The tolling bell

We drove along the sugar cane fields. To anywhere. Anywhere, but there. The land moving up and down on your right, the winding twisting road to nowhere. The last stop, the giant dome, far from home, but once, long ago during the year of the crocodile, we took the road further, I remember, to a beach, and I swam in the cold water, the place next to that fish place that sold drinks and mussels and and all I wanted was water. All I’ve ever wanted was water. White people in bikinis with strange accents, it could have been another world, it is another world; sitting in my memory like an egg, a bubble separated from the rest. There’s sand in my swimming costume and not much of a towel and everything is wet. The lifeguard blows his whistle and makes me come out of the water; he says I look as if I’m drowning. He predicted it years too early. And now, there’s the giant dome, the mighty elephants and the smell of the sea. It’s different now. I don’t know what’s changed but there’s change in the air and there’s just too much, too much of it. The bell is tolling. Standing on a hill, shaking after the escape, I am the hero of my story. Was that summer? No, Spring. And then, in the car park the wrong question, the one hovering over my head like a hawk looking down, waiting for its prey, or perhaps it was the right one, it’s hard to tell now. I left those questions behind me in May but somehow they found me again; that hawk always circling. But still. I am who I am, my grandmother always said. On the highway back, the shaking of heads, but in Brickfield road, the truth appears like a mouse in the veld. The hawk in the sky, pounces. In Kenilworth road it’s all gone to shit. The whole damn drive. I’m out of the car, out of that world, I’m back where I belong and everything is as it was. The bell has struck. There’s water in my lungs. I cough and cough but nothing comes up.
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