Thursday, December 7, 2023

van Niekerk's Veracity


“I just wanted you to know I’m OK. I’m here, just letting you know,” he said last night, etched clear as a Zoom projection onto my white board in the university classroom. The other students, in their ranks up the rake of the auditorium seats, wondered how I might respond. John’s image, as a full-grown teenager with his black hair and chiselled chin, his strong brown eyes, and his swimmer’s fit physique, clad in a white shirt tucked into jeans, stood in front of a background of bright green trees.  Was he at the nearby Magnolia Dell? He was bunking, and we both knew it, but now he was contacting me, just to let me know that all was well. An intrusion on my visceral lecture about Dynamic Integration, I but briefly paused while I took in the alert senses of my students as to whatever I might say.

The thing is, the truth about one’s life gets tangled. We attempt to place happenstances precisely, but as we grow older the timelines overlap, and we can search for connections by which to slot in the particular events that demarcate our passage of time. Just when John had got up and left the classroom was not clear to me. (Is not clear to me.) Why I should be an old man, still lecturing, and he but a teenager, when he’d always been a constant friend in my own youth, was perhaps subconsciously understood, even while I was dreaming. Lucid dreaming, it is called. We know we’re dreaming. We can even direct our dreams. We can face into our fears. We can determine if we should give in to temptation. We can even be compassionate toward ourselves, and others, and we can awake with a sense of having washed away at our ‘dirty laundry’. There’s power in dreaming. We are not necessarily just ‘led by the nose’.

But the intrusion that John made into my classroom happened without my having beckoned it. Or did I not? Just yesterday I’d re-read the three-page story of John (on p. 303, of 50 Years On... Pretoria Boys High Class of 1970, Our Stories), and I felt sad that we had but one indistinct picture of him. Then too, I was reflecting on the great privilege of often being a guest at John’s parents’ house, in the prestigious neighbourhood of Waterkloof Ridge. Back in the late 60’s, a maid, a cook-boy (who was really a full-fledged man), and a chauffeur, as well as a constant gardener, complemented the house-hold staff. John appreciated them all. Laundry was always washed and ironed the same day. And the table was set for dinner guests, or luncheon guests, with crystal and... well, one gets the picture.

Thing is, almost 60 years later, just last night, I’d dreamed about John for the first time, (far as I can recall.) We never re-connected after High School. Conscription into the South African Army boiled my soul. I wanted nothing to do with my past. And whatever old school friends I had, I lost them all. But not in memory. My affection for friends stayed the same. It was just the detachment I threw around each of the people I’d befriended, so long ago, cordoning each off, like icons in the desktop of one’s computer screen, each with a program that goes unused, until one clicks it, (at times ineffectually,) open. (It’s a habit practiced, yet still too long.)

Well, John’s message has me deeply affected. It’s as if I’d been re-assured from another realm. Then again, quite aware of the synaptic gap that inhabits every one of our neuronal interactions, I’m much given to understanding the creative impulses inherent to the artistic, as well as the phenomenological bent, of those such as myself, who also are easily given toward making things ontological. ... Huh?

That’s part of the complexity of one’s thought processes, in dreaming. (Sometimes, even in daydreaming, complexity creeps in.) We make of our moments a kaleidoscope of meanings. And then we can conjure that which has some sort of sensibility to it all, for ourselves. Epistemology aside, we are, essentially, quite imaginative beings.

As for what my response was: “Thanks, John. Good of you to let us know you’re Ok. Communication is everything.”  And he disappeared. And then, John’s classmates smiled.

So, it goes. Such are dreams. And I wonder, shall we ever ‘meet’ again?

(cover designed by Justin Neway)

1 comment:

  1. Vivid, conducting a personal replay where dreams are made real. Beautifully written - thanks.


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