Nonetheless, the touristic force-field of insouciance did not always hold up well. For instance, despite my dire finances, I over-tipped waiters and drivers almost every single time, leading both to profuse thankfulness and perplexed re-counting of bills. Between the drop-in-the-ocean-theory and the better-something-than-nothing-theorem, unaware of other positions, I adhere to the latter.
Another time it really came crashing down: we were walking down Long St and on the other side of it was this beaten-faced, hobbling, raggedy, very old man, tottering along dazed by the sun. For some reason it struck me as the most distressing, shameful sight we’d come across in all of our stay. I dashed across surprisingly somnolent Long, digging out a century bill, handing it to the old man in a small rush of shame and agitation. For an instant I did hesitate when he stepped forward to hug and thank me, a primitive instinct in the face of total decrepitude, an instinct rather than class habitus, I hope. In his arms and rumbling, mumbling praise I was one part guilt and three parts gratitude for a moment, a spark in the vast history of suffering, that made me feel deeply human, deeply alive. Perhaps a score meters later Simi, her eyes still glistening, and I, feeling absolved, re-crossed the street back onto his side and when she looked back through those dark arcades of a downtown Bauhaus atrocity, she saw the old man stretched out on the pavement in one of the eves, three teenagers towering over him. If whether it had been one of their fists or his body finally somehow giving out we couldn’t know.
As if complying with a foreseeable, irritating script, there was an incident of racism. On bachelorette night the guys decided to have a bit of fun too. It is hard to remember all the places we went but there was definitely a billiard dive off of Long. In we went, a place to get lit up for cheap. I only had one shot, given they were rather atrocious. Some time later we were searching for a place called the Face Club. Which I thought was an odd-name to begin with, perhaps weirdly inspired by facebook, something people seem to still concern themselves with. Nobody could tell us exactly where this Face Club was at, pointing at intervals in diametrically opposite directions plus all the ones inbetween. Only our unofficial leader for the night, Lubabalo’s cousin, a 2nd year law student at UCT, insisted that the said club exists and is top flight. Finally we arrived – Fez Club the neon sign declared, flashing a stylized little conical hat. Ha!
Once inside, we indulged in alcoholic-addled beverages. They be damned. And thus lots of our stuff got took so that, on our way out, realizing all the missing items, we wanted to return. Do a search and seize, whatever. Instead three of us [u may guess the epidermal complexion] got accused of pickpocketing, forced into a backroom and had to empty all our pockets’ pickings: none.
The law student protested vehemently, made threatening allusions to his influential, big-shot lawyer uncle and kept alternating between “I know my rights, man!” and “You’re going down!” That last phrase sounded up-lifting in my drunken ears, a distorted echo of a by-gone struggle, turned into the irrelevancy of petty racism and intoxication. My brother i.l , attempting our rescue was threatened with a taser. Police must love them: you can injure smbdy w/o overly worrying about offing them. A bit later the PoPo sure enough did arrive, though we by some chance dodged an arrest. It was a bad, entertaining, forgettable and mostly forgotten night.
But it also had its good effects. I was so bilious the following day that an unplanned alcohol hiatus suddenly took root. For much longer than usual, my body memory straight-out rejected even the idea of hooch, turning purple and green at the sheer thought of it. So since then, not by conscious decision or morally-inspired tee-totalism, I’ve much abstained from the hard stuff, even the soft stuff, having had one flute and one beer in a fortnight. I doubt I’ll totally dry up but it’s been a welcome, abrupt behavioral re-programming that may yet motivate conscious consideration in the matter of sauce. Even now thinking of a .5 cool foamer, my former evening standard, makes me feel green&squished inside… good thing!
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