Somehow, in the hustle and bustle of my hustling, bustling day, I took a moment to reflect on something that caught my attention, or rather someone. Everyday as I walk to the shuttle stop, I pass people who sit on the side of the road, asking for small change. Us Cape-townians have a favorite phrase for them “bergies”, which translates from the Afrikaans slang to “mountain-dweller”. These people are the street-dwellers of our city, sometimes living nomadic lives on the foothills of Table mountain and Devils peak, sometimes just curling up in a doorway or on a park bench to spend the cold Winter nights.
There’s this one guy that really gets me, you know? I mean really throws me off. Most of the Bergies are disabled, or just hobos or crazies, but when you pass this guy, lets call him Bill, he asks you “Do you have R2?” The weird thing is the way he does it though, boldly, with none of that beggerly, pity-party tone that you normally encounter. He has a clipped accent, and a sort-of dignity in his posture and expression, an intensity.
I’ve stopped to talk to his once or twice, intrigued by his life, and his history. He claimed to have traveled Europe, and had to return for “family business” of some sort, which ended up with him ultimately living on the street. He used to write, but now he just sits, contemplating “a sense of overwhelming consciousness”, a “connection of the mind”, passing the morning away perched on an up-turned crate. Bill’s been looking skinnier lately, I hope he’s alright.
Some think that Bill is crazy, and maybe he his. I’ve seen him parading down main road, hands held high, reciting his moving soliloquies which swirl around me fleetingly as I catch a word or phrase in passing. I’ve not the heart to tell him that nobody is listening, there is no great audience and he is no grand actor. It saddens me that such a person, so sensitive and unique, could find themselves in such a circumstance. Is it any less fair that an intellectual should be homeless than someone of fewer gifts? If all humans are truly equal, then why do I feel so much worse for Bill than the man without a foot just down the street?
Bill is just so enigmatic, and I admit, I am intrigued. What hideous horror lies in his past? Betrayal? Loss? Rejection? Or is the answer along a completely different line altogether? Is it merely that artists of or time just tend to descend into lives such as Bill’s, unable to cope with the pressures of living in our world ruled by constraints? Is his life more of a freedom than poor circumstance? I cant help but muse that Bill knows a freedom that I will never glimpse. And if that is so, then I envy him.
I’ve been at my desk since 4pm this afternoon, and apart from a short break for dinner and a shower, I haven’t moved. Its now 1am, and I suppose I’ve made quite a lot of progress on my assignment…
Have a look at what I’ve designed (the drawing of this took about 20mins, I’ve been working for 8 hours to give you an idea of how not free I am!) BTW, the mountain pics are from my flat’s front door. 😉