D. Thomas Herlihy
It is, despite its now seeming inevitability, strange to be in this car, on this road. From the moment when my sorry, stiff limbs sank into the overused Japanese upholstery of the cab it was a contrast of the commonplace and the foreign. The cab driver as familiar to me as they all seem to be these days - the car far removed from my own Eurolimo.
But there have been too many late nights and lethargic afternoons in the bars of
A wet night in winter, August roughly. Despite my years here, I have never been comfortable referring to those months of a traditional English Summer; June, July and August, with the drab melancholy I have always associated with the dull, grey and damp December’s or January’s of southern England. The weather here in these month's most closely resembles those long wet, cold winter's months at home, days of rain and wind and chills.
This night was bleak squared. A fierce and belligerent South Easter bringing belts of rain, rattling and railing against the lamppost flags. Water pooling in the road and traffic lights failing. As is the way in Cape Town the drivers draw strength from the conditions and drive faster and faster, ever quicker through the growing black lakes of water. The darkness is only broken by the occasional stern white advertising hoarding and the flashing amber lights of the tow trucks that reap their crop on nights like this.
As we head out towards the airport past the informal settlements of Guguletu and Nyanga, I instinctively watch the pedestrian bridges for movement – looking for forewarning of a rock or brick thrown by a bitter and bored resident to come crashing down on me. What I might do with any hint or clue, I do not know – if I’d seen the signs in the weeks before this night perhaps they wouldn’t both be dead.
We arrive at the airport at close to 3am. Once I thought this my gateway to a fortune in Africa like some latter day, colonial, prodigal son. The late arrivals have already landed and the parked craft are being hurriedly refreshed with lemon scent and plagiarised coffee. Having passed passport control, I'm emigrating, executing an exit strategy and soon to be an émigré no more – I let the escalator carry me up to departures, the bar and back to the beyond.
I have a few hours until my flight departs, taking me to the place I still try to think of as home. But, if the truth be told I am as uncertain of where home really is as I was about where my heart lay these past few days. I pull my cap closer over my eyes as I walk into the bar and order a large vodka on ice. Sinking into the seat worn smooth by a million nervous travelers I resolve to leave some record of her story. It is the story she will never be able to tell.
Then the two tone blues approach in a pair. Looking left and right searching, they focus then approach with a third, airport designated adjudicator in tow, to spot and rule, the yellow gold of their badges bright,
– Mr Green, Mr Steven Green?
I grunt an affirmative. The ice in the glass rattles and hums as my hand shuffles.
– Please step this way we need to talk to you concerning several recent events.
The room blinks and blinds and fades, the fluorescent lights click. A rush of blood to the head and then fierce black as the immediate past reaches up and grabs.
©2008 Daniel Herlihy