Lethokuhle Msimang

Though life had made a soldier of my body I remained gentle at heart.

Nights like those were seldom at my age. As I strolled along the coast of Tegal Besar, the black sand sliding off my feet as if coated with marble I thought, Somewhere in my infirmity and disbelief I must have forgotten the comfort of beauty. So I sat on the cold beach sand on a spot where the moon left a generous light as it fiddled with the tides and for a moment, I could stand to be senile.

“Peaceful huh? You chose the best spot,” cried a voice, her presence as disrupting as a scream. She sat beside me, her long golden legs stretched out on the sand. And there were not yet any formal introductions, instead, she flipped her sunlike hair onto one shoulder unveiling a face with lips the colour of blackberry, eyes shining. She looked good in the mood light.

“My name is Esme, and you are?”

“Walter,” I replied, a little more at ease; she had the tranquility of old age, a respect for silence as she sat beside 'me' then- only half a man. But these youths were too quick to trust an old face, and had I gathered the strength to have my way with her, the ocean would have drowned the sound of her resistance. But who was I kidding, lately, the pecker hardly rises to the occasion and though life had made a soldier of my body I remained gentle at heart. I was never hardened by the war nor could I rise past the ranks of a cadet. I was simply gifted with rhetoric and the face of a trust worthy man. A gift I used to burn through my youth and squander my old age. Though at that moment, I suppose, all she saw was a placid old man frail enough to sit beside the sun without burning with insatiable desire.

“Walter,” she said softly, and in her kind attempt to break the silence she says “I didn't sit here because it was peaceful, I sat here because you were.” I laugh and tell her, “peace was something imposed on me which I protested it with all my youth.” She was now intrigued, but I wasn't all that surprised – the ego is so easily persuaded by words. In her curiosity, she asked if I had any children. I told her “none that know of.” See, I never remained in one place long enough to see its deterioration.

Though I’ve often wondered why strange subjects like her never found me in my prime. Perhaps, they sat on coast lines under the moonlight in solitude while I was out chasing the wind. Still her ripe, vibrant hand befriended my cold flaking fist. She had the heart to make an old man happy even if only for a moment.

And I, seventy-nine years old then, had butterflies in my stomach.