Wondering & wandering
For the past two weeks I have spent every other day in Wynberg. Those who know me will understand the brevity of that statement, because the southern suburbs have an uncanny way of making me sad. It’s not the place. It’s not the people. It’s me. I’ve turned into one of those Atlantic Seaboard snobs and it’s not because I think the burbs are jut. I just spent six very unhappy months in Rondebosch last year and being the sensitive bitch that I am, can’t lift the association between that blanket of darkness and its geographic location. When I moved to Sea Point, I literally vowed to never step one toe past Devil’s Peak: just seeing that pointy mountain gave me the grils. I am much happier when I have a wall of stone or a lion-shaped mountain behind me. But most of my best friends live outside of my peachy comfort zone so obviously I had to get over this stupidity pretty early on this year.
That, however, is beside the point. What boggles my fucking mind is how funny human beings are, myself included. We get so weird about patches of earth. My mother, for instance, gets ridiculous about visiting her childhood neighbourhood on Joburg’s East Rand, marking every corner with exclamations of “Oh, we used to go there!”, and, uncomfortably, silences that could steer the car themselves. My father hasn’t set foot in Durbs since his family left Glenwood in the 70s, but stories about fishing on the pier and running wild through sugarcane fields makes me think he wishes he had. My extended expat family in various parts of Europe and Australia still refer to South Africa as ‘home’, like there aren’t a million reasons they found other places to carve out their existence. I’m not pointing fingers here: my own nostalgic attachment to places has made it virtually impossible for me to call my adopted city, Cape Town, home. I’m so bad as to still feel connected to my city of birth, even though I spent the grand total of nine days in Joburg before my mother got on a plane and took me to Port Elizabeth.
This attachment to spaces extends beyond the location and to the place itself. For many years now I have dreamt about my old house. We lived in a few houses when I was little, but it’s this one that holds that title. Not the one I grew up in, but the dwelling we stayed in during my days as an only child. This was before 1995. Less than 3km away from my parent’s current home. With a pool I almost drowned in, as toddlers are prone to doing. It’s really nothing special. But it’s been the backdrop to my mental meandering for a long time. Its allure can only be put down to my over-developed sense of the sentimental. But shit, does my mind like going back there. The rooms are always the same, and many people walk in and out of them with what I can only imagine are messages from my subconscious. I always wake up from these dreams feeling fuzzy around the edges. Unsettled. Questioning the validity of the visitation. But that’s ridiculous, right? Ghosts don’t wander through dreams; they’re far too busy haunting us to do that. And houses can’t be ghosts, surely.
This is what I found myself pondering yesterday, while I stood with my back to a hundred-year-old property in Chelsea Village. I’d got myself a freelance styling gig and was taking a breather, while inside Constantia and Bishopscourt’s finest fussed over R30 000 chairs. I’m broke. My car is running on fumes. I need a haircut, I thought. And then Bloc Party’s ‘Where Is Home’ began playing in my head, like a mini Kele Okereke had taken residence inside my skull. Where is home? I mulled it over while driving along the N2. In the bath, back in Sea Point. In bed. My eureka moment came this morning, while I stared out my bedroom window at the stormy sea. The Atlantic Ocean, cold and inhospitable. Responsible for the worst case of brain freeze I have ever experienced. The reason Capetonians would rather sweat it out in the sun than actually swim at the beach. Nah ah.
So I’m just a white woman from the wild coast, right. I have zilch insight into what it means to actually long for the land that is rightfully yours. I’ve never known the pain of being forcibly removed from an area, or the struggle of calling home a back room in someone else’s. I only know my own need to feel rooted, and its twin desire to connect these roots to a physical location. I’m a coastal girl. Not a chance I can take cold water forever. So where does that leave me?
I don’t know where home is now. The only thing I know is where home isn’t. And I like this transience. It’s brief and fleeting and my twenties will be gone before you can say One Night Stand. I’m content with being 24 and just asking that question, rather than trying to find the answer.
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Damyanti Biswas is an author, blogger, animal-lover, spiritualist. Her work is represented by Ed Wilson from the Johnson & Alcock agency. When not pottering about with her plants or her aquariums, you can find her nose deep in a book, or baking up a storm.
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