There are few places on earth hold the same kind of sway on my personal well being, as my sister’s little farm house outside of Cape Town. For a South African you’d call it a short 4-hour drive. A phrase which always made my European friends stare at me through wide eyes. I was tired of always saying something like,
“I come from a much bigger country than you.”
So now I just let my comments hang in the air around me. It’s not my job to save people from the things they don’t understand. Christ knows no one ever gave me that courtesy. Or maybe they did. Maybe people were unconditionally kind to me all the time and I just couldn’t or didn’t see it. Either way, it was just another log on the fire. Another reason why I needed to get out of town and get as far away from my daily life as possible.
I needed a break. I needed time away. Away from my friends and my home. Which isn’t to say I didn’t love all of those things, but too much of a good thing can be bad, and way too much of a mediocre thing can be devastating.
The problem with my sister’s place wasn’t the 4-hour drive, or the 12-hour flight, or the 6-hour layover, or the 3-hour flight before that, or even the 2-hours waiting at the airport. It was all of those things combined into one long boring and shitty day. Stand in this line, go over there and wait, then stand in that line to go sit in that metal tube, then join that line to go sit somewhere else. Everyone in a hurry to sit down and wait until they could be somewhere more interesting than when they started.
It’ll never happen, but nothing makes me consider becoming a vegan more than a solid 27 hours of air travel. Being herded like cattle into a potential death-trap, only to be herded back out again later. Because I know that as annoying as it is, it’s still a lot better than the cows get.
But fuck it, steak just tastes too damn good.
I really hope that that line works on The Devil and St Peter when I eventually shuffle off this mortal coil and find out which bunch of screaming religious nuts was right.
Ha, just another reason why I need a holiday.
Irritatingly, and perfectly understandably, my sister can’t meet me at the airport. She’s got two kids and a husband, and a job and 3 cats and it’s a 4 hour drive each way. A wise man would check into a hotel, wash off the dehydrating grime of air travel and get some sleep before getting behind the wheel of an automobile. But I was in the mood for a home cooked meal, a hug and a beer. It’s true what they say you know, everyone needs a place in the world they can go to get a beer and a hug with no questions asked, no explanation needed and no more cause than simply because you are all there together. So, I thank the Gods, whichever ones there might be, for shitty airport coffee and set my sites on home. Home, what a simple word for such a vital concept.
It takes me almost 5-hours to get there because as desperate as I am to be done traveling, I want to finish in a drive way, not a ditch. My sister is sitting on the porch with a tall gin and tonic, a cigarette and a smile waiting for me. The kids are in bed disappointed or indifferent that they have to wait an extra day before they get to try and act cool about whether or not I brought them any presents. I had, but I’d string them along a little before I admitted to anything like that.
No, priority one was feeling the grass between my toes, hearing the sounds of my country, and feeling the arms of someone familiar around me. Someone who loves me unconditionally. No big Hollywood fireworks, no drama, no words. Just a simple understanding. This person loves me and the best part of their day is seeing me.
With each passing moment I could feel the grumpy argumentative old man slip out of my body and felt the weight lift off my shoulders. I felt lighter, easier, like I could take deep breaths again, and think clearly for the first time in a life time.
We broke from the hug and settled on the porch together looking out at all the millions of stars. I had a couple beers while she finished her gin and we just sat. Not really talking, not really not talking, just being in each other’s company. And it struck me that, everything was perfect there, in those moments. And that, everything would stay perfect there. No matter where I went or what I did, or what happened next. I, we, would always have those perfect moments.