Raw-Red Bone of Memory

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He called out in a distress forged in the tangle-metal of an accident. Only the songbird-needle of morphine could ever so briefly-fleetingly extinguish the misery of the wide-open unhealed wound, gaping with flesh and blood.

I lay in the next bed to him in the hospital, having been admitted in the morning, doubled over with my own pale version of pain. An emergency had whipped out a fetid appendix (yes, I know, I am being dramatic) and my only experience then was of post-anaesthesia dullness and the odd stomach muscle smarting slightly in a sudden movement.

Summoned, the nurse was unable to ease his pain. He half-shouted out that he didn’t care about being addicted to that songbird in a vial. He simply needed the sweet relief, even if it only glanced him, took the edge off.

Until today, I had completely forgotten about those midnight hours lying in a hospital bed listening to a man who sobbed in his pain, and who cursed and swore at the world. I had been  remembering my own pain, gliding in on a songbird of hope, blowing away the awful what-have-beens that sometimes fester in the raw-red bone of memory when, startled, I thought of that hospital ward thirty four years ago.

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Devonshire Avenue

The avenue of our childhood had simply disappeared: the yellowing veld of memory lost in the big houses and manicured lawns. The sky had fallen to the earth. The distance of the faraway veld cultivated into something quite different. Re-drawn.
I simply had to tell you.

 

I am searching for the outline of the road in my memory. The street was an avenue. To call it that was a bit of show off really – rather stuck up for a dirt, rutted road, cut out in the veld. Dust raised by wheels caked the winter sun.

The name oozed an English place: Devonshire Avenue. (Nothing indigenous here.)
Look at me. No handle bars. Bike ride freedom. Sun-dried childhood, drenched in endless play: we roamed in packs, up and down the avenue to the outer limits of our galaxy. Boundaries, yet we were boundless. I remember the puddles and potholes, the empty spaces: the eye could see into the blue-wide-forevers. The veld not yet entirely tamed.

On a recent visit, I had the surprise of an intimacy lost. This street had grown up as an avenue, tree-lined, neatly curbed (and the ubiquitous barbed wire, electric fences). I couldn’t see the house, lost in the forest my father had – in part – planted a lifetime ago. Only the shape of the building and driveway glanced back on a past where ghost Ford Zephyrs and Morris Oxfords were the kings of the road. They shimmered in the dream-haze of the Jo’burg Autumn.

The avenue of our childhood had simply disappeared: the yellowing veld of memory lost in the big houses and manicured lawns. The sky had fallen to the earth. The distance of the faraway veld cultivated into something quite different. Re-drawn.
I simply had to tell you.

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