I’m not as perturbed as I should be about The Rapture.
In fact, as we drive through the abandoned streets of Swakopmund on a Saturday night, I’m pretty excited about raiding forsaken stores of all the Twix I can carry before fighting off inevitable zombies with the cheap Thai laser I’ve been shining up into the sky interspersed with entirely appropriate shouts of “Luke, I am your father.”
Willem looks over at me as if I’ve been infected.
Soon, I’ll have whatever it is that has the whole town shut up behind closed doors minus the brave souls who venture out for a piece of schnitzel at one of the brightly lit restaurants humming heroically in the sprawling darkness.
With a little laugh, I assure him that I haven’t joined the ranks of the undead and he rolls his eyes before parking across the street from a place called Kücki’s Pub. We hurry towards it like moths to a flame and, as we tumble in out of the fog, our bustle and dissimilarity draw the attention of the people eating in the main room.
Like an ignominious post-colonial cliché, Willem’s white and I’m black and walking into an ocean of pale faces we are unsure of whether we let in the cold as we rushed through the door or if it was there all along.
Our moment of hesitant consideration in the village square is cut short by friendly manager who directs us to a room in the back under the stairs where a trio of ten year old girls have chosen to run amok like there’s no such thing as sit down and shut up.
The effect, I suppose, is that of going over to a long suffering and virile neighbour’s house whose food just happens to be fantastic.
Willem eats a pig’s foot and I order the chicken schnitzel.
While we munch we watch a series of segments advertising Swakopmund’s exercise classes, make-up artists and bed and breakfasts playing on loop on a flat screen near the door.
Though it’s been blindly pieced together, it’s mesmerizing the way only ordinary advertisements about ordinary distractions can be and Willem kills himself laughing at some anonymous rube fighting a losing battle against Adobe Premier somewhere out there in the darkness.
We don’t stay long.
We feel dulled by the endless montage of mundane and we have this vague and pregnant idea about being young and it being a Saturday night.
We pack up, tip our waiter much less than his weight in gold, climb into Willem’s Toyota and sail out into the emptiness looking for somewhere to be young and restless. Blasting past dark storefronts between brightly lit oases, we wonder at the complete lack of people when there seems to be so much to do.
Condescending city slickers that we are, we can’t help but contrast the seaside stillness with Windhoek’s comparative triumph over seasonal adversity. Clearly the allure of sex, risqué conversation and alcohol flushed down the gullet to aide in the former is too much for Windhoekers to resist on nights far colder than this.
Unlike Swakopmund’s real or imagined women of the night, vaginas-for-hire do their thing on Independence Avenue come rain or shine and, in a seedy up-yours to frost bite, bar owners can count on a decent size of the population huddling around their bars while passing the hours paraphrasing that morning’s newspaper.
Here that instinct has been dulled by the fog. There isn’t a stray dog let alone a stray man
making his way towards a wild stab at entertainment and the degenerate in me imagines there must be an obscene orgy in the desert somewhere that we simply have not been invited to.
We end up at the first indication of irresponsible life and we are intrigued by its sign that tells us it is a maniacal mash-up of a laundry, arcade and entertainment centre.
Inside is the emptiness we have come to expect but we get a kick from the seventies style laundry and then a little depressed by the hopeful attendant at the busted up arcade who looks so forlorn about me not coming in to play, I feel like giving myself carpal tunnel on Space Invaders.
As we leave, one of the two women at the bar beseeches us to come and sit with her.
I have my camera out so I tell her, I’m on my way to work. She asks me where and I tell her “The Namibian” and she looks at me like I’ve spoken to her in Elvish before drunkenly mugging at me and imitating my utterance with more than a little nastiness.
Her friend’s heard me just fine though. And as she does her eyes grew wide, she nudges the mugger and says “It’s that newspaper.”
Quietly, curiously and with a look more suited to the idea that I’ve sauntered in from the moon.
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