…Hadrian’s Wall?

It was one of those meetings where you know you were being watched, being sized up. Like two dogs that find themselves locked in an enclosure cautiously sniffing the air that hangs heavy around them, each getting the measure of the other. I had one of those meetings this Friday past as I arrived uncharacteristically late at a campus café to discuss some advice on rebranding an academically commercial venture that launches shortly. He had pre-ordered my cappuccino and lunch for himself. The other, a more manly of the two pink drinks that stood on the table in the suffocating heat of the Highveld afternoon. Carnal thoughts betrayed by my lurking smile. Lucky I had a ready excuse.

Both men I’ve known for years. Both men equally as dangerous as the other.

It was the age of Grunge, and while Nirvana didn’t rule the airwaves just yet – they were on everyone’s lips. There I was unsure of myself in a world that I had been purposefully kept from. He sat two rows to my left with the other more popular boys in the Assembly. I kept my head down but association was a crime in this school, as it is with many schools. I was a different person then – my identity unformed but the wants’ and desires’ that ruled my soul were more amorphic. Experience would shape them in years to come. But the fear he once instilled always remained.

Sixteen years later and there we were, seated next to each other again. This time in my world: a marquee at the BMW Polo International, guests of the world’s most luxurious automobile – Rolls Royce. There as a plus one to another guest, I was just there to parade my latest bête noir to the assembled crowd of maverick friends, socialites, and pretenders. After the dinner which followed, I drove away from the bistro in Parkhurst with a strange feeling. Like a perfume that lingers in the air after that gorgeous brunette has long since left, his smile captivated my imagination for hours afterwards. But when the dawn broke, there were other things to think of. More profitable things.

And now, that smile has caught my imagination again. And the fear that I feel is for a different reason. Instead this time, instead of Nirvana I’m listening to a soundtrack that is my life.

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