10 February 1990

My parents sent me to Cape Town on a South African Railways train with a big, blue trunk.  My name was stencilled on the trunk in white spraypaint.  Military-style.  I made my way cautiously down the passage, looking for my compartment.  I had a feeling the train would be dirty because it was so much in public use.  It was a little.

My heart felt empty as I reached the compartment.  Three staring faces looked at me as though I were intruding on a conversation.  I introduced myself to the boys sitting there, and stowed my hand-luggage away.  The tension eased a little.  Terrence, of mixed race, was silent and shy; Jean and Mike were extroverted.  It was Jean’s birthday and he was in high spirits.  The golden promise of summer added to our sense of exhiliration.  Jean’s brown hair was more fringe than anything else.  He wore a white t-shirt and beach-pants and had a gold chain around his neck.  He looked a bit like a tennis player.  Mike, on the other hand, was fair-haired.  Jean was clownlike; Mike, serious.  Terrence was a bit of a mystery, because he hardly spoke.

Terrence seemed a little worn out.  His head sank down, like Rodin’s thinker.  He leaned slightly to the right, against the metal window-frame of the train.  He appeared to be carrying the world on his shoulders.  Jean and Mike chatted away, drawing me bit-by-bit into their conversation.  We talked as 18 year olds do, full of bravado and optimism.  The train jolted sluggishly forward.  Jolted again.  JUGG!!  Built up a rhythm, and chugged out of the station.

The train journey consisted of intervals of chatter, dozing, eating and stretching our legs.  Sometimes I’d take a walk down the passageway of the train, lean over the rail and stare at the rapidly passing countryside.  The camaraderie in the compartment eased the monotony of the journey.  I had made three new friends.

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