Here’s something we can all agree on: It’s nice to see good things happen to good people.
And anybody who knows Justice knows what I’m talking about.
Justice Shamba is one of my favorite people that I encounter during my frequent outings in the town of Stellenbosch, where I live. Earlier this year, I used to see him nearly every morning after class at my favorite local yoga studio on Andringa Street. He worked next door, serving up Hazz coffee behind a neighboring retail shop window.
When I woke this morning, I heard you fighting across the street with Cleopatra in the vacant lot that you both regularly inhabit. A Wednesday morning turf war.
We started calling her Cleopatra when we moved in last year. Every night I would hear her from the vacant lot, screaming the most pearl-clutching Afrikaans profanities at phantom companions. I would count the number of times she would shriek “Jou ma se….####!” until I could finally fall asleep.
On Sunday, May 31st, my favorite newspaper, The New York Times, published a list of nearly 100,000 names of the victims of COVID-19 in the United States. On its front cover were the names of 1,000 victims, along with their ages, locations, and a brief line from their obituaries.
I was struck by the array. Some of the lines read like poetry, some made me laugh aloud, and some made my heart ache in their brevity. I imagined each of the people behind these names, and I winced painfully at the thought of many of them dying alone, without their families surrounding them. This tribute from the Times affords them even the slightest recognition of a life lived and now concluded, with dignity.
You know that adage about how Inuits have 47 different words for ‘snow?’ I think about that sometimes when I come across a feeling that can’t be explained, or one that doesn’t seem to fit into an appropriate category. Maybe we just don’t have a word for it in my mother tongue. Or maybe the closest word just falls short? Such is the case with loneliness. Wouldn’t you agree?
It’s such an intricate feeling, it can encompass so many different experiences. Loneliness isn’t always a sad feeling, and it isn’t even always experienced in solitude. It’s possible to be lonely in the middle of a room full of people, or on the happiest day of your life. It transcends.
A few months ago I came across a post from Mari Andrew, one of my favorite writers on Instagram, where she outlines different types of loneliness (I’ve included her greatness at the bottom of this post). I loved it, like I do with most of her stuff. But one type of loneliness that she included just hit me right in the gut: “Loneliness of needing to verbally process with someone who is trapped in another time zone.” This! This.
I’ll start with airports. They’re either a beautiful cacophony of global humanity, or the absolute bane of my existence, depending only on if I’m running late or not. And I’m usually always running late, especially if I’m traveling alone which, these days, I am more than I am not.
I’m halfway through one of those weeks that started off bad and quickly got worse. My mind is spinning with tasks of privilege. I mentally recount all that is wrong: My puppy has her period (for 22 days and counting) and she is bleeding all over everything. Our washing machine is broken. Our cleaning lady bailed on us three weeks ago and we haven’t heard from her since then.
I cross Borcherd Street from my apartment to the vacant lot with the Bluegum tree, adjacent to the public parking lot on the corner of Banhoek and Andringa. Moira is perched under the tree like always; Dino isn’t far away. They both approach me with gusto and I can tell that even though it’s 11 am, they’re both three sheets to the wind. Dino asks where my dog is while Moira hugs me and asks me to buy them a loaf of bread. Sometimes she is very belligerent and sneers at me when I walk by, muttering under her breath in Afrikaans. Today she tells me I look beautiful and tells me, “I’ll be waiting for you, sweetie.” She will forget about me by the time I walk back home.