Public Key (Lxxii)

I finished the gazebo. I was very proud to have built it. Of course I couldn’t spend much time in it. Not when there was anyone else in the camp. I couldn’t let myself be seen, could I? I’d had my quota of going-out for a time. Not it was time to get back to my hut, my solitude, my life.

Why was I in such a bad mood?

I talked to Oakley a little. He didn’t have any more work for me to do. There was only so much that needed building in our little camp. He said he’d keep me on retainer. Anytime he needed something made he’d call me. For that I could keep my home, free of charge.

I couldn’t afford to argue. But I didn’t like it. I didn’t like taking a hand-out, even if it was two hundred bucks a month that he didn’t need and he wouldn’t have been making otherwise. But mostly I didn’t like it because it left me with nothing to do.

Man, I really wasn’t feeling good at all.

I tried to play guitar with five strings, but that just made me feel worse. I couldn’t really get into any of the books on my hard drive. I watched some movies. Mostly I watched the light ones, the ones with witty dialogue, then action, then sex. All the ones with sex. I listened to dreampop. I listened to early Zeppelin, way too loud. I let my mind wander to my past, to all the things I’d done that I wasn’t doing then. Or, it seemed, would ever do again.

I had tasted of the tree of knowledge. You know how that goes.

It was to be expected. I’d had a life! I’d had fun, if only for a night. I’d been among people. People my age. Kids. Real people! I’d been with a girl. I’d seen… oh, God, the girls. But it was more than that. I’d had a day of liberty, a day where I’d left my hermitage and gone into the world and, hey, here I was! Nothing had happened. I wasn’t in chains. I wasn’t fighting for my life. The only chains on my life were what I had latched to my own ankles.

The nature of my life had been dictated by other forces. They were still out there. But that didn’t mean much to me. I had to deny myself a life just in anticipation of them. It began to feel artificial. Like I was preparing for a storm that would never come.

I thought about going home.

I’d have to go home eventually. Wouldn’t I? Or was I going to spend the rest of my life at the ass-end of the world, living in a fucking wigwam, eating bread and water like a prisoner? What the fuck had possessed me to be so pigheaded?

Why hadn’t I just gone home?

I spent some time dicking around on the internet. I didn’t bother covering my tracks. Fortunately I wasn’t doing anything important. I saw that they’d traced me to Durban, that the Canadians had upped their reward offer to two million, that the South Africans were throwing in another million if I was apprehended within their borders. Including, I saw, Swaziland and Lesotho.

I didn’t really care. It’s not like I was leaving my room much anyway.

The days passed, sometimes like the clock was stuck in quicksand, sometimes like it was running on a rocket. Eventually it didn’t even matter. Days were passing. That was all.

I don’t know what caused me to do it. I think I just needed something to do. I didn’t really decide to do it. I just found myself filling a bag with food and water, wrapping myself in my cloak, picking a direction, and starting to walk.

I think I would have walked right through a city if there’d been one nearby, right off a cliff if it had presented itself. I just put one foot in front of the other, and it took me where it did.

I was in pretty bad shape. I realize that now. At the time I didn’t realize much of anything. I walked right through Kanana, then up into some hills, then over a long spine of mountains and down into a river valley. I followed the river to where an ox-bow had carved a cliff out of a mountain. I wrapped myself in my cloak, lay in a low crevice between two rocks, and slept the night through.

It was seventyfive degrees. I didn’t get cold. I didn’t get troubled by man or beast. I was lucky.

I got up the next morning, ate some stale-going bread and a piece of salted beef. I walked through the town of Blood Berg, crossing a road and then fields and then rocks and then hills before finding myself back down at the river. I seemed to like it down there. It gave me a path. It gave me a direction. I just walked and walked, following near all its turns, going wherever it took me.

I slept in the burned-out shell of a rondavel. It smelled like animals and rot. It rained on me in the night. That’s the breaks when there’s no roof over your head.

