When Gertruida gets moody, Boggel knows she is battling with the demons that haunt her. He saw it last night, when she snubbed Vetfaan for laughing about Freedom Day.
“You’re a sick cynic, Vetfaan. Those elections saved us from a bloodbath. Sure we had fewer potholes in the roads back then: the potholes were in the policies of the previous government. So make peace with what we have today and shut your trap.”
Later, when he locked up, he went over to her house, tapped on her window, and made the date.
“It was kind of you, Boggel,” she says as they sip their coffee at the foot of Bokkop.
The little bent man at her side smiles. He is maybe the only one to know of her deep desire to belong, to be loved. That’s why she reads so much: her knowledge is a way to earn respect. If she knows more than anybody else, they have to look up to her, don’t they?
He laughs softly. “Just doing what my duty, madam.”
“No, this is special. Watching the sun rise on Freedom Day is like telling the world we can start all over again. There’s hope in the dawn.”
Boggel does this occasionally. When loneliness sneaks up on Gertruida, he’ll invite her for a sunrise coffee at the foot of Bokkop – just the two of them. They’ll talk about music or politics or the weather for a while. Or not – and sit in silence. The mere presence of a friend at the start of the day, seems to chase her shadows away.
Gertruida looks down at Boggel as he pours more coffee from the flask. He’s such a kind man, she thinks. Such a pity…
He reads her mind, as he did last night.
“We’re free, Gertruida. That counts. Freedom and loneliness are related, like potholes and policies. Like the song goes: you can’t have one without the other.” He sings the last sentence from Love and Marriage.
Yes, she thinks, never judge a book by its cover. Boggel is so much more than a barman.
She helps him up as they start walking back to Rolbos.
“It was a good sunrise, Boggel.”
“Of course, Gertruida. It’s Freedom Day.”