An African Summer’s Day


The thing about African summer in the city, you barely make it through the day, body hot and falling-down-dead lethargic, like your flesh is candle-wax too close to the stove.   And bones, you haven’t got any.   There’s no structure to you, just this melt-down happening way beyond your control.   So why did I pick a day like this to drive into the Karoo?   It beats me.

Have you ever driven through the Karoo in a heat wave in a car without air conditioning?   Let me tell you first about the Karoo.   It goes on forever, and so does the road as straight as a ruler.   It gets almost unbearable, no matter what you do.

On and on and on without relief.   But it’s the heat that gets you.   Close the windows and you suffocate, but if you open them the hot air sears your lungs, dry-heat burns your mouth.   Even water doesn’t help how could it?   It’s hot in the bottle, anyway.   Still, you try it and you shout in frustration, your throat is a furnace.

I was trapped in the inferno before I could say Jack Rabbit.   It’ll get cooler, soon.   Soon.   So on and on and on and on I drove, through dry, dusty scrubland.   No trees, no animals, no people.   Just the straight road and the heat.   It’s not going to get cooler.

Seconds dragged themselves lead-heavily, milestones passed interminably, face red, blood pounding, body a hot and sweat-sticky hell.   That’s when I knew, it’s never going to end.   The ferocity of my longing for the open road in my new car, it stopped the world, turned it on its head.

It was never going to end.   I knew that.  I would forever be trapped in a Dante-type open-road-Inferno.   I stopped fighting it, stuck in a dry-heat warp.   I spoke the words out loud I forgot the damn air conditioning.   My voice sounded strange and eery, throat heat-gravel.   I stayed silent and my thoughts shouted burningly, searing my brain.

The tarmac shimmered.   Was that water?   No, fool!   Time stretched sluggishly, life became a slow-motion mirage, the straight road a halucinated river tormenting me with a never-to-be-fulfilled promise of cool quench to my searing body-thirst.

It will never end.   The words became a mantra.   Something had happened to the workings of time.   It had stopped.   Was I moving, was I imagining it?   Hot air in my face, hot air down my dry throat.   Please god let it rain, please, I’ll do anything.   No rain.   It doesn’t rain in the Karoo.   If it did, the rain drops would boil.   It can never end.

Then suddenly it had.   Ended.   Somehow there was no slow getting towards that ending, it just happened in a split second, I’m sure of that.   The torture was miraculously over.   Out of the blue it was evening, and have you any idea what that means?

It means the sun had set and I had arrived at a small hotel awash in an oasis sea of green soft moist grass, huge willow-green cool trees, cool on my face, cool under my bare throbbing feet, cool water drenching the thirst of my sweat-sticky body, cool crisp linen on my luxurious bed.   Then I heard the thunder, and Oh Sweet Heaven.   Cool rain.

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