No perfect worlds

The train home got stuck today – not because it was broken, or that the young woman driving it had forgotten how, but due to cable theft somewhere along the maze of lines – she pulled over to make sure we didn’t crash into anyone.

Usually when this happens, we’re stuck between stations and we sit for a while, then we puff and cough and start looking around. After a while, we realise we’re South Africans, and we all start hanging out: “haven’t we been stuck like together before?”  “Yes! It was that dark winter evening between Salt River and Woodstock – how have you been?” Some of us sneak to the little platform between carriages for a fast cigarette, others start measuring whether they can make the dizzying jump down to the line and just walk to the next station.

But I digress. Tonight, the driver had, thoughtfully, parked us at Lakeside Station, which is only a station or two over from my stop. “It’s only 4.45”, I think to myself, “I’ve walked this before”, so that’s what I did.

What a lovely thing it is, to walk a flat, curving road with a homely, smallish mountain to your right and the only two-lane road through Kalk Bay on your left. Best of all, I was walking into a fresh autumn wind, blowing my hair back from my face, it was like diving into clean, clean water. I know now why dogs hang out of car windows: it’s the closest they get to flying in this world.

It’s roughly a 2km walk, but I wasn’t rushing – past the houses with undisciplined Dobermans on long cartoon legs, puffing their lips and rolling their eyes at me, old art deco houses converted into flats, with odd entrances and beautiful windows. The refurbished mansions tucked back, and care homes for the aged and the broken between them.

Oh, and the stupid dog that had taken itself for a rush-hour walk and had me stopping two-way traffic so it could sniff a hedge on the other side; the burly and sweet bandanna’d kid that immediately appeared from the motorcycle shop opposite to catch the stupid dog who treated him like a dog-hating monster, barking and hurling itself back across the road. It’s not every rush hour where you can hold up your hand for a rebellious dog, and people will slow down. And hoot. And glare. But slow down.

So that was my walk. I’m home. In amongst the rich, the middle-class, the working poor, the truly poor – we have them all. And we intersect: on the street, at Checkers, at the station – we work for one another, we work to employ one another, and all of us find something to give the ones who are broken, or resting, or lost.

And I think that this is not a perfect place, this is a good place.

There are no perfect places.


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