From the Midwest, to the mountains of Zürich, the rough streets of Johannesburg, to my final destination: picturesque Cape Town, South Africa. How silly of me to think it would be as it was before. The mountains still stand, clouds rolling over the top of Table Mountain like waves, the lively streets are the same, the familiar shops greet me, but it’s different. I’m different. I play my own movies of what was, feelings of another time, I know this change, in fact I’m aware enough to expect it, but now I feel it.
Jet lagged, I roam through the expensive streets, past shops with fur, chocolates, watches I won’t buy, people speak to me in German while I smile politely and walk on. My toes are numb as I walk closer to the jagged white peaks of the Swiss Alps. I’m a stranger, a tourist in unfamiliar streets, in between destinations, passing time before I move on, in anticipation of what comes next.
I don’t belong here. Surely, this isn’t my destination. I walk past junkies passed out in parks, the smell of urine assaults me as I step over the cracks, glass, trash that covers the fractured streets of this city. I want to fit in, to belong, but I’m uncomfortable. Beautiful bodies move with the music, costumed queens pass me, carefully drawn curves moving perfectly with the music. I start to belong in a sea of people, brought together by the beats of Afropunk. A fleeting sense of unplanned pleasure, purpose – is this why I’m here?
Laying on the beach, I watch the waves roll in. The lull of the water soothes me. Do I belong here? Why did I come here? I rest on the beaches of Clifton and appreciate the characteristic landscape of Cape Town, the powerful mountains and sea surrounding me. I reflect on the water, taking the shape of whatever it flows into, shifting, changing. Each moment is different, every wave is different, it can never be the same as it goes back into the endless mass that it came from.
Alas, I find myself alone. I walk along the Cape Coast, taking in the mansions, the stunning rock coast, and I smile to myself. Of course it’s different, why was I searching for comfort in the past? In a fleeting memory? I embrace myself in this moment, my stinging, sunburnt ankles, my incessant searching for something, and my overactive mind. A man hops a fence nearby and crashes into me, rescuing me from my thoughts. After apologizing profusely, he tells me of his life growing up in Johannesburg, we talk of New York and his dreams of going to the United States. We walk away from the past, towards Cape Town City Center as it is now, in this moment.