The Most Important Moment

Servaas asked the question simply because  the silence bothered him. Here they all are, glasses in hand , in front of the counter and next to the fire – and nobody has anything to say. Truth be told: the drought has already been discussed, and Kleinpiet’s marriage isn’t news any more. There’s nothing new in Sammie’s Shop. Rolbos, Servaas has had to accept, has nothing o discuss.

That’s why he asked the question. For a few seconds, the silence endured.

“The moment that changed my life?” Vetfaan scratches his head. “There were a few, I suppose. I kissed a girl in Standard seven. Then I got my driver’s license, called up to the army and received my first Communion all in the same month. And then, in the army [i]….” No, he can’t tell those stories again.

“I remember the moment clearly,” Gertruida comes to his rescue. “It’s the first time I borrowed a book from the library. Famous Five by Enid Blyton, of course, with the two boys, two girls and the dog named Timothy. I was trapped in that Treasure Island story from the first word. I haven’t stopped reading since. It changed my life.”

The conversation picks up now, with funerals, teachers, sport achievements and the flood of 1988. Old Marco remembers his father telling him the facts of life. Lucinda blushes as she says it was the moment she first set eyes on Boggel.

Boggel doesn’t have to feign his surprise. After all, he’s had his share of life-changing moments . The sad times in the orphanage, and then there was Mary. Mary Mitchell…[ii] He often wonders about her, remembering the Easter he spent with her. And the moment he shot her father – that certainly had a huge impact on his life – one he dare not share with anybody, ever.  But then Lucinda arrived. Lucinda with the perfect body and the laughing eyes and the endearing way she looks at him.

“Listen,” he says as he serves another round, “you guys are sitting there, trying to define the single moment that had the most impact on your lives. That’s good and well. But I think – my little opinion – that there are many in each of our lives. We draw the first breath. We exhale for the last time. And in between, every second changes you. That’s why we call it Life: I looked it up, and Gertruida can correct me if I’m wrong. The original word was ‘lip’ which was later incorporated into Old English as ‘lif’, which meant ‘to remain, persevere and continue’. And in that, ladies in gentlemen, lies the secret. Anything that continues, has to change. It’s like breathing – if you don’t continue changing, you cannot claim to be living.”

Gertruida looks up in surprise. Since when has Boggel been so clever?  A veritable philosopher? She shakes her head; the little bent man has a way of surprising her every now and then. Taking up the challenge, she sits up straight:

“Yes, that’s true. The very essence of life is change – not only from generation to generation, but from moment to moment. We adapt to circumstances, both physical and emotional. Not a single second of your life is exactly similar to any other second. As long as we live, this is a continuous process. And then, eventually, all living things die – when change becomes physically impossible and we decay away to whatever we are made of. In all forms of life , this is true, except…” here she glances over at Boggel with a triumphant smile, “the immortal jellyfish – Turritopsis nutricula. Scientists think this hydrozoa can indefinitely regenerate itself; provided it doesn’t get smashed on a rock or eaten by some predator.”

“There is another thing that doesn’t die, Gertruida. At least I think so. Love. Affection can degenerate, so can fascination and friendship. But love – true love – endures and changes and goes on continuing. That, I think, is the most significant event in anybody’s life: when he or she discovers love. Love is the thing that makes you adapt. Without it, hate takes over and you remain rooted to the spot, unable to persevere, continue or remain alive.”

“Well, blow me down!” Servaas sits back in wonder. “You guys are suddenly cleverer than a crate full of owls! I simply asked a silly question to break the silence; now I have to take notes to go and study at home.”

***

That’s the funny thing about Boggel’s Place. Out there in the Kalahari, the people have a lot of time to think. This makes them quite different to customers in the bar around the corner in any given city, where people discuss subjects that lead to a static life: empty jokes and hollow phrases that’ll never change lives and cannot be recalled when the hangover draws a blanket over the next day.

Here the slow seconds tick by, and every one of them counts. Sometimes they lead to some hilarity, sometimes to chaos and sometimes even to sadness when grief is shared. But always, always, the patrons go home a little different to what they were when they went there. Not different in an alcoholic way – different because they talked, laughed, cried and shared stories. They communicated – in the deepest sense of the word.

Life-changing moments?

They are the speciality of the house at Boggel’s: every second counts. It’s so sad that many people never realise this simple fact.

Jellyfish can start all over again.

We can’t.

There are too many rocks in the way.

Alfredo

Let’s drink, let’s drink from the joyous chalices

that beauty so truly enhances.

And the brief moment will be inebriated

with voluptuousness.

Let’s drink for the ecstatic feeling

that love arouses.

Because this all-powerful eye aims straight to the heart.

Let’s drink, my love, and the love among the chalices

will make the kisses warmer.

Chorus

Ah! Let’s drink, and the love among the chalices

will make the kisses warmer.

Violetta

With you all, I can share

my happiest times.

Everything in life

which is not pleasure is foolish.

Let’s enjoy ourselves

for the delight of love is fleeting and quick.

It’s like a flower that blooms and dies

And we can no longer enjoy it.

So enjoy; A keen and flattering

voice invites us!

Chorus

Let’s enjoy the wine and the singing,

the beautiful night, and the laughter.

Let the new day find us in this paradise.

Violetta

Life means celebration.

Alfredo

Only if one hasn’t known love.

Violetta

Don’t tell someone who doesn’t know.

Alfredo

But this is my fate…

All

Let’s enjoy the wine and the singing,

the beautiful night, and the laughter.

Let the new day find us in this paradise

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22 thoughts on “The Most Important Moment

  1. Kozo

    Brilliant paradox you have constructed here, Amos: life=”to remain, persevere and continue” thus change, but also life=true love, that which doesn’t die, yet remains, perseveres and continues in the face of change. I think I am living through–falling in love with–Gertruida.

    Reply
    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      Gertruida blushes to a bright red, runs a hand through her hair and wonders if her front teeth don’t have a lipstick smudge. But she does – so demurely – appreciate your reading and your comment. She wants to know if you’d like a Cactus Jack. Double. On ice?

      Reply
      1. Kozo

        Kozo hides behind his moniker. The shy Asian boy has always been intimidated by aggressive intelligent Caucasian women.
        He enters his standard flight pattern of watching from a distance, kind of like a stalker, but completely harmless.

        Thanks for the fun, Amos. I can’t wait to read your books after NaMoWriMo–if I make it to the end of the month.

  2. themonumentaljackass

    Brilliant point, Kozo! I thought so too. And I love how the simple question brings out so much from each person, emotionally and thoughtfully.
    The definition of life, ever -changing, but in some senses ever-lasting, had it not been for the ‘rocks’, that wins me over.
    Thank you, for a wonderful read.

    Reply
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  4. Harold Green

    This nightly dash of Amos was absolutely thought provoking. I always love the audio/visual musical touch at the end. It gives me time to pause, reflect and think about many of the meanings you have just brought into my life. It’s also a fun kick that makes me smile. Now I am wondering how different I am at this moment from my first moment of the morning. Thanks Amos! Brilliant!

    Reply
    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      Thank you Harold. Our world would be so much poorer without music. On the wide plains of the Serengeti, the sandy dunes of the Kalahari and the back streets of Naples – the melodies of love and harmony tell the stories of our lives. It recreates atmosphere, much like capturing an image does, when memories stir in the wee hours of the night. And if the remembering brings on a smile, it is so precious…

      Reply

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