I’m slowly losing South Africa.
Today, I got an e-mail telling me that I’m no longer the mayor of Wynberg Train Station.
I loved sitting there, waiting for the train, sticking my pale legs out so they might catch some afternoon sun, watching, always watching.
And the train going toward Cape Town would come and suddenly the train station would become a blur of activity and when the train pulled away, the platform was empty except the thick line of people streaming out into Wynberg.
Minutes later, my train would come. I’d stand, deciding whether or not I should move one way or the other to get a better spot on the train. You always had to stand toward Cape Town when you were riding the MetroRail – that’s the first class spot – that’s where you’re less likely to get robbed.
Clutching my backpack (with computer in it), I’d stand, holding onto the warm metal pole, lurching as the train started moving, trying not to make too much eye contact with anyone. You sit, and you watch, and you wait.
Steurhof slid by. Priscilla worked at a hospital off that stop.
I always got up too fast after the train left Retreat station. Then everyone would stare at me because I was the white girl standing. I think it made me look lost.
In the beginning, before I had affected the causal swing the locals did, I would stand straight, stiff, staring ahead. Later, I’d wait until the train had nearly pulled into the station before standing, shouldering my bag and stepping off the train to go jump off the tracks.
I always loved the shocked way they’d look – especially days when I was in something like my business dress. I’d daintily put my hand on the concrete, bending my knees slightly, and then I’d jump, gingergly step across the tracks and continue home. I don’t think they ever got over that one.
I miss the bricks, I miss the train, I miss the graffiti.
South Africa, don’t ever leave me.