Stepping out the front door that night on some or other half-planned errand, I noticed quickly that it was a warm night for a change. Winter has finally broken and the highveld is starting to see dry nights, where unchanged winter duvets will keep you hot and restless. Jasmine had also started to raise its head somewhere, with its teasing sweetness starting to mingle with the heavy scent of bushveld burned somewhere nearby. That particularly dark smell that you taste as much as you breathe it in. Unmistakably African in its tones, reinforcing the evening’s announcement that summer had arrived, sending ahead of herself one of her finest messengers in that perfectly balanced evening. A good evening to be going out. To be finding new purposes in the world, new tasks that matter. Or simply awakening to an appreciation of what you were doing already. Regardless, pausing briefly to take in a little more of the warmth, burning and jasmine, I wondered whether it would be like this night then? When, having moved or sold everything else here, I will step out into as warm a night with all that remains of my life in Johannesburg on my back. Departing these surroundings and gently, quietly stirring the night as I melt into the beginnings of a new story.
I’d been hyperfocusing on what needs to be done before. Visas to be obtained, trawling shops for clothes and gear. Building an excitement rooted in how prepared I would be for the journey. How shiny and well-managed I would be when it came time to leave. But never once, in all the schemes, the obsessions with the time before leaving, had I looked the journey in the eye. I knew what I needed to do beforehand. I’d played the reel of arriving back dirty, exhausted and worn and collapsing in a snug heap on a comfy floor somewhere many dozen times. I was excited. I am excited. It grows with every day, every slow countdown drawing me towards departure.
each incremental understanding about what this life is, who I am, makes previous destinies impossible.
But, like a mist shrouding some large, dark object, the excitement is a gentle defense against facing inevitable truth. Journeys in the past have changed me. Pushing upon me new understanding of how the world is. How I am. With every progressive return, nothing can ever be truly unseen – given back to that place out there where it was first learned. It, in turn, pulling me further away from who I was before. As the journeys have grown, so has the change. Each one nudging my orbit in its own way as each incremental understanding about what this life is, who I am, makes previous destinies impossible.
Because I know this is why I keep moving. Growing. Changing.
But when the shrouded mists drift away this time, no place remains that I know from anecdote. Or guidebook, testimonial or boast of conquest. Nothing remains to look back at me from the interval between now and my return except a complete inability to imagine the space that will swallow me and deliver, in its own time, someone similar but different. Who will look on who I am now with a certain nostalgia, finding me naive. It’s not what I do afterwards, nor all the planning I wrap myself warmly in before, which will matter in due course. It will be that space – unimaginable, yet heavy with the magic of change – that will mean everything.
Standing, smiling to myself in the warmth of the new summer. Realising that it will start like this. Possibly exactly like this. These scents and enveloping warmth. A brief imagining of the final night that me as I am now will ever know.