There has been little conversation between us since the man with the bundle of firewood. In the night we made love cursorily, barely touching. I made excuses for us both. Tired by the heat, the long day. I did not tell Dylan about the feeling of losing and gathering, losing and gathering that I had had on that hill.
We stand on the outskirts of town, atop a great mound of mine detritus a century or more old. Below us is a vast pit that has become known as The Glory Hole. Several hundred metres deep with tunnels leading away into the earth and rock, there is nothing glorious about it. Though the tunnels and pit are a memory only. Over time it has filled with dark water which reflects back at us our small faces, side by side, peering down. Until recently children swam here, drowning regularly, their bodies never found. Now they have erected a fence.
“Just see how long it will keep them out,” Dylan scoffs. He drops his cigarette end over the fence into the water. Below us, our faces become separated by ripples. They stretch away from one another, each ripple pulling them further apart. Despite the disturbance, I can still see myself, drawn out wide across the pool. Dylan has become unrecognisable. There are few places where you can look into the earth and see a life stare back at you so clearly. Water and rock reflecting nothing but distance.
In the past, people left Namaqualand by steamship from Port Nolloth. They sailed for several days on stormy seas before reaching the Cape. Now there is really only one way to return south – by car on the N7. The road is smooth and well-tended. Without stops it is possible to make it back to Cape Town within 5 hours.
We leave Namaqualand behind in stages determined by the landscape. The green-tinged Koperberge, the mountainous Kamiesberge. Next the wasteland of the Knersvlakte, followed by the verdant Swartland. Finally, there is no more landscape. Only industria and the smog of a city working hard are left to cross. It is raining as we approach Cape Town. Headlights reflect back at us off the rain-darkened road. From the passenger window, I stare down at the tarmac, reminded of other reflections. Of ripples dividing, drawing us out towards caverns, into tunnels that never meet.
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Karen Jennings was born in Cape Town in 1982. She holds Masters degrees in both English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town. In 2010 her short story 'From Dark' won the Commonwealth Short Story Competition for the African region. In 2009 'Mia and the Shark' won the English section of the MML short story competition and is now studied in schools. Karen’s stories have been published nationally and internationally, from Greece to Australia. In 2012 she began a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of KwaZulu-Natal under the supervision of Kobus Moolman. Her debut novel, Finding Soutbek was be published by the UK publisher Holland Park Press.