In this time of extreme racial ultrasensitivity, it would be so very wrong to speculate about the background of the newcomer who stopped by for a while in Boggel’s Place. The heart-shaped face suggested a San ancestry, but the almost-straight hair did not fit in with that assumption. His two piercingly blue eyes sat astride the broad nasal bridge and above the generous lips. As for skin colour, one might consider words like beige or coffee or even sandy.
The rest of the man was rather unremarkable. Neither fat nor thin, tall nor short, and definitely not all that handsome but still quite charming, he fitted into that vague grouping we would term as ‘medium’ or ‘average’.
When he pushed open the swing doors of Boggel’s bar, the conversation – quite naturally – ceased as they all turned to see who it was. The man took off his weathered hat, smiled apologetically and asked if he might have a glass of water. Gertruida – as curious as always – immediately invited him to sit down with them and ordered a Coke for the new guest in their midst.
“I am Mohammed Cronje,” he answered when asked, “from down south. I travel for a living. Call me Mo.”
Servaas knitted his bushy brows together. “Travel? For a living? What do you do – write articles for magazines?” Servaas dismissed the idea the moment he asked the question; Mo quite obviously had no vehicle and his clothes needed a wash desperately.
Mo’s lips twitched upward in a fleeting smile, exposing a set of perfectly white teeth. “No. Nothing grand like that. I’m a hunter of horizons. That’s what I do.”
Now, even Gertruida (who knows everything), has never come across a horizon hunter before, so she had to ask.
“It started when I was young – maybe when I realised I was … different …. way back when I was a boy. All around me were kids who belonged, see? Either to a family of a culture or a church. But me? I was an social orphan, the runt of the social litter…”
“I’m one too,” Boggel interrupted, “I understand.”
Mo turned to Boggel, taking in the deformed figure. “Yes, maybe you do to some degree. But you are fortunate, I think. Being physically disabled is certainly a drawback, but it does not exclude you from society. In fact, it scores high on the sympathy scale these days. Me? I’m an in between person: I fit in nowhere. I’m a misnomer, a cultural oxymoron. There’s no niche I can claim as my own.
“So, that’s why.” He sighed. “I started searching for a place where I might fit in. Always have believed that there must be a somewhere – just beyond the skyline – where I will feel comfortable with the people around me. That’s why I travel. That’s what I hope for.”
“But Mo,” Boggel opened another can of Coke, “we’re all people, aren’t we? Some display various hues, others cling to different religions. Even if we don’t look or act like the majority, we can’t deny the fact that – in the end – we’re all individuals. Each of us is unique and special; each of us deserves to be respected for who and what we are, don’t we?”
Mo shrugged sadly. “Maybe that’s just beyond the political horizon, Boggel. But look at what has happened in the world we live in today: people are categorised, defined, analysed, and classified – in order to see if you fit in with the so-called norm or majority. Then the majority becomes a faceless, ill-defined mass to exclude those who stand out. And boy! Society has become such experts at exclusion! It is as if people detest those that dare to be or look or believe differently.
“So the world on this side of the horizon is a much diseased animal, my friends. I do not belong here. I need to keep going until I reach the other side.”
They debated the state of the current social order in the world for a while, then Mo got up, shook their hands and wandered down Voortrekker Weg. “I have to go. It’s out there, somewhere…”
“He’s a strange cat,” Servaas said, staring at his empty glass.
“No, Servaas. He’s the most normal person to have visited us in a long time.” Gertruida stared at the diminutive figure at the edge of the town. “In fact – he is believing in what most people in the country – even the world – are hoping for. And you? You’re doing exactly what he is so aware of: you’ve just described him as ‘crazy’ – meaning he doesn’t fit in with the so-called normal society. ”
Boggel nodded. “Mo? He’s us, isn’t he? And we perpetuate our political and cultural differences by harping on the past history and our future fears instead of celebrating the uniqueness of just being ourselves.”
“Je suis Mo?” Gertruida had that all-knowing look.
Vetfaan surprised her with a nod of his own. “Oui…”
To be continued…