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Travel in a Teacup

Snapshot of a Stranger

SOUTH AFRICA | Wednesday, 14 May 2014 | Views [127] | Scholarship Entry

The mist swirls in from the Atlantic as the foghorn gives its lovely, lonely cry. It snags on Signal Hill and unravels. I know that the ethereal light of dusk will turn into a salty mist at night and make yellow halos around the streetlights, turning the encounter of anyone else along the Promenade into something from the pages of a spy novel.

On the grass behind the bench where I sit, a group of Nigerian men play soccer against a group of Portuguese guys. Kids swarm, ever hopeful for an invitation to play. My attention on the game wanes as I look back at the container ships and oil-rigs moored in the roadstead. Their early evening lights make small city skylines on the water’s surface.

I notice a woman in an oversized brown coat making her way towards me, hounded by a fevered, fretful air.

“Excuse me, I don’t mean to disturb you,” she begins,” I just need to ask you something.”

I smile politely and shake my head, convinced that she’ll either ask me for money or try to introduce me to the mercy of the One True Lord and Saviour. Persistent, despite my discouragement, she asks:

“What would you do if you found your husband in bed with another woman?”
“I’m not married,” I blurt out, stupidly.
“Would you forgive him?” she asks again, more urgently. “Could you just forgive him?”
“I suppose that would depend on the circumstances,” I try to reason.
“But what if it wasn't the first time?” she continues. “What if it had happened before, and after each time he promised that it wouldn’t happen again? But instead of sticking to his promise, he just continues to make a fool of you? You couldn’t actually forgive him… Could you?”

Her brow furrows and her hands find their way to one another, as if preparing for my answer; an answer that could allow her to return to the life that she had before she found her husband in the arms of another woman… Again.

“I think maybe I’d leave him,” I begin, “I think I would just walk away.”
“But you couldn't forgive, could you? You couldn't just forgive and let it all go.”
“I think maybe I would let it go,” I say, “that would probably be the best thing.”
“But of course, you’re a young woman, you don’t know what it’s like,” she responds, almost sadly. “You just don’t know what it’s like.”

The woman turns and walks away, melting into the shadows of the high-rise apartments that run along Beach Road. I worry for a few minutes that she’s going to do something hasty, before it crosses my mind that maybe, just maybe, she already has.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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