“If you put a spoonful of wine in a barrel of sewage you get sewage. If you put a spoonful of sewage in a barrel of wine, you get sewage” – Schopenhauer’s Law of Entropy
It was a sweltering day at school with the wind making no efforts to provide relief from a not unexpected day in summer under an unforgiving African sun. Garth, my newest Grade 4 friend and I were walking home from school, glad we were only a short distance from home with the inviting prospects of shade inside the house and with a bit of luck, some ice-cold homemade cold drinks so common on the Cape Flats. Garth was a sturdy built chap with a staccato manner of speaking that matched his gait, something that quietly irritated me because I was more used to strolling home from school, as it to reward myself after a hard day in ergonomically unfriendly school benches that was ruefully tough on ones posterior, especially if you didn’t have any excess exterior to give on account of your poor conditions at home. In between straddling dozens of subjects from sports, the strongest guy in school, the most beautiful girl or accounts of his brother who was a few grades ahead of us, a giant of a lad by the name of Gareth.
It didn’t take Garth long to switch topics yet again when I innocently asked which beaches his family will be visiting in the coming holidays? Garth said he would love to go to Camps Bay, a beach I’ve not heard of before but we weren’t allowed to go there. I tried vainly to stop Garth in mid-stride, and sardonically asked ‘why we weren’t allowed to go to Camps Bay?’ I knew I had him and his tall tales because now the truth would have to come out that his Father’s car is at the mechanics for the umpteenth time. Garth did the unusual thing of stopping and remained dead still, as if being careful to choose his words carefully like the avuncular Catholic priest at the local church. ‘No stupid,’ he said, ‘my brother told me we can’t go to Camps Bay because of Apartheid.’ Im not sure what offended me more, the stupid moniker or not having heard of this foreign sounding word, Apartheid, after all, I was miles ahead of the academic game than poor Garth, who seemed to even struggle with his own home language, English.
By the time Garth and I waived each other goodbye, I kept repeating the word as if I might forget it and lose the meaning of the word, not that I knew what it meant, but, being an avid bibliophile, I resolved to undress as soon as I got home, eat if there was anything and head off to our local library, a place of great comfort for me and I world I always felt safe in. ‘Apartheid,’ try as I may, my considerable vocabulary had a gaping hole in it that I was determined to fill so I may be all square with Garth, just in case it came up for discussion again. I arrived at home and opened the door, unskinned myself as quickly as possible, wolfed down a two day old sandwich, changed into something more comfortable, knocked back a glass my favourite sugary drink, instructed my brother and sisters not to let anyone in and I was off. ‘Apartheid,’ wow, so poor old Garth had one over me, and here I am uncertain of the pronunciation of this stupid word. I said it again, ‘Apartheid,’ as if repeating it would by deus ex machina reveal to me its true meaning…………………..to be continued