The noise of my own discontent


Alone again syndrome.   I just made some tea, sat down to drink it.  These rituals can be a good distraction, but not today:  I looked out the window, drank my tea without noticing it or the view, wondering if the diaorrhea thing would kick in again.  I don’t know what to do with myself.  I have a whole lot of energy fizzing around fruitlessly in my body but if I try to listen to what I want, all I hear is the noise of my own discontent.

I hate not being able to think of anything I really want to do. Movie?  I don’t feel like going out – anyway I can’t, my car doesn’t work and the trains aren’t safe at night.  What about a video?  I still have to go out, but not so far, and I can come straight home. But I’d have to walk to the video store.  Nah, don’t feel like it.   Anybody would think I have agorophobia.  Sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph, maybe I do.

PAUSE.

It was so beautiful I didn’t want to come back in, so I stayed out, with the day nestling quietly into evening.  Distant miscellaneous sounds drifted across the valley; children playing, a dog barking.  No wind.  I walked down to the beach, and stood on the edge of Africa.  There were lots of people and plenty of dogs, playing and running about like mad things, whizzing around, chasing balls and frisbees, diving into the ocean and leaping back out, using up all their energy to the fiercest extent.

There was even a man doing that – well, he wasn’t chasing balls and frisbees, he was parachute-surfing –  but he was amazing to watch.  Not as good as the dogs, which are totally unhampered, nothing stops them doing what they want to do, their energy just flows.   People though, you can see it, they’ve got blocks, wooden limbs, cumbersome something, maybe a different ratio of mass to energy available to move the mass. When a dog wants to fly across the beach, it just does, but for example when I want to fly I can’t, not even very well with my imagination at the moment.  Obstacle To Movement, that’s my middle name.

The man got pretty close to body-flow.  I watched him fly around and whip across the water; twisting, turning, jumping and generally showing off.  I’d also show off if I could do that.  He had a nice body.  Then it got frustrating. I hate watching, I wanted to be the flying about with my energy whooshing out, leaping, jumping, laughing. I wasn’t born to be just a spectator.  By nature I’m a sprinter, I have these mad bursts of energy, and just go crazy inside if I can’t find something to do with it.  I didn’t used to be able to do anything with it, and now I can at least play the piano and fly.  I can do that.  It’s a curious combination of physical and creative energy.  I want to use my body to fly, not just my mind.

Once I rode my bicycle from Nairobi to Mombassa and down the coast to Tanzania, then Malawi.  That used up a lot of need-to-fly energy, but it didn’t result in any sense of deep heart and soul satisfaction. In fact one day in Malawi I stopped, and threw my bike onto the ground, and had a tantrum.

Picture this.  A violently hot deep in the heart of Africa day, dusty, no trees even to visually quench your thirst for shade, no water, no grass, no anything but dirt and dust.  And a road that goes on and on towards nowhere, up hill down hill up hill down hill, up hill surely it will be flat from the top onwards, down hill to face the next uphill.

Tsetse flies flying as fast as you can cycle, imagine that, keeping up with you for a WHOLE DAY, wind in your eyes, hunger for good food in your belly, mouth dry, temper building.  And building.  And building.  Until you leap off your bicycle, smash it down on the road and kick it and shout and scream to the vast wild African foreverness.

The leaves of a palm tree rustle slightly, then settle to stillness.

Africa shrugs.

It’s kind of tough, riding a bicycle in Africa.

The roads go on and on and on; sometimes they’re like corrugated iron for days.  Have you ever tried that, riding a bicycle for three days over a dirt-corrugated road.  I don’t advise it.  Your bones get jolted to that painful point just before numbness should mercifully set in, except of course it doesn’t.  There’s no escape.  Or at least you think there isn’t.  Which according to Sartre and Henry Ford is exactly why there isn’t – you know, I am what I think, I have what I’ve settled for….

The only food you get is salt-roasted peanuts and bananas by the side of the road, sometimes a bit of meatless chicken.  You get to a café, and they have huge vats of boiled tea.  You’d be amazed at what deprivation makes you think you want.  This boiled tea, it’s very milky and sweet.  When you’ve been riding for three or four or seven hours, your throat caked with dust, and you’ve just taken the millionth midget out of your eye, boiled sweet milky tea can be very exciting.  As for salt-roasted peanuts and bananas, the truth is I’m pretty much addicted to them now, but that’s because I have a choice.

Well, partly.

The other thing you can get in the cafes is aspirin, and hot coca-cola. You’d be surprised how you can spend a day dreaming about a hot coca-cola.  Actually, you dream about a cold one, and when you first taste it hot, something inside you jumps around frantically in frustration, but pretty soon you’re gulping it down.  It’s either the sugar or the marketing.

Speaking of coca-cola oh no.  I shouldn’t have had that tea.  Help!  Help!  Immodium – SOS!!!!!

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