done this sooner?”

There might be a cloud of dust in your throat (the dust was not an understatement that’s for sure) and hard ‘beds’ to go home to (if you happen to remember where your camp is) but there will be an emotion that will trump it all – that you’re in a congregation that adores music and the coming-together of fans or people who just want to break free from the mindless, day-to-day tik-tik-tiking on their keyboards. Perhaps, Oppi is an annual bite of heaven; or something that everyone aspires to after they turn 21: an ever-present youth.

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From Jeremy Loops’ seductive, crowd-pleasing antics to the drawl of Mr. Folk in Matthew Mole, the congregation moved like everyone knew everyone. From new experiences in Bye Beneco and the chilled vibes in Al Bairre and Beatenberg, Oppi seemed to churn out musicians in their element. From the absolute mastery of Bittereinder on stage to Crash Car Burn’s old favourites, it seemed that everything that reminded people of work and life and bills and comfort disappeared. And for now we were all experiencing Oppi 2013 in all its glory – and my first one. With the “awe ma se kinders” from Jack Parow to Yellowcard’s flashback to our teenage angst, there was no better way to spend a weekend.

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And with the Redbull Stage demonstrating the liberty of dance while the rock stages attracted oldies with ‘Oppi ‘92’ t-shirts, there was an acceptance of all. And yes, we’re all somewhat segregated with our different likes and dislikes but there is no hostility. A music festival is so different and maybe we can all act like perfect friends in that environment because it seems other-worldly; like we’re spending a weekend in an un-burstable bubble away from daily news reports.

 

The chit-chattering of 4am teeth when the winter seems too long

Deep-dark thumbles and chapped lips

The knocking of portaloo friends and the stink of

wine, smoke, dust

as the sun sets and we order our desserts

The round glasses, the cowboy hats and penguin hats

Coats and jeans and underwear mismatched

And we’re all out of place

The dying, cold fires and tornados of air

The bounce of half n’ half

The colours that make us

All the same but entirely different

The hipster cools

The local wanderers

The zebra pack and whistles late at night

The scream and crackle of the braai

Kisses

And the ‘good morning, round three’ calls

Couches that are planted in tradition

And flags like pirates after the bounty

The promise of a one-day shower

 

Why thank you Oppi…