Letter from
Qondiswa

I’m in a cab in the rain from here to here. The driver has set up a plastic sale mechanism to separate him from the customers, there is this thin opaque sheet between us.

From inside, we’ve been watching things getting back to normal. It has been gradual. Like spring this time. Normally I experience Cape Town in September as a sure and steep incline to summer. This year it is lethargic and heavy, dragging clouds and cold fronts to sputter from gutters into backyards. There is sun only sometimes.

Yes, it continues to be a year.

I was reflecting with friends the other day about the divinity of comedic timing, of a 20Plenty that ends as the fulfilment, finally, of the Mayan predictions re 2012. We’re joking somewhat, but the laughter is cruel truth.

What has happened? What has happened to this place? The oblong earth object, folded flat now to be considered. A global village. Sharing a history and an inevitable prophecy of continuous collision. Conflict. Collapse.

A beginning.

In Wuhan, China in 2019 sometime, at a wet market, a trader contracts a virus from some of the goods on sale. This virus spreads, as viruses do. We can fill in the blanks ourselves. He arrives home that night and his son has prepared a warm fish soup for dinner. It is colder than usual for this time of year, and he worries about his father’s health rubbing scales with the exotic. At this point of course they are unaware that this exotic has come home with the trader on his scales, and today he had thought himself lucky, having sold a bit more than usual. He might have walked home with a skip in his step, feeling stronger than he has in a long time now. His partner, say she’s a nurse, comes home later and warms up the fish stew and brushes her hair sitting at the foot of their shared bed. She climbs into bed next to him and holds him while he coughs and wheezes delicately into the night. The virus slides with the sweat between them and gets inside her body into her bones. The next morning, she goes to work and carries it to the hospital, her son goes to school and carries it into the yard, our trader goes to the supermarket and carries it with him there. We are speaking only in the domestic.

It is tragic, it is comic.

We drive together to the sea, to park at the railing like a cliff. It is sunset. The water is blue-gray metal and shimmering wildly. There is a froth and spray spitting from the ocean’s mouth to us at the shore. Nothing is wet and nothing is warm. People play like vignettes through the windshield. A looking glass. We are talking about friendship. What gets misplaced in the giving. We talk about a desperation for love. Ours, our longing. But also, something else, the vast and complex colour of a love like gunmetal gray in light that shimmers wildly. We talk about violence, and disruption, and rupture. We talk only in the domestic.

What has happened? What has happened to this place? The oblong earth object, folded flat now to be considered. A global village. Sharing a history and an inevitable prophecy of continuous collision. Conflict. Collapse. What has happened here is what has always been happening here.

solidarity always,
q