Issue 189, Summer 2009
Even before their departure, when he goes to meet her flight from Cape Town, he knows he’s in trouble. He last saw her a month ago and she was in a bad way then, but look at her now. The first one off the plane, striding far ahead of the crowd. Her peroxide job has gone wrong, so that her hair has turned a strange yellow color, standing out in angry spikes from her head. But more than this, something has changed inside her, which you can see from a long way off. She seems to burn with a luminous white light. Her face is knotted and anxious, bunched in on itself, and it takes her a long time to notice him. Then her expression clears, she smiles, as they embrace she is his old friend again.
He has been up in Pretoria for a few weeks, visiting his mother. But even before he left Cape Town, Anna was already losing the plot, living in fast motion, speeding along, saying and doing inappropriate things, and the knowledge that she was out of control showed in her face like a concealed pain. All of this has happened before, but it’s only a few days ago that her condition had finally acquired a name. Although it’s come from her psychiatrist in Cape Town, the diagnosis is one that Anna’s lover and I and even Anna herself all regard with suspicion. For us she remains human first and foremost, impervious to labels.
He is pretty sure about all this until he sees her. It’s obvious that something in her has come loose and is sliding around inside. There are problems ahead, I realize, and the first moment comes before we’ve even left the ground. In the departure lounge she orders a beer, then looks at her companion in bemusement as he stares.
What. What’s the matter.
You’re not supposed to be doing that. We spoke about this yesterday, remember.
It’s just one drink.
You’re not allowed even one drink.