LETTER: Losing the life I know
I miss the simplest gestures the most, but not everything from the past needs to be kept
The coronavirus has brought new meaning to Elizabeth Bishop’s classic poem One Art. As she says: “I lost two cities, lovely ones.”
Joburg and Cape Town are not the same. Losing the life I know has been hard to accept. You never get used to losing things. It’s the simplest gestures I miss the most. The whole family eating from the same bowl. Sharing an apple with a friend. No hugs to greet missed relatives at family dinners, or watching live soccer matches with friends.
Not paying my respects to departed colleagues. To see a beautiful smile in a stranger. Taking walks in Kirstenbosch gardens. Sitting in a crowded restaurant in Vilakazi Street in Soweto. Planting my ass on the floor of a second-hand bookshop for hours and getting lost in what I am reading. Swimming at a beach in East London. Visiting a farmers’ market in Sedgefield.
I miss having the freedom to buy what I want, when I want to, not waiting for a government grocery list. Things I took for granted are now lost. Life has lost its spontaneity. Everything is clinical and must be planned.
But not everything from the past needs to be kept. I don’t miss the selfishness of humans towards nature. I don’t miss the filth of Johannesburg. Racism. Poverty. Violence. Corruption. The empty promises of politicians. Or politicians kissing babies. Hopefully that is all history. In the age of masks, safety comes first.
Every person I meet is a potential carrier. I must protect myself and my loved ones. I must protect others from me. All you see are the eyes. They never lie. The mask is now part of my identity. I am told it is the new norm.
Dr Lucas Ntyintyane
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