Watching Abu Simbel shining in the night sky and surrounded with the dark desert beyond, brought in on the cold winds that cut across the deck of our ferry, I said my silent goodbyes to Sudan. In truth, I had said farewell out loud, in person, the evening before. Standing in the dust beyond the town and watching the white sky turn silently orange, then red, before finally burning out into the deep blue twilight of evening in the desert . My goodbye was presided over by the still slightly veiled moon, saving its face for the next night’s transition to Aswan. There I stood and whispered my goodbyes to Wadi Halfa, to Sudan, to beautiful, kind people met and landscapes that I had only ever been able to fractionally guess at before.
To Egypt and the final pages of what has now become three filled journals of places, people and stories all jostling to be told. And told they will be, in time. Polished, sifted through and lovingly assembled until not a piece remains unaccounted for. In Wadi Halfa, before falling asleep one night, I had tried to recall what my mobile phone in South Africa looked like – a device I must have used dozens of times a day before I left it behind in November. I couldn’t.
Waking up, I spent an hour trying to recall instances I had used it, how I must have opened it, or dialed numbers on it. Nothing. No shape, no form of the device remains in my mind.
Trying to look back to the early days of setting off, tracing back to when I must have given it to my brother, I grinned, laughed and wistfully recalled conversations in Zambian buses lasting only minutes. Recalled watching the senior students at Chikuni mission playing football. Hearing the history of the Zimbabwean railway system from the retired rail engineer who shared my cabin between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. Even sitting waiting for my brother to finish invigilating an exam on the morning I left.
Nothing. No shape, no form of the device remains in my mind.
All of these in detail. In colour. Held in a part of my memory somewhere that always, always finds the memories – bitter, sweet – that give me history and returns them to me as new. But no phone. Nothing.
Concerned, and slightly amused, I turn on the light for a minute. I pick up my journal and a pen and quickly scrawl before I go back to bed, grinning:
“Day 43. Lying on my bed about to go to sleep, I try to remember what my phone looks like and I can’t. No matter how hard I try. What does that say?”