free website hit counter Spiced Tea & Letters: An Old Story Never Told. Part One

Friday, May 20, 2005

An Old Story Never Told. Part One

I walked through the back streets of Cape Town on a perfect Sunday morning. On each corner were groups of children singing gospel songs for money; their voices were naturally pitched and evocative. Each day while in this coastal city, no matter where I went, I was greeted by the enormous flat-topped Table mountain, it tickled the heavens while piercing the clouds. I pretended that I was a native to this city and made myself believe that I was used to this magnificence.

I stood at the bottom of the earth, on top of the world. I stood confidently at the very top of the tallest mountain I had ever climbed. I was at the southernmost tip of Africa. I heard the wind in amazing detail.

At one point in my life, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge scared me. But there on that mountain, I stood hoisted up so high I saw the earth curve. I saw the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean crash into each other with dueling fervor.

I ate warm Malva pudding in the Langa township. I ate warm Malva pudding in a five star restaurant. The township Malva pudding was served to me in a humble plastic bowl; handed to me with both hands by a woman who’s smile couldn’t contain whatever she imagined about me. She thought it funny that of all things to eat, I wanted Malva pudding. She didn’t understand that in a week of landing in South Africa I had become a Malva pudding connoisseur.

I had lunch on a plantation. Right on the porch of the big white house. I didn’t realize that I was on a plantation at first because why on earth would I, a Black Muslim woman, be invited to have lunch and taste wine on a plantation.

Two weeks before all of this I said goodbye to some of my favorite CD's. I had no money to get to my internship at that music magazine where I was virtually ignored. The man in the record store didn't save me from myself. He didn't sense that I really didn't want to give up my records. He examined my Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Cassandra Wilson, Destiny’s Child CD's, stacked them up, counted them and handed me six dollars. I was able to get on the subway into the city.

I had six dollars and a heart bursting with devotion. I was in love as much as I understood love to be. I was driven by it, too. I knew that I would make my way to Southern Africa to see you. I know what Africa does to folks. It’s a very specific sophistication that is acquired once you visit. And, I didn't want to be anything other than a reflection of you. I needed to see everything you were seeing. The reasons? One, I made the trip for us - so that our conversations would flow and not be interuppted by explanations of things like Truth and Reconciliation and the nature of Sun City. Two, I wanted to travel. In that very order of importance. Did I realize then that you were like a speeding train that I would eventually fail to keep up with? No.

I was hopeful as it was humanly possible. I made it over to the motherland, in the highest of class, at that. But before I saw you, I had to wait. I listened to live jazz; I danced in a shebeen; I argued with fellow journalists; I met a married man who wanted marry me; I got chased by a posse of baboons; I climbed mountains; I ate Malva pudding until I saw polka dots; I wondered about drinking purple wine and would it dye my lips and tongue; I cried and didn’t know why; I almost drowned in a bathtub seemingly made for royalty.

Then came the time where we would meet. I called you that morning. Told you I would be in the city of gold later that day.


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