Please don’t think me some obsessive type.
It’s only been four hours since you left. It may seem overly keen that I’m emailing you already, but in truth I can’t think of anything else to do. Cape Town seems like the most mundane place in the world without you here. Occasionally, Table Mountain is folded away and, sometimes, the vuvuzelas play only “The Last Post”.
You left earlier than I expected this morning and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye properly. As I recall, I just regarded you quizzically through the gauze of torpor and muttered a few unseemly syllables in your direction. Afterwards, I fell straight back to sleep and immediately dreamt that you were still lying next to me, with your dirty blonde curls tickling my nose. When I woke up sneezing I was devastated anew to find you gone.
I also had a big lump on my forehead, you didn’t whack me one in the night, did you?
In the dark of your departure, this once arresting city can no longer detain me. You were Cape Town to me. I’ve still got six hours before my flight – what am I to do? Maybe I could revisit our old haunts, go to Pickwick’s Bar and sit on Our Couch like Greyfriars Bobby, quivering at footsteps, waiting for you to turn up. Squat there nursing a milkshake and fingering the holes in the battered upholstery in a doleful fashion, anticipating that hydroponic lamp smile of yours that can illuminate even the dingiest of dives, the shadiest shebeen.
No doubt as I languish there, monitoring the swinging saloon door like a nervous outlaw, the barman will catch me at it. Like any good Central Casting barman, he’ll break off from polishing his shot glasses, sling his tea towel over his shoulder, and sigh wistfully. I’ll be just another broken down sucker on Long Street, this bloke’s seen it all before. What aspects of human behaviour could a barman on this Long Street of short, drunken lives possibly not have observed?
Maudlin little bastard, aren’t I? My last day in South Africa, and it’s heaven here, really. Assuming you’re a tourist or part of a certain 9.2% of the population.
Hang on...oops, no, it’s alright. I thought the bloke behind the pay desk was laughing at me for a second there - but he’s just chuckling to himself. I’d swear he’s wearing orthopaedic flip-flops. He’s currently eating chicken’s feet whilst looking at upskirt paparazzi shots on his greasy monitor. Tickled by Lindsay Lohan’s vagina.
He’s caught me looking at him now. With one foot dangling from his mouth he resembles an errant cat.
I mention this for no other reason than to provide a little local colour. Christ, I think I need to get out of here and into the open. In the sudden absence of your smile, everything should look better with a lick of sunshine on it. It usually does, even Robben Island looked quite pretty on the day we went, eh? No wonder Nelson Mandela always managed to keep himself so chipper.
I’m limbo dancing now. I really just wanted to use these hot and frozen hours to say that it’s been an absolute pleasure meeting and spending the last few days with you Amber – you really rounded off my trip in fine style. You’ll always be very special to me. And, yes, further to your demands, I WILL be seeing you in Sydney soon! I can call in and see my mate Tommy while I’m there. I just need to save for a while. Please bear with me.
I’ve still got the two little affixed koalas you gave to me. I’m going to carry them with me to ward off evil Customs officials on my Dubai connect. For some unknown reason, they always seem to single me out as a potential enemy of the state, some biro stain on the fabric of society.
For just a second, I always think they’ve found me out.
I’m a reformed character now, a re-fried being, but maybe I’ve still got that faint whiff of the gallows about me. I’m now the kind of ludicrously affable person who even smiles at dogs as I pass them on the street. I salute magpies and carefully extricate spiders from bathtubs with the same care and consideration I would extend to trapped pit ponies, their backs critically crushed by falling joists. Nobody likes to be alone in the dark.
I help old ladies to cross the street and I only ever lost one. Sometimes the gout makes it hard for them to keep pace, but I still leave flowers by her lamppost. I affectionately tousle the hair of small, passing children in an appropriate, non-Sex Register way. I’m the type of bloke that geese say “boo” to.
When I was travelling in the U.S., I would be selected for additional security screening before every internal flight I took. I would be forced to stand in line with eleven swarthy men called Jorge, before being ushered into a tiny room to assume the Christ pose for a near-genital patdown and bag swab. Sometimes, I long to be a Muslim woman, with all the inherent privilege and advantage that position affords. I fancy I would fly into Charles de Gaulle Airport and don Halloween vampire teeth under my burka to startle the Immigrations lady when she comes in for a peek behind the veil.
On that startlingly confessional note, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best on your continuing travels through Africa, Amber. As a personal favour to me, do try not to get eaten, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.