It was hot the next day. I lay out my clothing on the ground to dry. I sat naked in the shadow of the hut until there was no shadow to sit in. Then I got dressed again, and started walking.

I walked the whole day without seeing another person. I had maybe three days left of food. I had to drive myself every step, force myself to keep going. As a result I walked fast and sure. I even started to notice the world around me.

Walking through the untouched lands of an untouched land, far away from the things of man, I cannot begin to describe what I saw. Try it sometime, the next time you have a few days to spare. Make sure your sandals are in good shape. I started getting a hold in my left sole and that was no good at all.

I ended up at the edge of the world.

I was walking, and I felt high in the sky. I was walking, and I felt alone in the heavens. I walked a little further and then I realized why.

I was at the edge of a cliff. The ground dropped away beneath my feet. And dropped, and dropped. If I’d lain on my side and started rolling I wouldn’t have stopped for miles. By the time I’d gathered moss I would have been more than a mile nearer ground-level. Or whatever it was, down there on the earth below.

I saw lakes in the distance, and flat farmland beyond. The blue of the sky and the green of the earth merged to meet each other. I was standing so high I felt I could reach out and touch the horizon.

I just sat there, ate an apple, and stared out over everything I could see.

Maybe I’m making it sound mystical. I wasn’t on a spirit journey, I wasn’t looking into my soul. I’d just been walking, and I couldn’t walk anymore.

I took one last look, threw the apple-core off the edge of the world, and turned back.

The moon was high in the sky and so I just kept walking. I climbed down the sides of a wide shallow canyon then made my slow way up the other side.

Somewhere in the middle I crossed a river about a hundred feet across. I put all my clothes in my bag, held it over my head, walked when I could. A few times I just treaded water, using one hand for balane, the other to hold my everything. The current carried me as I tried to kick my way across. Somehow I did.

My bag got pretty wet. I didn’t much care. It was warm as any summer’s night. My clothing dried on me. I got kind of itchy, but I walked it away.

All of a sudden I was standing on a road. I wasn’t sure which way was which. I made a guess, turned left, and started walking.

I came to a gatehouse, a line of chain-link cutting off into the night in either direction. A truck was idling in front of a roadblock. Two white guys holding clipboards were arguing about something. The truck-driver was leaning on his door and smoking a cigarette. Oh, and staring at me.

Well, too late to run. I squared my shoulders and walked forward.

Excuse me, I said in my least-terrible Sotho, where am I?

The Letseng <something>, the guy said. What <something> to you?

I am lost, I said. Do you have phone?

He stared at me. He looked at the guys with clipboards; they were really getting into their argument. One was even holding onto his hard-hat.

He sighed. He dropped his cigarette to the ground and ground it beneath his boot. He pulled out a pack and lit another one. Then he pulled out his cell phone and tossed it to me.

Be short, he said.

Thank you, sir, said I.

It took me a minute to remember the number. The driver seemed close to taking his phone back when I felt sure I had it right.

Ring. Ringring. Ringringringri-


It’s me, I said into the phone.

What? Jesus, what time is it?


No, I mean, where are you?

Where am I? I asked the driver.

Letseng-le-Terae, he said.


What? Did they catch you?

No, I said quickly. I got lost.

You got lost at a diamond mine?

I looked around me. Yeah, that made sense.

Listen, I said, can I ask a favor?

How the fuck did you get-

Please, I said. Can you come pick me up?

What the fuck-

I know it’s a big favor, I said. I’ll make it up to you.

Just what the hell do you think-

Please, I said. I’m not in a good place.

The phone was quiet.

Where the hell have you been? How did you get-

Please, I said.

Please my ass. Why the fuck should-

No, I said. Just. Please. Don’t.

Don’t what?

Don’t ask. Just… don’t.

There was a pause, one of the longest in my life.

Hang on, he said, I’ll be there. Let me just… fuck.

The phone went dead.

I handed the phone to the driver. Thank you, sir, I said.

He stared at me for a while. Then shook his head.

Want a cigarette? he asked.




~ by davekov on 4 March 2011.

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