Low-hanging mist covers the harbour. The port cranes rise above it like carrion birds, at once forlorn and foreboding. Winter has returned, swirling her extravagant robes of dark-hued clouds, luminescent mist and glittering rain. She’s a lady of motion; even her hushed moments brimming with the potential of the next sequence of steps in her dance.
Those cranes on their spindly legs hovering over the port remind me of the Marabou storks I saw a couple of years ago in a marshy patch on the shores of Lake Nakuru. The air was redolent with the smell of death and decay, seemingly amplified by the silence of the storks standing sentinel, occasionally pecking at almost (but not quite) unidentifiable carrion.
My opinion of them (the cranes, not the storks) is somewhat coloured by the fact that they stood watch over the scene where I nearly died. A couple of months ago, on the elevated highway that snakes between the city centre and the harbour, a young French lady called Fanny (I shit you not), recklessly swerved her rental car into my lane without indicating or looking. I responded instinctively, instantaneously, but on that section of elevated highway there is limited space. The force of her car slamming into mine was jarring; the horizon titled alarmingly as my car rocked to the furthest extremes of her suspension. For a brief moment the wheels on the left hand side left the tarmac. I kept my foot on the accelerator and with an iron grip kept the wheels pointing forward. When the wheels slammed down, the car rocked to the left. By now Fanny had awoken to the situation she caused, and belatedly swerved away. Alice (if you’re new to these writings, that’s the name of my current car) threatened to lose traction and spin sideways. If that were to happen with the curb mere centimetres away, she would roll… and probably roll right off the highway before plummeting four storeys down onto one of the car dealerships (more irony) that populate that section of the city. I counter-steered, geared down, checked my rear-view, switched on the hazard lights and eventually came to a section where I could pull over. It would’ve made for an amusing gravestone: “He was killed by Fanny.”
Many people don’t receive the benefit of a near-miss. So many leave us – all of them important in their own ways. Neither obscurity nor fame will keep the ferryman away. If you love music, the world is bereft of some remarkable individuals: Prince, Bowie and Lemmy among others.
Just a few weeks prior to my near-death experience I started dating Miss Dickenson, a relationship that has steadily blossomed into a treasure that exceed the limits of my language.
Which goes to show – yet again – that this universe can unleash startlingly sudden and unexpected life or death at any given moment.
I go surfing with Serote and Fleming a number of times in the ensuing months, never once feeling as concerned about the sharks I share the water with, as I do about the other drivers I share the road with.
Spring arrived early, as if to herald Ms Dickenson, and as quickly gave way to summer (him of the blue skies and warm days, who crowns the Frangipani trees in a profusion of white, yellow and pink). Courtesy of Serote, we go yachting several times – the first time accompanied all across the bay by playful dolphins.
Teumessia’s birthday entails dressing up like a rock star from any era. I do a 80s rocker impression; leather jacket, blue jeans and a bandanna on my head. Dickenson outshines everyone with a short-haired afro-wig, round-rimmed pink-tinted sunglasses and bell-bottoms. The party commences at Manila Bar with karaoke, and with a certain inevitability migrates somewhere around midnight to The Shack. Around 3am a guy is laying topless on one of the benches while three women take tequila body-shots off his chest…if that isn’t rock’n’roll I don’t know what is.
I return to the Transkei for 3 weeks – driving several thousand kilometres and reconnecting with a world far removed from modern city living. While I’m there, I learn how to save a newborn foal…but only after I fail to save her.
I welcome an adopted kitten into my home. There it is again – the yin and yang of existence: some come and some go.
Throughout it all there’s Dickenson, herself a cat in innumerable ways; graceful, independent, affectionate, passionate, fierce, intelligent and strong-willed. Like a cat she leaves unexpected gifts in her wake.
As for the kitten, her name is Blue, though my most-used endearment for her is “Satan”. I love her, but she’s an asshole. Yes, yes, you’ll say that all cats are assholes, but in a hall full of cats Blue would quickly be elected as the biggest asshole by her own kin. She’s a lovely creature notwithstanding; I’m self-diagnosing Stockholm Syndrome. This is what it must feel like to share a home with a velociraptor. Her bouts of intense affection are separated by periods of insane careening about the house. Any appendage that sticks out from under the blankets, or may almost be sticking out, will be mauled and gouged viciously – usually at 3am.
And yet, amid all this life and growth, I have moments of such profound…awareness. I look about me and find that there are things I understand about humanity, which I wish I didn’t. One such moment arrives around midnight on a dance floor; alone, surrounded by strangers heaving to House music. The deejay is enveloped in smoke, from the side of the stage a gyrating laser beam tracks through the smoke over the heads of the revellers, pierces an upraised glass of beer, leaving it momentarily glowing like molten gold. And the thought arrives:
Don’t tell Mom. I feel like an alien. I don’t know how to human anymore.
At times like these it is a quiet realisation. At other times, like when news breaks of the latest atrocity of men (it’s almost always men), this realisation is like a punch in the gut. All this abuse, rape, violence and murder occur with such inexorable regularity. I see the reasons, the excuses, and the justifications; and with a sense of nausea I also see how the perpetrators (and those that abet them) embrace their excuses with a callous and unerring disregard for the suffering they inflict on others and themselves. I am an alien; I think I comprehend these men but I could never be like them.
Perhaps that is why my eyes turn so regularly to the night sky? For my birthday we go into the mountain wilderness far from the city, where our nights conclude by laying underneath the tapestry of the Milky Way. Meteors streak like tracer bullets across the sky. It feels like the stars are shooting just for us.
This installment’s addition to Ye Stupendous Compendium of Free* Potential Band Names is: Human Anymore.