On The Road (between Ixopo and Kokstad)
by Mandy Mitchell
Early summer and a frigid wind. Clouds are settling over the low mountain range, cotton white in the yellow sun. Beautiful enough to rip your heart out. The tar road putting miles of wonderful distance between thoughts and events. Allowing for introspection.
I see grasslands rejuvenating from the rain, always scarred by brown. Sparse. Cattle meandering across the stream of rocky road. I see people gathering outside their brown and blue and pink and green homesteads. Offering stories to the last light. Sitting close, bare feet scraping swept red earth. Surrounded by aloes, sisal, plastic packets and Time. My love-hate relationship with this land of cruel beauty. I won’t say beautiful cruelty.
Cocooned inside the white Toyota Conquest, 16 valve. The Sony pulsating with the rollercoaster sounds of Blondie’s Heart of Glass, Suzi Quatro’s untamed She’s in Love with You, and Al Stewarts’s sultry Year of the Cat. Talking occasionally. About personalized number plates, the performance of the car. Listening occasionally. Answering occasionally. Cigarettes, coke and sweets. Comfortable. At ease.
I think about what this road used to mean to me, and how my life has changed. In childhood it led to long hot summers. Wildcoast days full of blue sky and Christmas beetles. Salt on my lips and sand in my heart. Long walks with the sun, shells and rivers. Lazy, sleepy afternoons with lots of food and books. The quickening of young love. The passing pain of loss.
Now it leads to rugby and relatives. Independence and love that is taken for granted. A soulmate. Decisions about babies and other countries. Grey hairs, headaches and repeated violence. Fear. It is not the same road that it used to be. Branded with the wounds of time that forever leave a mark.
We sail through a surge of mist. The danger of stray animals ever present. A dying sunbeam strikes me painfully in the eyes before falling. Lights flash and lorries drone past as night sinks. The car in front of us nervously tails a large load, afraid to overtake. We sit behind the lights, waiting to pounce past. Zooming past. The danger of stray animals ever present. The road widens, improves and the tension eases.
Lots of lights ahead. Our destination. The drive back will be quicker.