It’s been some time since last I wrote anything here. Just didn’t feel like it, I suppose. Or maybe I didn’t have anything to say. I think it’s the same thing.
I must say something about the past few weeks. Never in my life have I had such a feeling that life doesn’t get much better.
Let’s start with Servaas. He’s ancient. Maybe that’s why I like him so – he surely cannot look at me like the other men do et, sometimes, I catch him staring at me in the strangest of ways. Almost with a hunger in his eyes. He once said I remind him of Siena, but I don’t think I like that idea. I had a look at her picture in the hallway – she looks far too stern to be a fun-person. Maybe she was one of those people who looked one way and acted completely different after the Oom blew out the candle. Maybe he’ll tell me one day.
Still, he’s one of the kindest persons alive, I’m sure. Not like Roberto, who saw me as a piece of merchandise – a commodity to use and exploit and … abuse. I’ll never be able to tell the people in this little town what I really did in Madrid. Or maybe I should, because Uncle Marco knows already, I’m sure. He seems to have a tremendous network of friends in Madrid, and that always makes me suspicious. Look at the way he handled the bookings for the plane back to SA? One call. Just one. And it wasn’t to the airline, either. I know enough Italian to understand he phoned somebody and ordered him to get the tickets. Ordered. Nothing about money – and I never saw him pay for those tickets, either. How did he manage that?
Then at the airport, the polizia waved us through, but searched everybody else. I know they found Roberto’s stash – it must have been a small fortune – and that Marco had the money in his attaché case. I know that because they exchanged it for Rands in Cape Town. But neither in Milan nor in the Cape did anybody say anything about the money. Surely, if you arrive with bundles of Dollars, the police or the customs or the tax people will be interested to hear where you got it from? But no. No questions – not in Italy, not in SA. I find that a bit strange. Well, good luck to him and Servaas – I just hope some of Roberto’s friends don’t take it upon themselves to try and get the money back. They’re ruthless, those guys. They’ll burn Rolbos to the ground.
But Dear Diary, that is not the uppermost thoughts in my mind. Ouboet Geel is. If Servaas is a unique being on the face of this earth, Ouboet surely deserves a similar description. Servaas is a kind and harmless old creature – but not so this man of the desert! He knows every plant, every inch of the veld, every bird. He talks with these things, too. Sits down on his haunches like a teenager (I can’t do it any more) and talks to them. Especially that one plant – he called it a skilpadsuuring. He says white people don’t know about skilpadsuuring – which is the translation of the San name. He says this plant will change the world.
I laughed at that. Not unkindly, understand, more incredulously than anything else. He looked at me very seriously, and then he spoke at length.
He says this plant has things inside it, similar to what we have. I don’t think he’s ever heard of DNA, but that it is what he was talking about. I wrote down his words.
“Now see, Kleinnooi, these things inside, they’re inside us too. Only, the plant works like a policeman. It seeks the broken stuff inside us, and makes a plan to fix it. If it is a small problem, it fixes it quickly. Some people get a sickness where the blood goes the wrong way. They get blood in their lungs, or bowel, or kidneys. This is bad. They get sick, and they die. Now these people – if the get skilpadsuuring, they have to take it for a long time to work.
He smiled then and said even if it took time, it always works.
I asked him why nobody knows about the plant. Ouboet told me: the world isn’t ready for it yet. He says the Cubans or the Chinese or the Russians will come here with bulldozers and take all the skilpadsuuring. Then nobody will have it.
His father told him that one day, the rains will change. It’ll rain more in the Kalahari and less in Upington. The dunes will have grass and the veld will turn green. That’s when the skilpadsuuring will grow fast and multiply. In the meantime, the Geel family will watch over the few plants that grow next to that fountain and make sure they don’t die.
Well, I had some of the skilpadsuuring. Ouboet said I was the first white person to have it. It was, indeed, sour. Other than that, I thought nothing of the leaves he gave me to chew. Then an hour later, I had the most intense awareness of my body. It was as if my brain was testing every limb, every organ in my body. My hair tingled. My eyes watered. My feet itched. My hands felt warm. This lasted for about five minutes, and then I felt drowsy. An incredible sadness came over me – all my lies and deceit flashed by in a fast and ugly sequence, causing incredible remorse and grief. When that was over, I was so tired I could hardly keep my eyes open. Ouboet had told me that would happen. He said it was a sign that the leaves were working. He told me to lie down and sleep, and that’s what I did.
I woke up the next morning at dawn. Ouboet was at the fireside, talking to the flames. When he realised I was awake, he apologised to the fire, saying he had to take me home.
And that was it.
The craving for cocaine is gone. The mole under my arm is gone. My hair is shiny, my sore knee is well…and my voice is the best it ever was. Skilpadsuuring? I’m a convert.
Servaas invited me to supper again tonight. I feel a bit wicked! I’m going to wear that low-cut dress I never had the courage to put on – the short black one. Oh, and some make-up. Perfume. Yes, I’ll give the old dog a bit of a treat tonight. Excite him a little. Reward him for his kindness.
I do hope I still fit into that dress – I’ve picked up weight since I visited Ouboet. I’ll have to watch what I’m eating in future.
Then I’ll have to tell him I want to go to Cape Town to see the people at the Arts Theatre. My future is on stage – and if it’s not La Scala, it will be somewhere else. With my voice the way it is now, I’m sure I’ll impress them in the Cape.
Servaas may be a bit sad, I think. Maybe he must get some of Ouboet’s herbs. Then again – I think he was quite a tiger in his younger years. Maybe it’s better to keep him old.
Well, Dear Diary, that’s all for now. I’ll talk to you soon…